Beginning the Year of Light (2015)
Welcome to 2015, the International Year of Light. It is a very special year for Illumination Coaching for pretty obvious reasons. Watch for regular blogs as the year unfolds.
For now let us be grateful for the light in all its amazing forms.
Photo Tip of the Month
Try backlighting photos. Shoot into the sun or light. This can create spectacular effects if you catch the light on a tree branch or the corner of a building. Sometimes it can be fun with people too. Take several shots from different angles and different zoom lengths – it’s fun to play with.
Making Our Way to Mother
Mother is both noun AND verb. In highest-self and best-being form, our mothers are our nurturers; our guides; our firm yet compassionate counselors, our source of unconditional love, source of support for our bodies, minds, and spirits. May we chose today to make our way to our mothers—the mothers who gave us life, the mothers who chose us, and the mothers whom we have chosen. May we find them for the first of many first times.
Mother as a verb is a way of moving and being in the world; it is being the change we wish to see in the world: nurturing, guiding, supporting, loving those we know and those we have yet to know. May we choose the way to mother: mother as verb. May we choose this day and every day to love others and ourselves with unconditional and boundless compassion, for this is the way to our highest selves. This is the way of best-being. This is our way to mother.
© Beverly Horton May 2010
Presented at the First Unitarian Church of Hamilton – Mothers’ Day May 09 2010.
Mothering as a Metaphor for Leadership
I often quote good parenting strategies in discussions with my coaching clients. When I get raised eyebrows I remind them that we use our highest values and our very best knowledge and skills when parenting our children, so why would we not transfer our very best to the workplace? I was inspired to think further and more deeply about this concept by the part of Beverly Horton’s piece “mothering as a verb”. If we look at the verbs she used – nurturing, guiding, supporting, loving, they seem little different than the verbs I might use for effective leadership. This is particularly true if we think of loving as the unconditional love we have for a child. That love that has us be a coach rather than a dictator, has us confront when situations arise that we know are potentially damaging, and has us provide consequences, both positive and negative, to ensure continued growth and learning.
I was further reminded of the parallels in a recent conversation with a client. She has a complicated CEO role and is also a single mom with two spirited (some would say difficult) teenagers. Her comment drew a graphic picture of the side of leadership none of us enjoy when she quipped, “Parenting teenagers is Bootcamp for managing difficult people at work.”
In a recent Centre for Creative Leadership article Kim Leahy is commenting on the identity shift, from individual performer to leader/manager and identifies a list of functions or competencies that a person needs when he or she makes this move.
"It requires a different definition of success, a new level of self-awareness and an additional range of skills," says Leahy.
As I reflected on her list below, it struck me that they were not unlike the skills needed for competent leadership in a family (parenting). At a glance you might think adapting to cultural differences doesn’t fit – if you don’t think so you have not spent much time with teenagers lately.
- Building and maintaining relationships.
- Resolving conflict.
- Leading team achievement.
- Coaching and developing others.
- Confronting problem employees.
- Embracing change.
- Innovative problem-solving.
- Adapting to cultural differences.
I challenge you to take time to reflect and consider the functions Leahy describes above. Use them to assess your performance as a leader or as a parent.
Why I have to coach
Coaching assists me to live in the present, to make each day count, and to be aware of time as the precious commodity it is – on a daily and weekly basis. Coaching connects me to my higher self and to my unconscious self. By hearing my own words spoken out loud to a caring, supportive, non-judgemental other, I reinforce my own goals and purposes. Hearing my coach repeat these hopes, goals, and dreams back to me helps embed them in my conscious mind and makes them real for me.
Coaching holds me accountable for both my actions and my growth. It is a way of demonstrating that as a competent person and a professional, I care enough to invest in my own development. I honour myself by ensuring that I have the support I need to keep on the path I have set for myself.
