WENDY C. HORIKOSHI, M.S.
Certified NLP Coach, Trainer



"Life is about growth…changing…moving forward…taking off…Soaring”

 
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THOUGHTS

2-2017
Executive Orders and Leadership

Three Executive Orders regarding immigration have been issued in January, 2017. There is a great deal of public debate on whether and to what extent these orders are excessive, extreme and immoral. How do we deal with the fallout from these Orders and what do they have to do with leadership? For the Japanese American community, these orders remind us of Executive Order 9066, issued on Feb 19, 1942, which authorized the removal of over 110,000 persons of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast. I wonder what type of leadership would have been necessary to prevent the follow-through of EO 9066 in 1942. It took almost 50 years for the government to admit that evacuation of a whole group of persons based on race was illegal.

What does it mean to be leaders in this time and how can leaders exert their influence regarding these Executive Orders? How are people, communities and companies dealing with the immigration ban? One of these Executive Orders, EO 13769, bars immigration from seven countries. Several tech companies have written to the federal government expressing how people from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen positively contribute economically and intellectually to the U.S. and how they need the skills from employees who were born in these countries. In an article at Fast Leadership Company, “Four Immigrants Affected by the Ban Share What It’s Like to Work in America Right Now,” a doctor, professor, tech worker and advertising employee from the banned countries share their stories and provide a glimpse into how their companies have responded. One immigrant, “Norah,” from Iraq, who helps with early diagnoses of cancer, is completely alone, because her family could not return to the US after visiting relatives. Her boss saw her crying and came in and hugged her, which although was comforting in the moment, she aches in knowing that her boss is a Trump supporter. Another immigrant, “Ali,” from Libya, said that her boss is not opposing the ban, but her colleagues donated money to ACLU. A third immigrant, “Mo,” originally from Iran, works as a college professor and is proud that the college has publicly opposed the ban. Nevertheless, he probably cannot stay in the U.S. when his work authorization expires in March. His renewal request and green card application will probably be placed on hold. (A green card can often take up to two years to process, probably because there was already careful scrutiny on immigration.) “Sarah,” a software engineer from Somalia, works at a tech giant in the U.S. under the H-1B Visa project. With the ban, she cannot visit her sick mother and return to her job. Her company has granted her time off to help plan an upcoming protest, and several of her managers and coworkers will march with her.

Executive Order 13768 denies federal funds to jurisdictions that have declared sanctuary status. Many cities, school districts, colleges have joined other entities adopting sanctuary status to help keep their inhabitants safe from being deported. What are other leadership efforts in disagreeing with these Executive Orders? We are seeing increased organized protest and forming of discussion groups to learn more about the issues and to help pinpoint where we can move into social action. I’ve heard from friends who were never political who are now making phone calls, writing letters and participating in community dissent. Clients and colleagues who have worked their entire lives in social justice organizations, providing services for those with limited access are becoming resources for all of us in cultivating our own responses. Prism, a culturally-aware coaching collective of which I am a member, is designing coaching circles to provide support in these challenging times and to utilize social justice practices to guide truth-telling, compassion and authenticity.

I am also hearing and feeling the need for persons to have avenues to become grounded and to become spiritually renewed to guide ones’ understanding and actions. At my church last Sunday, my pastor* shared with us how retired Colonel Anne Wright spoke at the Veterans for Peace Conference. Colonel Wright left the army in 2003 when discovering U.S.’ decision to go to war with Iraq was based on false information about weapons of mass destruction. In her resignation she objected to the decision to go to war with Iraq without the blessings of the United Nations Security Council, the lack of effort in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, the lack of policy in North Korea, and the curtailment of liberties in the U.S. (Wikipedia). She began researching and with Susan Dixon wrote DISSENT: Voices of Conscience, Government Insiders Speak Out Against The War In Iraq.

My pastor also related how Alison Weir, a journalist who was covering the Israel/Palestinian relationships in 2001 left her job to further focus on illuminating US policy in the Middle East. Her website: “If American Knew” and her book, Against Our Better Judgment identify how the historical relationship between Israel and the U.S. led to the US invasion of Iraq. She also chronicles how overall military policy beginning in 2001 was designed to destabilize the same seven countries included in EO 13769. It’s indeed uncanny how other Muslim-majority countries are not on this list and how no known terrorists have come from these countries that are on the list. It may not be surprising to know that Trump doesn’t have businesses in any of these seven countries, but does with other countries whose citizens have been convicted of terrorist acts.

Another 2017 Executive Order, 13767, directs a wall to be built along the U.S./Mexican border. This comes at a time when undocumented crossings have reached a 40 year low and a third of the border already has a wall. Many people question who will pay for the wall. The company that has built walls in the West Bank has been promoting the building of walls for the United States, attesting to the jobs and employment they could provide. I wonder if the walls in the West Bank have provided peace and economic stability for all of their residents. In closing of his sermon, my pastor shared words from Bruce Ough, the President of the United Methodist Council on Bishops who released a statement about Trump’s immigration order,

“The very soul of our country is at stake. When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia and violence we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls. When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we not only place them in harm’s way, we do harm to our own souls. When we build walls of concrete, or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigration policies, we build a wall around our own souls.
Christ calls us to tear down the walls around our soul that we might live fully and abundantly.”
Bishop Ough further calls upon the Trump administration and US Congress to rescind the harmful Executive Orders. Bishop Ough speaking as a Christian leader may not resonate with you, however I share his words with you as an example of how he is exercising his leadership in his sphere of influence and is identifying his values which stem from his spiritual core.

With renewed energy, at Berkeley Methodist United Church’s service on February 19, 2017, seventy-five years after that EO 9066, I will observe the Day of Remembrance which marks the anniversary of the evacuation order. I will be joining my husband and some of his former band members who sang about the Asian American movement during the 1970’s. Unfortunately, some of the same injustices are occurring today. The annual Days of Remembrance were a small part of the larger movement which over time led to the passing of the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The Civil Liberties Act apologized to Japanese Americans for the unlawful removal and incarceration and provided modest reparation and money for public education of Evacuation. Yet, one equally important reason for the passage of the Civil Liberties Act was to help ensure that this type of travesty would never happen again. “Never again” is a mantra from evacuation survivors and their allies.

There may be other Executive Orders that are or will be calling you to action. During these turbulent times, I wonder what opportunities we have or what avenues we can create to respond, to lead our lives in a way that stop these new Executive Orders and which provide support for the persons affected by them. The four immigrants, Norah, Ali, Mo and Sarah allowed themselves to be vulnerable to share their stories. Some business leaders and church leaders are speaking out. Individuals such as Colonel Wright and Journalist Alison Weir are providing information that is not commonly known which shed light on U.S. policy. As a leader of your life and any leadership role you play or create at work or in the community, where are your spheres of influence and where might you be called to action?

Questions to reflect upon:
Do any of the Executive Orders affect people you know? How can you support them? Are there arenas where you can step up to the plate, as a leader of an organization or as a leader of your life to move into action that aligns with your values? What are resources that can help you sort these questions out?

*Thank you to Reverend Michael Yoshii for information/resources and for social justice inspiration.


1-2017
Building Relationships

As part of her leadership development, a client recently asked me if there was an article that could help in her specific situation that might help her build relationships. While I know there are numerous sources about the subject, I believe she wanted some strategies and ways to deal with communication with a specific person. In reflecting upon her situation I realize that there are several approaches to tackle the subject. What is the communication style of the other person? Is your style different from the person you are interacting with? Are there cultural styles or perspectives which, if identified, could help you understand yourself and the other person? Is there an organizational culture or belief system that if identified, could open up communication and understanding? Many times it can be important to understand who holds the power and what personal and organizational power one holds in the situation. What issues tend to push your button? Can you see a pattern of issues that pushes the button of the other person? What are the things you have control over? Many times the only thing that one has control over is how one responds. What things might you be willing to invest your time into changing how your respond?

In coaching we create a pathway for exploring these kinds of questions and develop a plan for moving toward the desired outcomes. Individuals discover their own stories that help them transform. We might study their learning modality or personality style to better understand their leadership strengths and challenges and build their ability to connect with other persons. We might engage in exercises to help with perspective shifting. We might investigate and reflect upon different cultural perspectives to approach the relationship and/or work with the issue differently. We might strategize to look for more effective ways to deal with issues.

As I think about the client’s question, I am reminded that the building of connection and relationships are primary elements of working and living together effectively and harmoniously. The building of relationships is vital to working as a group or company, individual or community. Building relationships is a common topic that individuals address within the coaching practice. It is amazing for me to watch my clients grow, shift perspectives, influence the people around them, and strategize to create the outcomes they envision.

Question to reflect upon:
Is there a relationship that you’d like to build? What is effective in the relationship and what would you like to move towards?


12-2016
Post-Election Grief

I wonder how many of us are in mourning over the results of the presidential election. For those of us who are, in addition to dealing with any other challenges or difficulties in our lives, how do we take care of ourselves as we move through the grieving process? In working with terminal cancer patients Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross in Death and Dying proposed stages of grief which each person seemed to go through. She gave her patients an opportunity to talk about how they were feeling in a time when people did not usually survive cancer or talk much about the disease or treatment. Over the years her work has grown to help people deal with any kind of transition. Kubler-Ross’ stages include: Denial/Isolation, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance, and Hope. Originally these phases were seen as progressive, moving in one direction, although over the years, many persons believe that we cycle through these emotions, jumping to different stages as well as moving back and forth between them.

Grief is about loss, and how each person deals with loss is individual and personal. I want to share with you some of the reactions about post-election grief from people in my life. One client, a White non-profit attorney for immigrant rights, said that although she felt that while she was working hard to keep on top of her work, the mood in her office was very depressed. She felt like she was in a fog. Reading the ACLU website gives her hope. Another person, who recently became the ED of a health organization, said she told her staff to do what they needed to take care of themselves. Since we talked the day after election, the people in her organization were still very much in shock.

I also asked several coaches of color what phase of the grief cycle that they might be in. "I am still fighting," said a Latina. I will send you the list of Electoral College delegates I got this afternoon. We have to write to them.” She was pretty clear about being angry and has spent many days crying.

Another coach wrote: “I go in and out of denial, anger, bargaining, and depression. The denial shows up as just going about my normal day as if we don't have a racist fascist for a president. And then I read something online that reminds me of the current state of affairs, and I start thinking of the very real possibility of forced evacuations, prison camps, mass executions, etc., and my anxiety level goes up because I don't have a solution. The tension in my body increases, I feel angry and depressed, and I just want to escape or believe that we won't let the aforementioned things happen or that I won't have to give my life defending my family and friends. Every once in a while, however, when I'm able to get grounded and centered, I have hope.”

The Latina coach responded, “I know how I feel, but if I were a black man with a young son I would no doubt be going through exactly what you are. Our imaginations have so much fuel from history, and the man in question does nothing to convince us to trust him. Every time I woke up last night (4 or 5 times) I started thinking about it. Donald Trump is giving the term White House a whole different dimension of the term. Let's know that we have each other, and we have all those Democrats still in the government. I think that as long as we can keep DT from becoming a dictator, we may be able to survive as a dynamic civilization.” And then she offered her garden to friends when they felt overwhelmed.

I believe that allowing ourselves to grieve, to feel these emotions can be helpful and healing. One client shared that this election has been extremely difficult for her as one of her close colleague’s emotional state is impacting hers. She believes her colleague is distracted, reading and posting online and she wants to be supportive but needs to disengage. Additionally one of her parents has posted anti-gay remarks after the election. For although my client is “out” as a bisexual with her parents, her mother doesn’t seem to recognize that her comments affect her daughter and intensify the fear she feels for her own safety. I moved this client through an exercise where she asked for advice from a couple of persons she admires, a Catholic Sister and Harvey Milk, the Gay Activist and SF City Councilman who was gunned down. From the imaginary interaction with the Sister, my client was comforted and relieved to know that she is loved and accepted just as she is. My client shed tears, releasing sadness. She felt joy from the conversation with Harvey Milk, which inspired and motivated her to keep his legacy alive. This process allowed my client to get in tune with her inner self, and to experience warmth, love and wholeness.

Questions to reflect upon:
If you are in mourning during this post-election period, what stage of the grief cycle are you in? How can you honor your feelings?


11/2016
Immunity to Change: Growing Beyond Our Current Abilities

Throughout the practice of being interviewed by clients looking for a coach, I learn new things about coaching and myself. I have been presenting myself as a strengths-based practitioner, and rethinking how I continue to do so while not excluding differing approaches that I incorporate. I mention that I help clients grow and learn and that I engage processes of reflection, focusing, getting congruent and finding flow to shift behavior so that one can get past limitations that have acted as barriers in the past.* In being interviewed about a strengths-based approach, one client asked if I could help her overcome arenas where she is not as strong as she wishes. This gave me the opportunity to affirm that in addition to helping persons honor their strengths and use inquiry to tap into their experiences, I can also help them move beyond the places where they typically get stuck.

One such transformative tool can be read in An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, by Kegan and Lahey. The Harvard professors affirm that their approach to learning differs significantly from the philosophy of a strengths-based, positive psychology approach. Dr. Kegan and Dr. Lahey encourage each learner to look at the “one big thing,” that gets in the way of one’s development. Their approach rests upon persons uncovering their weaknesses and using them like a map towards personal development and organizational growth. Kegan and Lahey contend that we are all doing two jobs: 1) creating our product and/or services and 2) covering up our weaknesses so that others do not see our errors. They contend that people in the workplace utilize a lot of energy and time working with the second job of disregarding their mistakes. In their theory of developmental learning, they ask us to look directly at our methods and choices which keep us from being more effective. They’ve created a process which they’ve worked with for over 40 years to help individuals and organizations to discover the barriers that keep each individual from growing. They document how several companies have become successful by continually and openly working with their one big thing.

In previous books where Kegan and Lahey had shared their developmental “technology,” they chronicled case studies within universities and schools, clearly laying out their transformative processes. This formula beautifully identifies one’s “immunity to change” by asking what one is committed to, what one is doing or not doing to achieve one’s goal, what hidden or competing commitment is uncovered which leads to a big assumption one is making. Kegan and Lahey’s process of identifying one’s competing commitment interrupts the loop that reinforces and recreates the original weakness or mistake that keeps one from achieving one’s original commitment. Finding one’s big assumption helps one to recognize how to shift and develop.

In An Everyone Culture, Kegan and Lahey cite several companies whose corporate culture focuses on exposing individual weaknesses and how these companies have groups, in some cases the entire company, that continually help each other stay true to identifying and developing in a way that acknowledges their one big thing. I believe that whereas Kegan and Lahey’s first few books were extraordinary in helping individuals grow and change, this latest one helps underscore how organizations can help their employees grow. In reading this book, I began to wonder: What if all employees in each workplace could adapt and learn how to move through their blind spots? This methodology would create far reaching and long-lasting results.

Kegan and Lahey’s philosophy emphasizes how the interior growth of individuals is monumental in creating strategies that help make individuals and the organization successful. They knew their technology was effective in educational and human service type organizations, but throughout their research with businesses using this type of approach, they were surprised to discover that focusing on one’s Achilles heel has helped companies thrive even during economic recession.

How might you help move your organization or company towards transforming it to grow beyond its current capacity? Many years ago I was trained in Kegan & Lahey’s technology and it has been life changing for me and for my clients. For any individual or organization that wants to change the culture of their organization, to be deliberate about developing one’s own or the organization’s growth, I have used this tool with other clients and I’d love to help you and your organization.

Question to reflect upon:
Is there some outcome or behavior that you really care about and have worked at changing, but like a rubber band it just pops back? Can you envision how this immunity to change approach can help you and your organization?

