Posts Tagged ‘Spirituality’

A client of mine in Toronto, Frank, is challenged in this moment with an interesting dilemma. His project is stalled due to a number of factors outside his area of responsibility. He’s in a “wait and see” place, and what he’s finding is that he’s experiencing a lack of motivation, a sense of inadequacy and he’s questioning his competence.

“Something must be wrong with me or the way I’m doing my job.” Frank says, as he’s struggling to find what’s missing in order to get some momentum going for his project. “On the one hand, I know there’s nothing for me to do but to wait for decision makers to take the next step. On the other hand, though, I keep wondering if there’s something I can do, or something I’m not doing that’s precipitating the stall. I feel unmotivated and I don’t know what to do about that.”

What Frank is calling unmotivated stems from thoughts and beliefs that arise in this period of incubation for the project. In our coaching session he and I discussed the life cycle of essentially every living thing on the planet, including relationships, corporations and projects. By viewing his project within a natural and normal cycle of being, Frank was able to draw from a reality that allowed him to take his proper place in the unfolding of his project. At the same time, he couldn’t stop himself from asking “Am I doing something wrong? What’s mine to do here? Is there something I can do to hurry this incubation period along?”

Frank’s questions are good ones. First things first, though. One of Frank’s fears is that people are going to find out or decide that he is inadequate. So, in circumstances such as the one he currently is finding himself, the first thought that comes to mind is How am I being inadequate that is contributing to the stall out this project?

Frank’s boss has acknowledged him for his leadership role in bringing the project to this level of completion. He’s been clear with him that he’s done everything he can and now it’s time to wait for others to do their part in order to bring about the next level of the cycle of the project. So, by all indications, there are no inadequacies on the part of Frank. This is one choice-point Frank finds himself at: Can he let go of his fear of inadequacy and allow himself to experience the full capacity of his competence? This is an important step in him defining himself as a leader.

The second question: What’s mine to do?, is the next step. At first, Frank could find nothing to do while waiting for others to do what’s theirs to do; however with a little prodding he was able to come up with a list of five tasks that would be valuable to consider.

  1. Make a list of all the smaller projects and tasks that have not been attended to while he’s been focused on the larger project and take actions towards completing them
  2. Take time with individual members of his team, connect with them, perhaps provide some mentoring and supervision – something he’s unable to do when caught up in the momentum of the project
  3. Meet with others in his company to talk about these types of dilemmas, perhaps brainstorming what’s possible to move projects like this along, as well as openly exploring what he may be missing, as well as provide support for each other when things are not going as planned
  4. Find projects outside the workplace that provide fulfillment when fulfillment isn’t forthcoming in his work
  5. Realize that he is more than the fulfillment of his project, and that he needs to explore other meaningful ways to bring fulfillment into his life.

For Frank, and so many of us, this last item is really important. We’ve forgotten that we are not our projects. We are not our degrees, certifications, job titles, our bank accounts, our successes or our failures. We are beings engaged with the life experiences we currently find ourselves in. We are here to be curious, to explore and experiment with what we know and what we haven’t yet discovered about ourselves. Fulfillment comes from courageously stepping into that adventure – for Frank, the adventure is exploring who he is in the midst of nothing to do. That’s it!

Frank’s final question: Is there something I can do to hurry this incubation period along, is also important to consider. Frank is conscientious enough to ensure that he’s doing everything he can do to keep the project moving, as best he can. He is now in the dilemma of being with patience and understanding that some things take the time they take; you can’t pull on a seedling to help move it along to becoming a tree.

This period of time is growing Frank. He too is incubating, and something is happening within him, just like his project, that, when its time, will automatically generate the beginning of the next phase of the cycle of life. This just may be the very thing required for the project to begin to get some traction. Everything is interrelated. Frank is growing the project, the project is growing Frank, and a greater cycle of growth is being generated that is way beyond our imagination. There’s more to all of this than meets the eye!

Mei-Li has a Ph.D. and works for one of the biggest communication companies in the world. Originally from China, she has been in Silicon Valley, California for the majority of her adult life. Married with two children Mei-Li is very happy. However, she has been facing a very challenging dilemma for many years: Though she is happy, successful and fulfilled in her life as it is, she’s concerned that she should do more – be more.

Mei-Li observes her boss focusing most of his attention on getting ahead; she sees other women at her level of management working for the next promotion, the next level of leadership and responsibility. “I don’t want an increase in responsibility; I don’t want to work that hard; I don’t like talking with people that much that I want to move to the next level of management. But, should I want to? Is there something wrong with me that I don’t want to do that? I’m afraid there’s something very wrong with me.”

As Mei-Li shares with me over many coaching sessions, her consistency of feelings and truths about what’s true for her has me coach her to see the dilemma she is currently constrained by. On the one hand, Mei-Li loves her job and the team she manages. She has the free time she needs to be available to her children and to her husband in a way that fits best with her sense of the quality relationship she wants. She isn’t stressed and unnerved by unmet deadlines. She’s actually one of the 10% of the workforce that actually is fulfilled in her career.