Coaching gives me a safe place to share my joys and sorrows, my triumphs and failures, my accomplishments and regrets. I know my coach will listen without judging, encourage, push, probe – not allow me to stay stuck and wallow when I’m depressed, or to become arrogant when I am successful.
Coaching helps me develop and extend my skills: technical, intrapersonal and interpersonal. I have a consistent talking mirror in which to view my whole self, to get feedback on my progress, to receive encouragement, and to be nudged when I am functioning at less than my best self.
Coaching helps me integrate disparate parts of myself and become more balanced, fulfilled and whole. My coach encourages me to bring all parts of me to the coaching contract – emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. The coaching relationship helps me, each day, as a vibrant, competent person, to become more of whom I am meant to be!
Illuminating the Journey: Putting You in the Picture
Looking back over the last 8 months it certainly has been a journey. Perhaps the two most significant events have been the 10 day silent mediation retreat and my niece Adriana’s request to come and stay with me.
10 Days of Silence
The mediation retreat in March (part of my 65th birthday present to myself) was at the Vipassana Centre near Barrie. I did not know what to expect really – a couple of friends had been – but as I often do, I just trusted that part of me that drew me there and let life emerge. For those who know me well, the thought of my being silent for 10 days made them laugh; however as I noted to some on my return – being silent was the easy part after the first day or so. Here is how Vipassana is described in its website.
Vipassana is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations that form the life of the body, and that continuously interconnect and condition the life of the mind.
This is a fancy way of saying that by practicing sitting still and being in touch with what is going on in the body, one gets to become more aware of the body’s sensations and how they are a mirror to or reflection of what is going on in the mind/emotions. You may have noticed the word disciplined in that description. It is not my strongest suit and I did almost succumb and go home. The kind teacher convinced me that was not a failure at meditation that I could sit in a chair; I did not have to sit in the classic meditation pose if the back and leg pain was that brutal. So I stayed. The work I did at Vipassana helps me stay in the present and be more aware of sensation. As a Myers Briggs ENFP, knowing that sensing is my inferior function, anything that keeps me more connected to my body and the present seems like a valuable tool. Although I can never imagine doing the 2 hours of meditating (sitting as they call it) each day, morning and night, which is what committed practitioners do as a minimum, I have sustained the practice to a degree and I believe it is benefiting me. The two most important mantras for me are impermanence, impermanence impermanence and as it is, as it is, as it is. Though they sound like oxymorons, they are not. Life is simply the dichotomy of accepting the present as it is (or as Eckhart Tolle says, all anxiety is created by not accepting what is, and no matter how comfortable or uncomfortable the present, accepting too that the present is always impermanent.
Sharing My Home and My Life
In April my then 18 year old niece Adriana asked if she could come and live with me while she was attending school in Oakville. Adri is not only my niece but my beloved god-daughter, so yes was an easy answer. Though I did explain to her, except for short visits I had not lived with anyone for several decades, since her uncle and mom were on work placements in Hamilton and had variously lived with me in the 70s and 80s. So we agreed we would try it out and review how it was going at the end of each week at first and then at the end of each month.
To say living with someone is an adjustment is an understatement – In trying to model being responsible and letting the other adult in the house (she turned 19 May 10) know where I was, when I would be home etc., I became aware of just how independent I am and what it is like to live alone and be accountable to no one. As always when the universe unfolds in certain ways, I am never clear til after what the lesson or purpose is, but there have been many learnings for me and much joy in sharing time and life with Adri. We will review our time together and see where it goes next as she finished school for this term August 17th, but so far it has been a lovely (and loving) lesson for me in sharing space, giving space, holding space and I am grateful. I am grateful for the learning and also for the company on a day to day basis of a beautiful, creative and inspiring young woman.