*To read more about my processes, go to my blog, www.transformativeleadership.net/thoughts.html and scroll down to the months with blogs mentioning:
Reflection: 2/2012, 9/2010
Focus: 12/2011, 3/2010
Congruence: 7/2012, 8/2011, 8/2010, 3/2008
Flow: 9/2011, 5/2011, 5/2008


10/2016
Coaching, Stories and Playwriting

This month I have been interviewed by several potential clients wishing to select a coach who will be a good match for them. This time is quite special as I have the opportunity to elicit and hear their stories-- their work and personal lives, both of which contribute to who they are, their histories, their challenges and how they make meaning in their lives. Each person’s story is unique: with different political, economic and social circumstances, and yet we can relate to different parts of other person’s stories. Recently, I was struck by one client in particular, who came to the US as an immigrant and was the first person in his family to go to college. His siblings had sacrificed so that he would have the opportunity. His story reminded me of many persons in my parents’ communities, which often had the oldest male going to college, and many times that individual went to war and didn’t come back. Amidst the sacrifices the families had made, there was the spirit to continue to build a good life. This potential client had shared his story of being the only sibling in his family to go to college after I asked him what he appreciated. He added “I am privileged,” and conveyed a feeling of debt to his siblings, nieces and nephews. He exuded joy in that he has a good-paying and enjoyable job, which helps him to support his extended family.

Another aspect of a coach interview is presenting my coaching philosophy, practice and approach. I often share with potential and current clients that one of the main things a coach can do is to ask good questions, to assist them in recognizing and leveraging their strengths, as well as to let them know when they are repeating patterns or responses that have not been helpful in moving them towards their desired outcomes.

Interestingly enough as I was watching the Charlie Rose Show, I heard Edward Albee, a multiple Pulitzer Prize Winner playwright say, “Ideally a play should hold a mirror up to people and say, ‘look, this is the way you behave, this is the way you live, this is the way you react to things. If you don’t like what you see here on stage, why don’t you change?” He went on to say, “So your job /as a playwright/ is to ask interesting questions and expect the audience to provide some good answers.” His words resonated for me as a coach. The coach may engage in different processes and hopefully goes a little bit further by facilitating the client’s journey towards reaching healthy and effective answers. Still, the client, just like the audience, creates the answers.

I am coming to realize that just as playwrighting is an art form, so is coaching. The common denominators are telling or eliciting stories and engaging or influencing an inquiry that helps us to understand the journey. Coaching can also illuminate a pathway through the journey.

Questions to reflect upon:
What is a story about your current life that you can share about yourself? Is there anywhere in this story where you are getting stuck? Have you been stuck in a similar situation before? How would you like to rewrite that story?


9/2016
Learning and Self-Transcendence

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.” -Abraham Maslow

“I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act. The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.” Maslow

As we enter in September, the month where students and teachers return to school, I begin to think about learning principles involved with the coaching processes. I am reminded that there is learning occurring for the coach, as well as for the client. Throughout adulthood, we can continue to learn and grow. In one of my conversations with another coach, Jennifer Chien, she discussed Abraham Maslow, a psychologist who created the hierarchy of needs and his theory of self-actualization. As Maslow continued his research focusing on positive potential in people, he introduced another rung to the top of his hierarchy, one that he called self-transcendence, http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/gpr/10/4/302/. Although Maslow considered himself an atheist, he felt that some people display the ability to go beyond one’s individual self to a deeper connection with the “whole.” Maslow believed that peak experiences of profound love, understanding and happiness are experienced in this heightened state of being.

Self-transcendence reminds me of Howard Gardner’s “existential” intelligence. Gardner is a developmental psychologist, best-known for his theory of multiple intelligences. Existential intelligence was not included in his theory due to the difficulty in testing it in a quantifiable manner. I’m wondering both with Maslow and Gardner’s work if there might have been reluctance in the context of education to deal with spirituality. Also, I think it’s possible that in western society we are very focused upon the individual. And yet, when working with groups and trying to enhance organizational learning we know when we are being more productive and can also feel when there is connectedness, authenticity and enlightenment. With Maslow’s further work with the transpersonal, it is indeed ironic that Maslow’s original model of learning wasn’t reconfigured to include self-transcendence within the basic needs hierarchy.

I guess I’d say that moving towards or enhancing one’s self-transcendence is definitely an arena that coaching can foster. Coaching can help clients align their mind, body and spirits and tap into self-transcendence. Many of my coaching processes rely on helping clients discover their own learning plateaus and Maslow’s self-transcendence could provide a path where people may can move beyond these learning plateaus.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you know someone who exudes joy and happiness and through their living encompass authenticity, integrity, accountability, responsibility and virtues of a mature, reliable, loving being? How might you move towards that type of living?
Have you experienced a time when you felt joy, happiness and connected with all of nature?


8/2016
Putting Together Pieces of the Puzzle: One Story of Creating a Safer Community

There are many ways that leaders can generate greater attention to diversity and safe communities in their work. Here is an example of a leader of a local domestic violence (DV) organization, Amy, (not her real name), and how she is working to be more inclusive. Amy is a fellow in a CompassPoint leadership program. One of the values highlighted in this program is communicating across differences--why power and privilege matter and sharing stories from colleagues of color who were serving in other domestic violence programs. Amy continues to gain insight into the concept of equity. In our coaching sessions she further ponders the importance of being culturally-aware in her leadership and has resolved to continue growing in this arena. Her biggest learning from the leadership coaching has been to not always have the answer. As a white person and executive director, she has been practicing stepping back, and recognizing when it’s helpful to give input, and when it may be disempowering or limiting in the discussion and decision-making processes. These insights are helping her to be more aware of the need to hear the voices of her staff and the communities they serve, while also providing space to hear their ideas, struggles and to identify the issues they are observing and experiencing. Amy’s staff is predominantly Latino, which reflects the community that their organization serves. I believe that she is committed to continually striving to better understand communities of color, the poor and disenfranchised, and the underserved communities and how they may be better be assisted by the organization for which she works.

I asked Amy questions to help her create a process for reaching and engaging the community in a more inclusive way. She began to think of herself as a single piece in a puzzle. We used this metaphor to process ways to be more inclusive in her organizational culture and in continuing to work with the other non-profit and city/governmental services with whom they collaborate in many of their programs. Amy noted that most of the staff persons from these collaborative teams are also white and that in her modeling and leadership role, she needs to help provide opportunities to hear persons who can voice perspectives from the underserved communities. What other pieces are missing from this puzzle? Who are we leaving out: LGBQT, Native Americans, Latino, African American, Asian, transitional-aged youth, underserved populations? How do we engage them and how are we fully listening to them? How are we looking to the community to help us design our programs? Amy also wondered if there might be pockets of the community that are not being reached by the umbrella of organizations providing service. Where in the geography of our service area do they reside?

Next, she wanted to think about how the service providers of the collaborative agencies interact and work together with each other and with their clientele. Is there a power differential and how do we convey our respect? How do we establish ground rules that will honor and include everyone, stating that no one single person has greater value in the decision-making? One of the ground rules might be to be conscientious about who is stepping up and who’s stepping back, recognizing when any person has certain privileges in the group because of position, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. What do we need for safely to participate and share ideas? What are the values we uphold? The need for confidentiality in group discussions and planning is high. Some of the participation might need to be from closed lists--persons invited who can share the underrepresented voices needed and who also have life experiences around DV services.

Amy considered another piece of the puzzle: How do we create empowerment that leads to a culture change in the way services are offered? Meetings will not offer therapy, but it’s important to acknowledge unseen values. This base that is created in vitally important and together can be built over a period of a year or so. It will become the foundation for honest communication and for better support for each of the individuals as they work together in movement building. How do we ensure that we continue to keep the working space “safe” for everyone? Since traumatic experiences may trigger emotions that have been buried, how will we take care of each other and take care of ourselves?

Amy felt that in many cases, the systemic response to the DV community was useless, wounding and even victimizing. How do we name the experience that was not helpful in providing services? How do we engage in storytelling and sharing? How do we think more broadly about the services we offer and the communities into which we want to have more access? How do some values around shame and keeping secrets vary in differing cultural communities and prevent access of our services? What could be there to support persons in these particular situations?

Questions to reflect upon:
How might you/your organization reach out to the community to be more inclusive?
How might you look towards the communities being served to design your programs/services?
If you were to review the roles and actions of your organization, how might they be playing out--do they acknowledge privilege?
How might you message to the community: through art, movement, dance, food?
How might you map out your strategies, so that it can be replicated in other places: record strategies, take photos, etc?


7/2016, First entry of two "thoughts" for July
Creating Safe Communities For Healthy Working and Living

Following the recent Orlando Shooting that killed 49 people, the reaction was one of outrage and grief. Multiple issues of terrorism/fanaticism, gun violence, repressed homosexual tendency of shooter and mental illness/instability surfaced. These are all huge emotional and policy issues which it seems to me that even persons who affirm life and hold similar values can be on the opposite sides of the spectrum regarding these issues. I have strong feelings on many of these issues, and do believe that most persons have formulated their beliefs. I want to address media coverage regarding grieving. I have found it reassuring that we are provided with human stories of the survivors and fallen victims from the shooting. There were a large number of persons of color attending the Latin night theme at Pulse, a gay club, and many of the persons who were killed were Puerto Rican. The LGBQTIA or Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex, Asexual communities are especially affected through this horrible tragedy. (The Urban Dictionary writes that LGBTQIA is a more inclusive term than LGBT for people with non-mainstream sexual orientation or gender identity.)

What hit me early on was how vulnerable the LGBQTIA communities are. People gathered in a place that was welcoming for them, and then it became a target for mass violence. Although the Orlando mass shooting was totally different from the police shootings of African Americans within the past couple of years, I wonder if the LGBTQIA communities are experiencing grief and trauma similar to the African American community. In the aftermath of the police violence and deaths of African Americans Walter Scott, (Charleston, SC) and Mario Woods (SF, CA) in 2015 and Eric Garner and Michael Brown, (Ferguson, MI) in 2014, I had numerous African American friends, colleagues and clients who were distressed and increasingly fearful of walking on the streets where they’ve lived for many years. When 17 year old Trayon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer and many of us were grateful that the media was picking it up, it was an emotional trigger for so many African Americans.

I do believe that there is a great deal of institutional attention being given to the terrorism aspect of the Orlando shooting. How much institutional resources and action are going towards addressing homophobia and racism in the daily crimes and violence in our society? Actor Jesse Williams in accepting the humanitarian BET award said shortly after the Orlando shooting, “Now, what we’ve been doing is looking at the data and we know that police somehow manage to deescalate, disarm and not kill white people every day. So what’s gonna happen is we’re going to have equal rights and justice in our country or we will restructure their function in ours.” I also wonder what efforts are being made to address equal rights and justice for the LGBTQIA communities. Also tied in with the Orlando shooting are issues of the mentally ill and the reporting of those issues while providing for safety in our communities.

For me, the Orlando event seems to emphasize the importance of collective grieving and creating safe communities. The planning and increased security for the Gay Pride events across the nation this past June, 2016, were efforts to increase safety for the LGBTQIA and larger communities. What about other efforts for safety in everyday living for these communities that are marginalized and targeted?

For the short-term, I wonder how we provide support to the LGBQTIA communities who are grieving senseless losses? For the long-term, how can we create workplaces that are more welcoming and safer for LGBQTIA communities? How much of societal intolerances are filtered into our organizational lives? How well do we know the stories of individuals in our workplace and how welcoming and understanding are we of different lifestyles? How do we balance the privacy of our employees with the desire to protect fellow employees who might be at risk due to their belonging to the LGBQTIA communities?

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you connect with the Orlando shooting?
What ways can you be a part of helping to create more safe communities for the diversity of lifestyles in our society?

7/2016, Second entry of two “thoughts” for July
Celebrating Muhammed Ali’s Legacy

“I know where I’m going and I know the truth. I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.” -Muhammad Ali

In reflecting upon Muhammad Ali’s passing, I wonder, what are our values that we live for and how are we writing our own stories? Muhammad Ali was an Olympic boxer and world class champion, philanthropist, and fighter for human rights. When I was growing up, I remember my mother admiring Ali when he said, “I am the greatest.” (Actually his given name was Cassius Clay at the time, before changing it to his Islamic name). I was in grade school and was kind of surprised because my mother had instilled in her children to be humble, to not brag, and to do our very best in everything we did. Over the years I came to realize that she related to the prejudice that Ali faced. My mother said that when she was studying physical therapy at Cal Berkeley, she had hoped to work on Black athletes. I don’t think that she adored athletes, but looked up to African Americans who were confident and proud; withstanding the daily prejudice they faced and continue to face. I think she also admired Ali’s pacifism. Ali refused to enlist in the army because he followed the Islamic teachings to honor life and not to kill people. When he said that he did not have anything against the Vietnamese people, “I’ve got no quarrel with them Vietcong,” my mother continued to look up to Ali and mentioned how “they,” the US government, did all they could to belittle this man but could not take away his personhood or his dignity. I distinctly remember these conversations which happened long before we heard about how she was evacuated as a high schooler during WWII.

Ali understood how he was the greatest boxer when he fought against and beat George Foreman in Zaire during the boxing championship, “The Rumble in the Jungle.” He knew that he was part of a change in perception of Black people. Ali became an international phenomenon and there was a connection between African Americans and Africans all around the world. Throughout his life, Ali used his fame to be a spokesperson for peace and for equal treatment of African Americans and the poor. I recently learned from listening to my pastor at a weekly sermon that Ali was a significant influence in Martin Luther King focusing his attention on getting out of Vietnam. For King and Ali, supporting antiwar efforts and fighting poverty were related and grounded in their values. Ali said that “Wars of nations are fought to change maps. But wars of poverty are fought to map change.”

In relating his own philosophy of life and understanding the potential influence he had over other people, Ali said, “He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” As Ali faced Parkinson’s disease, he provided a public face for fighting and living with the disease. Ex-President, Bill Clinton said of Ali, “He decided that not his race nor his place, the expectations of others, positive, negative or otherwise would strip from him the power to write his own story.” Ali wrote his own stories. I hope that his life can be a living legacy that will empower us to write our own stories and to live up to our values.

Questions to reflect upon:
What are your core values? How are you living them?
What do you want your life’s story to say?
What might be keeping you from telling your story?


6/2016
Resilience: Moving through Difficult Times in Our Lives

June is a major time of year for graduation and transitions. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, author of Lean in, addressed students graduating from UC Berkeley. She borrowed from Adam Grant, professor at Wharton University in asserting that success is not being what you achieve, but how you survive.

Sandberg lost her husband suddenly and in her grieving discovered that the seeds of resilience are planted in how we process the negative events of our lives. Similar to the philosophies of appreciative inquiry/coaching and positive psychology, Sandberg believes that one can find meaning amidst great suffering. In no way does Sandberg minimize the healing processes that she underwent.* Incorporating lessons she learned from her grief, she suggests three principles identified by psychologist Martin Seligman, that can derail one from being resilient: personalization, pervasiveness and permanence.

It seems to me that Personalization is an automatic response in our culture. I recently had a client whose staff member created a big problem. She didn’t feel that it was her “fault,” was very forbearing in saying that “everyone makes mistakes,” and knew this was something totally out of her control. Nevertheless, as I questioned if she felt responsible, she relented. A part of her felt guilty, and solely responsible for fixing what happened. In reflecting and gaining clarity on how she might like to move forward, she mentioned that it can be used as a learning experience. I believe that her frustration level decreased. I’ve had clients who have felt the sentiment, “If I had trained my direct reports differently this wouldn’t have happened, even when proper training and caution had been given.” I also had a client who was having uncharacteristic difficulty mourning the death of a young adult intern who had died suddenly while working with students. A small part of her felt that she should have been there and perhaps he wouldn’t have died. Taking personal responsibility for things in our lives is definitely an important leadership skill, one that is very important for one’s continued learning and development. Equally important may be to step back and recognize that there are many things in life over which we have no control.