On the other hand, Mei-Li’s culture married with our Western culture attempts to move people into work that isn’t their’s to do. Mei-Li watches people spend more time being people pleasers than effective employees of this company and she finds this frustrating and confusing. “People aren’t getting their work done while they are schmoosing for a promotion. Should I be doing that? The fact is, I don’t like schmoosing; I don’t like going to cocktail parties, playing golf or any of those other social things that you are supposed to do if you want to get ahead. I’m a pretty reclusive person who enjoys my life the way it is. But, I feel like I should be doing more.”

Many of us face this dilemma of being more – doing more; at the same time actually finding fulfillment in what we are doing right now. But, aren’t we supposed to want more money and power? Aren’t we supposed to want the bigger office, more contact with the more influential people of the world? Aren’t we supposed to want more?

My sense is, and I shared this with Mei-Li in our session, that what people want is to get to a place where there is fulfillment in their work and personal life – that there is balance with health and happiness. I believe that most people want what Mei-Li has. She already has it. Though the current within the corporate structure drags many people in its undertow toward some fantasy life that is wrought with a lot of what they don’t want to do and perhaps aren’t really cut out to be with, there are few who willingly choose health and fulfillment with what they have, what they do and how they be.

Mei-Li laughs as she begins to see a bigger picture – one that allows her free choice to choose for herself what’s hers to do. She laughs to hear that what people are struggling for is what she already has. She laughs as she realizes that she is presently free to choose to be happy in the life she has created and if in the future she feels inspired to grow her career toward greater degrees of leadership and responsibility, she can do that.

Mei-Li isn’t out of the current, and as long as she is in the corporate environment there will always be that field of influence. The degree to which she can stay aligned with her commitment to well-being and fulfillment in her career, the stronger her dedication and the less pull this will have on her.

Christopher, who I spoke of a few weeks ago, shared with me that if he could do anything he would work with inner city kids, teaching them math and computer skills. Then, the litany of “Why I Can’t Leave My Job and Give Up Everything I Worked For” began. There was no stopping him; the who would pay the mortgage, who would take care of my parents, I’d have to give up my addiction to Siamese cats; on and on, fully engaged in the undertow of a make believe reality, for too many, is actually real.

Mei-Li has found an eddy for now where she is out of the stream of influence by others. She is finding herself – the one she believes she has to continually pursue. It takes strength and courage to step out of the normal way of being for the sake of what we are all striving for – well-being and fulfillment in our careers. Kind of crazy when you think about it! Perhaps the pursuit of Mei-Li has come to a happy ending; right here where she has been, but now enjoying it to a much larger degree!

Dilemmas of Being in Business #14: Not Losing

by Rosie Kuhn on April 25, 2012

Yoda says “Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose.” Wow! Think about what that would look like in the business world: Letting go of winning, power, promotions and bonuses; letting go of being right and other people being wrong; letting go of complaining, blaming and shaming; letting go of stress and worry and all of the underlying reasons for the stress and worry. What would you have left?

Christopher is a Senior Director for a corporation in Atlanta. He’s been with the company just over two years and is extremely loyal and committed to the company’s mission, to the degree that he had a physical and emotional breakdown after giving his all to the project that will inevitably make or break the company. Now, a couple of months later, he currently faces a similar dilemma – this time consciously and this time he realizes it’s not just his body that’s on the line; it’s his soul that could be taken.

“What options do you have, Christopher?” I asked him after his complaining how things are exactly as they were those many months ago. Matter of factly, Christopher responds with “There are no options!” “Really?” I ask. “There are no options?” “Yes, there are no options,” He said: “except to revert to the old me that yelled and hollered to get people to do what they are supposed to do. That means setting myself up for another emotional and physical breakdown, and that’s not an option!”

“There are other options,” I countered. “Let’s look at them.” What I was attempting was to get Christopher to see that one of his options is to leave the company and go somewhere that may be more in line with maybe a more workable situation for him. He didn’t see leaving as an option, nor did he see that letting go of everything he feared to lose as an option, either. Christopher’s perspective offered no option. He’s in a stalemate.

Yoda also said: “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” What does that mean, in Christopher’s situation? By having the deepest commitment and the most serious mind, it’s easier to fully align with that which you are truly committed to. In Christopher’s case, is it the success of the company, his own personal success and the maintaining of his reputation (He fears that if he leaves the company his reputation will be tarnished.) that’s at stake? One thing other thing he is committed to is keeping himself healthy – it’s not an option to sell himself to the devil again. Yet, through my eyes, it looks very much like this is happening. When someone as brilliant as Christopher has no options, he’s a dead duck. He’s given his soul away if he gives himself no options.

We’ve been trained to see the world a certain way, and it’s essential to our survival in many families, communities and business environment, we think, to maintain that perspective, no matter what? Our minds can’t make sense of our reality if it no longer looks the way it’s supposed to. Much like Christopher, we are then faced with no options and no way to move forward, except to do what we’ve done in the past and we know that’s not going to work.

If we don’t want to lose what we are afraid of losing, our egoic self will bend and twist reality in such a way that we experience stuckness. We can feel lost in the midst of bright lights and lots of people. It’s not uncommon for people to experience mental and emotional exhaustion and breakdowns, inevitably losing more than they were bargaining for. Aren’t we a curious species?

