by Kate Harper
“How many of you regularly ask for feedback?” One hand out of 10 is raised. The rest of the group looks stricken. These leaders are voluntarily here for a class on receiving feedback and still the topic is uncomfortable.
What makes receiving feedback so difficult? “The process strikes at the tension between two core human needs—the need to learn and grow, and the need to be accepted just the way you are,” say Sheila Heen and Douglas Stone, in their Harvard Business Review article, Find the Coaching in Criticism.
Intellectually we understand the value of feedback – it helps us gauge if we are being effective and see inside our blind spots. No company would bring a product to market without getting customer input. Yet when the product is our self, even the thought of someone else’s helpful suggestion can trigger a strong defensive reaction.
Think back to the last time you received unsolicited feedback. Did you want to argue? Run away? Or were you temporarily frozen in place? Perhaps it was a combination: I can’t punch my boss so I’ll just say nothing. Our brain interprets feedback as a threat. The threat causes anxiety which triggers a defense – fight, flight or freeze.
This is a very basic protective mechanism. Even the most enlightened among us will get triggered. So what can you do? One way to receive feedback more easily is understand what triggers you, recognize your physical and emotional reaction, and engage the larger self by asking, “How do I choose to respond?”
by Jen Sellers
Wow. Think of how much time you spend inside, disconnected from the natural world. I say this not to discourage you or disparage you, but to encourage you to reflect.
For example, it’s about 65 degrees outside and gorgeous here in Tucson. I just opened my window. That’s because I reflected for a moment on how much time I spend inside. And then I thought, “Okay, I work from home, for crying out loud – why couldn’t I go sit on a bench in the yard?” So that’s where I am now, a mesquite tree shading my laptop screen. That’s the power of internal reflection. It changes external actions.
There are a bunch of reasons to get outside, as we all know.
I feel more alive just sitting out here. I feel more clear-headed, more connected to myself, and more in my body. Several varieties of birds are singing, the trees are waving gently in a slight breeze, and a small neighbor girl is doing outside chores with her Mom. I am more connected to the world.
When I walk the dog every morning and evening, my body moves, which benefits my mind and my spirit. The left-right motion is good for my brain. If I pay attention, I see patterns of beauty and sometimes patterns of pain. Both connect me with the world outside myself. As I let my mind go, ideas come to me and problems sometimes solve themselves. Wisdom seems to find me. I have more vitality, not only physically, but also emotionally and intellectually.
by Sheri Boone
There’s a really sweet little book by Dr. Seuss called, Oh, the Places You’ll Go. I came into contact with it over 20 years ago when my son was graduating from high school. A friend gave him the book; it was and still is a very popular gift for graduates. Years later, this book was used in my first coach training, illustrating the ups and downs of life – the peaks and valleys that we all go through on this journey.
Lately I’ve been reminded of the book and its message of how normal and natural it is to at one moment be on top of a mountain, on top of my game, with all the excitement and hope that peak provides, and then quite suddenly be in the valley of sadness, loneliness, or even despair, with all of the downward spiraling emotions that are present in that place.
At any given time, a lot of factors can be influencing whether or not we are at the peak or in the valley. And don’t we all prefer to be at the peak? I feel that for the most part, I live in the area of the peak. I’m quite happy and hold a positive outlook. But, once in a while, I find myself deep in the valley. What then? How can I navigate this place and find a path back up the mountain?
by Jen Sellers
I often hear clients use the phrase, “The proof is in the pudding!” They usually say this when they’re going to try something different that they’ve come up with in our coaching session, and they’re not sure how it’s going to work out.
I wonder, does the emphasis on the pudding negate the value of trying something that might fail? If the proof is in the pudding, do we focus so much on the pudding, a desired outcome, that we undervalue our knowledge and intuition and shut ourselves off from an experience that might lead to something even greater?
As I pondered these questions, the phrase came to me: “The power is in the process.” What if the process of making a great pudding is as important as the pudding itself? An outcome is straight-forward and a process can feel complex. Here are four simple questions to get the most power from the process:
Why has coaching grown so much? Because it works. Professional Coaching results in increased productivity, positive people and has a huge return on investment. Data taken from the 2009 ICF Global Coaching Client Study.
by Kate Harper
Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. I’ll never forget reading this First Noble Truth in Sylvia Boorstein’s It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness. I was 42 at the time. When I was 12, my father died of malignant melanoma. I felt abandoned, let down by God, alternately mad and sad and numb. Thirty years of suffering.
This Noble Truth resonated deeply. It felt both honest – yes life can be hard and painful, and hopeful – I don’t have to suffer. I began to explore ways to find happiness and lessen suffering: practicing meditation and yoga, focusing on letting in the good, being kind to myself, staying present. How I experience life is forever changed. Thank you Sylvia! Thank you Buddha!
Imagine that each of us has a dial in our brain labeled Suffering that can be turned up or down. I have practiced turning down the dial on suffering. When negative emotions arise, I do my best to not resist and allow the experience. When things don’t go the way I want, I notice when I want to beat myself up and try kindness instead. I have spent a good deal of time and energy tuning my Suffering Dial. So imagine my shock when I read Martha Beck’s blog post on the Willingness Factor. She writes:
by Sheri Boone, MCC
Today I was sitting in a coffee shop, taking a break from my office and computer. Sitting at the next table was a young woman and her friend. As much as I tried to focus on myself and not listen to her conversation, her proximity and the level of her voice made that pretty much impossible.
Her conversation was very intense; she was quite heated up, and was frankly what I would call “righteously indignant” about a variety of topics. I suddenly thought: “I recognize her.” I realized that I was this young woman once upon a time — so sure of my own opinion, my own views, and my own righteous indignation. And so, in that moment, I was able to let go of my judgment.
Lately, I’ve been very aware of how that young woman still shows up in me. How, as much as I want to be in a place of not judging others, I still do it with alarming frequency. And, I would rather not. But, there you have it — I still do.
Here is what I also know: when I judge others, I’m really judging myself. So, as long as I’m aware of doing it, aware of that judgmental voice, I can either choose to continue to listen to it, or I can make a new choice. Here then, is the real work to be done — on how I judge myself. In that moment of awareness, I can choose to love myself a little more.
I believe that to be a masterful coach, one must be masterfully self-aware. What’s your self-awareness today?
Have you ever become convinced that if you work harder you’ll get more done? Hard work can be invigorating and inspiring. At the same time, we humans weren’t meant to sprint indefinitely. Overwork leads to a foggy mind and burn-out, while slowing down and taking breaks leads to creative thinking and better ways to get things done. I was headed down the overwork road recently, and I’m happy to say I woke up before I got to that dead end.
It happens to our clients sometimes, too. Two of them coached with me recently. They’re consultants who are gearing up for more work after the relaxed pace of summer. Cassandra O’Neill and Sarah Griffiths of Wholonomy Consulting are business partners who pay attention not just to what they do but to how they do it.