The second emotional response that can block one’s path to resilience is Pervasiveness. This is the feeling that the negative event will affect all aspects of our lives. When clients experience difficult situations such as being laid off, co-workers or team mates leave the organization, adult child is diagnosed with mental illness, child is identified with learning disability, loved one incurs cancer or dies suddenly, the intensity may feel inescapable, as if all difficult things are deeply rooted in their lives. Sandberg shared how after returning to work ten days after her husband’s death, feeling as if nothing mattered any longer, she got pulled into the conversation of her coworkers and she forgot that empty feeling for a few seconds. Although I’m not a therapeutic counselor, I have found that if a client can be distracted, even momentarily, to focus on something of interest to them when they may be in this type of emotional state, the client shifts. She or he opens up the possibility for the next moment to be engaged in something other than sadness and grief.

Pervasiveness can work in tandem with Permanence, the belief the grief will last forever. Sandberg shared the story of loss of life, but said it can also be loss of opportunity or loss of dignity. The adversity you face may make you feel like it’s never going to dissipate: I’ll never be able to get through this or this feeling of loss will never go away. Sandberg suggests that this feeling of permanence can become amplified so that one becomes more anxious because one is starting to be anxious, or become more worried because one is starting to worry. I remember when I was working for a boss who utilized bullying tactics. During times when I was the target, I thought I would never fully enjoy the other aspects of the work that were important to me. I learned some valuable lessons while working there, including becoming more strategic and focusing on what’s meaningful for me. Since moving into coaching, I have been able to assist clients who were enduring bullying in the workplace and help them to create better work environments for themselves.

Sandberg said that being appreciative, has helped her to make it through the most difficult year of her life. Counting one’s blessing has helped increase her blessings even though she can still touch and feel the pain of losing her partner, “It is the greatest irony of my life that losing my husband helped me find deeper gratitude—gratitude for the kindness of my friends, the love of my family, the laughter of my children. My hope for you is that you can find that gratitude—not just on the good days, like today, but on the hard ones, when you will really need it.” Sandberg became more resilient through choosing joy and meaning.

As you move through whatever transitions you are facing—as a parent of a graduate, graduation or end of the school year, I wish for you the gift of gratitude and the resilience that it can help usher in.

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there some event that you have personalized, got pulled under by the pervasive nature or feeling of permanence? How might your suffering become a vessel for healing, resilience and growth?
What might you like to share about resilience with a graduate or relative or some person embarking on a new journey in life?

*See Sandberg’s Facebook entry, June 3, 2015, thirty days after the death of her husband.


5/2016
Celebrating Prince's Life

Have you ever noticed someone with special talent? Prince the musician was one such person. He was extraordinarily creative: a songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, a vocalist and producer. He was different in many ways, flamboyant in dress and musical style. Although his unique qualities and differences contributed to his appeal, many people thought he was strange, even weird. He was avant garde, incorporating different musical styles such as those of Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Jimi Hendrix, Isley Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Santana and Stevie Wonder. Much like James Brown and Michael Jackson, Prince influenced style, rhythm and dance.

I believe that Prince was a tremendous leader not only in music, but in the way he worked with people. When Prince played, the musicians and listeners were mesmerized. He recognized talent and artistry in other people and together with other musicians created synergy. Prince had women in his band, showcased them, which advanced their careers. To this day, we still rarely see women instrumentalists in pop bands. At the same time, he was humble and always willing to share the limelight.

In your life, can you think of someone who saw talent in you? How did it affect your life and ability to grow, contribute and lead? Do you notice talent in others, help nurture it and try to advance their careers? As we celebrate the Prince’s rich contributions and also grieve his passing, I wonder what things we can learn from his life.

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of persons on your team, or in your life that have special talent. Do you acknowledge the talent and provide avenues for them to use it?
What special qualities do you have in your life? Do you use them? What ways can you dream to incorporate them in your work or in your life?


4/2016
Using Language to Drive Empowerment

In the training and coaching field I have been learning a great deal about the power of words to frame one’s intentions and actions. With appreciative inquiry, I learned vocabulary for using appreciation, questions and an asset-based approach to strengthen one’s curiosity, creativity and resourcefulness to find solutions or outcomes that work well for the particular individual. With Neurolinguistic Programming, NLP, I was introduced to aligning one’s values with one’s intentions, with words being a sign if one was limiting oneself. With Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s work of how one can change the way one works by the way one talks, I learned a technology for uncovering competing commitments and transforming one’s life. Recently, I read an article in Fast Company Leadership http://www.fastcompany.com/3057149/how-to-be-a-success-at-everything/5-words-and-phrases-that-can-transform-your-work-life about Professor Bernard Roth, a Stanford design/engineer professor who has found five words and phrases which when swapped for more disempowering words/phrases can change one’s work life. I believe these specific words/phrases all seem to fit within the philosophy of the aforementioned programs. Roth’s work is shared in The Achievement Habit. The following stories illustrate how changing certain word patterns can result in positive behavioral change.

“Assist” in place of “help”
Clients often ask me to “help” them. I know that the best help I can give is to accompany them in their journey, to ask them the right questions that facilitate the movement towards answering and aiding their own selves. Roth believes that the language choice of using assist drives empowerment and transformation.

“And” in place of “but”
Whenever we hear the word “but,” our minds focus on the part of the phrase after it, which typically provides information about what’s wrong with the situation. NLP has assisted me in making this switch of words. For example, a client says to me, “I want to continue developing my leadership skills, but I’m afraid of public speaking.” Simply connecting the two phrases with “and” makes it easier for the thoughts to coexist and for one to move forward.

“Want to” in place of “have to”
Roth asserts that the simple act of using the phrase “we want to,” even if it is unpleasant allows us to recognize that we have choice in the matter. When my clients decide that they are staying late to finish something, rather than they “have to,” they report being able to decide when to leave at a reasonable time and when it’s in their best interest to continue working.

“Won’t” in place of “can’t"
Similarly to the phrase “have to,” the word “can’t” signals that one has no control over the situation. Replacing “can’t” with “won’t” is empowering. For example, when I make my “to do list” for the day, and say “I probably won’t get to all of these things, there’s a different feeling of acceptance than, “I can’t get to all of them. I believe I bypass the frustration inherent in the word, “can’t” and the phrase becomes an objective statement, one that I have some control over rather than being overwhelmed and the situation having control over me. (Note: When a client uses the word “can’t” I might follow through with some of Kegan and Lahey’s transformative language technology which identifies competing commitments.)

“I’d like to” in place of “I’m afraid to”
I have found that simply restating a client’s statement of “I’m afraid to put myself out there for a raise, new job or special project,” that I restate it to them with, “Oh, so would you like to have a raise, new job, or special project?” I’d probably use an appreciative inquiry approach to ask questions and further assist the client in identifying one’s strengths that assist the client in creating one’s own path to the desired outcome.

Perhaps not all of these word changes will work for all people, but a shift in perspective can likely lead to a more empowering mind set.

Questions to reflect upon:
I wonder if you were to experiment by choosing one or two of these replacement phrases. What outcomes might change?


3/2016
Seeing is Believing

“Images change people’s perspectives and expectations, and that impels action.” -Pamela Grossman

March is Women’s History Month. In thinking about this topic, I wondered if it was connected to International Women’s Day. It is related. Right after I graduated college and moved to Oakland, I remember seeing hand-printed signs on street corners saying “International Women’s Day,” not really understanding what it meant. Today, I came across this interesting article from Fast Company Leadership that states how stock photos from Getty images impact gender equality http://www.fastcompany.com/3057549/the-future-of-work/what-the-evolution-of-womens-roles-in-stock-photos-says-about-gender-equa Lydia Dishman of Fast Company Leadership reports how Getty’s Image director of visual trends, Pamela Grossman, has found that viewing non-stereotypical roles impact one’s expectations. Just as gender bias is present in google searches when one is searching for photos of careers and jobs, the more people see certain images the more the persons supported stereotypical roles of women, even if they weren’t grounded in fact. On the alternative side, Grossman relates that watching for gender bias has changed the amount of searches through Getty stock photos for “woman entrepreneur” increasing the searches by 402% in the past year. Getty’s Female rising collection shares how representing more inclusive photos of beauty reveal a changing world. Getty’s Lean In collection uses imagery to support and promote equality. Dishman suggests that Grossman’s findings make us question whether the photos and we view are depicting women as “protagonists” or “ancillary roles.”

The notion of visual communication affecting expectation and expectation impacting response is intriguing to me. Taking into consideration how the 4 minute mile was once thought impossible, and then was replicated many times soon afterwards supports this notion of seeing is believing. Now that basketball MVP, Stephen Curry, successfully shoots well beyond the 3 point line, my guess is that more persons will have that capacity. (I am not discounting Curry’s skill, talent, hard-work and competitiveness.) Many people have seen Curry’s practice of deftly dribbling two basketballs at the same time. I wonder if viewing Rosalyn Gold-Onwude coverage of sports, interviews with players and emulating Curry’s ball bouncing drill will affect people’s view of women as equals. (Gold-Onwude is a popular sports announcer and former basketball player at Stanford.)

Seeing the posters of International Women’s Day many years ago created a situation that I still remember. Beginning with this month of Women’s History Month, I am going to look around at the images of women that I see, and question whether they depict us as leaders and initiators who affect the communities and world in which we live. If they do not, I will search for images that do.

Questions to reflect upon:
When you recognize issues of bias, what are the images that you would like to see yourself, your community and society move towards?
In growing and changing, learning something new, what do you want to focus upon? Can you see it? Can you see yourself engaging in that new action?


2/2016
Improving Productivity by Getting Unplugged

Do you wake up and check your smart phone or tablet for emails? With today’s digital technology, many people are connected 24/7 to their work and to their devices. I’ve had several clients for whom not responding to emails from work after they’ve left the office/work, during their week-ends/regular days off and vacations became a major goal. For the most part they discovered that they were more rested, more efficient with the time they were working and less stressed. They created new boundaries for themselves. Together we worked on establishing priorities which helped them to focus on their primary tasks and work. Interestingly enough, Kate Unsworth, CEO of Vinaya a London based tech company http://www.refinery29.com/2016/01/100565/vinaya-ceo-email-tips has only 30% of previous email traffic, by turning on a notification that she would only check emails occasionally. Checking emails once per day is a more drastic practice than I have practiced or suggested to my clients, but it reminds me how much we allow technology to distract us from the most important things we want to accomplish. Do you want to put up digital boundaries? Are you willing to establish a regular stopping time? Would an app such as Staying Focused, assist you to spend your time on what’s important? These are all ways that Tehrene Firman in “CEO’s Secret to Checking Email Just Once a Day,” http://www.fastcompany.com/3055967/work-smart/one-ceos-secret-to-checking-email-just-once-a-day suggests.

What is realistic for you? Would decreasing your email traffic give you more time to focus on your priorities? Would checking your email at specific times decrease the time that seems to disappear from constantly being at the beck and call of incoming emails? In working with my clients I ask them what might work for them. Would they want to set a time limit to when they check their incoming emails/texts and return to what they are working on? Would they like to create a gradual process to move away from the amount of time being plugged in?

It is not surprising that we become addicted to our devices when there may be expectations for an immediate response from our workplaces, friends and family. Additionally, the brain gets a jolt from multi-tasking in the way of increased dopamine as it thrives on exploring something new and different. But over the long run, research by Clifford Nass https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MPHJMIOwKjE indicates that perpetually shifting from one thing to another distracts one’s attention, decreases productivity and is actually rewiring one’s brain. Does being wired to technology, and checking your devices make it more difficult for you to identify what’s important and less able to ignore irrelevant information? Does it contribute to not having fully hearing what coworkers are saying and resulting in poorer decision-making? From his research, Nass cites that multitasking contributes to these ends.

Questions to reflect upon:
Is the frequency and time you spend on interactive media distracting you?
Is it possible that interactive media is decreasing your productivity?
Is it possible that interactive media is affecting human communication?
If yes to any of these questions, is there some action you want to take?


1/2016
Shinnen Omedeto-Happy New Year

I’ve been thinking about what I’d like my theme for 2016 to be. I looked back to review my topics in the past few years:
2011 Centering Self: Letting go of that which is not mine
2012 Being Compassionate to myself and others
2013 Seeking Happiness: A Path to Deeper Meaning
2014 Noticing Joy
2015 Compassionate Self-Care

The focus on these themes the past five years have provided me with insight and a better understanding of my own needs. While I don’t believe that I have mastered each of these things fully and do recognize that there may be a great deal of overlap in the themes, I do feel that there have been self-growth and transformative shifts that have helped me to develop.

I have written about each of these themes in my blogs1, except for Joy, my 2014 theme. I understand joy to be a state of being from the inside, which transcends one’s circumstances. Being happy comes from happenstance, or the result of something going well. However, with this definition of joy, the Happiness theme in 2013 and the 1/2013 coaching blog entry on it with the illustration of the Dalai Lama’s philosophy on happiness probably fit better with the state of Joy. For me, Joy means engaging in positive thinking and looking for good things even when bad things occur. Adopting the theme, of Noticing Joy, was a focus of observing joy in other people amidst severe challenges. This theme was also meant to pose the question, “Even when I am going through difficult times, what is joyful in my life?” How do I cultivate joy? I’ve found that being joyful helps me to create a shift in perspective and opens up my ability to embrace life and to see new opportunities.

Practicing Compassionate Self-Care this past year has supported me in discovering/rediscovering processes and relationships as I faced many losses and the passing of close friends and family members. I believe that having an annual theme has contributed to my own healing and continual journey towards wholeness. I strongly believe that leaders must constantly navigate their own triggers and the outcomes of when those around them seem to have been triggered. Many of you are leaders, and all of you are leaders of your own lives. I believe that a focus on inner development is absolutely essential for increasing one’s capacity to lead. What better way than to begin the New Year with a theme focusing on self-development? What might be your theme for 2016?

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there a theme that you’d like to focus upon for 2016?
In working, living or playing with other people, is there an area which you continually seem to get stuck? What is it? What is one approach, one way of being or one way to shift perspectives that might help you to move differently towards the ends that you desire?


1 For some explanation of these themes, please see my website, www.transformativeleadership.net, “thoughts” and scroll to the accompanying blog: Centering Self -“1-2012, Focus of Growth for Year;” Being Compassionate to myself and others and Compassionate Self-Care -“9-2015-Compassionate Self-Care;” Seeking Happiness-“1/2013, On the Path to Happiness and Meaning.”


12/2015
Seasons in Life

I decorate my house and office with different types of orchid plants, particularly enjoying the variety of species and colors. It’s a joy to see the duration of their bloom. When the flowers leave, I had been fairly fortunate in keeping them alive even though they do not blossom annually. Over the years my orchid plants seemed to stick around, so I kept tending to them, waiting for the flowers to return. This past year, most of my orchids were not in bloom, but I thought they’d come around.