The dilemma Christopher faces is because he has a great deal at stake. On the one hand he has his position, his credibility and all that he’s invested in this company. On the other hand his physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is deteriorating. Attempting to hang on to what he’s got will most likely mean he’ll lose everything.

Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose

Where Christopher sees no option, I see he has no options too, but from a different perspective. Unless he opens himself up to the possibilities he currently doesn’t want to see, he will lose everything. My job as his coach is to gentle guide him towards what now appears to be too frightening to accept. Inevitably, he will have to choose to shift his paradigm and experience a reality that he doesn’t yet believe exists.

Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose

For some this process is a walk in the park; yet for others it can be experienced as a shattering. There’s nothing wrong with a shattering. A shattering is the same as a paradigm shift, it’s just way more painful in every way, you, I’m sure, have imagined. And, generally takes a great deal more time to recover.

What’s right in front of Christopher is right in front of each and every one of us: the opportunity to discover what’s worth losing and what’s not. It all goes away, sooner or later. In this moment, though, it’s just a matter of choosing to choose to choose to be accountable and responsible for the consequence of the choices we make. I hate that part as much as most people do. I want it all good and all easy. When it’s not, I don’t want to look at options I don’t want to take. I’ve learned though that my life isn’t worth living if fear is the only conductor on this train. I’m listening to Yoda and other spiritual teachers in order to create a life worth living. Christopher will make a similar choice, I have no doubt.

Not losing is a no-win game.

I met with a team of engineers yesterday. Up until now I’ve been meeting with them individually as each was facing dilemma’s that affected their personal and professional life. Over the past couple of months all of them have gained greater degrees of emotional intelligence and greater degrees of clarity of intention and accountability for what’s showing up in their work lives. They all realize that how they are being impacts on them personally and professionally – they can no longer assume they can act on behalf of their own personal desires without negatively influencing the team, the organization as a whole and on their professional aspirations.

An exercise I do with teams is a context exercise, where we explore a specific context, such as team, to reveal  beliefs, assumptions, expectations and judgments – essential what is true – in this case about teams, which has members act the way they do in relation to each other, to the team and a whole and to the organization. In this particular group, we included sport teams and teams in business, seeing the parallels and differences, and then we put together a list of what’s impossible given what’s true about teams. The process unfolded a couple more levels by exploring what needed to shift in order for the impossible to become possible and what needed to be practiced to consistently bring that into the workplace on a day to day basis.

We had consensus regarding trust, collaboration and effectiveness, being three aspects of team work that needs developing. This was all very positive. There was a high degree of exposure as each one spoke, as I hoped would happen. No one deferred, held back or was withdrawn from the conversation. This tells me that there was a degree of trust in the room that brought us to this level of disclosure and sharing.

Pride go-ith before the fall.

Their desire to elevate their own personal standing within the company is still a primary intention. Though, we talked about healthy teamwork they haven’t yet truly bought into the actualization of committing to being a good team player. Most wait until the other proves themselves trustworthy.

Meeting together as a team, with me as their coach meant they stepped into a greater degree of visibility, accountability and hopefully credibility; saying what they mean and meaning what they say. It all sounded good and I was heartened by what I heard from them, as they described the values and practices essential to being the team they see themselves being. It was a good start!

My last comment to the group before ending the session was that they will each witness the others not walking their talk. “You can get mad, disappointed; you can yell at them and blame and shame them for not showing up as they said they would; however, the practice is not how to get the other guy to do what he said he’d do; It’s focusing on you being accountable for walking your talk; looking at your response or reaction to the other’s behavior and communication in the highest good of everyone. That’s the only practice that matters – live into your own highest truth in service to your own highest good and the good of the team.”

I met with each member separately after the team meeting. It was interesting to hear feedback from each member reflecting how so-and-so said this, but doesn’t walk his or her talk – they don’t act in alignment with what they are saying. I had no doubt this was going to be part of the process. Though trust was at the top of the list of priorities for this team to be most effective, little trust has truly been earned by any one member.

Communicating from an objective point of view

Each of us face the dilemma of wanting to look good and say the right thing, yet, at the same time we are invested in having things go the way we want them to. We hope to look like we are in integrity but the fact is, people who know us and know when we are not walking our talk have no business trusting us. They are fools to believe us when they’ve most likely experienced degrees of inconsistencies consistently. How do we break the stalemate for ourselves, and how do we do that for others too.

We can’t change what we can’t acknowledge. Having a thinking partner or coach to empower you to cultivate awareness is almost essential to seeing how you operate and getting clear that the way you operate is either working in your favor to advance your career or it’s not. Pretending to be who you say you are never worked and will never work, so you might has well give it up as a way of growing yourself or your business. You’ve got to be that person you want to work with. It’s no longer possible to hope people will trust you with greater degrees of responsibility and power if you aren’t reliable with the power you have. You will inevitably find that saying yes when you mean no is a pretty unsatisfying way of doing business. You don’t like it in others – why keep believing that they don’t mind it in you?

