Finding a coach

(Part 4)

Just like hiring any professional, you should do some homework and shop around before choosing a coach. Coaches are not regulated (licensed). However the coaching profession is self regulating through The International Coach Federation. The ICF has set standards for professionally certified coaches and coaches training programs. It is important when looking for a coach to ask where they received their training and if they are certified. Then check on the ICF web site www.coachfederation.org to see if where they trained is an accredited training institute and if the coach is certified through the ICF.

The International Coach Federation recommends talking to three prospective candidates and requesting references from each. It advises asking the coaches lots of questions, including how much experience they have, how many people they’ve worked with and what specific successes they have had in helping their clients. A coach is someone you’ll be working closely with therefore it is key to look for someone who is a professional trained coach and experience an interpersonally ‘click’.

I invite each of you to explore the power of coaching so that you can experience a life aligned with who and what you want most for your life.

How To Get the Most Out Of Coaching

(Part 3)

To Get the Most Out Of Coaching

* Be open to change, for something to be different in your life

* Be willing to be a student of your own life

* Be open to explore new possibilities

* Be curious

* Be active in the direction the coaching takes

* Be committed to doing the ‘homework’ necessary for change

* Be reflective of what you are learning and your experiences

* Be open to observing yourself with compassion

* Be committed to your dreams, passion, purpose – to you

Why Coaching?

(Part 2)

Through out the years the majority of people I have worked with have been plagued with regrets for the life not explored. Even the most successful amongst us have regrets and blind spots. Each of us is limited by our own assumptions and beliefs. People whom we are close to us often collude with our assumptions and blind spots because they care so much about us, do not know what else to do and just want to ‘make’ us feel better. With the coaching process you have the opportunity to  explore and expand possibility and be held accountable for your forward movement from a neutral person (the coach) from a place of non judgment or bias. Through the coaching process clients explore what matters most to them and identify how they can and will live in alignment with those values. Coaching offers the possibility of living your life with clarity and intention leading to living authentically – a life of not regrets.

A coach champions your dreams, goals, movement and progress. The following quote captures the essences and power of the coaching process from a client perspective. “Coaching is powerful. I have certainly seen that in my own life. It has been fundamental for me in exploring my own possibility. More specifically, through, it has been your coaching – your compassion, your lack of judgment, your knowledge of coaching concepts and your guidance in helping me to apply those.”

A coach can be a powerful asset, but the key is that it is a co-active alliance with you, and you determine where you want that alliance to be directed. As with many things in life you get out of the coaching experience what you put into it. Coaching can be rigorous, challenging and deeply rewarding.

Tomorrow: How to Get the Most Out of Coaching

Coaching – What is it all about anyway?

(Part 1)

The International Coaches Federation defines Coaching as: Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.

Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives. Coaches’ help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives.

Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customize their approach to individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources, and creativity that the client already has. It supports and deepens intention and growth over time so that the changes you want to make become a pert of your natural fiber the change becomes sustainable. All to often we attempt change with good intentions but with out the extra support quickly dissipates and we are back in to our old habits.

The clients that I have had the privilege to serve and journey with have called coaching a ‘transformational experience’. They describe a sense of goundedness and ease with decision making that they have never experienced before. One client stated “Our coaching relationship has been the key to unlocking potential within myself. I am consciously making choices around my attitudes, my energy level, and my perspectives in both my personal and work issues. These choices have repeatedly affirmed my power to change and grow, and I have had a number of experiences where others have told me that I have made a positive difference for them”.

Tomorrow: Why Coaching?

A Call to Intentional Leadership

This is a good time to check in on how each of you are doing living from the perspective of curiosity and possibility. What have you noticed when you approach life this way? How has it made a difference? How have others responded to you?

In considering these questions, think also about how you view yourself as a leader. Do you even see yourself as a leader? I believe that each of you are leaders, not by the positions you hold, but rather by how you influence those around you.