I am excited about the planning for September in my own business; September is always a New Years time regardless of our age or stage in life. People are dreaming about the upcoming year and needing coaches or OD folk to help with goal setting, assessing next steps and creating strategic plans. This summer Culture of Peace Hamilton is sponsoring a Social Geography Project and I am one of the leads working with the summer students. Doing payroll and all it entails is challenging both my skills and my patience, but this too is impermanent. The project is very exciting and has potential to make a difference in many aspects of the Hamilton Community. I also have a volunteer role acting as Leadership/Volunteer Coordinator at the Unitarian Church where we are all excited about the arrival of our new minister Rev. Victoria Ingram. I have taken great joy in the beauty of the summer in my garden and have captured some of it on digital – somehow that does not sound as permanent as capturing it on film – speaking of impermanence. I look forward to the autumn light and its subtle inspiration.
In this version of Journey, I must acknowledge my own coach Ileana Vassilou who has been on a coaching journey with me since March of 2008. I am so blessed to have her in my life. When my former coach Melanie Parish (Sage Portfolio Group) took on a work project where I was on the Board and we could not be transparent with the organization and continue our coaching relationship, Melanie connected me with Ileana. Ileana’s coaching has a spiritual quality that is perfect for me at this point in my life – hard work – and perfect! The coach’s corner article is a tribute to both Melanie and Ileana – Why I Have a Coach! And it explains why I will have a coach as long as I am coaching (or maybe even longer). In my first newsletter, I wrote about coaching and said in an ideal world everyone would have a coach and I so believe this to be true.
Gail’s Guest this month is Beverly Horton – Making Our Way to Mother. Beverly is a friend and colleague, a talented writer, teacher and performer and though this was written for Mothers’ Day it has particular relevance to me with Adriana staying with me. How do I mother as a verb and not (s)mother? How do I give support and space at the same time? How do I permit risk and still be responsible? All very good questions!
This month the short leadership article Mothering as Leadership is inspired by Beverly’s beautiful piece on mothering and also by a client’s comment. We give our very best to our children – so why not use the same values, skills and strategies with our peers and reports (and even our bosses) in the workplace?
So welcome September…
Change Is All Around Us
The front of the newsletter site…
Thanks to all of you who have signed up for Illumination Coaching newsletter. I am happy to reconnect with you! Where have I been since the November newsletter? The short answer to that question is spending time with family – especially my niece Adriana who is now living with me. The longer answer is coaching, doing some interesting OD work with new clients, busy with Culture of Peace Hamilton and in a new volunteer role at the Unitarian Church, sunning in Cancun, reflecting during a 10 Day Silent Meditation Retreat, and learning, learning, learning…
Working with a new host Imagination Plus has given me impetus to write again – and to redesign the newsletter. So from now on the newsletter will have a new format that looks like this
- Illuminating the Journey: Putting you in the picture
- Coach’s Corner – Thoughts about coaching
- Leading with Passion and Purpose – An article for and about leaders – whether they be volunteers, parents or CEOs
- Gail’s Guest – a chance to hear about others’ work
- Photo Tip of the month
Newsletters may not be exactly monthly but you will be notified when they arrive – I look forward to hearing back from you with your thoughts and opinions about the newsletter and its contents.
Getting Support for Change & Challenge
What are the ways you can get support for yourself as you face challenges or try to make change, retirement or otherwise? Of course you can hire a coach, but you can also enlist the help of friends, partners, work colleagues, clergy, or health professionals. The key to success when enlisting and receiving help is to both be clear about the outcome you want to achieve, and to be specific about the role you want the supporter to take on. We need more than one person’s support, especially if we are facing multiple challenges. When we put all our need for support on one person’s shoulders, be that a partner or friend, it can often result in overload or tension for that individual and strain our relationship.
Below are some specific support roles you can engage for yourself.
Colleague – someone in a similar circumstance who will understand your situation.
Cheerleader – someone who values you for your current strengths and will boost you.
Confidante – a listener, someone who will provide emotional support.
Mentor – a formal role – someone who has perspective and content knowledge and will keep you focused on the long range goal.