Leaders aren’t made by titles, position, and prestige; they are made by the choices they make at points in their career, which in the moment seem to have nothing to do with becoming a leader. It has only to do with current situations throwing curve balls in their direction, requiring them to make choices that are in the highest good of the company and in their own highest good as well.

Let’s say that the company you work for is challenged on many fronts. They are not fulfilling agreements made, which initially enticed you to join the organization. You still believe in the product and service, but no longer trust the competence of the leaders to generate what’s required for success to be yours. Given the current state of the situation, you feel powerless to make a difference for yourself or the company.

You saw yourself rising in the ranks to a level of leadership where you’d make a difference in how this company functions and fulfills its mission. You looked forward to the responsibility that came with the title and position. You want to make a difference but in this moment you are asking yourself why work for a company that seems chaotic, disorganized and off course.

Though you’ve seen yourself on this trajectory towards leadership, currently you feel stuck, with no clue how to choose what’s next for you. You feel as though your future may have been stolen from you and now you are at the mercy of this company to make choices that will hopefully impact in only positive ways. Should you go or should you stay? What to do … what to do.

Too often we look at the situations we find ourselves in and feel disempowered, disappointed and perhaps depressed. We’ve put trust in the company we work for to make good choices, which will inevitably bring rewards to us personally and professionally. But what happens when they don’t seem to be making good choices –  choices that lead to healthy development of the organization itself, its bottom line and its employees – you in particular?

Leadership development takes place in the present moment – now! The challenges you currently face are the very elements that are required for leadership capacities to be cultivated. And, the choices you are making now, regardless of your current level of power, have a huge influence on the company. It’s rather funny how we miss this point.

We think that the trajectory to leadership is one thing and when we arrive we will have what it takes to lead well. However, it doesn’t occur to us that we actually have to develop muscles of leadership somewhere along the way. Learning theories in trainings, books and MBA’s isn’t the same as having to actualize those theories in real business situations. Every good leader learns to walks their talk through countless moments of uncertainty. They’ve learned which muscles were required for each specific situation. They strengthened and stretched those muscles – and others they were yet conscious of, in order to be the leader they’ve become. Leadership is an evolutionary process. Every confronting situation builds a repertoire of skills. Over time, those skills look natural and intuitive, as those that individual always had what it takes.

Choice-making is the essential element of leadership. How you choose to be, given the circumstances of this current moment, are very telling. Being present to the dilemmas that face the company and face you – personally and professionally, is the point where great leaders are born. They are born, not by their companies or their promotions; they actually birth themselves through every choice-point they meet.

Every one of these choice points have to be met with a level of presence to one’s personal and professional investment in the organization with the company’s needs and requirements. These dilemmas can be very weighing. Great leaders intentionally cultivate their capacity to lead in situation they meet; distinguishing all the variables at play and discerning what’s in the best interest of the company at large, which includes themselves.

In the previous article The Personal is the Professional, we explored how every choice made by every employee is personal and professional. Some choices we face are good for us but not for the company. Sometimes the choices we make are good for the company and not for us. Some are not good for either the company or for us, and what good leaders are able to discern is how to choose so that the highest good for all is attained.

Every situation provides opportunities to grow leadership capacities. Attempting to bypass challenging or confronting relationships and situations means you are missing opportunities to cultivate the very skills required to be the leader you see yourself to be.

You might be expressing frustration right now because you think you don’t know how to cultivate what’s required to be in your current situation in anyway other than frustrated, powerless and incapable of change. I encourage you – and your organization to bring in a thinking partner – a coach or mentor to empower all of you to look at your situation differently; allowing you to see the choice-point you are currently engaged in and what’s required to choose most effectively as a leader for your own development and for your company as well.

Choices made from integrity and accountability will always be in the highest good of all involved. Every moment will provide opportunities to cultivate your leadership capacities. Be curious about yourself and notice opportunities to experiment with different ways of being. Today is the day to step into the leader you see yourself to be. Enjoy the exploration!

Being in business, regardless of the position or title, brings us face to face with choice points. It’s nonstop! Exploring what it is that has us choose what we choose gets us closer to what it is that motivates us to be who we be and do what we do. It clarifies why our professional and personal life is what it is and not something different. It explains why, regardless of our ambition, education and experience, we just aren’t getting ahead.

If there was only one thing I’d like to get across to all of my corporate clients it’s that the personal is the professional and the professional is the personal. How we be in our personhood, our humanity and life in general is how we be in our professional world as well – always and everywhere.

Within any organization’s walls, how one chooses what they choose to choose is most likely how they choose to choose in every other context of their lives. Though the content may be different the process by which they choose is consistent across the board.

We choose based on some fundamental principles, though these principles will differ from person to person. We choose based on:

  • “This is how it’s always been done so that’s what I’m choosing to choose now.” Limiting parameters limit our ability to choose to think outside the box. We can’t choose differently because we don’t know that there is something else to choose; that there is a box to think ourselves out of.
  • What we are afraid others may find out or decide about us. More people than you can imagine operate from this principle. We source our identity from a decision we made a long time ago – perhaps when we were only four years old, when we found ourselves inadequate to bring about conditions we saw necessary, given the context of our little lives. With this assessment of our limitations comes the fear that we will be found unworthy and unlovable, humiliated and rejected. At this point, we begin cultivating survival strategies that have us avoid being humiliated or rejected by listening for what other people want and need. Based on our own interpretations (as a four year old) we go about fulfilling those needs and wants. Again, more people than you can imagine limit their professional development because they are operating from an immature emotional guidance system, which keeps them choosing based on fear. People with greater degrees of emotional intelligence choose based on the needs of the organizations, not based on fear.