Leadership can be both formal and informal; what is most important is who you are and how you show up each and every day, with everyone you meet. How you are in relationship with others can be very powerful. Leaders are individuals who are able to win the hearts and minds of those they want to influence by engendering trust and operating from a base of honesty, consistency, integrity, authenticity and vision. Leadership is about intentional influence, guiding, structuring and facilitating activities. It is about how you are in relationship with others individually and in groups or organizations.

Women have many natural gifts that lend themselves to leadership. We are good at team-building and collaborating by encouraging participation. We are more inclined to be facilitative when leading groups, which leads to the empowerment of others. Open communication seems to come more naturally to women as a result of focusing on relationships, which encourages feedback and sharing of information and power. We often do not recognize ourselves as equipped or educated enough to call ourselves leaders, when the fact is our natural way of being offers us the possibility to inspire others when we embrace ourselves as leaders. (When the fact is our natural way of being encourages us to be wonderful leaders.)

There is great opportunity in our daily lives to lead by example, simply by demonstrating the attitude and behaviors we hold toward ourselves as well as others. If you think about how you are with those you come in contact with every day (i.e. your partner, children, co-workers, service workers) you might discover that are a leader every day.(that you have the opportunity to act as a leader every day.)

The challenge for each of us is to live integrity-based, value-focused lives, which will allow us to be a leader who consistently demonstrates the ability to do the right thing.

How do we work toward putting that in place? Think about the following:

* What do you stand for?

* What is unique about you? How do you stand out? How do you capitalize on your uniqueness? Or how do you hide it?

* How often do you have the courage to tell the truth? Can you take the heat for an unpopular decision?

* How open and personal are you with others? Do you let them see the real you, or just parts of you?

* How often do you “play the role” or “go on automatic pilot” in your work?

* What keeps you from telling the truth to yourself and others?

These are important questions as we explore leadership in our lives. Consider also this passage from A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles (Harper Collins, 1992). May you be inspired to claim yourself as a leader and be mindful of how you show up in relationship with others.

Our Deepest Fear

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others. ~ Marianne Williamson

Embracing Accountability

Previously, we talked about showing up as a leader from a perspective of curiosity and possibility. Has this perspective led you to any discoveries about yourself or others? Are you taking risks and stepping into that space of possibility?

Today we’ll look at a related area, which many of my coaching clients struggle with in their role as leaders: accountability. People and organizations often suffer from individuals not accepting personal responsibility for solving problems. They point fingers, blame others or become the victim of another’s actions or inaction. Yet, each of us fails everyday. To fail is human. There is failure all around us, at home, at church, at work and in government.

The critical issue is not failing itself, but how you respond. When you do fail at something, do you pause to recognize and accept personal responsibility for the failure and then take corrective action? Let’s say you have forgotten to do something, like empty the dishwasher. Do you feel compelled to find a “good excuse” for forgetting to do that task, maybe blame someone else for distracting you, or do you acknowledge it, correct it, and move on?

You probably see this at work everyday. How many times have you witnessed people blaming others for their mistakes, for simply forgetting something, or for their own lack of accomplishment? It is easy to get into a downward spiral when you take a wait and see position, do something to cover yourself, or point fingers. If you allow others to address problems, and then tell you what to do, you may resent that direction. Not only do you come to feel like a victim, you also become ineffective. Your world view becomes one of scarcity, with your options becoming more and more narrow until your creativity and possibility is shut down.

At what point, then, do we each have a responsibility to show up as creative, resourceful leaders and become a part of the solution to a problem regardless of whose “fault” it is? Every day that we do not take ownership of being part of a solution (whether or not we were part of the problem in the first place), we short ourselves. We do not need to allow these opportunities to define us, because we have the choice of entering into a world view of possibility and optimism. It takes a great deal of courage for a person to take responsibility and embrace problems that arise. In taking responsibility, you recognize and acknowledge that something has to change, and you face any fear and resistance to change.

