My approach to executive coaching and leadership development emphasizes the practice of mindfulness. For the past 40 years, I have been a teacher of mindfulness practice from the Shambhala tradition. Clients have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of mindfulness, strengthening their capacities to be truly present – with themselves, with others and with situations. By being present, we can begin to recognize and work with the complexities that confront us on a daily basis as leaders. We can see our own strengths as well as limitations, charting our way forward with clarity and confidence. Mindfulness practice requires a willingness to be open and inquisitive about our personal experiences, to let go of habitual patterns of thought, projection and negativity, and to look objectively at ourselves and our lives in a broader context. When practiced regularly, our minds can become stable, flexible and highly focused, able to creatively adapt to each situation as it arises.
Experiential Focusing Method
Developed by Eugene Gendlin, Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, Focusing is a form of psychotherapy that offers a compassionate and insightful approach to working with conflicting emotions and complex feelings. It can be practiced alone, or with a Focusing partner, therapist or coach.
The Focusing method involves relaxation and reflection, allowing the individual to relate honestly with the most challenging emotions and situations. It involves “deep listening” – the capacity to drop self-judgment while inquiring into those aspects of ourselves that we often shy away from, ignore or fear. With Focusing, there is a tangible sense of making friends with oneself, of opening up and developing true fearlessness. Once learned, it can easily be practiced alone, making this a very useful tool for leaders faced with making difficult decisions. It brings together insight and intuition in a powerful, pragmatic way.
I worked intensively with a Certified Focusing Instructor for more than a year, developing proficiency in this technique. I have offered Focusing as a key element of my coaching practice for a number of years. It is a complementary method to mindfulness practice. When a leader is able to be present, relating directly to fear or uncertainty on a physical and emotional level, real confidence and insight can arise whenever required.
Authentic Leadership Principles
Since 1980, I have been an authorized instructor of Shambhala Training, teaching the principles of authentic leadership to individuals and groups in Canada, the United States, England and New Zealand. The Shambhala teachings point to the inherent goodness and wisdom within each person. This awareness is unconditional, which means that it is always accessible to us.
Basic goodness contains three essential qualities: gentleness, fearlessness and intelligence. Gentleness includes being open and receptive, to oneself and to each situation as it emerges. Gentleness encourages us to drop any habitual negativity, defensiveness or self-defeating attitudes. It has a tender, vulnerable and empathetic quality. Gentleness is at the heart of being human.
Fearlessness is our innate ability to face fear directly and work through any situation, no matter how difficult. Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It is an acute awareness of how fear, anxiety and uncertainty often permeate our lives, influencing our thoughts, decisions and actions. By connecting with fearlessness, we can relate directly with emotional upheavals and doubt with honesty and confidence. True bravery includes the openness of gentleness; it’s not about growing a thick skin and just pushing through tough situations. Rather, it’s learning how to recognize fear, turning toward it and stepping through it, without hesitation.
The third quality of unconditional human goodness is intelligence. In this context, intelligence means having a sense of balance, knowing how to be both gentle and fearless. It’s the natural capacity of our minds to recognize what is happening, moment to moment, and to respond according to what is needed. Intelligence includes sensitivity and our natural curiosity to explore and reflect on our own experiences.
The Three Circles of Leadership Development
We each have three basic areas where we are in relationship: our relationship to ourselves, our relationship to family and friends, and our relationship to work, including colleagues, employees and customers or clients. Through the practices mentioned above, as well as other effective methods, executive coaching and leadership development clients can make a deeper, more genuine connection with themselves (body, heart and mind), with those people that they care most about, and with their work lives. This holistic approach to self-development can bring significant, positive results.
Rates and suggested contract terms for Leadership Coaching are available upon request.