If I continue to choose from a fear-based model, which I developed when I was four years old, I know I’ll remain safe and invulnerable to attack. The consequence of this choice is that I also can’t have what I want, because I’m limiting how I will choose to choose what I choose. If I choose differently I open myself up to vulnerability; however, I’m more likely to cultivate the capacity to be with attacks – not being devastated by them, as I always imagined it to be. I can’t grow myself professionally and I can’t grow the company if I continue to operate from a belief that I made up as a child.

 

  • It’s all about me! It’s not uncommon to hear clients say: “Though I said I was a team player and joined this company to further its growth, I’m really only in it for my own personal gain. I choose to choose based on what will bring about the highest visibility of my efforts and will get me the promotions I’m seeking.”
  • I choose to be a team player, listening for what others want. I don’t contribute any new ideas for fear of being found out that I’m inadequate. I hate to be ridiculed, so I avoid any possibility for that happening, even if it means not getting promoted.

Frankly, we are all in it for personal gain; however, this can mean different things to different people. Personal gain can be related to security, stability and safety, to gaining recognition and rewards, to gaining freedom, fun and flexibility. We never know until we begin to distinguish what it is we are wanting from our life in general and our professional life, specifically.

  • What’s in the best interest of the organization?  A client may say: “I can see my own limitations and inadequacies, and based on the fear of being found out I can hide out in other peoples vision, and limit the fulfillment of my personal and professional vision. Inevitably, I limit the fulfillment of the organization’s vision. At the same time I know that there are ways of being that will advance the initiatives I believe in. In alignment with those initiatives I ‘m willing to be open to possibility, though this may mean being open to ridicule; I will be assertive with my opinions and ideas, though this may mean someone asserting that I’m inadequate; I’m willing to be expansive in cultivating my repertoire of possibility, though this may lead to being found out as silly, ungrounded and unstable.

What needs to be in place in order to support a breakthrough of this dilemma? Trust!

Trust is foundational to any change process. If you don’t trust the organization, your execs and managers, even those who are your peers, you won’t choose to choose differently – it’s too risky! If you don’t trust yourself to have what it takes – an adequate amount of skills, experience, knowledge, and most importantly, self-trust, you won’t take even baby steps toward your desired goal.

Just as an experiment, notice where there is a similar choice making process occurring in your personal life and professional life. Perhaps, for example, you’ll notice that how you speak to your direct reports is the same way you speak to your children or your partner. This can be a fascinating exploration; one that will contribute to your capacity to choose differently and more in alignment with what you really want.

Dilemmas of Being in Business #10: The Gangrene Effect

by Rosie Kuhn on February 22, 2012

A startup company in Houston is facing a crisis. Their top thinker and engineer, Jason, isn’t contributing to the project the way he used to. He’s creating a crisis within the company and taking a great deal of managements time, attention and energy in attempt to solve the problems associated with this one specific and special employee. The executive team truly loves and appreciates this fellow and wants him to stay with the company; at the same time, they realize that doing so may cost them more than letting him go.

Jason has been one of the most significant contributors to the company and to their project, yet for the past six months he’s a bit of a loose cannon, and in this current moment, the directors don’t know what to do to fully manage Jason and the circumstances effectively. How will they choose to choose what’s in the best interest of their company and their employee?

The Dilemma

When speaking to the execs about their situation, I used the analogy of an individual who, due to improper care of their body, has gangrene in their foot. Gangrene is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition that arises when body tissue dies. This individual is extremely distressed about this, for without intense therapy his foot will have to be amputated in order to save his body. At what point does the individual realize that he can no longer risk the health of the whole for the sake of the part?

Choosing to lose Jason who has been with the company from its inception and has been so essential to the growth and functioning of a company is much like having to choose to cut off a foot. The decision makers are loyal to Jason and feel powerless in facing their current dilemma. Their loyalty keeps them choosing to keep Jason (the foot attached), though it may contribute to further disability in the organization. They feel a sense of failure and guilt that somehow they’ve let Jason down. They feel limited in their capacity to deal with the situation in a way that supports health in Jason, and at the same time minimize the dis-ease in other employees in the immediate vicinity to Jason.

Jason, is angry and feels betrayed by the decision makers. He believes they didn’t do enough to support growth and well-being for the entire organization and that he is just one of the victims of this company. He believes that their incompetence will inevitably kill the company. He wants to get healthy and return to the well-being he had prior to joining this organization. From his perspective, it is the body that is sick and is what contributed to his level of dis-ease. He may have to choose to amputate the body from himself in order to get well.

