Making space for change

I’ve been thinking about making space for change. When I get overwhelmed, my instinct is to stop doing the most recent thing I took on. But is that really the best choice?

Instead, this time, I took a few minutes and listed my current commitments, ranked them in order of the value I get from them, and was surprised to see the result.

An activity I used to enjoy, and had invested lots of time and money training myself to do well, was at the bottom of the list. The change in ranking happened less because I no longer loved the activity, but that the context in which I had enjoyed it was no longer satisfying me – the group I did it with had lost its inspiration, and none of us, including me, was willing to put the energy into getting it back.

So, instead of giving up the thing I was enjoying today, in a fresh, exciting, inspiring group of people, I decided to put the old activity on the shelf and give it a rest. I might come back to it one day. Or not. And that’s ok.


I’ve been reading and rereading Difficult Conversations by Stone, Patton and Heen. I find it particularly useful because it identifies the thing that has always baffled me about “those” conversations: they’re not about facts and logic. Even though we spend inordinate amounts of teeth-grinding time on “But you said…” and “I don’t remember saying that, but if I did that’s not what I meant”, what happened is just one of three conversations we are really having.

The book tells us there are 3 conversations:
The “What Happened” conversation – what was the intent, who’s to blame and what is the truth
The Feelings conversation – we both have feelings and if we don’t make them explicit in a non-threatening way, they can take over, leaving us overwhelmed and confused.
The Identity conversation – what does this say about me? Am I a good person, am I worthy of love, and am I competent?

They follow on with examples, words to say, and ways to correct common mistakes.

It’s exciting to think that conversations that seemed so obscure and confusing actually were! Have a look.

What would Atticus Do?

I just read a great blog from Harvard Business Review based on the work of Rafe Esquith, the author of Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire. It’s all about morals.  Morals in Management.  Ring any bells?  HBR has gone to an award-winning 5th grade teacher in Los Angeles for help.

According to the blog, Esquith has “adapted a framework from psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg called the Six Levels of Moral Development. In some ways, Esquith’s formulation is more useful, translated as it has been into something a fifth-grader can relate to. Here’s Esquith’s channeling of Kohlberg:

Level 1: “I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Level 2: “I want a reward”
Level 3: “I want to please someone”
Level 4: “I follow the rules”
Level 5: “I am considerate of other people”
Level 6: “I have a personal code of behavior and I follow it”‘

Sound like anyone you know at work? Where are you usually on the scale?  Where are you in a crisis? According to the Wikipedia article on Kohlberg, most adults stop at level 4 in terms of consistent behaviour.  And the instance of empirical evidence of level 6 was so low, Kohlberg couldn’t prove it existed, but believed it did.

One of the tools Rafe uses in his classroom  for Level 6 is the question, “What would Atticus do?” Atticus Finch is the dad in To Kill A Mockingbird, the readers choice all time best book ever in every poll ever taken.  Atticus always does the right thing, even if it might hurt or will be painful.  If you haven’t read it, read it.

Where are you on the scale?

In your immediate challenges at work, what would Atticus do?

Are you ready to do that?

Presence in Coaching

I’ve tried a couple of ways of keeping session records for coaching:

Take notes while I’m in session

Take notes when I’m done

For all kinds of reasons, when I don’t take notes during the session, but instead stay present and aware of my client’s voice, energy and patterns of speech, the outcome is always deeper and more effective.  I usually note observations and commitments in my client file when the session is over so I can follow up later.  

My own presence is not just affected by multitasking.  I can get distracted by noise, visual activity outside the window, reminders popping up on my laptop.  So I settle myself with intent before I start a coaching session, take some deep breaths, clear my mind.  If I can hear myself breathe and count to 50 without losing my place, then I’m ready to attend and listen effectively.

Anyone have a similar experience?

Who uses coaches and why?

Some Initial Findings From 2008 ICF Global Coaching Client Study conducted by PricewaterhouseCooper and the Association Resource Centre, Inc:

  • 65 percent of coaching clients are female.
  • The majority of coaching clients are between the ages of 36 and 45 (35.9 percent).
  • The majority of coaching clients have acquired an advanced level of education (a post graduate degree such as a master ’s degree or Ph.D.).
  • The duration for the average coaching relationship for survey participants was 12.8 months.
  • The top three motivations for obtaining coaching are:
  1. Self-esteem/Self-confidence (40.9 percent); 
  2. Work/Life Balance (35.6 percent); 
  3. Career Opportunities (26.8 percent)
  • 96.2 percent of coaching clients report they would repeat their coaching experience
  • 82.7 percent of coaching clients report they are “very satisfied” with their coaching experience

Resilience thinking and adapting exercise in the dark months

There are a couple of ways to look at what I did this morning.

