Newsletter Archive

 

 

Developing Others – Fall 2009

Susan Wright, TCP President
It is a perfect time of year to think about developing others, how we pass along the gifts given to us so that others can benefit.  When we become Leader Coaches, we make a fundamental transition from looking after ourselves to looking beyond ourselves to help others, appreciating their unique strengths and development edges, and providing the support and challenge necessary for their continued growth.  We do this at work, of course, as we build high-engagement teams in the organization.  And we do it outside of work as well, in our families and communities in a variety of ways.  It is exciting and rewarding to see others learn and grow.  As Leader Coaches, we often find the more we give, the more we receive in terms of finding meaning and life satisfaction.
As we mature, we tend to extend our perspective on developing others beyond our immediate circle to include those whose growth we can serve in the broader environment, those who are disadvantaged or excluded within our wider communities or people who are struggling in other parts of the globe.  By sharing our gifts more expansively, we take a longer-term perspective on development, making an investment in the future of those we help, their families and communities, and the world in general.   We have seen this natural progression from self to others to the world in many Leader Coaches.  It seems a natural process of development in us that is the by-product of reaching out to develop others.
The Coaching Project and our Associates are involved in many of these efforts locally and internationally.  While they all speak to developing others, one clear example is SchoolBOX (www.schoolbox.ca), a small charitable organization dedicated to providing primary school education in Nicaragua, the poorest nation in the Americas, where less than half of all children complete Grade 5.  SchoolBOX was begun in 2006 by one young Canadian in search of a way to contribute.  One day he gave a little girl a pencil and notebook, and realized he had changed her life because she could now go to school.  With vision, dedicated leadership and single-minded persistence, the organization has grown to support 7,000 students in 30 communities around the country with new and renovated school buildings, dental hygiene and sports equipment, as well as those critical school supplies.
As SchoolBOX President Tom Affleck says, “It is so much more than educational supplies; it is instilling hope in children and their communities to have faith in themselves and a brighter future.”  And by using North American students as interns and project volunteers to build schools and raise funds to furnish and equip them, SchoolBOX also develops these young people as leaders with an awareness of the incredible difference they can make, working alongside members of the local community while learning about their country, culture, and language.
As a Leader Coach, how do you develop others?  In what ways do you contribute to the growth of your team, your organization, your family and your community?   How have you felt this pull toward the deep meaning and satisfaction that come from sharing your gifts more broadly in the world?  During this season of joy and connection, let’s take a moment to reflect on our many gifts and how we might use them in developing others.

Integrative Leadership – Fall 2008

Susan Wright, TCP President
In April, I was privileged to attend and speak on Integrative Leadership at the Integral Without Borders Conference in Istanbul, attended by organization and social sector leaders from around the world. The challenge:  how to bring an integrated perspective to the resolution of complex problems.
The philosopher Ken Wilber has written extensively about this integrated view (www.integralinstitute.com) and believes there are four necessary perspectives to seeing in a holistic or integrated way. The four perspectives include an Individual/Collective dimension and an INTERIOR(inside the person)/EXTERIOR(outside the person) dimension, as shown below. If we take his four perspectives from a leadership point of view, they might look like this:
INTERIOR Individual:
Who am I as a leader?
Self-awareness
                  
EXTERIOR Individual:
How do I behave as a leader?
Competency
INTERIOR Collective:
How do we relate to each other as leaders?
Culture
 
