I’ve been noticing a shift in my sensibility around executive coaching and facilitation. I feel uncomfortable. I occasionally feel tired. It’s new.
One of my core unconscious life patterns has been to experience this type of discomfort, create a backup plan that hedges all of my downside (in theory), and make a radical change.
A few of these changes in my past have been phenomenal. I’ve been moving toward a new career, three times. Some of the changes I have made have been less salutary, moving away from something, often due to an unwillingness to face something about a job, home, or relationship that is out of alignment.
I don’t want to recreate this latter pattern, which is driven by avoidance and fear.
So, instead, I’ve been asking myself these questions:
- What am I doing when I feel most alive?
- What am I doing right before I feel tired?
- Why have I been unconsciously committed to making myself tired in some of my work?
- What would I be willing to risk to feel even more alive?
What am I doing when I feel most alive?
I am connecting deeply with one person or I am threading new connections and uncovering blind spots across a group of people. I am feeling a little fearful about not knowing what might happen next. I am feeling. I am wondering. I am making jokes, I am unattached to being right, I am walking or sitting in a position where my feet are under me instead of on the floor. I am warm. I speak slowly and more quietly. Sometimes my questions are just “huh….”
I am present. I am open-hearted.
What am I doing right before I feel tired?
I am pushing. I am directing the conversation. I am doing something urgently to shake up the energy. I am looking at a detailed, rigid agenda with a belief that I need to adhere to it. I am wondering what “content” or “tools” I should introduce to make the time valuable. I am asking incisive, relevant questions in a rapid-fire cadence, and those questions reflect my stellar listening. I am taking rigorous, near-verbatim notes tied to a story that I have a terrible memory and that a good memory is a critical prerequisite to being a great coach. I am trying to create a moment of transformation. I am talking about facts. I am making an argument. I am persuading. I am proving my point.
Why have I been unconsciously committed to making myself tired in some of my work?
My conscious commitment is to feel alive. And yet, I can see that some of the behaviors in which I’ve been engaged, the attitudes I’ve held, the work I’ve occasionally said yes to are making me tired. So, it’s apparent to me that I’ve been unconsciously committed to draining myself in some of my work.
If I’ve been this committed, even unconsciously, there must be a reason. I see it right away: Coaching from my default, go-to behaviors is safe and comfortable. It feels less risky. I can point to what I’ve accomplished. We have measurable action steps to address before next time. It’s easier.
And when I ponder doing things differently, doing things in a way that allows me to be more present and more alive, I feel afraid of disappointing my clients. They are very, very smart. They have heaps of demands on their schedules. If I just “show up” without a “plan,” I think, they will wonder whether there is any ROI on our work at all. “Her coaching style is to show up and wait to see what we might talk about,” someone might say. “How useless.”
I am writing this. I know it’s crazy. All unconscious commitments feel this way. I recently asked a group I was working with for feedback on when they experience me as being most loving. The answer: “when you’re listening.” DUH.
What would I be willing to risk to feel even more alive?
If something feels frightening to change, it’s wise to ask whether we’re willing to make a real change. Core to that question is whether I’m willing to take some risk for more aliveness.
I am willing. Right now. I am willing because I recognize that if I fail to make some shifts, I’m going to give up this work altogether. I don’t want to do that. I can tell. When I am in flow, I love this work. I want to evaluate other options first.
So I’m willing to let go of detailed agendas in favor of an intention and loose plans that may arise two months or two minutes ahead of a session. I’m willing to trust that I know the body of Conscious Leadership models well enough that the right thing will arise in its proper time. I am willing to say no when prospects ask me for an agenda. I am willing to let go of being a coach that is hyper-focused on teaching pragmatic tools for people to use at work. That might happen, but I’m willing to let go of that as my intention.
I’ve been starting to practice this new way. Dabbling. The other day, on a prospect call for an executive team engagement, the CEO asked what we would do for a day together. I said:
“If I told you that, you wouldn’t really understand the terms I would use, and I’m wanting to be responsive to what emerges in the room. My promise is that at the end of the day, you will feel closer to each other, you will have a tool or two, and each of you will likely experience one meaningful insight about yourself that might be transformative.”
“Who would say no to that?”
A lot of people. Or so I think.
And, either way, I’m willing to let go of caring about that.
I am also willing to let go of initiating first in all of my 1-1 coaching meetings. I am going to lean back. I am going to share responsibility more with my clients in deciding what we’ll talk about that day. I am going to listen. I am going to allow feelings to be. I am going to endeavor to be less “brilliant.”
This one is tough. I am going to stop taking notes in my 1-1 meetings. I will take a few notes when a meeting ends and trust that I have abstracted what matters most for the record, such as it is.
I am willing to surrender, to trust that my mere being is enough. I know that it’s what’s right for me right now. I am clear that this likely is my best stuff, my zone of genius: creating authentic conversations and authentically reflecting what I see.
I am also willing to tell you this. To make this public. To not hide the ball. To share this part of me.
Even if I still care a tiny bit about whether you’ll like it.
This fear and trembling in my body as I publish this? That’s the evidence that my heart is open. No sensation I can think of is a better signal to me that I’m alive and available in this moment.