One is that I started exercising.

Another is that I resumed exercising.

I’ve been reading a lot about resilience and reflecting on how it helps people adapt.  One way to test your resilience is through your view of  yourself, “Am I a ‘me, always, everything’ person or a “not me, not always, not everything’ person?”

I use to be, and sometimes still am, a “me, always, everything” person.  If I didn’t exercise the way I had imagined and sometimes achieved “exercise” in my world, then I had failed to be committed to fitness, I had failed every time I tried, and in fact I failed at the entire fitness model.  The result was I was scared to commit to getting fit again because I didn’t want to face the shame (I’m a bad person) when I inevitably didn’t exercise, proving yet again that I was a failure.

Now I see my taking action on fitness, or not, as “not me, not always, and not everything”.  There are specific circumstances that lead me to stop exercising.  Those circumstances are temporary, and I do continue to pursue physical activity that keeps me reasonably healthy until I resume the intense workouts I know my body likes.

Today, I started it up again, doing what I know will give me strength, flexibility, a sense of self-efficacy, better sleep and a good appetite.  I did a long walk, some serious lower and upper body work, and some good stretching.  And I’m going to ask for help.  I’m going to use my network of coaches, friends and family to help me talk through my high and low energy days, and keep me in action.  

And I’m going to keep adapting!  If some days on the journey I don’t bench press 80lbs, then it’s not a character flaw, it’s temporary (one day), local (circumstantial) and impersonal (I’m still a good person).  I can adjust for days when I haven’t had much sleep, or when work really is more important.  There will be days when it just makes a whole lot more sense to go tobogganing with the neighbour kids than to do lunges in my spare bedroom.  There will be days when we have to tramp through the woods and cut firewood because the ground is frozen and we will best be able to pull the logs out over the snow.  And there are firehall dances where Twist of Fate will keep me moving like a teenager for two hours.  Those are the temporary, local, impersonal triggers to exercise adaptation.  And they themselves are exercise.  I can adapt my “vision” of exercise to the goal I want to achieve – physical strength and endurance, healthy weight, and positive mood.

References: The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles

Reflections on my maiden voyage as coaching teleclass trainer

As one of the learning opportunities in the ICA Train the Trainer class, I had the chance to lead a normal ICA teleclass.  I had the wonderful experience of working with Michael Monitz as my mentor coach/trainer.  He generously supported me leading one of his classes – Getting Started –  and gave me solid, supportive feedback and encouragement both before and after the class.  Thank you Michael!

While I’ve done training by conference call in the past, usually as a fallback when in-class training was not possible, it was always in the context of a consulting contract in which I already had a relationship with at least a few of the participants, and I already knew their challenges and corporate culture.  

In contrast, the ICA model is pre-designed to support adult learning in the teleclass medium.  It’s not a “second best” approach.  Participants can come from a variety of backgrounds, time zones, cultures, first languages, visions for coaching, styles and types of coaching, business backgrounds, and so on.  So there were a few new elements to the training that I knew were necessary to work on:

  • Because it was a Foundation Level class, some of the learners might be in their very first ICA class – I wanted to warmly welcome them into the community and support their courage in taking the first steps
  • I had never met the learners before, nor had they met each other: it was necessary to build a safe learning space, trust and rapport in minutes rather than the hours I might have as a consultant
  • The training I do with my consulting clients is very familiar to me – I’ve done it for years and have had enough feedback from clients to know they like my approach and it works; in contrast, leading the coaching class meant new material, new learner types, new lesson plans, competencies, assessment approach, etc. – there was really no common element except the human one

The class was a Saturday afternoon class, and very small.  There was, indeed, one person for whom this was the first class at ICA, and one person who had started months ago, took a break, and was back to start again.

The lesson plan is in another post, but in essence, it’s all about what it will take for you to start coaching, to begin to build your model and approach, and feel confident enough to make and keep supportable agreements with clients.

I was humbled by the power of silence and the “aha” moments for the learners.  My supportive  silence allowed them to think, think again, go deeper and share with each other.  The sense of trust was palpable by the end of the class.

All in all it was a fantastic learning experience!  Thank you ICA!