It’s a beautiful winter (spring in my neighbourhood) day and I am busy figuring out the details of my business. After working for the big guy for years, this is like going back to school – except I am the teacher and the student. There is no one else!
Scary. But perfect.
Scary because I don’t know what I don’t know about running a business. Yes I know how to be a coach – and a good one. The part that ties my stomach in knots is the marketing and getting myself known. Someone once commented to me that I could sell anything to anyone. But this is different. I am selling the experience of coaching with me.
When I was growing up I remember hearing that effort is what you have to do to be successful; and if you are going to do something – do it well. Sure, that makes sense. As I grew older I threw myself into my work and my family and called it life. If I just worked really hard and put in the effort then everything would be great. Boy was I wrong!
You are probably thinking, “What is Eve talking about? Everything takes effort.” And you are right. But where does it end and what do our efforts really translate into? And most importantly, how satisfied are we with our efforts? Is it getting us to where we want to be? Is it leading us to our (im)possible future?
I suggest that for most of us the answer is NO. We see our efforts as simply exertions or putting energy out. Most often we expend that energy simply because we have to in order to meet our day-to-day demands. We do it mindlessly. I want to flip that idea on its head.
What if we look at our efforts in a new light? I think about effort as being made up of two things – intent + consistency. One without the other is just going through the motions. Let’s take a deeper look.
Intent is what we choose as the purpose of our actions. The clearer and more explicit we make our intent the greater the awareness we can bring to our efforts. I ask myself, is my intent aligned with my values? Is it safe and does it have value for me? Does it line up with my overall goal in life? If intent underpins any effort I choose to put out, the likelihood of generating meaning and enjoying what I am doing will be far greater. Intent must be tied to my larger purpose.
Consistency is taking the action through to its final destination. We don’t do it hurriedly or just to get to the end. Consistency means approaching our effort as a process. I see consistency as a commitment to being aware of what I am doing at any given point in the process. And, here is the most important piece; it is a commitment to my overall goal in life. It is an ongoing marriage between the big picture and the details of my life. Persevering and wholeheartedly staying with the effort will ultimately give me satisfaction and get me where I want to go.
We can have what we desire. It takes commitment and work. If we approach our efforts with intent + consistency the fruits of our labour will be more meaningful and more likely to get us to our possible future!
Are you creating intent in what you choose to put energy into?
Are you consistent in the energy you are putting out?
I recently read an article along with the comments in a discussion forum on the most important qualities for a leader to possess. There were over 28 different qualities put forth ranging from integrity to results oriented to vision.
In thinking about the list, I noticed they really divide into two categories: soft and hard qualities (for example, integrity versus communicator). It got me thinking that the hard qualities like results oriented or listener can possibly be learned skills. But what about the soft qualities like empathy, positive and inspirational? How do they develop?
Reflecting upon leaders I have known and worked with – those rare individuals that are able to inspire, are trustworthy and ethical – there is one quality they all share: authenticity – the ability to consistently be real and show up as they truly are. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines authentic as true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character. I believe that authenticity is the foundation for real leadership.
I propose that being real is intrinsically linked to self-awareness. This is critical to our ability to open up to seeing and developing other leadership qualities. Authenticity is key in developing our humility and courage. This includes being vulnerable and in turn being able to face failures, learn from them and move on. I once worked for a leader who publicly stated he made a mistake about a significant business decision. His ability to admit his failure demonstrated the truth of his character. That is inspirational. That engenders trust. That is leading by example.
From the foundation of authenticity we can layer on qualities like sincerity, purposeful and empathy. A leader who is real is likely better able to bring forth qualities appropriate to the situation. Layered upon the soft qualities are the hard skills like strategic, results oriented, communicator and listener. Don’t get me wrong; these are critical for a leader with corporate responsibilities. But they won’t inspire and motivate others to achieve greatness if they don’t come from a place of authenticity.
How do we become authentic? We choose it. We wake up every single day being aware of who we are and accepting our gifts and our faults. We let others see us in this real and powerful way. We listen carefully to and accept feedback. We are open to learning and don’t assume we are always right. We make it a priority to be compassionate to ourself and to others. It is our practice. We show up exactly as we truly are.