The Oz Principle (Connors, Smith and Hickman, 2004) states that accountability is: “A personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results – to See It, Own it, Solve It, and Do It.” I dream of living in a community where everyone was personally accountable and took responsibility for being part of creating solutions for the greater good of all. From a place of curiosity and possibility, I challenge you to embrace being accountable to See It, Own it, Solve It, and Do It, for the next thirty days. Apply this to at least one situation/task/problem that arises each day. These failures or problems can vary from forgetting to take out the garbage to not completing a vital task at work to not making arrangements for an upcoming trip. No matter the situation, or how large or small it seems, be aware of how taking personal responsibility in this way affects you as a person, as a leader and in relationship to others.

Radiating Possibilities

Recently, I asked you to approach your daily interactions in a new way: to be curious and aware of expanding your perspective of possibility. I am confident that the more you have stood in possibility in your daily way of being, the more options you have noticed for being in alignment with who and what you want to be in relationship with others. My clients report finding a greater sense of freedom when they shift their perspective and focus to what is possible – no matter what they are dealing with at the time.

Let’s continue to build on possibility and the process of integrating it into being a mindful, accountable leader. The next step is to take the Art of Possibility deeper by being responsible for Radiating Possibility. This will require you to shift and expand the focus of possibility from yourself to others.

In their book, The Art of Possibility, Ben and Roz Zander speak to each of us having ownership of our behaviors. We create our own reality and also influence the reality of others. They believe that it is possible for each of us to experience aliveness and connection with others on an everyday basis. They write that a vibrant world of possibility lies beyond fears, habits, and assumptions, if you have the courage to “enter the dance” – meaning to be fully alive and present to what is possible.

What does this mean in a practical sense? Imagine the impact you could have if you were to notice conversations that were in a downward spiral (a conversation of no possibility) and you began enrolling people in possibility. And in turn what if the people you affected were able to enroll others in the journey of possibility? Visualize what is possible from that perspective or vantage point. What if you were to recognize the life force in the people around you, acknowledging each person as a being with creative possibility, and spoke to that part of them? The Zanders call this seeing “the shining eyes” in others. With this kind of seeing, what would be possible for them and, consequently, for you?

Envision what would be possible for you and others if you were able to quiet the voice in your head that says, “I can’t do it.” Consider what it would be like if you did not take yourself too seriously! For example, Ben and Roz suggest that when you make a mistake, rather than beat yourself up or belittle yourself for your actions, simply say “How fascinating.” Ben and Roz tell us we can not fear making mistakes because they are an important part of learning and growing. Can you imagine walking around and hearing yourself and others saying “How fascinating.” – with no judgment, no shame attached, just allowing the mistake to simply be what it is?

You have the capacity to design and implement a reality that is in alignment with what gives your life meaning and purpose in service of others. Ben and Roz suggest that “we can invent any future that we can dream, because life is a story we invent as we go.” What will it take for you to step up and claim your calling? What small steps can you put into practice in your daily habits to radiate possibility to and for others?

Concepts of Radiating Possibility (The Art of Possibility, by Ben and Roz Zander)

1.           Speak in Possibility

2.           Look for Shining Eyes

3.           Enroll every voice in the vision

4.           Lead by making others powerful (The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound.)

5.           Quiet the voice in the head that says, “I can’t do it.”

6.           First rule of leadership. Remember rule #6: ‘Don’t take yourself too seriously.’

Being Called Forth

A few years ago, I had the honor and privilege of spending four days at the Whidbey Institute with Sharon Daloz Parks. Sharon is an associate director and member of the faculty. She taught at various Harvard graduate schools, including its Divinity School, the Business School, and the School of Government for 18 years before moving to Whidbey Island and becoming a leadership consultant, speaker and facilitator at Whidbey Institute.

I noticed that once I entered the forested grounds of the Whidbey Institute I knew I was in sacred space. It is breathtakingly beautiful and so peaceful. I stayed in a very small hermitage and had a lot of time to ponder life anew.

Sharon believes that leaders are formed gradually over time and through deliberate effort. Her gift of facilitation is to ask provocative questions that one can ponder for hours or days, deepening one’s understanding of oneself in relationship to others and the environment, and how this relates to answering one’s call to lead. Do we have the courage to step up to lead in these times?