EXTERIOR Collective:
How do we serve our constituents as leaders?
Customers,
Environment, etc.
As I thought about this diagram, I noticed a few things:
1.  We know much more about the right side (EXTERIOR), the world of tangible objects than we do the left side (INTERIOR), the world we experience but can’t see.  For example, we as organizational leaders are most focused on serving our constituents, whether that means, customers, stockholders, employees, or the community and environment in which we do business (Lower Right).  When we think about leadership and its development, we tend to move toward measurable competencies that can be demonstrated through behaviour (Upper Right).  Much less time is spent on leader self-awareness or ‘consciousness’ (Upper Left) or on the relationships and culture that form the invisible subjective contexts in which the organization functions (Lower Left).  These are secondary priorities, we say, because after all, business is business.  Or is it?
2.  If we take this one step further and ask which of the four quadrants receive the bulk of leaders’ attention, we find similarly that the Lower Right (Organizational Systems) is where we focus on strategy in the marketplace, the structure that best meets those needs, and all the functions and activities supporting success.  In progressive organizations, time is also spent to a lesser extent on how success is achieved through leadership culture and behaviour, the Upper Right (Demonstrated Behaviour) and Lower Left (Cultural Values), including how leaders are assessed and developed and how we enact the cultural norms in our leadership style.  Much less attention is given to Upper Left (Consciousness), leaders’ attitudes and motivations, the way we actually experience the world and how that is translated into our every thought and action.
3.  The interesting point about this Upper Left missing piece of the puzzle is that we now know from recent research (Goleman, Schwarmer, Senge, etc.) that our awareness of ourselves as leaders and our impact on others, our level of consciousness about the complex global web of interests and perspectives, is exactly what is required for long term success.  It is the aspect of leadership development that has been under-valued and is therefore under-developed when critically needed.  And more, although there is a growing recognition of the importance of the leader’s interior maturity and worldview, there are very few practical approaches to developing ‘consciousness’.  In fact, some would say it’s a maturation process that takes its own time and can’t be influenced.
So what do we do about it?
As with all development, awareness of the issue is the starting point.  Just being aware that our own level of consciousness or self-awareness determines what we see and how we interpret our own and others’ actions is a great start.
Using the four quadrants as a holistic diagnostic tool in problem solving is another way. What are the components of the issue?  What behaviour is getting in the way?  How might the culture be an inhibitor?  How are my own beliefs influencing my perspective and what other interpretations are possible? How can I stretch and test my assumptions against each of these four perspectives?
A personal reflective practice routine is another necessary element in developing self-aware consciousness.  For example, meditating regularly, walking in nature, any spiritual practice, or some creative expression like art, dance, etc. that allow for reflection are all effective forms of development.
Whatever practice appeals to you, I encourage you to ask “Who Am I as a Leader?” and to spend some time reflecting on how you answer the question.

 Co-Creation – Winter Newsletter 2008

 Susan Wright, TCP President
Co-creation has become a buzz word in business in the last while, a term that gets thrown around in all kinds of contexts.  For many, it seems like a valuable concept but one that is not terribly useful from a practical point of view.  What does it actually mean to co-create?  Are we really to give everybody a say in decisions?  Let customers and employees set the agenda?
Well, in a word, yes!  Many writers have tackled this issue of co-creation, one of the most recent being C.K. Prahalad, arguably the strategic guru of our day.  His book, written with M.S. Krishnan, is called The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-created Value Through Global Networks.  He advises that business needs to transform, not just strategically but in process and people too.  His two core principles for this transformation are:
 1) the centrality of the individual – how to co-create unique value for each employee and customer, and
2) the access to (not ownership of) global resources – mediated by information and communications technology (ICT).
What Prahalad envisions is nothing less than changing the ‘dominant logic’ of business, the whole way we think about organizations and how they operate.  So what has Leader Coaching got to do with transforming the dominant logic to one of co-creation?
In many ways, it’s a natural fit.  Leader coaches begin by co-creating meaningful relationships with those around them, including employees, peer colleagues and customers, understanding each individual’s unique needs and contributions, working with them to ensure their full creativity and potential are incorporated.  They do this through the Leader Coach© communications process.
 Similarly, one of the most successful applications of Leader Coach© co-creation has been in sales organizations where using the Leader Coach© process has resulted in more effective customer relationships and customer service based on a fuller understanding of distinctive customer needs and expectations.
Beyond the individual, Leader Coaches work to co-create teams, again appealing to the unique needs and aspirations of each member and blending them into the best overall performance.  As these teams develop, a Leader Coach culture emerges which is holographic – each individual within each team within the organization, all individuals and all part of the whole of which they are part.
 Co-creation is also one of the four alchemic principles of Leader Coaches – it is the initiating ‘dominant logic’ of both/and leadership.  It is where Leadership Alchemy begins, with each unique voice becoming part of the chorus, whether at the individual level, the team, the organization or beyond to include customers, suppliers and other stakeholders.
 Co-creative opportunities abound in both work and life.  As Prahalad points out, information and communications technology (ICT) is the transformative vehicle that makes possible both a global reach and a personal touch.  Leader coaches increasingly work across the globe with dispersed multi-functional teams to co-create innovative solutions to business issues.  New video capabilities have made face-to-face interaction a reality anywhere in the world.  Social networking sites like Facebook co-create thousands of new connections each day.  Wikipedia has co-created an incredible database of available information, to name a few examples.  And there is much more to come.
 So what’s next?  I invite you to think about one innovative way in which you might add value to your team and organization through a co-creative process.  What is one co-action you might take as a Leader Coach to drive value?