Are you showing up as you really are? Ask yourself these 3 questions:
1. What are my values and what is most important to me?
2. Do I show up at work holding those values front and centre or am I putting on a game face?
3. Am I choosing to share my gifts and failures with others?
People often ask me what happens in a coaching session. The easy answer is I work with clients (coachees) through a process that facilitates greater awareness leading to identified goals.
But lets take a closer look at how it really works. I have adapted a process I learned in my training at university. I call it the Five C’s. Each of the five steps is critical in moving through a process of discovery and accountability.
It starts with connect. At our first meeting, the focus is on creating a trusting relationship. There are ground rules including confidentiality that we establish as well as the logistics of the relationship. These include schedule and understanding of the coaching parameters. Most importantly, it tells us whether we are a good fit for working together (which is why I always begin with a complimentary session). In the first and in fact every session, we work on creating a contract. Not a legal contract but an agreed upon focus for the session (i.e. issue, goals, outcomes).
Once we have connected, we move to exploring whatever issue is within the contract. I listen closely to the information the coachee is sharing with me. I assist by asking questions to get underneath the issue – what is really at play and what perspectives may be inhibiting moving forward. This stage of clarify is critical for both the coachee and me to better understand the issue. It takes curiousity – listening and questioning – to discover what may be motivating or hindering change, or simply unlocking what the real issue may be. A lot of work? Yes, but this is what I call the meaty part. If the coachee doesn’t fully understand the problem then it will be tricky moving toward realistic solutions or possibilities.
The next stage is to co-create new possibilities and what an impossible future will look like. It means brainstorming ideas and working through to a focus. This is done through careful listening and powerful questions on my part. This is generally the creative part of the Five C process. It is highly motivating for both of us as we work toward the future.
This leads to the creation of an action plan. I call it the catalyze phase because it almost always generates a tangible path forward. Like all plans, this means testing out it out in a number of ways. Then of course adjusting the plan as necessary.
The final stage is to commit. The coachee commits to the plan, practicing it and playing with it. I commit to holding the coachee accountable. How is this done? I follow up with the coachee in subsequent sessions or between sessions to ensure they are fully on track with their commitment. If something is not working well, we readjust the plan and continue to move forward. Again, I listen carefully to the experience of the coachee and ask questions to solidify their learning and commitment.
The five C’s isn’t always a linear approach. Sometimes we need to go back a few steps within a session to re-affirm or adjust the contract. We may need to continually clarify the issue until we get to a powerful “aha” moment. No matter how we move through the process, it is meant to be purposeful, deliberate and with outcomes.
My role is to be the coachee’s thinking partner. I hold the coachee capable to know what is best for them and for any decisions made. And I hold them capable of achieving their impossible future. The advantage comes in my being the coachee’s champion – no matter what.
Many coaches bring in personality assessments in their practice. They are typically a self-report inventory (questionnaire) or other standardized instrument designed to reveal aspects of an individual’s character or psychological makeup. In short, they are a way of digging a bit deeper into self-understanding. Corporations, the military, and government use them to understand different leadership styles and the dynamics of working in groups.
Do they work?
That depends. There are a myriad of assessments available which all offer many things to many people. Assessments based on the self-report inventory depend on how you answer or respond to questions or items in a survey. I believe the more honest we are in our answers, the more likely the accuracy.
Personality assessments have been used since the 1800’s. The modern version dates back to psychologist Carl Jung – arguably the grand-daddy of personality testing. Since then many academics have developed variations on Jung’s work.
In my career, I have done at least 8 different assessments and at face value the results are similar. They tell me I am a big picture thinker, motivator, spontaneous and a people-person. All good information to know. But what many don’t do is give me my underlying motivations and how to use my strengths and understand my gaps.
For my practice I went on a hunt. I wanted to find the personality assessment that would be of greatest value to my clients. I wanted one that doesn’t put us in a box.
In his blog, Peter J. Smyth, PhD explains that Lumina Spark and Leader “incorporate the ostensibly opposing aspects of personality and behaviour in a way that challenges conventional wisdom regarding the dichotomous nature of the person (either one is outcome focused or people focused, flexible or structured, imaginative or evidence-based – never truly both).”
Lumina Learning offers our personalized portrait through 3 unique yet integrated views (personas): underlying, everyday and overextended self. Each of us has our preferred behavior – our underlying persona. These are qualities that feel natural to us. Our everyday behaviors are the ones we make a conscious effort to use, especially when we take perceived expectations into account. And we all have those times when we are stressed and we start to use too much of a quality. This is when we are overextended. In short, Lumina provides a spectrum of qualities – some opposing such as competitive and collaborative – that are true for each of us.