Some of her questions have stuck with me, even months later calling me to go deeper. These, in particular, keep bouncing around in my head:

1. What does it mean for our society that so many people are living unaligned with their soul?

2. Leadership holds a lot of hungers. What may they be?

In considering these questions, it helps to know what Sharon believes is called for in successful leaders of today. Her description resonated with my experiences in my own life and in the lives of the individuals and organizations I have coached. What she says is called for and needed is adaptive leadership.

Adaptive leaders need to understand that leadership is spiritual in nature. It is about helping people move from the familiar and adequate to a more alive, life-giving way of being. As one leads, one needs to possess the gift of connectedness – there is no room for ego or visionaries, as we are all “in this together.”

Additionally, adaptive leaders have the courage to deal with and witness loss and grief. They must be willing to get involved with the difficult issues – and stay involved – yet at the same time not become a lightening rod for the issue, but to be able to take the heat when they speak courageously.

Sharon closed her discussion of adaptive leadership by asking us if we have the courage to lead a spiritual change. I felt the metaphorical gulp in the room when she posed that question. I ask this of myself every day, and work on having the courage to lead a spiritual change with the work I offer to the world.

Sharon also left us with a statement that I felt was a strong calling forth for myself and I share it as a calling forth that you might embrace: “There is a possibility created in all of us that can only come through you ~ it is lost if you do not answer the call.” What are you being called to do? Have you looked the other way when called to action? What gets in your way of being a courageous leader? Do you have absolute principles which guide you? How real are you?

Sharon draws some of these ideas from Leadership On the Line: Staying Alive through Dangers of Leading, by Ronald Heifetz, a former colleague. I invite you to join me in exploring the questions and thoughts raised by Sharon Parks, as you continue to think about and refine a relevant leadership style.

I leave you with the poem we read after walking through the wooded island, as a place to begin your own contemplation.

Lost

By David Wagoner

From Collected Poems 1956-1976

Stand still. The trees ahead and bushes beside you

Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,

And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,

Must ask permission to know it and be known.

The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,

I have made this place around you.

If you leave it, you may come back again, saying Here.

No two trees are the same to Raven.

No two branches are the same to Wren.

If what a tree or a bush does is lost on you,

You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows

Where you are. You must let it find you.

Discover Your Strengths

As you ease into the final half of the year, consider how you have been living from a perspective of curiosity and possibility. Has this perspective led you to any discoveries about yourself or others? Are you taking risks and stepping into that space of possibility? What has that been like for you? What has gotten in your way of living from a perspective of curiosity and possibility? There is still time for you to readjust your alignment, so that you are living more purposefully from this perspective into the end of the year.

Something that might help as you consider these questions is an awareness tool that will you help you discover your signature strengths. When one operates from – and leverages – their strengths, they function at their personal best. This holds the greatest possibility of living and working in flow, which often leads to greater satisfaction and happiness in all aspects of your life. You start noticing and focusing on the best in other people. In my coaching work, I have found that people who are clear about their core values, their life purpose, and who operate from their strengths, are the most likely to be grounded in their personal power and be effective in their daily lives.

The development of the Clifton StrengthsFinder is the result of research on top achievers, by Don Clifton and The Gallup Organization. Their research includes more than two million interviews with people from virtually every profession, career, and field of achievement. The result of their research points to three basic findings:

1. Top achievers understand their talents and strengths, and build their lives upon them.

2. They manage their weaknesses.

3. They invent ways of developing and applying strengths in areas where they want to improve,achieve, and become more effective and improve their performance.

Your strengths are the innate gifts or talents that you were born with, which means that when you get the results back from using them, they will not be a big surprise to you. However, naming the strength and claiming the strength, provides you with another choice about where you spend your time and energy. For example, operating from your strengths requires less effort on your part and provides an ease with activities that you are focused on. Your motivation and energy can be maintained. Consequently, you can sustain your efforts towards achievement and excellence, which can increase your overall success in being in alignment with who and what you are about.