All throughout 2015, my family, community and I have experienced the passing of many persons. Many friends who are of my parents’ generation: two of them were Nisei, second generation Japanese Americans ministers, and three close family friends; a couple of friends in my generation, one who I used to play Asian American music with, another from elementary school who was married to my hometown neighbor, and two who were very dear to me, my mother-in-law and a person who was like an older brother to me. It has been a year of grieving, of accompanying a few of them in their final healing journeys, as well as being able to spend meaningful time with them. As the year ends, there are other friends and relatives who are aging and suffering from life-threatening illnesses. Amidst these losses and difficult situations, I feel grateful for my clients, my friends, family and communities. In my mind, I hear myself asking the question I often pose to my clients, “What do we really have control over?” Knowing that I only have control over how I respond, I am practicing living in this moment, being appreciative of things, especially those that I take for granted, and being patient to see what life will bring.

My friend, who was like a brother, passed away in May. During this time, most of my orchids hung in there, but definitely were not thriving. After my mother-in-law left us in August, my orchids looked barren, but fall was coming, so it seemed natural for the orchids to be in this state. My father has suffered major difficulty in September and my mother’s health declined in October and November, yet both are doing pretty well considering their age. Most of my orchids were really sad in November and before the end of the month I recycled them. Two orchids remain and may bloom again. I have purchased a Phalaenopsis orchid, and it sits next to my computer, smiling at me as I work. The plant has yellow flowers with purple centers. The yellow reminds me of my mother-in-law’s favorite flower color and the purple, a color symbolizing transformation, I associate with my friend who was a healer and educator. Although I recognize that we are quickly approaching the winter season, my non-blooming orchids remind me that there is always hope for new blossoms.

I am finding that like life, the seasons come in cycles: life, death and new beginnings. As we finish the fall season, may you experience support for any transitions you are undergoing and closure to unfinished business. For winter, I hope that you will find time for some quiet reflection and will take advantage of opportunities to grieve any losses that you have experienced. This coming year, as you move into spring, may you recognize new life and acknowledge meaningful moments that remind you of the fullness of life. For summer, I wish for you some down-time, fully enjoying the journeys that you are taking. And that will return us to fall, the season where we can enjoy harvest and the bounty of life.

Thank you for sharing your life journeys with me.

Questions to reflect upon:
What transitions are happening in your life? What is changing, what are you losing? How are you allowing yourself to grieve that loss?
As the year closes, what are you grateful for? What is meaningful about this?


11/2015
Leadership: Meeting Management, Part II

Last month I outlined five areas that may help if you or someone you supervise or support is planning a meeting. In the October “thoughts”, I covered the issues of why have a meeting and who should be at the meeting, and agenda building. This month I will touch upon communicating discussion and outcomes from the meeting, building relationships and evaluating the meeting processes and outcomes.

Communicating discussion and outcomes from meeting: What agreements have been made for follow-through and are there areas that still need to be discussed and decided upon? How do you want to record and transfer the memory of the meeting? How do you continue to move along and keep the unfinished business on track and complete the implementation processes you planned?

One common way to maintain group memory is to chart the topics on easel paper, where the participants can see it being documented. As the topics and discussion are charted, all participants can clarify if the representation is correct, and can be encouraged to make connections with other issues and stimulated to offer other possibilities. Major decisions can be highlighted and leaders of the group can facilitate to make sure that items that need some type of follow-up is identified and persons take responsibility for the necessary actions. It can be helpful to make a best-guess timeline for each of the actions. It can also be helpful to discuss how they will be accountable for completing the actions, for example, will it be completed before the next meeting or when? One of the other questions that can be asked of the group is “Are there other persons who need to be informed about the discussion and decisions made at this meeting?” And if so, how will the information be shared with them?

Building relationships: How important is it for you as a leader to build relationships and to continue to nurture them with the people in your group? For some meetings called by department heads or one time meetings that are created only to disseminate information, building relationships may not be a primary focus. For recurring meetings, or where you want to build the group relationships, many new leaders discover that just having the knowledge and presence to facilitate a meeting isn’t enough to help build the kind of environment where creativity is nurtured, where complex situations and decisions can be discussed openly and honestly, and where people are willing to be open, frank, including to disagree with each other to arrive at optimal and appropriate solutions. Learning more about individuals in the group, each person’s workstyle, interests and goals can help teams to become more familiar with each other’s strengths and passions. It may be helpful to keep in mind, a well-known framework for group development which is comprised of five stages: forming, storming, norming, performing and re-forming. In order for groups to move towards maximum productivity, it is hypothesized that teams of people will move through these stages. The forming stage is usually a positive one, where people of cordial, polite and fairly compliant. The storming phase usually finds individuals focusing on outcomes that they want to see happen, and may not be on the best “group behavior.” With the norming stage, the group becomes more cognizant of the entire group. However, maximum productivity and performance requires individuals to challenge each other and to support novel approaches, while appreciating aspects of the “tried and true.” The performing group ushers in the productivity, and has at its core, most of the individuals contributing to the processes/outcomes of the group. When the group finishes its product or purpose the group may no longer meet, or perhaps some persons leave or enter the group. The reforming stage and the group dynamics start again. Recognizing these processes can help understand what stage a group is and that the development is typical, what needs to transform to continue and that a group need not be “stuck” forever.

Evaluating the meeting processes and outcomes: In terms of group development and productivity, evaluation is an important process. Both the leader and the group may want to have some type of evaluation process. Sometimes individuals complete an evaluation form, and it can be quite short and simple. For review as a full group, I highly recommend a group evaluation, charting individual responses. For this process you can place a plus sign “+” on the left side of the chart paper and a delta sign, Δ, the right side. Ask for persons to mention things they liked or worked well and things that they’d like to change. Although individual responses are captured, evaluating as a group can afford new ideas to spring forth through hearing the previous comments. It can make it easier to go deeper into the processes, while focusing on what was good and what might be striven for in the future, as opposed to offering criticism.

This current post and October’s “thoughts” present some tips for leaders in preparing to lead a meeting. Working together with other team members can help to better communicate the outcomes of a meeting, build relationships and evaluate the meeting.

Questions to reflect upon:
If you are planning a meeting:
How will you document the discussion and outcomes of the meeting?
How will you build relationships and encourage participants to be fully present and participate?
How will you evaluate the meeting?


10/2015
Leadership: Meeting Management, Part I

In working with a group of high potential leaders in a small organization, I observed that many of them had not been exposed to meeting management practices. It reminded me of another time when I was providing management and leadership coaching to institutional officers at a juvenile justice center. Both sets of clients had learned “on the job,” and were doing a valiant job of leading or co-leading their meetings. I realized that most people, including myself, learn to lead their meetings by emulating what is already being done in the workplace. What may not occur when following organizational protocol is fully questioning the purpose of each meeting and taking into account planning and preparations that a leader can focus upon to optimize the outcomes and the ongoing group processes. While the topic of meeting management may seem obvious to more experienced leaders, those less experienced might consider the following thoughts.

In lieu of outlining a curriculum on meeting management, I think there are five areas that I want to touch upon which might enhance a leader's ability to prepare for a meeting: why have a meeting and who should be at the meeting, agenda building, communicating discussion and outcomes from meeting, building relationships and evaluating the meeting processes and outcomes. I will address two of these components in this month’s entry, the why and who of meeting management and agenda building.

Why have a meeting and who should be included? It may be helpful to discuss with at least one other person to determine if there should be a meeting and who should be at the meeting. You might think about the following questions: Is a meeting the best way to communicate, or would emailing or skyping be more efficient? What is the purpose of getting together? How do you want to let people know why a meeting is necessary? Will the meeting be to discuss how things are going? What do you want to accomplish--problem-solving, or information sharing or something else? Do you want to utilize the meeting time for persons to share concerns or only to share information? Who do you want to be at the meeting to ensure you get the input that is needed and who are the critical persons that should participate in any decisions that will/might be made? Oftentimes people who prefer extroversion may wish to have a lot of people, maybe more than is really necessary. On the other hand, sometimes persons who prefer introversion may tend to keep the number of meeting participants smaller because they don’t feel that everyone needs to know or participate in it although it may be fewer than the number of people who might actually benefit from information shared in the meeting. Regarding these questions of the purpose for having a meeting and who should be included, I help the client arrive at the conditions that are best suited for their particular situation.

Agenda Building: What is important to cover in this meeting? Who might give input into what topics and what’s important about them? Would it be beneficial to open up to all individuals attending the meeting to give suggestions for the agenda? If yes, how will you get that input? How will you build openness, motivation and willingness for all persons to give input? Asking for agenda items may be more difficult when meeting in large groups, however if you want group input for the meeting content, doing so can assist with motivation and participation. I walk my clients through these types of questions and help them arrive at processes they think will work best in their given situations. Sometimes the ultimate processes they want to use may take several steps to get there, especially if teams aren’t used to participating in planning the meetings.

If my clients anticipate conducting several meetings where they hope for participant input and decision-making, I usually encourage them to ask for input into the agenda and after doing so, have the group estimate the amount of time that each item will take. If there’s not enough time for all of the items, then how do my clients and their groups want to prioritize which things to tackle and include at that meeting? Or, are there agenda items that leaders in the different areas will make the decisions for their group? I think that most groups tend to use majority rule or consensus, but there are several different processes (google “group decision-making”) that can be employed, especially if the group is large. What type of decision-making rules for what type of decisions can also be an area of discussion for each group. If building team is a goal and the purpose of the meeting is not just to relay information, I strongly encourage clients to ask for consensus in prioritizing what’s most important on the agenda, as well as for the issues where there isn’t time to address to identify what will become of those issues.

Questions to reflect upon:
In the next meeting that you lead, why do you think a meeting needs to be scheduled? Who needs to be there? Do the leaders of other groups agree that a meeting is necessary? What are the outcomes that you desire? How can you build the agenda to move towards those outcomes?

In a future coaching blog “thoughts,” I’ll address Part II of Leadership: Meeting Management with the remaining components of discussing & communicating meeting outcomes, building relationships and evaluating the meeting.


9/2015
Compassionate Self-Care

“Instead of trying to control ourselves and our lives to obtain a perfectionistic ideal, why not embrace life as it is—both the light and the shadow? What adventures might follow if we free ourselves in this way? Happiness is found when we go with the flow of life, not when we rail against it, and self-compassion can help us navigate these turbulent rapids with a wise, accepting heart.” Kristin Neff

I work with many clients who drive hard to be successful and to help their organizations provide caring service and excellence. In the past few years, learning to take good care of oneself, physically, emotionally and spiritually has been one of the coaching goals of many of my clients. They make statements such as, “I know I should take better care of myself,” or share sentiments that they understand how overworked their staff and coworkers are and they feel like they have to work harder to ease the staff’s burden when they are already overwhelmed and overtired. And yet, if I ask them what would they suggest to themselves, they realize that they have had a difficult time being as compassionate to themselves as they are with other people. I have become increasingly convinced that in order for us to be fully compassionate to others that we also need to be compassionate with ourselves. It is also a journey that I have embarked upon.

Why is being kind to oneself important? It is part and parcel of understanding that we have some weaknesses and imperfections and this is part of the shared human experience. It is a kinder, gentler way of being open to our own flaws as opposed to self-criticism. It can provide a pathway to deeper learning about ourselves as well as connect us with suffering that exists in our world.

Kristin Neff in Self-Compassion, defines compassion as having three components: self-kindness, recognition of our common human condition and mindfulness. Self-kindness: How can we comfort ourselves, especially when we are being self-critical? Common human condition: How can we suffer with other people and remember that all of us have feelings of inadequacy and disappointment? Mindfulness: How can we be in the present moment and have full acceptance of it with a nonjudgmental attitude?

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you found yourself in this type of situation where you need to take better care of yourself in order to do your job better? How did you change your behavior and did it help? If not, did you try something else?


8/2015
Leadership: Communicating by Clarifying What You Heard

In last month’s coaching blog I addressed how asking questions can be a powerful communication tool. This month I want to continue with a simple communication technique which helps me understand what other persons are thinking by repeating back what the other person has said or summarizing what has been said in a group discussion. I’m sure many of you may think that this is a waste of time and perhaps feel as if one is trying to take the “stage” or to create time to think of something else more to say. I’ve found that this is not necessarily the case, and in fact, often opens up communication and helps pairs and groups of people to move forward in the conversation.

Repeating Back in Conversation with an Individual
It’s been amazing for me to realize that repeating back what an individual has said tends to help the person know you have heard them. At work, I used to rephrase what a speaker had said. Oftentimes I would preface it with, “I’m hearing that …,” which decreases the chance for raising the defensive response of the individual because you’re focusing on yourself and not commenting or judging the person’s response. Repeating back with an “I” statement also provides an opportunity for the individual to clarify if that isn’t exactly what was meant. Later in my career, while studying neurolinguistics programming (NLP) in a coaching program, we were encouraged to repeat back the exact words a person spoke. I discovered that there seems to be an instant connection with the vocabulary and meaning the client wants to communicate. It was as if I were beginning to speak the other person’s language. The client usually adds on or refines what they’ve originally said, while providing a deeper understanding of the client’s thinking.

Repeating back one’s words may help a person to reflect and connect with one’s self-talk, making it easier to formulate or further expand the meaning the person is experiencing. Apparently self-talk occurs one quarter of the time in our conscious experience. An article, “Speak for Yourself” in Scientific American Mind1, reports that thinking in language helps us “to solve problems, read and write, motivate ourselves, plan for the future and learn from past mistakes.”

Repeating Back within a Group Discussion
Repeating back what individuals have stated can be an important tool in group conversation, as well. Depending upon individual personality style and the cultural norms of communication within our families and communities, we may have been taught to listen to what others are saying and not to repeat it, especially if we don’t have anything new to add. For some persons, just to ask about what has been said may seem disrespectful. And yet, in western society, individuals who don’t “talk” out loud much are often assumed to not be listening. Repeating back what other individuals have shared can communicate many different things: let the group know that one is listening, summarize what individuals have contributed and provide opportunities for clarification, agreement with previously shared thoughts and/or building upon emerging ideas. As a leader or person who wants to enhance communication, perhaps repeating back may be a good use of group and individual time!

Questions to reflect upon:
Where might you have opportunities to repeat back what a co-worker, friend, partner, child, community person has said? I wonder if you will get new/different responses.
Where else might you practice this technique?


1 Jabr, Ferris, “Speak for Yourself,” Scientific American Mind, Vol. 25, No. 1, January/February, 2014.


7/2015
Leadership: Communicating Through Asking Questions

Communication is an important aspect of leadership. In previous coaching blogs, I have written about communication styles (“Becoming More Successful at Working Together, 2/2013 through 6/2013). This month’s “thoughts” is about one aspect of communication-asking questions. I remember in one workshop, the instructor said, “If the listener doesn’t know what you are talking about, you haven’t communicated it well enough.” I found this to be an interesting perspective that has helped me to understand that what I think I’ve said doesn’t necessarily mean that is the message the listener has received. My natural style in listening had been to assess the issue that the speaker is addressing and to automatically begin problem solving the issue. I have had a tendency to offer solutions for the problem that I’ve identified. For the person I am asking questions, the issue may not be a problem or the person may not be interested in hearing my advice.

I’ve found through asking questions, I become a better listener. Being curious by asking questions, can be an incredible way to get a glimpse of what’s going on for that person. It can also help the person become more creative by opening up that person to more possibilities and options.

Over the past ten years or so, I’ve been profoundly influenced by the power of asking questions as a form of communication. What did the person say, how do I understand the meaning of what they said, what is of further interest to that person and how can the person’s ideas contribute to issues that are important to me and the organization? (In fact, as a coach I realize that asking the right questions is critical for helping clients get to their desired outcomes.)

Asking questions can provide the space and vehicle for clarifying the subject and moving the conversation forward. It can also act as a way of connecting with the person and eliciting areas of common interest. At the very least, one can learn about what may be meaningful for that person. In connecting with another person through meaning, it is more likely that it will be easier to have open communication, then and in the future. Additionally, asking questions when working together in groups can increase team understanding.