Integrating Mind/Heart/Body/Spirit – Fall 2008

 Carol MacKinnon, TCP Associate
I’d like to talk about a fundamental form of integration – a quaternity or four-part harmony, one that is essential for Leader Coaches to integrate in coaching, in leading, in living. That is the quaternity of Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit. I bought a little bracelet in Lima, a simple string on which were four little wooden beads on each side of a carved X and I’ve worn it on my right wrist to remind myself of the importance of this quaternity in my coaching and living.
How does the integration of this quaternity express itself in our Leader Coaching? Let’s look at how an increased awareness of and facility in harmonizing these four elements can influence our coaching. And as we do so, let’s remember that this quaternity is at play for both the Leader Coach and the coachee, simultaneously and diversely, in any coaching conversation and in the ongoing coaching relationship. It’s at play in all of us, all the time, though we are often not completely present to that reality.
MIND
Perhaps the most commonly understood and most frequently accessed aspect of the quaternity is the mind. We use language which reflects our mental models to describe where we are now, where we’d like to be, what might be getting in our way and causing our resistance. Our minds have frequently been the key driver in our success in the early years of our career as we’ve developed our technical competencies. Most leaders are highly skilled in problem solving, priority setting, process planning, and have more than enough intellectual capacity for the job.[i] There comes a time in your development as a leader, however, where the Mind alone is not enough. We realize we are not accessing all of who we are and could be, in our coaching conversations. So what else do we include?
HEART
In training Leader Coaches, we often find some degree of discomfort with including a second aspect of the quaternity, the Heart, the emotional centre, the place of feelings. Some would claim that feelings have no role in the workplace or that true leaders needs to harness or ignore their feelings in service of personal and organizational goals. We know now about the harmonizing power of the Heart, the capacity of the heart to hold paradox, ambiguity, and the very things that seem to overwhelm and paralyze us when we try to grow and learn in the Mind alone. As we reference in our book, Leadership Alchemy: The Magic of the Leader Coach[ii], Cynthia Bourgeault reminds us: “when properly attuned, the emotional center’s most striking capacity, lacking in the mind alone, is the ability to comprehend the language of paradox.  Logical inconsistencies which the mind must reduce into a simple ‘either/or’ can be held by the heart in ‘both/and’ – and more importantly – felt that way, without the need to resolve, to close down, or protect oneself from the pain that ambiguity always brings.[iii]
John Kotter’s research into organizational change reflects the same Heart perspective: he found after studying hundreds of cases of organizational change, “people change what they do less because they are given analysis that shifts their thinking than because they are shown a truth that influences their feelings.[iv]
Thus it is essential that Leader Coaches master their own emotional language to be in best service to their clients and colleagues in helping them grapple with the intensely complex changes that are continually required of all of us. We might have been encouraged to believe that we should leave our emotions “at the door” when we come to work but we know in fact that’s impossible, and trying to pretend none of us has emotions will only make them more difficult to work with and potentially distracting and possibly even destructive. Getting comfortable with the truth of our feelings, being able to access them and name or identify them, may be the first step in our personal change process. If you or your coachee is having trouble identifying what feeling is present, remember the simple list: at its most basic, a feeling is likely one of ‘sad, mad, glad, or scared’.  And that when we find ourselves saying “I feel that –” we know we’ve actually moved out of our heart and back into our minds. We’re really saying “I think that –” It can take significant discipline to stay with our feelings if this is unfamiliar territory. And the payoff can be enormous.
BODY
The Heart may be uncommon ground for Leader Coaches in their conversations; so too are the remaining two aspects of the quaternity we’re exploring here, the Body and the Spirit. I have lots of personal experience and my experience resonates with many other leaders, that as we grew in our careers we grew more and more separated from our bodies. Our bodies tell us what is healthy, what is necessary for vitality, what is endangering our abilities to stay centered and nurture these precious vessels we’ve been given. If we ignore our bodies’ whispers, they shout!