What I find most compelling is how we function in our 3 personas and how we can use that to understand ourselves better in different environments and under different circumstances. The self-awareness I have gained through Lumina has enabled me to pull out my most authentic self and draw on my most appropriate strengths when I become overextended.
Lumina Leader takes this one step further as it aligns our qualities with leadership competencies. This enables us to see where are strengths are and more importantly, our gaps. We can’t all be great at all things, but we can learn to draw on what we have to shore up our competencies.
My choice for my clients is Lumina Learning. In upcoming blogs I will introduce further benefits and aspects of Lumina as they pertain to issues we come up against
As the year winds down, some of us use it as a time to take stock of our past year -our challenges and accomplishments. But how many of us think ahead to what we want to do and be in the coming year?
Sure, we all have a bucket list. And we all have dreams. But take a moment to really think of what you are doing now. Is it your impossible? Do you wake up every morning knowing deep down that what you are experiencing in your life is your dream? Or have you settled, are stuck and not living life in the way you desire? At the end of next year do you want to be living your impossible?
So many of us do what we think we should be doing. It may be because we can make money at it. Or it provides security of some type.
But what if we threw our own caution to the wind and changed everything? What could that look like? A new career? A change in lifestyle? A new place to live?
I believe in the impossible. What does it take? Conscious effort and a game plan.
Begin by creating a commitment with yourself – a contract that clearly defines your impossible future and the accountability you need to ensure you stay committed. Connect with what is really important to you.
Take time to explore and clarify your idea. What are your motives in making this change? How could your beliefs and values support achieving your impossible? How might they be holding you back? We create beliefs as a way of making sense of our world. Are these judgments still useful?
Next, work back from your impossible future. Think of all the steps you could take to get there. It helps if these steps are detailed. You may try brainstorming or creating a mind map to help you figure out what the steps could look like. Sharing your change process with a trusted friend can help you co-create ideas you may not have considered. Out of this should emerge a focus that can anchor your journey.
The steps can be turned into an action plan. What else might you need to support you? Is it commitment from a partner? Is it someone who can hold you accountable? Is there more research required? How can you catalyze your plan while keeping it realistic? Pull these ideas together and write down your plan in as concrete a way as possible.
Finally, keep your plan and your contract close by so you can revisit them regularly. Along the way, practice what it would feel like when you reach your impossible. Every step in your plan can be an opportunity for curiosity. Being mindful of your reactions as you reach each new step will help you become comfortable as well as offer any tweaking to your plan that may be needed.
Finally, commit to your plan. Only you can make the change you want to see. When we do everything the same then our results stay the same. If we change how we think and behave then our results will be different. Those thoughts and behaviors will lead you to your impossible future!
Are you ready to live your impossible?
You know that feeling that creeps up that you can’t put your finger on? Like the train has left the station and you aren’t on it. Or, you find yourself on the wrong train. I know that feeling. It happened long before I left my position in a large organization. I knew something wasn’t as it should be. I couldn’t put my finger on it. Like many of us it felt like I was in a forest but couldn’t see the trees. And if I could, they wouldn’t be the tall firs I am used to seeing close to home.
Sure, many others would have loved to be in my shoes. But I wasn’t loving it. This happens to most of us at one time or another. Instead of paying attention to the signposts, we carry on because it is what we do. We make sacrifices for the benefit of our loved ones. We tell ourselves that we made what we are, so put up with it. Or we wear those golden handcuffs like a badge of honor – but are they?
Welcome to my first blog! And of course, welcome to my site. Over the next year I will be writing periodically on various topics, mostly relating to leadership and issues on career and the right fit. These will be my musings and you may find you love or disagree with them. My hope is that they will provoke your thinking.
A little bit about myself – It was a year ago that I left my last position. Not my choice, but I knew at the exact moment it would end up being the right thing. Turns out I was right. Without boring you with typical clichés, sometimes we need a gentle or not so gentle push to send us in a better direction.
I won’t sugar coat this. There were some dark moments. Yes I questioned my abilities and attempted to read every self-help book I could find. But I took the time to really think deeply about who and what I wanted to be and do. I knew for sure that I wasn’t happy in the large organization anymore. I was stressed to the max and only time and contemplation could help me become open again.