I have learned that using the word, “Why” in a question can shut a person down, because it tends to make one feel like one must defend one’s position. If we start out our questions with Who, What, When Where and How, it can help the person to stay more open to exploring one’s response. If it seems really important to begin the question with Why, one can also consider prefacing the question with, “I wonder (why).” Using the words, ”I wonder” can have the effect of engaging one’s imagination and expanding one’s thoughts.

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there an arena where you would like to open up or increase the effectiveness of your communication? What questions might you ask?


6/2015
Leadership: Supervision

In my coaching practice there have been numerous clients who had been spending much more time at work than they wish, but have felt that it was absolutely necessary to maintain the quality of their work and to contribute fully to the organization. It appeared to me that they were all conscientious, had good work ethics and communicated well with their direct reports. Oftentimes, they revealed that they were occasionally or often completing work that other persons should really be doing. Sometimes the main reason may be that they felt their direct reports were also carrying too big a workload or it was easier just to do it themselves. Other times they didn’t feel that others would complete the job “correctly” or as well.

We talked about whose responsibility specific tasks were. We pondered whether doing the work for someone else might be preventing the person from learning how to do it. I asked my clients if they were given opportunities to fail and what they learned from them. Conversely, what do persons learn from having other persons do their work? We wondered if the direct reports were capable of completing the tasks. Sometimes I might ask, “What is the worst thing that might happen if the direct report did not complete things the way that they did them” and/or “Are you feeling compelled or called to action?” (read “thoughts, 6/2014” and “7/2014”) I helped each client to create little experiments to allow him/her to focus on the priorities in their work, refraining from doing the things that weren’t really one’s job, as well as delegating things that might be growing opportunities for the clients’ direct reports.

In all of these cases, my clients were incredible in being able to shift their previously automatic behavior of inserting themselves. They often reported pride in how their direct reports stepped up and created new ways to complete the tasks. Often, their direct reports had more ownership and took more initiative. In some cases, specific direct reports stopped coming to my clients to do their work for them. My clients appreciated that there was more time for them to focus on their own work and felt satisfaction in watching their direct reports grow as team players.

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of an arena where you supervise, lead or have the opportunity to teach others. What’s important about the outcomes? What goals have you set for yourself in supervision/teaching?


5/2015
Synchronicity

I have a client who is pondering how to use her professional development stipend from her leadership program. When she first started talking about it, she felt like she had no idea what outcomes she wanted from it. We began to discuss her learning goals for coaching and we discovered that she surprisingly had lots of ideas. One of them is a strong desire to learn Spanish and to become more aware of the culture, because so many of her clients are Spanish speaking. She had read about a study trip to Peru, and simultaneously was open to considering a trip to Oaxaca, which works within her budget. I asked if most of her Spanish speaking clients were from Mexico or from other Latin-American cultures. She realized that the cultures were vastly different and recognized that a trip to Mexico, for cultural learning, was more appropriate with the clientele she serves. As I facilitated her brainstorming processes, she listed several other steps that she could take to reach these outcomes of becoming more fluent in Spanish and more culturally aware: cultivating regular opportunities to practice speaking Spanish in her workplace, seeking out continuing Spanish language classes, and researching language study trips. She had identified several possible persons and resources to contact, including putting out something on social media. She left this session very excited about pursuing these outcomes. The following week when we met again, her step brother responded and recommended a program in Oaxaca that was run by his friend. She continued to check into the program and discovered that her partner and she both knew the director. There are openings for the best time of year for my client to go, and the program is just about the length of time that she had estimated that she could be off and fits within the stipend amount. Coincidentally, in putting out the word about possibilities of a language study program through social media, a friend who is a director of development in another non-profit has been thinking about engaging in a similar program and she’d like to go on the trip together with my client. My client remarked about the crazy connections that surfaced and we both marveled at the synchronicities.

In previous blogs, I have presented reflection, focus, congruence and flow as processes that I use in my coaching of clients to help them realize their desired outcomes. In my coaching blog from 9/2011, I mentioned how synchronicity is a dynamic process that contributes to flow. Synchronicity, first coined by CG Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist, is about meaningful coincidence. Some events are connected by causality and others events connected by meaning. Have you ever had a list of things that you wanted to finish and then you get a text, email post, phone call or run into a person who was on that list to contact? In the book, The Power of Flow, Berlitz and Lundstom suggest that if one pays attention to flow, it is more likely to occur and offer exercises to increase one’s flow. Moreover they assert that synchronicity is the entry point to flow. Being in tune with synchronicities that surround us and allowing this awareness to evaluate how the timing of our internal processes are being mirrored in our external world opens the door to transformation. We interpret the significance of what has happened and find deeper meaning.

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of a simple coincidence which resulted in a meaningful exchange or something meaningful. Had you been thinking about this person, event or activity beforehand? What was it that made it meaningful for you?
Have you had a string of synchronicities? What was the sequencing of occurrences and what meaning do you derive from it?


4/2015
Qualities of Teamwork

How do you know when you have great communication and teamwork that make a difference in the outcomes? I attended an Alabama Shakes Concert at the outdoor Greek Pavilion in Berkeley, California this past week-end. Alabama Shakes plays southern blues rock. My husband commented that he could hear the influence of Janis Joplin, which is a genre difficult to describe. I don’t listen to much rock music, but my son, who is more familiar with it, mentioned that it’s the phrasing that sets Alabama Shakes apart.

Alabama Shakes presented a mix of their first recording and second CD that is expected to come out in a few days. It was great to hear songs that I had heard them play and also to hear new ones. Many reviewers are writing that their new CD is very different from the first. Although one can recognize their music, each of their songs is different. Perhaps it’s their style, musical phrasing and accent patterns amidst the freshness of their new songs. Their performance was mesmerizing.

Brittany Howard, the leader of the band, has an extraordinary voice, with amazing depth and range. The instrumentalists were incredibly talented. Each musician seemed immersed in the music. Their sounds were distinct and converged in interesting and complementary ways. Howard sang, while playing the guitar, often taking the lead guitar part, which is unusual to do so while singing at the same time. Howard and the other guitarist traded off playing rhythm and the lead. It was a delightful concert where the hour and a half of performance seemed to go by in a very short time.

The way the music came together that night felt like magic. I marveled at the talent of the group, as well as the deft manner in which Howard communicated with the group. How did the three back-up singers stay in perfect synch with her, even when her back was to them? When the instrumentalists were jamming with her, how did the band know how many turn-arounds to do before returning to the vocal part? Of course I know that this is practiced, and there are cues that can assist the process. Howard occasionally conducted a few beats with her hand, and seamlessly continued to play guitar. She also signaled by moving her guitar up and down and sometimes she broke out into dancing. She moved closer to the instrumentalists, during the instrumental solos, connecting in a special way with them, and then stepping forward to continue. The conducting was seamless and almost imperceptible. I also wonder if the song and music writing was a collaborative effort, and how these efforts might illustrate some other communication and teambuilding issues. Interestingly enough, the booklet accompanying the first CD, gives the band the credit for most of the songs.

It seems to me that teambuilding factors that contributed to the outcomes of this concert were: fully listening to each other, musicianship, artistry, interesting music, individual members working collectively as one entity and leadership that highlighted the strengths and talents of the contributing performers. What are the communication and teambuilding factors that will make a difference in your group work?

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you experienced a time where all the pieces of working together with other individuals came together like magic? Where there important factors of communication or teambuilding that played a part in this magic?


3/2015
Creativity and Problem-Solving

I have many clients who desire better work-life balance. One client recently said she felt guilty after putting her newborn to bed wanting to resume work, but was too tired to do anything, so ended up falling asleep in front of the TV. There are many strategies I have used to help clients to discover what they really want, to prioritize their time, to create actions to complete their work while enjoying their time with family. I have begun this process with this client. I’m also wondering if engaging her creativity and play to address this situation might be beneficial. Albert Einstein said “The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable.”

What if my client were to begin to think of the time with her child as play, to step into it and fully enjoy all the time with her, including the chores and responsibilities necessary in parenting? Maybe it might also be helpful for this client to think about how she can play with her work. I remember reading about how renaming an everyday item can lead to reusing it in innovative ways (Scientific American Mind, Vol 23, No 3, July/August 2012.) Through simple experiments, persons were trained to overcome being fixed in their perspective. For example breaking down items to their basic parts enhanced their ability to more effectively solve problems. Persons who had been trained in renaming and then asked to connect metal rings together when given the rings and a candle, were far more effective at finding a solution. They melted down the candle and used the wick to tie the rings—67 percent more often than subjects who hadn’t gone through the training. The author suggested imagining the elements of a bicycle as all of the individual parts to find a tool that you might need. In other articles in this issue, studies reinforce how thinking differently and altering how one goes about one’s daily routines can enhance idea generation and better options for problem-solving.

Throughout much of my life I have focused on efficiency and productivity and recognize that our society has a penchant for this. Einstein said that if given an hour to solve a tricky problem, he’d spend 55 minutes defining it, which includes alternatives and 5 minutes solving it. I’m not sure exactly how future sessions with this client will go although I do know the coaching process is a great forum for engaging her creativity in problem-solving.

Questions to reflect upon:
What is an area where you get stuck? How might you find a way to play with the situation?
How can we create avenues for exploring different ways to solve problems?


2/2015
Seeing is Believing

Have you heard the saying, “If you build it, they will come” from the movie, “Field of Dreams”? February brings the Lunar New Year. I haven’t grown up celebrating the Lunar New Year, but recognize it is a time for starting anew and celebrating the start of a new beginning. With these thoughts in mind, if you haven’t already, I’d like to take this opportunity to suggest choosing a theme for your year and using the new lunar year to creatively begin to move towards bringing that theme to fruition.

Ordinarily at the end of each calendar year, I often ask my coaching clients if they’d like to select a theme. Unlike a New Year’s resolution, which is likely to be abandoned, bringing feelings of failure and perhaps hopelessness in achieving the resolution, I like to present the selection of a theme as an overall goal that one can create and move towards. Last year, my theme was “Noticing Joy.” Doing so, helped me to appreciate profound meaning, amidst a rather difficult year. I also noticed and heard my clients as they went through difficult challenges, recognizing their struggles while asking them about areas that seemed to bring joy into their lives. With these processes they began to unleash new energy and appreciation for their own abilities to achieve their desired outcomes. While focusing on their themes, I helped them to create strategies which they effectively completed.

I have been finding that many of my clients have decided that self-care is very important for them to continue to contribute their very best in their work and in their relationships. They have discovered that in order for them to do well in their work, they must stay healthy and can avoid burn-out through focusing on self-care. My clients’ learnings have helped me to choose my theme for the year--Compassionate Self-Care.

Questions to reflect upon:
How would you like to step into the new lunar year? Over the next nine to twelve months, what’s really important to you? Select a theme for the year. Throughout the year, return to this big picture goal to focus upon and to remind you of what has meaning for you.


1/2015
Shinnen Omedeto, Happy New Year

In Japanese culture, the celebration of the New Year is very special. Many businesses shut down for three days, and there are many tasks to complete to prepare for the end of the year before taking time to celebrate. I grew up in a Japanese American Christian farming community. Much of life centered around the church. Japanese Americans weren’t the largest cultural community, however they had their own farming cooperative, the Livingston Farmer’s Association (LFA), which has been in existence for more than 100 years. Over time, both the cooperative and church have added non-Japanese American members. There are few Japanese American families still farming. And yet, it is interesting to see certain cultural rituals continue.

For over 35 years, my former church has been making and selling mochi as a fundraiser. Mochi is made from washing, steaming, pounding and forming little balls of gooey rice. The rice is a special variety which becomes more gelatinous and sweet than the regular stock of white rice as it is cooked. Many hands are needed to help with the event. Many persons who have grown up in the community return to help on the day. It is truly a community event. Until a couple of years ago, my father used to help with washing of the rice and the cooking and pounding of it.

As we approached this New Year’s Day, I was listening to my father recount the mochi making, and about how he invited his friend, a Mennonite from the LFA coop, to attend. I also learned that as the LFA were looking for new members to join the farming coop, my dad had invited him. At first, his friend was hesitant to consider being a part of the coop, probably because it was not related to his Mennonite church. He became the first Mennonite grower of LFA and other Mennonites have since joined the coop.

When his friend visited the mochi event, my dad showed him how to dip it in a “shoyu” (soy sauce) and sugar mixture. This tastes like the “senbei” crackers that are commonly sold. He also offered him some “ozoni,” mochi in a soup broth. The mochi is baked or microwaved, pops up and becomes becomes crunchy. His friend tasted the mochi both ways and enjoyed them. His friend offered to help with the pounding of the mochi which requires precise timing. One person pounds with a giant hammer and another person folds it over while the hammer is being raised for the next strike. Most families do not pound mochi any longer, as there are now small machines which make it and knead it. I think the pounding adds flavor and meaning. My dad’s friend purchased a pound of mochi and took it home to share with his family. His family liked it so much that he came back to buy several more pounds. In subsequent years, my dad's friend ordered 40 pounds and shared with his church community.

I also learned that my dad used to go buy apple pies from his friend's Mennonite church fundraiser. My dad is diabetic, and no longer eats sugar. In hearing this story, I’ve decided to contact a Mennonite friend of mine from Livingston and find out when their pie sales are and if they sell sugarless ones. Since my folks or I no longer live in the immediate area, it may be a good opportunity for my dad to reconnect with his friend and for me to do so also with my friend.

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there a ritual from your family or community that was/is meaningful to you? What was/is special about it?

To see artwork of Livingston Methodist Church mochi-making, courtesy of Dawn Nakashima, go to nakfinearts.com/mochi.html

To read more about Japanese New Year’s tradition, scroll down to earlier entry with same title, 1/2010.


12/2014
Experiencing Gratitude

Several of my family members and friends have been dealing with serious health issues, some of which are life-threatening or life altering in terms of the way they will continue to live their lives. I am continually inspired by their sense of gratitude, their abilities to face each day with courage, faith, patience and the spirit of love. I’d like to share you one of these stories, one about my mother-in-law, Hisako Horikoshi.

Hisako was born in Japan, the youngest of four daughters. She was attending a seminary for women, when her future husband asked her to marry him and move to the United States to take a ministry position. There were very few persons from Japan immigrating to the United States during that time because of the anti-Asian laws. Hisako was the perfect minister’s wife, and people in the community often think of her as a saint. She is an incredible listener. She fully accepts each person, just as they are and hears the struggles and joys in each of their lives. Playing games and cards, she is a fierce competitor. On the other hand, she loves to laugh and finds humor and beauty in everyday experiences. I think that the spirit of gratitude has deepened meaning in Hisako’s life and all of those touched by her life.

Last year Hisako had a mastectomy to fight a very aggressive form of cancer and received radiation therapy. This year she discovered that the cancer had returned. Throughout all of the treatment, recuperation and return of cancer spots, my mother-in-law has felt no pain. She gets more tired and needs to drink fluids a great deal more, but she maintains a daily routine, still sees and occasionally cooks for her great grandchildren, grandchildren and children, and engages in daily exercise and prayer. She is amazing in how she knows her body and listens to it. She loves watching Japanese T.V., sumo matches, Giants baseball and tennis matches. I continue to learn from watching how she cares for herself, saving her energy for doing the things she wants to do and resting when she needs to. Most of all, it is special to see her light up when she converses and asks questions, bringing up people and events in the lives of the persons with whom she speaks. Joy emanates from her.