As a coach, my job is not to find fault or blame in Jason or the company. My job is to empower my clients, both the company and Jason, to view the current circumstances as a tremendous opportunity for learning and growing. It’s the perfect set of circumstance for every individual to explore, discover and acknowledge how their own way of being human contributes to this scenario. By doing so, the outcome will contribute to the growth and development of each individual and the company, as well as its investors and perhaps corporate culture at large.

The company worries about its identity and its capacity to function without Jason. It worries about its loss of credibility. It is concerned that is will seem less viable and less attractive to investors. These are important to consider, yet the hierarchy of needs have to be distinguished. Concerns regarding our identity have to come second to life itself. Do we choose to choose what will have us to live or choose to choose what will kill us?

That an organization makes an executive decision in service to its life is crucial. That is has the capacity to make these types of decisions is the question. I believe what distinguishes a company that will be successful and prosperous has everything to do with its ability to make hard choices. My job as an executive coach is to empower my clients to discover what may be interfering with them making those most challenging choices.

Though I’m speaking of one particular company, all companies and executives face these challenges. The newer and smaller companies have greater challenges because there are personal ties to every one – they know each person and know that their executive choices will impact on these people. In larger companies it may be easier because the impact on people is not so obvious. Newer companies as they grow and develop rely heavily on the foundation upon which they built the company. They haven’t the evidence over time yet to support that they do make good and healthy decisions in service to their initial vision and mission. We are so much like children; we know we have the capacity to walk and move forward, at the same time we lack experience and confidence to be with the challenges and adversity that inevitably come our way. Only time creates opportunity for wisdom and maturity to grow.

This company faces a choice-point. There is no right or wrong decision; there is no guarantee that the choice they make will be the most effective. Facing the dilemma fully conscious of what’s at stake is to exercise muscles of wisdom, maturity and experience. Acting in the highest good of the organization will bring about the highest good for Jason and everyone else. Choosing to choose what’s in the highest good of all takes courage and faith and an enormous amount of trust in one’s own capability to risk what’s known against the unknown. Both Jason and his company are in mid flight of a leap of faith. Uncertainty is the wind and hope lifts and inspires them to fulfill their vision. It can’t be any other way.

Dysfunctional is a matter of interpretation, isn’t it? What is dysfunctional, how do we know if we and our business are dysfunctional and what do we do about it?

Dysfunctional families breed individuals who to some degree are dysfunctional, and without a doubt they bring that dysfunction with them into everything they create; they build friendships, careers, empires around their dysfunction and attract others into their web. At some point, though, as we know with most empires, they all come crashing down, because the limitations that come with their dysfunction will inevitably destroy what they’ve created.

Dysfunction essentially means something is working to the detriment of the outcome desired. To the degree to which I’m dysfunctional is the degree to which I’m in denial of my dysfunction and the dysfunction of my organization. When in denial I’m not willing to acknowledge responsibility for what’s showing up in my organization or business; I’ll blame others for my demise and the demise of my company; I’ll fail rather than admit to and deal with my underlying attachments to family patterns and the secret world that’s been hidden inside me for a life time; and, I’m unwilling to risk losing what I consider to be rightfully mine for the sake of the business, my investors and employees. I’ll take it all down with me, rather than lose face with myself.

We may have come from the most supportive and loving families possible – one’s we consider highly functioning. These highly functioning families have some important dynamics in place: Open communication; respect for each members individual needs and desires, thoughts and feelings; a sense of humor; safety and trust;  a capacity to admit when they are wrong; open to outside support; boundaries that provide healthy limits at the same time provide openness to expansion and change. And, every healthy family also provides limiting patterns and beliefs, which at some point will be to the detriment of the individual member. Funny how that works. Even the healthiest families can’t make it all right.

I’ve just been hired by a company in Silicon Valley to work with a number individuals who are important – even vital to the project at hand, yet bring behavior patterns that if not shifted will devastate their current project and the entire organization. In discussing my role with HR, I questioned the degree to which the company itself and the executives running the company are willing to look at own their contribution to what’s occurring with their employees. In this conversation I described how quite often employees act out, much like children in a family. Too often parents will send their children to therapy to get straightened out, but won’t go themselves, though the parents are actually the ones generating the dysfunctional environment within which the children live and operate. Unless the parents come into therapy the environment will remain the same and the children will either revert back to the old patterns, or cultivated healthier dynamics they may choose to leave. So the company itself will mostly need coaching too if it’s really wanting fulfillment and success.

We know tons of parents that lose their children because they can’t manage and be responsible for their little creations. Similarly, I know tons of organizations that have had to fire their founders because they were interfering with the growth and development of the vision they created. And, I know even more organization whose success is minimized by the dysfunction of the business and the humans that run it.

Every family system generates enmeshment; think of a fish not knowing itself separate from the water it swims in. It doesn’t matter how this enmeshed system developed, what it’s about or how it functions – none of that matters. What matters is cultivating an environment that allows for the process of de-enmeshment; empowering them to differentiate and individuate themselves so as to allow a greater capacity to choose to choose what they choose in service to their own well-being and the fullest expression of Self and inevitably and hopefully to the organization they work for.

It doesn’t matter at what sort of organization we are working with – an individual, family, small business or the largest corporations, religions, and governments, we are dealing with the process of distinguishing individuals from patterns that limit their growth potential and the growth potential of the organizations they serve.