Richard Strozzi Heckler talks of the importance of “embodied or somatic leadership”[v], meaning that leaders must not merely espouse values, they must live them, they must embody them. We’ve begun to see a fundamental shift with the increased presence of new generations in the workforce, to challenge the stereotypical workaholic norms of the Baby Boomers. They can be great mentors to those of us who need a new model for how to live and work. The Body can be a great guide and help in a coaching conversation. Sometimes, it’s as simple as shifting the environment for the conversation from an office to a walk in the park. Sometimes the body can be, as Martha Beck[vi]  suggests, a compass needle helping us to tap into our intuition. Where does that tension about that change express itself in my body? What is my body telling me when I get sore shoulders or a tight stomach or sore legs? What can I learn if I truly listen to my body’s wisdom? Learning to listen to our own body’s messages may well be another important role that Leader Coaches can play in guiding the members of their teams and their organizations to do the same.
SPIRIT
As Leader Coaches, we’ve moved out from the safe territory of the Mind to the more controversial venues of the Heart and Body. But perhaps the most challenging of the four aspects of the quaternity is Spirit. The sceptics might react, “what business is it of yours to inquire into the terrain of my spirit, my sense of wonder, my connection to all things?” And yet, to bring ALL of who we are to what we do, to how we lead, we need to include our connection to the Divine, however we define it.
Our difficulties around Spirit may have to do with our experiences with organized religion. Or it may be that we see through human history the tragedies and traumas that have been wrought on the world in the name of religion. It might be tempting to duck out of the conversation rather than move into it. As you might have guessed, however, we’d suggest you DO move into it with courage and compassion. So what is this notion of Spirit and how does it manifest itself in our coaching conversation? Why should we care about it? My sense is that just as embodied leadership requires that we LIVE our values, BE our values, so spirit-filled leadership requires that we embrace and celebrate the mystery, the presence of that aspect of ourselves not found in Mind, Heart or Body – that ineffable ember that is found deep within that shines through all we are, all we do, all we say. It is our deepest essence, our connection to all things.
It may be helpful to listen, here, to two writers coming from quite different traditions: Benedictine Brother David Steindl-Rast and Ken Wilber who is a practicing Buddhist. They suggest that while we might struggle with definitions and role models of spirituality, “it nonetheless shows up in everyone’s life – in every act of kindness, compassion, and empathy, in every quiet feeling of gratitude, in every heartfelt ‘thank you’ and in every intimate connection we have ever felt with each other and with the world. {These}feelings of gratitude and thankfulness are universal – so universal, in fact, that they form the living bedrock of all the world’s great spiritual traditions, from the beginning of the world until the end of time. As Martin Buber reminds us once again, in the ‘I-Thou’ relationship, God is not some sort of ultimate ‘Thou’ at the end of the universe, but the hyphen that connects you with everyone and everything in creation.” [vii] And how might this express itself in our coaching conversations? Perhaps the most tangible way is to be constantly vigilant, to ensure that we are coaching and being coached, embedded in the principle of Unconditional Positive Regard, the embodiment of Namaste: the divine in me salutes, recognizes, and embraces the divine in you.
I suppose the ultimate integration would be to be continuously aware of the interplay and interdependence of these four aspects of our self, which I’ve described separately here. They are interconnected and their interaction can be alchemic and transformative in our lives. When we engage our entire quaternity in coaching another, we are bringing our whole selves in service to that other person’s whole self and the riches that connection will engender are without limit! So I wear my little bracelet as a visual reminder. It catches my eye and that catches my awareness, to include all aspects of the quaternity whenever I can. It’s working! I’m sure that both my coaching and my living are more complete now, with its reminder.
[i] See Lominger Inc. research on which leadership competencies occur most frequently across a large body of surveyed, successful leaders. www.lominger.com for more information.
[ii] Wright, Susan and MacKinnon Carol, Leadership Alchemy: The Magic of the Leader Coach. West Group Publishing, Egan, MN. 2003.
[iii] Bourgeault, Cynthia, Telephone, Texas. A Short Course on Wisdom, Praxis, 2002.
[iv] Kotter, John: The Heart of Change.  p. 1. HBS Press, 2002.
[v] See www.strozziinstitute.com for more information.
[vi] Beck, Martha: Finding your own North Star: Claiming the life you were meant to live, p. 106. Three Rivers Press, New York, 2001.
[vii] Integral Naked newsletter, August 18, 2008.

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