You can discover your own strengths by taking a short assessment through the book Now Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. In addition to the strengths assessment the book fully describes 34 positive personality themes or strengths. The book explains how to build a “strengths-based organization” by capitalizing on the strengths of the individuals within the organization which can easily be translated into how we operate in others areas of our lives.

Once you know your strengths and begin to leverage them, think about what possibilities might exist for you, coming from a strength perspective. How might your day or life experience be enhanced if you operate from your strengths? Ultimately, how might operating from your strengths focus your curiosity and enhance your possibilities? I believe that we all want the opportunity to express the very best of ourselves and to be challenged to keep reaching for more. Equipped with knowing your core values, life purpose and strengths you have the best tools for stepping into the possibility of being your personal best.

Purposeful Life

I invite you to take time to celebrate your successes in changing your perspectives and in reconnecting to your naturally authentic creative self. I also invite you to consider what is possible for. What have you not dared to speak or dream about? Is there something that you have always thought about but never had the time or courage to do? Now is the time to take the plunge and just do it. But how?

Take time for reflection and start anew with your way of being in the world. So many of us tend to live on auto-pilot, acting out of habit and remaining mentally asleep. We just keep doing the same routine over and over because we are too busy, too tired, out of courage or just plain stuck and don’t know how to start living a life that is more alive.

Do you find yourself asking: Who am I? What am I doing? Where am I going? Is living a different kind of life something you yearn for? I know the feeling that creeps in when a part of you wants to find the deepest side of yourself and another part is scared to death of what you might discover. If you are finally ready for a change, to embark on a journey of self discovery, this feeling can be silenced. To start, consider these questions. They are meant to guide you in shaping what is possible for you.

* What would it take to stay focused on the abundance in your life?

* How many unfinished projects do you have? What keeps you so scattered or how does being scattered serve you?

* Do you think or analyze too much to the point of paralysis, so that you spin your wheels and never really move forward?

* Do your gremlin voices (negative voices in the head) feel disparaged thinking been-there-done- that with no clarity ever coming of what you have engaged in?

* Do you feel like you do not have any passion or energy for anything?

* Would you like your life to be simpler?

* Would you like to wake up and feel energized?

* Are you afraid of stepping outside of your comfort zone?

* Do you know what your talents and strengths are?

* Do you live a life that leverages your strengths?

* Would you like to feel a sense of meaning and purpose in everything you do?

* Would you like to discover and claim your unique purpose?

* Would you like to know how to become a more authentic expression of your purpose?

* Would you like to know that you are making a difference in the world?

* Would you like to wake up and feel happy and fulfilled?

* Can you imagine having clarity – every day – that you are doing what you know you were meant to do?

* How do you remove obstacles, fears, and beliefs that get in your way and prevent you from living your purpose?

I believe that we all have a reason for being, that our very existence has a purpose. When we know our purpose, along with our values and strengths, we have created the compass that guides us in how we think and make our decisions. When you know your purpose, you live as your best self and lead the most rewarding kind of life. Knowing purpose makes it easy to live authentically and consistently, because it frees us from doing what is expected of us or the cycle of repeating old familiar habits as we search for that “right” answer. Being in alignment with our true self and purpose, we can choose to act according to our values and find internal peace.

But this doesn’t happen by magic. The above questions are a great place to start. In order for you to live this kind of life, you must take yourself and your desires seriously, devoting time and resources to making changes that will allow you to be more fulfilled and aligned in your life. People who are living fulfilled, purposeful lives are intentional about how they behave every day and how they are in relationship to others.

You do not have to do this journey alone. A life coach can assist you, by guiding you through the process of self-discovery, and serving as the caring, supportive, objective ear that we all seek. I would like to leave you with this quote from Sharon Daloz Parks, from the Whidbey Institute: “There is a possibility created in all of us that can only come through you ~ it is lost if you do not answer the call.”  Muster up the courage to become clear about your life purpose and answer your call. The world needs you – and you deserve it.