Companies fail, I believe because individuals are actually not invested enough in the success they are attempting to achieve. So, it’s not that they are truly failing; it’s that they succeed at maintaining the environment that generates the undesired outcome, which appears as failure. This sounds paradoxical, however it’s what all of us do consistently, over time until we wake up to the fact that we are creating our own demise.

When we can see this from a logical perspective it becomes a no-brainer to choose to think differently, cultivate a way of being that generates an environment that generates the outcome we are wanting. It’s not a big-hairy-monster deal to take the steps to make this happen. It actually becomes fun and very rewarding.

The Dilemma: Willingness to risk what’s at stake for the desired outcome.

What’s at stake on the one hand can be the revealing of hidden agendas, hidden survival mechanisms, hidden alliances; all sorts of hiddens that we may not even know we are aligned to. On the other hand, what’s at stake is the project, the business, investor’s confidence and their money, your reputation; all sorts of circumstantial elements that clearly we are attached to. This is not an either/or proposition. This is a requirement of the inclusion of both in service to and the honoring of all at stake. Both have to be unconcealed, revealed, recognized and acknowledged, and both have to be dealt with openly, with respect, trust, commitment to the vision of the outcome desired, as well as a large measure of humor.

What I love about working with companies and organizations is that the people at the table are powerful, intelligent, high stakes players. The outcome of the choices they make are life changing for themselves and all the people invested in them and their choice-making capacity. Allowing their dysfunctional survival mechanism to expand to include more functional strategies will provide them with unimaginable success in their projects and careers, if that’s what they are truly wanting.

Harvey, a client of mine for over four years, lives and works in LA in the television industry. Brilliant, creative and kind, he makes everyone feel appreciated by his character and presence. Harvey has finally arrived at his dream. Not only does he have the dream job for himself, he’s also getting paid what he’s worth. He is in the groove!

Harvey grew up in the bible belt of Texas. Allowing himself to be worthy of a salary that reflects all of what he brings to his career was a huge undertaking since it went against the primary tenets that money is evil, and that we shouldn’t want material comforts. The underlying conflict between being spiritual and making enough money to thrive has been an underpinning of Harvey’s financial demise for all of his adult life. Now, in his mid-forties, he’s taken the steps required to receive the full benefits and reap the rewards of all he brings to his work life. Success!

This all within the past two months; so Harvey has been adjusting to a whole new reality – money, prestige, a new BMW motorcycle and more. And …

What I love about Harvey is that he is very much awake when it comes to seeing that having arrived at his desired destination doesn’t mean the journey is over; he knows that in many ways, a new journey has just begun.

I was unsure what would show up in this coaching conversation once Harvey fully owned his worth, asked for a raise, got it and so much more. What did arise had me breathe a sigh of relief; for what Harvey brought to light was the realization that the money, the position and the motorcycle does not bring an individual to a sense of fulfillment but for just a few brief ecstatic moments.

To see that the striving for more money, prestige and power as just that, takes a breaking through of a reality that we believe to be the only reality. To see the striving as a spiritual practice changes the attachment to the outcome to something that is accumulative and builds something greater over time; we find ourselves with more wisdom, clarity and strength.

It’s not the destination but the journey

Harvey certainly wanted to enjoy the increase in income, prestige and position, as we all do; but the significance was what he had to shift in himself in order to bring this level of success to fruition. He had to dig deep beyond bible belt beliefs and family circumstances in order to truly honor his gifts. It required him to recognize all of what he brings to the workplace – just as he’s always wanted and provided for others. He had to reframe spiritual tenets to see that it’s not about the money or about worthiness; it’s about breaking through belief systems that don’t serve one’s awakening. He had to think outside the box of a very seductive context in order to realize himself more fully.

Now that he has come to this part of the journey he asks: “What do I have to do to feel comfort and security? I don’t see it as a possibility for myself.”

I wanted to ask: “Why did you get this raise and position if it wasn’t for the comfort and security that comes along with it?” It wasn’t a question to be asked out loud, not yet, because to Harvey, there was so much more going on.

Up until this moment, the edge of Harvey’s comfort zone had been receiving equal payment for the value that he brings to his work. Now that he has expanded his comfort zone to include this he is now, once again on the edge of his comfort zone – how do I allow myself to actually enjoy my life, experiencing the comfort and security I’ve created for myself. This is a whole new world he is opening up to, because he was able to get the value/worth dilemma complete – at least to this point.

There’s a point where one realizes that there is no end or finish line. Those who pretend this is so tend to mask the physical discomforts that arise when living inside a box that will consistently feel smaller and smaller. What’s the point if we never arrive at our final destination – we never get to fully reap the rewards of our labor? Why not just settle for less – less stress, less effort, less personal abuse …?

The questions lead us to ask: What is success? What is fulfillment? What’s it all about? If it’s not about stuff and winning, then what’s worth the effort?

For many people, especially men, the crisis in the mid-life crisis means coming to the edge of one’s reality, peering over, and saying “there’s nothing there!” Illnesses, job loss, collapses of the economy all bring us to these same moments of realization that reveal there’s no security, there’s no money, there’s only nothing! What’s that about?