Hisako is 98 years old and hoping to live to 99 years, a special year in Japanese culture. When the cancer returned, we knew that she would not continue any more radiation and chemotherapy had previously been ruled out. Hisako consented to receive hormone therapy, which is not curative but can slow the progression of the cancer cell growth. Amazingly enough, the spots have shrunk.

In sharing this story, I don’t mean to imply that if one has gratitude, one will experience healing miracles. Nevertheless, I also see small miracles in each of the lives of my family and friends who are suffering from major health issues. As we close the year, I am grateful for being able to experience the graciousness of gratitude in the lives of all of you, as clients, friends and colleagues. Thank you for sharing a part of your life with me.

Questions to reflect upon:
Can you think of someone who carries a grateful spirit? How has this inspired you in your work and life?


11/2014
Roles and Teamwork

As a leadership coach, I watch how groups work together and how the visioning, goal-setting, strategizing, planning, and leadership play into the outcomes of each group. Although I know that most of my clients are not focused on competition where each major event is about “win/lose,” I am amazed with how the San Francisco Giants Baseball Team not only have the talent, drive, hard-work ethics, but also how they count on each other, recognize how they need to step-up and contribute their part. How does a team win three World Series Championships in five years? All individuals make mistakes or have off-days while playing the sport. Yet, it seemed that even when critical errors occurred, teammates didn’t blame each other and seemed to be able to shake off their own mistakes to stay in the game. All of the teams the Giants battled in the playoffs had great talent. The Kansas City Royals, whom they opposed in the World Series, had swept their previous opponents in the post season. The Royals had great defensive players and extraordinary hitters. The Royals were similar to the Giants in many ways-- a deep pitching bull pen, played fully until the last pitch, different individuals stepping up at critical moments and the type of indomitable spirit common to championship teams. The Royals had dedicated fans and their coach was similar in temperament to the Giant’s coach. Of course this year, Madison Bumgarner’s pitching played a major role in this year’s win, and yet, what kind of magic and synergy do the Giants possess for them to win the World Series thrice?

In addition to the relationships between all of the players and with the coach, my husband and I wonder if the way the coach communicated each of their roles might have anything to do with the repeated Series wins. When Giants pitcher, Matt Cain, and left fielder, Angel Pagan, were injured for the rest of the season, General Manager Brian Sabean secured key players to join the team. Coach Bruce Bochy brought up Joe Panik from the minor league to play second baseman for the injured Mario Scutaro. I wonder if the way that Bochy and pitching coach, Dave Rigetti, clearly followed through with making decisions regarding these roles made a difference, so that when Santiago Casilla (pitcher), who had been an excellent closer throughout the season implicitly understood that Bumgarner would continue pitching the last five innings. The psychological effect of how Bumgarner had shut-down the Royals hitting seemed to be a factor that utilizing the regular closer may not have had. Coach Bochy seemed to know how to connect with his players. It appeared that Bochy respects each player and listens to them. That respect seemed to be reciprocated by the players with the drive to contribute their strengths and accept when someone else is chosen to play in their positions. In 2012, how else did Bochy move Tim Lincecum from starting pitcher to relief pitcher and maintain a happy camper who delivered in the new role? During the 2014 World Series, I wonder if Bochy talked with Travis Ishikawa, originally a first baseman who had been moved to left field and hit the walk-off home run to take them to the World Series, to tell him that for the 7th game, he’s playing Juan Perez, who is a stronger defensive player. All of the persons in the Giants franchise played their roles which landed them with “yes, yes, yes,” winning the World Series three times.

Questions to reflect upon:
In any group or team of which you belong, what is your role?
If you are the manager how clearly do you try to tell your team members what you think their role should be? How closely do they come to fulfilling their roles as you envision?
What are the roles of the other group members and how well does the rest of the team know each other’s roles?


10/2014
Brain Science and Time Management

My clients often come to me for support with time management. Since most time management programs tend to focus on one style of processing and making decisions and don’t take into account that people manage their time in various ways1, I work with each client to help them configure the best strategies for each individual client. And yet, in a recent journal article, I read about how brain science has revelations that can help us with time management. The author, Sunny Sea Gold2, suggests four principles for taking control of one’s time: to meditate mindfully, figure out why you waste time, be a little more grateful and try “pomodoro,” or breaking up one’s time into small units, taking breaks, and cycling through the units. I realized that these are similar principles that I follow in coaching sessions with my clients.

While there are no studies that indicate that mindfulness meditation helps directly with time management, there are numerous studies showing that mindfulness speeds up information processing, improves memory, boosts concentration and makes things feel easier. For example, try saying and doing, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” This is a small part of one meditation suggested by Thich Nhat Hanh, in The Blooming of a Lotus3. One can repeat a simple mediation for a minute, or even for ten minutes without usurping much of one’s time, and gain great benefit from it. In my coaching sessions, I help clients tailor their own circle of relaxation or resources and mindfully meditate on it. When it seems appropriate, I have suggested similar phrases for my clients, and encourage my clients to create and find words and images that help them feel more grounded.

Procrastination is an idea that frequently pops up as a factor concerning time management and effectiveness in one’s work. Everyone procrastinates to some degree. Some people feel energized from an imminent deadline. What do you gain from procrastinating with any particular goal or action? Do you want the outcome that comes with it? Are there ways that you can get the outcome you wish to have without procrastinating? Generally I find that even when my clients say they are putting something aside, their minds continue to think about those things. Most of us carry some kind of anxiety about what we are thinking about until we decide what to do about it, or figure out a plan of how and when to address it. Dr. Srini Pillay4, assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, reinforces this notion that if on an unconscious level you are anxious about something, the anxiety center of the brain is still activated. When you figure out why you are wasting time, there can be some relief in the continual worry.

Being grateful can help us gain the energy to follow through. So often when we become resentful of people or things that interrupt what we are doing, it makes us feel more stressed. Being grateful is one way of becoming less stressed. Many studies have shown that being grateful improves motivation, enthusiasm and effectiveness for moving towards one’s goals. When I ask clients what are they appreciative of, they often respond with multiple answers and become grounded in a positive frame. (I do believe that’s why appreciative inquiry and positive psychology are so popular within the coaching field.)

Pomodoro is a process created by productivity consultant, Francesco Cirillo. After dividing the work into smaller chunks of time, work for 25 minutes, avoiding distractions, and take a five minute break. Do this for 4 cycles and, then take a 15-20 minute break. Cirillo suggests continuing until finished with the task. Although no research has been conducted with this technique, millions of people have read about it, and it seems to help focus and clear one’s mind. I often help my clients identify the tasks they have to complete, break them into chunks of time, figure out how much time they need to have for each chunk and then look into their schedule for when they would have enough time to accomplish it. Helping clients talk through the task and break it up into reasonable time slots seems to help them to stop carrying their anxiety. Moreover the plan is already integrated into their minds.

All of these four principles seem to have a way of uncluttering one’s mind. How much time would you say you spend hemming or hawing about getting something done? I wonder what would happen if you were to try these four principles? Would you save yourself any time?

Questions to reflect upon:
When you are worrying about time or noticing how you’re going to be late to something, take a deep breath. Do you experience any difference in focus, information processing or memory?
What are you appreciative of? Do you feel more grounded, centered or enter into a more balanced state? If so, how do you perceive this state?


1 For an excellent resource on how different styles approach time and work management, see Out of Time: How the Sixteen Types Manage their Time and Work, by Larry Demarest.
2 Sea Gold, Sunny, "How to be a better time manager,” Scientific American Mind, Vol. 25, No. 5, September/October, 2014, p. 14.
3 Hanh, T N. The Blooming of a Lotus: Guided Meditation for Achieving the Miracle of Mindfulness, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993).
4 Sea Gold, Sunny.


9/2014
Harvest Moon Transition

I have been tending to some container gardens of tomatoes and cucumbers. I have been doing so in anticipation of a time when it will not be feasible to take my parents regularly back to their farm, a couple of hours away, or when it’s too difficult for us to make it to the farm often enough to maintain the vegetable garden. The containers at my house are a type of pilot or practice. As I pick tomatoes from both of these gardens and think about the Moon Festivals this past week-end, I am reminded of Fall and celebrating the harvest season. Harvest Moon Celebration, also known as Mid-Autumn, Children’s, Reunion, Mooncake, Lantern, Gum Moon and Chinese Thanksgiving celebration, signals the new moon and Equinox, a day when there is equal day and night. It is a time to give thanks and to celebrate the season of transition.

This fall celebration encourages me to enter the season with gratitude for the bounty of harvest and of life. I am reminded that with this season of visible changes to be more aware of centering myself and being congruent from the inside out. Through conversation with my clients, I hear about experiences in their lives during this fall season, about how their rhythm and schedules easily get out of balance. We come up with ways to take stock of what’s happening around them, including the anticipation of changes in daylight, and mentally practice how they can balance their lives. They rehearse the shifts in behavior that they want to occur in facing specific transitions. Curiously enough, research has shown that persons who “saw themselves in the distant future solved more problems that those who simply imagined the following day."1 As the Harvest Moon shines down on you, what does it remind you of?

Questions to reflect upon:
What if you saw yourself in the future? 3 months from now? 6 months from now? 9 months from now?
What does it look like, sound like, feel like?
How will you intentionally move forward in this transition?


1 Myer, Amy, “Rename it, Reuse it,” Scientific American Mind, Vol. 23, No. 3, July/August 2012, p. 30.


8/2014
Being Conscious of Our Growth and the Growth of Other People

I am finding that the best way to move towards change in oneself is discovering the right questions and being open to exploring the best answers for oneself. One of my clients, in response to how our coaching journey has helped her to develop and let her team grow, wrote, “The biggest change is working together versus me always giving the answer. We plan activities together versus me giving agendas, and I ask more questions versus giving solutions. … I appreciate your style of coaching. It was a good blend of questions, listening, feedback and exercises.”

In coaching, I don’t seem to have much difficulty in formulating questions and seeing where the response leads us to get to the root of the issue and to develop strategies and processes for moving towards the clients’ desired outcomes. I find that even when the client wants answers from me, reframing the question or giving more wait time for the client to think about possibilities, results in responses I often would not have arrived at. The clients come up with responses that are perfect for them and the situation at hand.

In dealing with my family and friends, I think it takes a great deal more effort for me to refrain from offering solutions. I wonder why that is so. I know that many times I have worked through the same issue, or at least what I think is the same issue, and have found a pragmatic or useful way to deal with it. And yet, people tend to learn best by doing. Each person has a different style of learning and responding and unique circumstances and people in their lives. When I remember that each person has different strengths to lead with, it is far easier to step back and be supportive of watching them create their own way to move forward. It also helps me recognize that sometimes the kind of support that is needed at the time is not to help them by providing answers, but an avenue to reflect on their situation, or for someone to just to “hear them.” These processes also help me to remove aspects of judgment that I may not know I was holding onto.

Watching my clients recognize how to step into the “coaching” role reminds me to be conscious of it in my life, while also validating the power of it in theirs. It is a beautiful discovery process, an unfolding of oneself.

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you know that you don’t know?


7/2014
Being Called to Action

Everyone, at one time or another, has probably had an experience of knowing that a particular action is the right thing to do. The person is congruent and everything comes into place. Last month, I referred to this concept as being “called to action.” This feeling of being in tune with one’s soul is different from being “compelled” (see last month’s blog, 6/2014), a response which is automatic and often accompanied by a feeling of “not being able to stop oneself.”

When one is in tune with one’s inner self and has this sense that this is an important and meaningful action to take, there is a certain magic that can happen. For example, during our coaching sessions, one client recognized that it was important for her to go back to graduate school. She surprised me when she blurted this out, because school had been a lower priority when she first entered the coaching engagement. This client was searching for the career she wanted to pursue, and hoped to process whether to stay at her current job, or if she wanted to look for a higher position and she had anticipated focusing on her personal life, including getting married and having children in future chapters of her life. She originally hoped to have a timeline for eventually going back to graduate school when she was sure what field she wanted to study. During our time together, she discovered the fire in her belly for the type of work she wanted to do and as soon as she did, she knew she wanted to apply for graduate school. The magic was that she was quickly accepted to a highly competitive graduate program.

I have another client who recognized how she felt compelled to not use her power over her direct reports. She discovered how she felt called to envision her team as fellow sojourners on an exhilarating and difficult hike, needing to take the first step and to model her faith that they would get to the envisioned oasis. She was no longer hesitant to use her leadership to empower her team to recognize the safe parts of the path and to strategize and gather their courage to walk the untraveled trails. The magic in her life was that she was willing to step up to a new leadership role, which she had felt was too early in her timeline. Where in your life are you being called to action?

Questions to reflect upon:
Did you ever have that feeling that what you are doing is the right thing to do? What did it look like, feel like or sound like? How did you perceive it? Was there magic that happened for you?


6/2014
What is Compelling You?

A good friend asked me “What is compelling you today?” At first, I really didn’t understand what was being asked. I initially thought my friend was asking about the fire in my belly, which makes me want to do things. But the fire in one’s belly is different and what could be described as being “called.” I will address feeling “called to action” in a future coaching blog. The question referred to a feeling of being coerced, forced, obliged, as if someone were twisting my arm. I also knew that the question was about an automatic response, not one that I thought through, evaluated and consciously chose. Being compelled tends to distract me from my professional work or flow, has me getting anxious about what to do and often has me second-guessing whether I’m doing the right thing. I realized that when I’m compelled, I could spend a great deal of time being distracted from my priorities.

I work with clients in strategically planning how to get to the outcomes that they desire, generally for their work. As we move into the coaching engagement and our connection and trust solidifies, the clients often wish to pinpoint areas where they have gotten “stuck” and are finding difficulty in moving forward. I begin to ask questions and we often discover that they are feeling “compelled” to respond a certain way. For example, a few clients have been applying to different positions, and in the written application process they hit a roadblock and become anxious about explaining “this” or “that,” as if they are compelled to bring up mistakes or arenas that may be construed as missteps in their past history of work. Sometimes I respond, “What are they asking you?” Other times, I offer, “What are the job duties? What strengths, skills and experiences do you have that addresses those particular duties and what you can provide the organization?” In the process of this discussion, the clients all have recognized the kinds of things they have learned from their experiences and have utilized those “learnings” to be more effective, and/or recognize what those experiences teach them now. I return to my friend’s question about what is compelling me. Is something compelling my clients to account for something that is just sidelining their opportunity to put their best foot forward? As my clients move to sharing their strengths and convictions, aligning their mind, body and spirit, their feelings of being compelled dissipate and they are able to move forward.

What is compelling you?

Questions to reflect upon:
What is compelling you today? Are there things that are distracting you from your work or purpose? Name them and breathe deeply. Perceive them dissipating. Allow the voices to soften, the images to move farther away and let go of the tensions stored in your body.


5/2014
Becoming More Resourceful

As a coach, I have been helping several clients prepare themselves for increasing managerial and leadership roles. Some of the journey may be about identifying the “ideal” type of job and environment in which they wish to work or something as pragmatic as preparing for an interview. Alternatively, the client’s goal may be to become more effective in their work, supervision, or communication. I reflect on what my clients say that they need or want, and provide strategies for them to take the next step. I find that if a client changes one habit that is not working, and then creates, integrates and internalizes a new strategy that becomes a stronger resources, positive outcomes happen more quickly.