Rewarder – someone with whom you contract to reward you for your successes and progress.
Confronter – Someone who is skilled and courageous and will give you tough feedback and call you forth when you are stuck in depression or self pity.
Workout pal – someone to share and encourage physical exercise.
How Might We Explain The Challenges and Changes We Face In Our Lives?
What if you have come to earth in this lifetime with a purpose – with certain goals to achieve, and certain things to learn? What if you actually contracted those goals with other souls in another realm before you came to earth? What if you can truly discern and deeply understand your purpose for being only by experiencing and reflecting on what life brings you? What if your task on earth is simply to discover what these predetermined goals are, and then to move torward them?
Can we use the story of the Wizard of Oz to describe this possibility more concretely? What if, like Dorothy, there are things you need to do to fulfil your destiny? Your destiny involves learning from others along your path, not only those who are there to help, but sometimes those who seem to be placing major obstacles in your way (tornadoes, witches, scary forests to name a few). Confronting and learning from these events seems to be necessary before your purpose in life becomes clear to you.
In the story, if the shoes are a representation our higher level of spiritual awareness, the yellow brick road is a symbol for the path of life. Dorothy’s interaction with the Scarecrow, the Woodsman and the Lion demonstrate how we discern and embrace our own knowledge, skills and beliefs at a spiritual level. Her willingness to face and confront her fears and the apparent obstacles are perhaps a metaphor for the work we need to undertake. In our lives, this discernment happens through what we learn with and from the people we encounter and through facing the challenges in our lives. And what of the wizard? Perhaps the Wizard represents the fallacy of a higher power, or perhaps the lack of trust in our own judgement?
What if, like Dorothy, you undertook a journey on your own yellow brick road? What if you undertook this journey by putting your energy into learning about and changing yourself? How might you discern, from a spiritual point of view, what the changes you are facing might mean and what support you need to move forward toward your personal destiny?
When I am able to stay fully present it amazes me what I learn! Last spring I spoke about being on a threshold and so much has happened since then related to this threshold concept. I had a new work opportunity, a chance to work with a long time colleague to develop and deliver a workshop called Demystifying Retirement, and some great insights into my own life working with my coach. My personal work in the next while is coming to terms with my chorological age and creating a script for what the next decade will look like for me physically, spiritually, emotionally, financially and professionally.
I was having tea with a long time friend whose husband is retiring after more than 30 years of service in a very demanding profession. The nature of his work required her to be engaged to some level as well. I was telling her about doing a workshop called demystifying retirement and we chatted about what the word meant to her. She had “retired” from her own first career several years ago and created a small business that she has been engaged with since then. We discussed what it might be like for her to “re” tire again. She thought it would be different and knew she had some personal work to do to figure that out.
She talked about how her husband was managing the sense of loss she observed that he was feeling – all mixed up with excitement, dreams about what he hopes to do next, while bringing closure to his commitment to his lifelong work. He has planned carefully and thoughtfully and has a small pension. He had attended a workshop that his employer had provided. What we noted was how those workshops are all about managing your finances and health benefits, but they say little about how to manage feelings, emotions, and the personal decisions that affect partners, relationships, and extended family. Perhaps most importantly what will he now do with the 60-80 hours per week that he was either actively engaged in his professional work or thinking about it while he did mundane chores in the off hours?
The Demystifying Retirement workshop that my colleague Susan Fox and I have developed is designed to have participants begin to ask these questions at a deeper and more personal level and provides strategies to help them find their own answers.
When I left a long time first career, I used the word retirement – I planned carefully and was satisfied with the process and the outcome when I left. The one error I made was using the word retirement – for very soon I learned that the word meant something completely different to many of my friends than it did to me. My nephew who was six at the time said something that I will never forget. So Auntie Gail, you know last year when you “re”tired; … Are you still tired?” His words are a constant reminder to me that the word retirement is most certainly a mystery!