Leadership Coaching – Our Process
This work has revealed a set of underlying tools and capacities that support leaders in their ability to embody leadership qualities.
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1. Discovering the “Real” Issue: Which Innate Leadership Qualities are Blocked?
Method: Coaching Assessment
Outcome: Identifying specific leadership outcomes and issues to address.
Example: Consider a leader who is having a hard time relating to her staff and wants to be more direct in her communication. She’s received feedback from her staff indicating that she is not challenging them enough to support their growth and development. During our coaching assessment, we discover that she lacks access to the leadership quality of strength. To help her support the growth of her staff members, we need to help her access and embody her essential strength.
2. Expanded Self-Awareness
Method: Coaching and self-observation exercises.
Outcome: Deeper awareness and understanding of how and why our patterns of behavior show up in our leadership style.
Example: As our leader observes herself in action, she begins to see that her perceived lack of strength leads her to avoid conflict with her staff—specifically, to avoid challenging them in ways they need to be challenged. To help address this, we might ask her to take five minutes twice per day and observe her internal conflict-avoidance response when a staff member acts in a way she disagrees with. The leader’s self-observations become a subject of regular coaching conversations. This exercise is not intended to change the behavior, but to support the leader in becoming more aware of her particular pattern. The leader’s behavior may begin to shift on its own simply as a result of shining the light of awareness on her pattern of behavior. Of equal importance, the leader is developing the skill of overall self-observation, which she can apply to any challenging pattern she discovers.
3. Discovering the Truth of our Experience
Method: Transformative Inquiry.
Outcome: Letting go of more deeply-held beliefs and assumptions
Example: Sometimes further exploration is required to loosen the grip of more deeply-held beliefs. In this case, our conflict-averse leader discovers that past experiences in which she exhibited her strength were not welcomed. Early in her career, she expressed bold ideas freely as they occurred to her in order to make a positive contribution to the organization. On one occasion, veteran staff members more protective of the organization’s internal hierarchy told her that she should keep her ideas to herself until she had more experience. Embarrassed and a bit ashamed by this feedback, she vowed to censor her ideas and made sure to come across in a way that would not threaten or challenge her colleagues. In the process of self-censorship, she also lost touch with the quality of strength that had enabled her to express her ideas so vigorously in the first place.
The leader now understands at a deeper level the source of her current difficulty in challenging her staff as needed. She also begins to see how she needs to reconnect with the innate strength she has in order to more effectively provide the kind of strong leadership that her current role calls for. This deeper understanding allows her to feel more compassion for herself instead of judging herself for the feedback she has received, or trying to overcome it by working her way to a more challenging stance with her staff without feeling the underlying strength needed to make the challenging behavior more authentic and natural. Together, these realizations allow her to let go of the belief that she has to exhibit “nice” or “non-threatening” behavior in order to survive in the organization.
4. Embodiment and Expression of Essential Leadership Qualities
Method: Structured Practices
Outcome: Cultivating their natural leadership qualities and discovering how to exercise leadership based on those qualities. Others around the leader start to feel the impact of the leader’s own transformation.
Example: Letting go of an entrenched belief pattern that has blocked an essential quality is just the beginning of the journey. The quality of strength that our leader lost contact with earlier in her career needs time to mature and reintegrate before she can fully embody and express it as a leader. It’s similar to a muscle that has not been used for a long time. The coaching offers her practices to help her remember what the strength feels like in an embodied way.
Practices also help her begin to experiment with expressing and trusting her strength. Initially, she may be afraid to fully express the strength so she does so timidly. Alternatively, because it has been bottled up for so long it may come out in the form of aggression or anger that lacks skillfulness. At each of these stages, the old beliefs around “being nice“ can re-assert themselves. Again, the coaching supports her as she works through the various challenges until the quality is more fully embodied and she can express it with fluidity and power. The more the strength is embodied and expressed cleanly, the further the old belief pattern fades to the background.
The more this process unfolds, the more freedom and resilience our leader experiences as this quality becomes fully integrated as part of her leadership arsenal.
5. The Immanent Cycle of Transformation: The Powerful Impact on Individual and Collective Leadership
Outcome for the leader: Appreciating their own process of transformation as a cycle motivates them to pursue further transformation in other facets of their leadership, as well as identify opportunities for transformation in others and for the organization as a whole.
Outcomes for the organization: The leader’s newly embodied strength instills confidence in others within the organization, and provides more support for their own development. The leader’s commitment to their own transformation also leads others to be more open to looking within themselves for places where transformation is needed.
At this point, the impact of the leader’s new found strength is evident to her and her colleagues. But the benefits extend beyond these results.
Example: This leader has a deeper appreciation for the transformation process and its potential power. Now she is motivated to see how other belief patterns limit her access to other qualities. She has seen what can happen if she observes and understands these patterns and the qualities they block, and wants to access more of her essential leadership qualities. And she wants more of the freedom and power that those qualities will bring her and her organization.
Even if nothing is stated, our leader is modeling a new way of being. This sends a powerful message to all. Beyond the particular quality of strength, our leader’s energy for furthering her own transformation with all its qualities becomes contagious in the organization. Others naturally begin to see that understanding oneself and one’s limitations is a healthy part of good leadership, whereas in the past, these limitations may have been seen as something to hide.
Our leader now has a new lens through which to see her staff and other leaders in her organization. Instead of lamenting their limitations, she sees the possibility of how they could transform with the appropriate support—and she naturally begins to find ways to support that happening. As this begins to occur, others are introduced more explicitly to the Immanent Process of Transformation. Others begin their own coaching work and over time a common language, common ways of understanding things, and shared practices develop. In time an Immanent organization—committed to profound personal and social transformation—is born.
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