Big dilemma!

Go forward – there’s nothing.

Stop  – and there’s nothing.

The reason so many of us choose to not choose is because, whatever dilemma we face, choosing to choose brings us to the edge of our comfort zones. It requires that we be uncomfortable, that we be open to seeing ourselves and our reality different and that we be willing to explore and experiment with the countless facets of the achievement we’ve come to be, already, in this life. The edge of nothing is the same edge as thing. The practice of walking both sides of this edge, fearlessly, well, it’s pretty darn scary.

Harvey has gone forward, found that it’s not about the money, about winning or about things. He’s now onto his next big adventure, knowing that whatever he finds, it won’t be about that either. Fortunately he sees the humor in it all and we both laugh our heads off. Being in business is a very fun venture!

Presence: It seems like a no brainer; aren’t we always present wherever we go? Actually, it’s rare that we are present, in the moment, with our full attention on the individual, the group or task in front of us. Opportunities to have distractions pop up and take our attention away from what we are intending to be attending to.

Cell phones, emails, texts, phones, people passing by our office or cubicle – these are the some of the external distractions; what about the thoughts, emotions and body sensations that also pull us off course; the emotions, stress, anger and fatigue; or worries about money, partners, friends and family; hunger – isn’t it time for a snack break?

The Dilemma

Choice-making is occurring – we are choosing to choose what to be present to. So, what has us choose to choose what we choose? We can be present when we want to be – like when playing a video game, or to the quick perky tune that lets us know someone has just texted; in a sense we are present to our distractions – always alert to their call. What are we committed to that allows for our presence to be usurped by distractions? Maybe it would be more helpful if we turn the question around and ask it this way: What allows us to be so present to distractions? What is so compelling about the sound of a text coming in or the footsteps of a passerby? What are we committed to that has us so available to distractions?

My curiosity has me explore some possibilities:

  1. When someone calls me or wants my attention, I feel important, wanted and needed.
  2. There’s something missing that distractions provide.
  3. Sometimes I’m stuck or challenged and frustrated with the task at hand. I want a distraction to take me out of my misery.
  4. If I’m fully present in the moment I might miss out on something.
  5. I don’t like what I’m doing, I don’t care what I’m doing  and I’d rather be doing anything else but this!

If we choose to interpret our work or work environment as boring and lacks stimulation, or if we enjoy the tiny but mighty shots of adrenaline that arrives with each text, email or phone call, or if we are overstressed by what’s in front of us, most likely we will allow ourselves to invite in what is otherwise missing. We are then committed to relieving stress, boredom and the mundaneness of our environment.

I believe, generally speaking that we think that the state of presence occurs only in the physical world we call reality; but the fact is that presence has an energetic component that fuels, inspires, propels and provides momentum to relationship, connection and fulfillment of our intended outcome. By not presencing ourselves we are not maximizing the fullest expression of our intention to make a difference.

Consider a Practice of Presencing

What’s required of you to be fully present? I suggest we do it all the time – selectively choose to be present to what we choose to be present to.

Here are 5 steps to practice presencing:

  1. Intention: The intention to be present has to be in place.
  2. Focus: The practice of focusing is required.
  3. Willingness: The willingness to exercise the muscles that distinguish to what you bring your focus and attention.
  4. Noticing: The ability to notice or witness what is occurring while you are practicing presence; what’s showing up? What feelings, thoughts and body sensations arise while practicing? By noticing, you become aware of what generally pulls away from being present.
  5. Mindfulness: Assessing what’s valuable and available through the practice of presencing. There is a degree of mindfulness that is required in any practice such as this. A practice in mindfulness is in itself a practice of presencing.

Presencing is a discipline to be practiced, first as an experiment and then perhaps because there is actual fulfillment experienced by being present. What’s it like when you are fully present – what’s the quality of the experience? What is available to you when you are fully present, as opposed to answering texts while listening to your direct reports talk about the challenges they face?

My work as a life and business coach requires 100% attention to every word and action taken by my client. I cannot afford to be present to anything that distracts me from fulfilling my intention to empower them. In a matter of seconds, my work can become sloppy and haphazard when out of the state of presence. I miss something and my effectiveness goes down the toilet; I’m not committed to that!

The question then is, what would have to be here, now that is compelling enough to turn off cell phones, emails, internet – everything that isn’t serving this moment and being present? I ask you to seriously consider asking the question for yourself, for most likely the degree to which you bring presence to your work is the same degree to which you presence yourself with your partner, your children, and to any other aspect of your life.

My client, Jeremy, when home from work would continually be distracted by emails and texts from his boss. He was constantly on alert to his boss’s every need. Through our conversations he realized that his concern and worry about what his boss thought of him was a priority over what his wife and children thought about him and a priority over his own enjoyment of his personal time. He realized too he couldn’t allow himself to be present and enjoy his family as long as his sense of value and importance was coming from outside himself. He began to practice being present at work and at home and found a whole new perspective from which to be most aligned with his highest truth, his integrity and his vision as a human being. A small practice with a gigantic benefit.