I also realize that there are two sides to being resourceful: accessing one’s resources in the outer world and tapping into one’s inner resources. Although next generation leaders are experienced at utilizing their outer resources, they generally benefit from focusing on their inner resources. In the past when I worked with young adults, they were clamoring to identify and understand how to link and connect with resources, people and tools that could help them take the next step. I think this may be why coaching may be so invaluable as adults continue to grow and develop in their lives—they have already learned to access information pertinent to their development, but doing the inner work requires reflection, alignment of one’s mind, body and spirit as well as transforming routines and habits that aren’t helping them get the desired outcomes. In taking clients through these processes, it is amazing to see how each person becomes more confident with who they are, becoming comfortable with recognizing their strengths and finding meaning in their continual growth.

I have often heard the saying, “There are no mistakes, only learning. There are no failures, only feedback.” When a person learns from the past and integrates the feedback of their experiences, they can become more resourceful and effective in how they respond to unexpected challenges.

Although the majority of my clients come to me for leadership coaching, the processes to get a boost to move forward from areas where they feel “stuck,” can apply to anyone.

Questions to reflect upon:
Has there been a person in your life that helped you become more resourceful? What does resourcefulness looks like, sounds like, feels like? How do you perceive being resourceful?


4/2014
Transformative Change: Aligning One’s Whole Self

Last month I wrote about “Priorities and Getting Distracted.” This month I’m focusing on how we may be fully cognizant of a priority, yet still remain stuck, maintaining a gap between what we intend to do and what gets accomplished.

I had a client who wanted to finish her doctorate, yet was very committed to her part-time job which helps young people in high-risk, underserved communities become community organizers and leaders. A person from a collaborating organization had asked her to be the primary grant writer for an educational project for youth. In the past, this type of additional task had prevented her from devoting herself to complete her dissertation. She was torn about saying “no.” In her work, she had created processes that were culturally-sensitive in gaining the input and wisdom from the community by learning their stories and cultural strengths.

Through coaching, she related these accomplishments as well as acknowledged her own cultural wisdom. In our work together, she surfaced her values and why she wanted to finish her degree to be more effective in doing the type of work to which she has committed her life. She recognized that completing her degree would place her in a more powerful place to serve the community. To address the request for her help in grant writing, she offered to coach the person who had asked her to be the lead grant writer, and together they identified other resource persons to help complete the grant.

Although this issue may seem like an isolated and perhaps minor one, my client was able to recognize the values behind her competing commitments. She no longer felt torn. She made this “shift,” aligning her whole self and began to strategize ways to address the grant writing request. She was able to move forward and continues to create an environment which supports her priority to finish graduate school.

Question to reflect upon:
Have you ever experienced being “stuck” and not able to hear or see yourself move forward? Can coaching help you determine the best way for you to move forward?


3/2014
Priorities and Getting Distracted

In California, we have been experiencing mild weather throughout the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014. Rain has finally come. Even though we often complain about wet days, people seem to be very happy to have this precipitation, which we hope will mitigate the drought. I have been wondering if we, as people, need to have an emergency of crisis level to change our behaviors. Do we need to feel compelled to move into action before we are willing to fully focus on something? And, if we respond to that feeling of being compelled, are we able to sustain that issue as a priority?

Similar to the drought situation, in our own work and personal lives, there are usually signs that a crisis is brewing. We may not be fully aware of challenges we will face in following through with our priorities. My clients often tell me how they are committed to a certain goal and yet something comes up and pulls them away. Sometimes it is a major issue. Other times it is not; they just feel compelled to respond. In both cases, they continue to work on autopilot, not noticing signs pointing that an emergency may occur or that the issue is not as important to them as their priorities. In coaching sessions, my clients identify their priorities, and listen to what distracts their attention from their desired outcomes. They also begin to tune into their intuitive sense which tells them something isn’t right and to interrupt their automatic response pattern. They strategize the best course of action for each situation. This may sound easy. But, have you ever had difficulty changing a habit? Altering these patterns requires a transformative change, a shift in one’s automatic responses.

Most people become good at responding to a crisis, plugging the holes and helping the system to continue. In reality, there is always some “thing” that needs to be fixed. When in a similar situation, here are several questions that one can ask. Does continuing my pattern of responding distract me from my priorities? Is this situation a crisis? Is it my responsibility and my priority to tend to this issue? Am I the best/most appropriate person to deal with it? In my coaching practice, I help clients anticipate the potential for a crisis and how to creatively and effectively focus on their priorities.

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you prioritize your objectives? Do you sometimes get distracted and feel prompted to move into action on some other issue? What happens if you take a breath and allow that prompting to move farther away, to become quieter?


2/2014
Self-Coaching Techniques for Moving Through Transition

Are you experiencing transition in your life? How might you navigate through your experiences, strategically dealing with the emotional potholes you encounter? How can you elicit your most resourceful self, which is courageous, confident and compassionate to yourself and others? I attended a workshop on “Thriving through Transitions” with Helen M. (Scully) Horyza, MS, NCCC. Her transition process includes an “anxiety scale,” which addresses emotions in the specific processes of transition. After identifying a specific transition which we each individually were experiencing, we broke into groups of similar workstyles and reviewed success strategies, possible disruptions and advice. I realized how using some of the same processes that I move my clients through could help me create a bridge through my own transitions. I offered some of my techniques and received some wonderful ideas from the other persons in my group.

Success Strategies
• Vent to a friend
• Read tons of stories about people who’ve overcome adversity
• Tell one’s story in “third person”
• Name the transition, parse out the specific transitions
• Clarify multiple transitions
• Write, journal
• Find most resourceful state

Possible Disruptions: Advice to self
• “Tape/movie/DVD” that keeps replaying in head: Visualize good ending, figure out strategic friends to talk with, make list of next steps, be humble and remember that you can’t control other people, share worries with a person whom you can trust
• Not connecting with people: Join support group or volunteer at some place of interest
• Depression/trapped in emotions: Practice mindfulness, Journal, Practice Gratitude by selecting three things for which one is grateful
• Become dependent on environment to initiate action: Turn-off T.V, get out of house, turn off electronic device, take break, find accountability partner, share own area of expertise and ask for that of another person
• Fear of unknown: Identify the worry about the unknown and something that you might enjoy or embrace that might come from it, ground yourself spiritually, review success strategies, recognize other transitions that have successfully made it through. Remember that “Change is not the end of the road unless you fail to see the bend in the road.” Network, hold informational interviews, find model or body of information to overlay upon
• Feel too responsible to the job/role: Write down the worst thing that could happen if what you are worrying about doesn’t go the way you wish, recognize you are not indispensable and have faith in other people
• Collecting too much info: Trusting in our type’s strength: being practical and cost-effective in our thinking*

Although we reported our discussion by workstyle/type groups, our responses weren’t that different from the other groups, except for the advice of the last “disruption.”

Questions to reflect upon:
What transition(s) are you currently undergoing or preparing to undergo?
What are successful strategies that have served you well when undergoing previous transitions?

*This last suggestion, “trusting in strength that we are practical and cost-effective in our thinking,” tends to be most applicable to the Stabilizer temperament or Sensing/Judging MBTI type. How we processed through the activity was a keen indicator of our Stabilizer type. Scully Horiza’s workshop was much more comprehensive in identifying the transition cycle and how temperament may affect transition. This blog reflects the take-away for me in helping myself move through transition and includes successful strategies which have been productive for my clients.


1/2014
Leadership: Integrating Effective Strategies

I’ve noticed a common theme has been springing up with many of my clients: about doing too much, fixing things that belong to another coworker. They feel responsible for the overall quality, so pitching in has become a habit. And then, they find themselves overworked and under pressure. For some individuals, the positive intention is completing each task with the excellence that they know it can be. For others, it’s about their commitment to the organization or providing modeling for how things can be accomplished. In many cases, the fine line between leadership and personal responsibility has become blurred. My clients often feel compelled to take responsibility for the actions of others, especially their direct reports.

In coaching sessions, we explore what is it that the client really wants, what the organization needs, and what one really has control over. If those tasks aren’t completed the way that the client wants, then what happens? Does the organization fall apart? If the client takes over and completes the task, what does the direct report learn from that? Does completing these tasks take away time and energy from the work that the client is focusing on? Oftentimes, the client desires outcomes such as providing support for the direct report, giving opportunities to contribute to the organization, or helping the team to do a better job. In the coaching sessions, we create effective strategies, which affirm the client’s strengths. We map out a process for recognizing and changing the automatic response that used to occur. One client’s goal was to know when to “step up” or “step back.” When my clients focused on this issue, they have become remarkably successful in switching their former response pattern. They understand the situation as one of leadership, feeling better about their own responsibilities and growth, while helping their staffs gain opportunities to grow.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you have an automatic response pattern that has not been effective? Are you able to change it? If not, what are other strategies that have worked in the past in this type of situation?


12/2013
Nelson Mandela: Compassionate Leader of Human Rights

During this month of Universal Human Rights, it seems fitting to focus on Nelson Mandela. I worked for the University of California for many years and remember students protesting the regents to ratify divestment of companies doing business in apartheid South Africa. I remember how this process was part of the eventual release of Nelson Mandela, and the peaceful movement towards a democracy in South Africa, where Mandela was elected as their first black chief executive.

After foregoing 27 years of cruel and unjust imprisonment, Nelson Mandela loved people and his country so much that he found it within himself to forgive the persons and the system that had persecuted him. Bishop Desmond Tutu worked with Mandela to create the Truth and Reconciliation Council, which provided a transitional process that allowed for healing while building an inclusive democracy.

Mandela’s faith, action and commitment to non-violence and forgiveness have affected not only individuals but systems, countries and society in general. His life inspires us to question ourselves. How could reconciliation and forgiveness bring balance and health to our country? How could Mandela's example make a difference in your community? Where can we find the peace of compassion and forgiveness in our own hearts?

The following is a quote from Nelson Mandela that resonates for me. “I am fundamentally an optimist. Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.

How has Nelson Mandela’s life affected you?

Questions to reflect upon:
Nelson Mandela shared his core values with the world. What’s a core value that you have demonstrated in your life? When was it? Did it make a difference at that time? What did it feel like, sound like, and look like? How do you perceive the demonstration of that core value?
What core values are not meaningful to you presently? What do they feel like, sound like and look like?


11/2013
Fall into Mindfulness

As we move through the Fall season, I have been noticing the change from full light and vibrant outdoor activity, to shorter days and more darkness. In our Western culture, we tend to continue to be in high gear, racing towards many activities and multitasking as a way of being more efficient and effective. To be honest, I first noticed the changes in the season because I was thinking about how it’s easier for people to get depressed with overcast weather. Amidst many ongoing transitions in my life, I began thinking about how can I be resilient within nature’s cycle of slowing down. I realized that Fall is a time for drawing inward and focusing on my well-being. I am creating metaphors for myself that help me in being mindful in my profession. I engage with my clients in a similar fashion. Being aware of one’s metaphors helps one understand what is meaningful while also having the potential to be a catalyst for moving towards one’s desired outcomes.

The signs of harvest are disappearing and much of life is going into hibernation. We know that we will weather the cold of winter. The fruits of our labor with the earth’s energy will blossom in the Spring. As I practice being present with Fall’s transitions: noticing how the seasons are changing, watching the beauty of the trees leaving, observing how the air smells differently and feeling the damp cold air touch my body, I am reminded that being present is helping me become healthier, happier and at peace with myself and the world.

I recently came across an article from Scientific American Mind, about being in the present. Amishi P. Jha writes how mindfulness practices, which have their roots in Eastern culture, have been incorporated into hospital and health programs. Mindfulness training has become widely researched as a significant tool for reducing stress. Many different studies are documenting how staying in the present improves attention, decreases distracted thinking and is a “salve for sadness."1 During this Fall season, may you enter the quiet of being present in your life.

Questions to reflect upon:
In our lives each of us has experienced change just like the seasons. What did this experience feel like, sound like or look like for you?


1 Jha, Amisha, “The Power of Now,” Scientific American Mind, Vol 24, No 1, March/April, 2013.


10/2013
Ready, Set, Go

Several years ago, the yoga teacher was leading us through a kind of warm-up progression where we physically, mentally and spiritually get ready for the session. Speaking to the full group she asked us to let go of everything, later said my name and repeated the instruction. I realized she was referring to my hands on my hips. A couple of sessions later, she said to let go, and I became aware that again, I was holding my hands on my hips. Each time, I thought I had let go of all of my thoughts, and still, unconsciously was in a holding pattern!

My nature is to plan and to be ready for opportunities where I can complete actions which lead towards outcomes that I desire. This is a strength, and yet, when switching from one activity to another, I sometimes find myself a little off balance. As I move from one focus to another, just as moving into the yoga practice, I tend to carry the previous activity or thought with me. In reflecting upon this, I realize that in many situations where I do not have much control over the circumstance, I have been learning to let go of the outcome(s.) Not intending to “fix” things, I also pledge myself to be “open” to opportunities where I might have influence in moving the situation towards a healing or healthier direction. The saying, “Ready, set, go,” comes to mind. When I think I’m in the “ready” position, I may be in the “set” position, and not open to the present moment. How do I move to being ready for possibilities, not set on things going in a specified way that may be limiting the potential for achieving a greater or more appropriate outcome? And, how do I let go, not hanging onto thoughts and worries from the previous moments? I am discovering that when I am feeling a bit scattered, if I step into the moment and become centered, a feeling of openness occurs. My life begins to flow again. The “ready, set, go” is a spiritual act, and for me this progression has often meant “letting go.”

As a coach, I help clients identify their habits and create pathways for how they can transfer them to “ready, set, go” progressions. We explore what patterns are not working now and what resources will promote positive outcomes.

Questions to reflect upon:
Are you aware of your patterns or habits at work? What patterns or habits are not working for you now?
Do you feel that coaching will help change those patterns or habits in reaching positive outcomes?


9/2013
Being Flexible

I’m often reminded that things happen for a reason. I strive to model flexibility in my coaching because I believe that it contributes to the philosophy that there is no rigid absolutes in life. I work with clients in a manner that takes into account how they are interpreting their environments, their states of mind. If they are stressed, it’s difficult for them to be fully present. Some of the coaching time may be spent on helping clients achieve balance. Similarly, when a client’s life has become extremely hectic, I have accommodated last-minute cancellations and allowed the client to keep the spot and not lose a session because I’m focused on supporting the client to achieve positive outcomes.

Recently a client cancelled with less than a 24 hour notice and I realized that it was the second occurrence. There is a fine line between giving support and setting parameters. I began to think about whether I needed to set clearer boundaries with reasonable consequences. What am I telling clients in terms of stress if I allow multiple cancellations without advance notification? I think it’s highly probable that if this happens in the coaching environment, that it is occurring in other arenas as well, contributing more stress in the client’s life.

By allowing a second miss without addressing the issue, I may be “fixing” the client’s issue, giving the client the permission to not have to deal with it. A coach’s responsibility is to help the client become more resourceful and to identify patterns that get in the way of the client’s desired development. This particular occurrence has helped me to better sort through my processes for supporting clients.

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of a time when you cancelled an appointment. How would you expect people to respond to you? What other stressors are taking place at the same time?
How could you handle these stressors differently to keep the appointment?


8/2013
Your Intuitive Side

Have you ever thought of a friend you have not seen and you received an email or you ran into that person? This happened to me when I was driving with my husband through Gilroy, en route camping with his family. I had met her while working in the Migrant Education Program in Merced County and just bumped into her in the store. We had the opportunity to reconnect and catch up on our personal and professional lives.

Synchronistic incidences have been occurring as I’ve paid attention to my intuition. The past month and a half, I’ve been offering The Emotion Code to past clients, friends and colleagues as part of a certification process. The Emotion Code is a process of releasing trapped emotions. Several of the clients just had something happen where they felt it was the perfect timing to engage in the process. Many times when offering The Emotion Code, I felt this intuitive hit that the person might be interested and during the sessions, would often get a hunch about asking a particular question that opened the process. Whenever I get a feeling and someone’s name pops into my head, I try to contact them, often without knowing what specifically the reason may be. More often than not, the timing is perfect and the connection, if only an email or phone exchange, is quite meaningful.

The summer provides us with a respite from our daily routines and distractions. It is an opportunity for us to listen more carefully to the intuitive part in us. Listening to our intuition can brings us through an inner process of becoming more aware, accepting of ourselves and others and expressing who we really are.1 When we listen to our intuition and act upon what is truly important to us, a flow in life begins to happen. More synchronicity, or unplanned events and timing, unfold.

Questions to reflect upon:
What are ways that you can pay attention to your intuition?
How can you be aware of your intuition? Do you see a picture, hear a voice, or is it a feeling?


1 Belitz, C & Lundstrom, M. The Power of Flow: Practical Ways to Transform your Life with Meaningful Coincidence. (New York: Harmony Books, 1997).


7/2013
Resiliency

My Dad is a retired farmer. Today he is 92 years old. This past half year, I think that going to the farm each week-end has been a big element of my dad’s resiliency. He worked the land until he was past 88 years of age. Every week-end, one of the sisters (-there are five of us) bring my folks to the farm. My husband and/or one of my sons and I get to accompany my mom and dad to the farm for a week-end each month. There are many “chores” to complete—the house, the cooking, feeding the cat, and also bringing them to see their friends. During the Spring, Summer and Fall, there is also the vegetable garden. The first couple of months my dad and could come out and sit on a bucket or walker and help with planting, weeding or fertilizing and watering the corn, tomatoes, onasu (eggplant), cucumbers and peppers. My Dad is getting more wobbly walking in/near the furrows, and we’ve had to work with him in letting us do most of the work. On my family’s week-end last month, he was not so eager to go check out the garden as previous trips, as someone needs to be right there with him, and not weeding or working the garden. Yet, he is the one who knows the rhythms of the garden and what needs to happen to produce a good harvest.

I marvel at how my dad is so resilient. After a couple of mini-strokes, his attitude of “gritting your teeth” and doing what needs to be completed has served him well. For example, he doesn’t like to exercise, but when prompted, he takes walks twice a day. In fact, I have to be fully ready when I say, “let’s go for a walk,” because he’s ready to proceed out the door. I need to have my shoes on, have the water bottle and walker ready. I once asked him why, if he doesn’t want to go for a walk, he darts out the door. He responded, “to get it over with.” My sisters have taken my dad and mom to the farm for the full week of his birthday during this 4th of July holiday. My father is very wise about staying hydrated and out of the high heat that we’re currently experiencing. He has taught us these lessons, as well as passing on the habit of working until things are completed. So it’ll be interesting to see if my dad can shift and allow the continued garden needs to be completed by someone else and if any of his resiliency is tied to him needing to complete those chores himself.

I know that it’s difficult for my dad to accept more help from his daughters, sons-in-law, grandchildren and caretakers. He, together with my mom, has always been so self-sufficient. And yet, he has been amazing in adapting to doing things differently, such as exercising and more taking more restraint in the way that he eats and lives. This is something that is difficult for any of us, at any age:)

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you know of a person who demonstrated resiliency? How was s/he resilient?
When were you resilient in your life journey? How does it look, sounds, feel like? How did you perceive in this state?
How can resiliency play a role in your life now?


6/2013
Becoming More Successful at Working Together, Part V

This coaching blog is the final entry of a series on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®, personality assessment and working together more successfully. (See previous months’ entries, 2/2013 through 5/2013 on my website “thoughts.”) The different polarities indicated by interpersonal response (extraversion-E, introversion I), data intake (sensing-S, iNtuition-N), making decisions (thinking-T, feeling-F), and problem-solving approach (judging-J, perceiving-P) are each represented by a letter which creates a four letter “code.” The understanding of the MBTI® formula can be a valuable tool in sorting out what’s needed to optimize learning and decision making given a person’s preference for working in the inner and outer worlds. While previous coaching blogs have given explanation of each of the four letters that may be in one’s code, the preferences work together in a dynamic way, which translates to more than the four preferences added together. The orientations of extraversion/introversion and of judging/perceiving are paired with the mental functions of how we prefer to learn new things (data intake) and to make decisions. How these four pairs of preferences work together provide us with a more specific framework for understanding what might be driving our patterns of behavior.

Each type code contains one mental function that is extraverted and one that is introverted. The MBTI theory postulates that it is important to focus on our preferences first since they correlate to our strengths. Generally if certain processes are more natural for a person, the individual is more likely to have developed some proficiency with it. Malcolm Gladwell’s 10,000 hour rule gleaned from Blink, states that people who are at the top of their game have placed extraordinary hours in their field of expertise. It would be difficult for an individual to spend that much time engaging in an activity if the individual did not enjoy the practice and hadn’t developed some capacity in it.

When leaders become conscious of the interplay of their preferences, there can be a kind of security in understanding what they need to progress towards their goals. Conversely, this comprehension of the MBTI type can lead a person to better understand the needs of their team members and/or direct reports. The development of leaders’ less-preferred preferences can also help them become more well-rounded in their work and assist in taking on challenging arenas more gracefully.

I strongly believe that for the long-run, individuals can be better leaders and work together more effectively if they enjoy their work. One’s career path can illustrate how an individual satisfies one’s natural preferences to make meaning of one’s strengths. Let me share the reflection of an organizational development consultant and coach, whose MBTI type preferences are ENFP. Her type formula means her favorite function is extraverted Intuition, and her supporting function is introverted Feeling. For years she has worked with business executives and their leadership teams focusing on strategic planning. She was very good in her work and quite capable of developing lasting relationships which helped her secure contracts and employment. Helping teams work together to examine opportunities and possibilities (extraverted intuition) was quite satisfying for her. Later in her career, she moved towards coaching and enjoyed the meaningful interaction and development of individuals in their leadership journeys (introverted feeling). As an extraverted intuitive with introverted feeling, she is masterful with generating new ideas for problem-solving and not only has a strong understanding of her own personal values but is fairly adept at tracking the motivations and values of others. Strategic planning often attracts persons with preferences for intuitive thinking (NT’s). Coaching was a relief to the objective, logical thinking (thinking) required in strategic planning, although the tough business arena always energized her. While the arena of coaching which includes human advising and support typically attracts ENFP’s, the intuitive side of ENFP’s craves novelty and doing things that are new and different. Overall, she states that she loves her work because she “gets to be rebellious and tell everybody what they should do,” while they listen and pay her for it (NF’s love to influence others).

Questions to reflect upon:
As you begin to understand the connection between your strengths and your MBTI formula, how could your strengths and natural talents aid you in working together with other people? What would this look, feel, and sound like? How do you perceive these strengths and natural talents?
What areas do your MBTI type suggest might be potential blind spots for you that will require special attention?


5/2013
Becoming More Successful at Working Together, Part IV

In last month’s “thoughts,” (4/13), we explored the two decision-making preferences as defined by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®. Earlier entries covered one’s preference for data intake (3/13) and interpersonal response (2/13). This month the focus is one’s problem-solving approach1, indicated by the 4th letter of the MBTI® code, and commonly expressed as orientation of energy to the outer world2. Do you prefer closure (Judging) or process (Perceiving)? For example, do you feel most comfortable having things decided and moving towards closure in problem-solving (Judging) or do you prefer to stay open until sufficient data is available before making a decision (Perceiving)?

Persons who prefer Judging are more comfortable with employing the decision-making processes, Thinking or Feeling, in the outer world. Persons who prefer Perceiving are more comfortable with using Sensing or Intuition in the outer world. There are qualities that generally accompany Judging: desire for closure, being scheduled, and methodical. Qualities that can be noticed from persons with Perceiving in the outer world include being in the moment, spontaneity, and adaptability.

Persons with the Judging preference are good at arriving at decisions, because having a solution drives them. When problem-solving with them, it is helpful to be direct and goal-oriented, express how the decision will be put into action and outline the problem-solving process so there’s a target for the endpoint. Help persons with this preference to understand any needs for processing, in order to avoid premature closure. Persons with the Perceiving orientation contribute an open-endedness that can encourage more problem-solving until a better or more improved solution emerges. When problem-solving with them, be open and flexible to new ideas and solutions, let them know you are keeping their ideas in mind even when the group seems to have come to a conclusion, and reassure them that you are not going to jump to the first solution that is discussed. Gently remind them that too much processing can diminish the end result.

This preference of problem-solving is often the first one to be noticed as causing tension in the workplace and in relationships. Good leaders should be open to perceiving and judging processes to arrive at quality decisions. While certain situations require quick decisions and other decisions need more deliberation, as a general rule, best results employ use of both. Being aware of which approach needs to take precedence and which has been overlooked can be very helpful. As a person who prefers Judging, and working within an institution, whose culture was Perceiving, I often felt drained by what I interpreted as focusing on everything as if we were continually in “crisis” mode. I felt frustrated that we didn’t seem to create long-term plans. As I came to understand these fundamental differences for processing and making decisions and our preference for one function over the other, I realized that what was energy producing for the Perceivers of being in the moment and waiting for new information to arrive was energy draining for those of us who preferred closure, a schedule and knowing when things would be finished. I began to look for ways to get my Judging “needs” met, such as asking for preliminary deadlines so that I could be given critical parts of what others needed to complete for me to move ahead and to prioritize what I needed to focus upon. Additionally, on important team projects, I would leave time on the day before and/or of the due date to work together and allowed myself to completely immerse myself on that project in those moments. To this day, a process I use to become more comfortable with the perceiving approach is to figure out what I enjoy about the project and/or people I’m working with, so that as we approach “last-minute” problem-solving, I am less focused on the pressure of the deadline. Additionally, I strive to look forward to being happy about “finishing.” Engaging in the perceiving process to celebrate the moment, allows me to embrace the joy of completion. As a perpetual learner who is striving to be a better leader, I continue to learn how to communicate my needs, what would be helpful for my teammates, especially persons of different preferences. I greatly appreciate when other persons reciprocate their efforts to work together with me. Being able to name the different operating modes continues to help me accept and flex around differences.

Questions to reflect upon:
What are the positive qualities of persons with the opposite preference to your problem solving approach? Which one of these positive qualities can you incorporate today that would increase your effectiveness?


1 "Interpersonal Response” and “Problem-Solving Approach” are terms created in “The Four Part Framework,” by Susan A. Brock, 1987, revised 1995, published by Center for Application of Psychological Type, Inc., Gainesville, Florida.

2 Katherine Briggs used Jung's words of Perceiving and Judging to refer to the processes of the pairs of the mental functions. This preference was not specifically named by Jung, but Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs-Myers created the MBTI system whereby the orientation of each mental function in one’s code was identified as extroverted of introverted. Each person has one function that works in the outer world and one in the inner world. One mental function leads the personality much like the captain of a ship, and is called the dominant. If the dominant function was introverted, then, the auxiliary, or second mate, would be seen in the outer world and vice versa. Briggs and Briggs-Myers also noticed that each person tended to favor closure or openness in meeting the outer world. Just as the three other categories or pairs of letters in the MBTI code have descriptors, they could also be ascribed to this 4th pair of preferences in a dichotomous fashion. Adding this preference to the Indicator automatically identifies the dominant and auxiliary of one’s personality.


4/2013
Becoming More Successful at Working Together, Part III

How do you prefer to make decisions and how might that affect how successful you are at working together with other people? In previous coaching blogs, I have considered two other pairs of preferences of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) about interpersonal response (extraversion/ introversion) and data intake (sensing/intuition). This month’s “thoughts” examines how our filters for making decisions may differ from other people. Do you prefer to decide through objective analysis (Thinking) or value how decisions might affect yourself and/or others (Feeling)?

Persons with the Thinking preference tend to remove themselves from the decision-making by using facts and ideas to weigh and balance the potential outcomes. In working with persons of Thinking preference, it’s important to outline the objective results. Persons with Feeling preference place themselves into the decision, weighing and balancing their values. In working with persons with the Feeling preference, it’s worthwhile to take into consideration values and how the decision affects people. Good leaders should strive to employ both Thinking and Feeling to get the best results to which the whole team will be fully committed. Persons of either preference would probably say they want to treat persons in a “fair” way, although the definition of “fair” may be very different for each type. Persons with Thinking preference generally define fairness as treating everyone in the same way. Persons with Feeling preference are more likely to define fairness as doing what’s appropriate for the person(s) or situation.

Although we favor one preference over the other, persons with the Thinking preference tend to focus on product over process. They are generally good at analyzing a problem, pulling it apart, applying a standard of comparison and recognizing flaws or inconsistencies. Persons with Feeling preference tend to value people over the task, and are often good at creating connections, building relationships and being empathetic. Leaders with Feeling preference are more likely to want to celebrate in some manner the conclusion of a significant project as a way of recognizing the efforts of those involved. Those with Thinking preferences may view completion as "business as usual" and move ahead to the next project. Regarding communication skills and teamwork, those with Feeling preferences tend to be more comfortable with team building activities that help one another learn about each other, as well as how to work together more effectively.

Have you ever struggled when a supervisor or client said that you did something incorrectly, or that the task should have been completed differently? Several years ago, I was coaching several Level I managers who all had difficulty with a Level II supervisor. The Level II supervisor had a preference for Thinking and most of the Level I managers had preferences for Feeling. The Level I managers had basically given up on working with their Thinking supervisor. One of the managers, the one whom all of the managers thought had the greatest chance of having a better functioning relationship with the supervisor, was tired of being frustrated and was looking for reassignment. I facilitated an exercise where he stepped into the shoes of the supervisor and then again, watching the interaction between him and his supervisor. Interestingly enough, utilizing his feeling preference helped him to grasp the objective, analytical perspective of his supervisor. I then worked with the supervisor to acknowledge her strengths and desire to get things done. Although there were many other issues at play here, the supervisor began to make an effort to connect with this manager. She began to understand her approach to relationships differently and realize that creating some harmony could go a long way towards reaching individual and group goals.

Question to reflect upon:
How can you incorporate the preference that is not your own into a situation or discussion in order to help your team move forward?


3/2013
Becoming More Successful at Working Together, Part II

To better understand one’s own leadership style and how to communicate more effectively, one can learn a great deal from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). In last month’s coaching blog entry, I outlined the MBTI with its four pairs of preferences of interpersonal response (extraversion/introversion), data intake (sensing/intuition), making decisions (thinking/feeling) and problem-solving approach (judging/perceiving). I presented a fuller explanation on the dichotomy of the preferred interpersonal responses of extraversion and introversion. In this posting, I will introduce the pair of preferences for data intake: sensing and intuition. When you are learning something new, do you prefer the sensing approach by studying data, observing what is happening or getting hands-on experience? Or perhaps do you prefer the intuitive approach to identify patterns and connections, grasping the big picture before learning about the details?

Persons with the sensing preference are oriented to the present, sometimes comparing to the past, and speak in factual and concrete language. They generally trust that a person with expert knowledge will give them the necessary information. They seem to know what comes first, second, and so on. They naturally take into account what is realistic and practical, given the available people and resources. It’s helpful in communicating with sensors to provide a road-map when expressing the overall goal. Offer concrete examples and show the practical application of concepts.

Team members who prefer intuition will readily understand the big picture trusting their hunches and seizing on bits of data that seem significant to them. Persons with intuitive preferences are drawn to the “why” of things. In general, they love to consider new possibilities and ask and formulate questions. It’s important to give the big picture to persons with Intuitive preferences as they need the underlying concept on which to hang the details. Persons who prefer intuition appreciate novelty and may often get bored if you repeat the same processes without incorporating some new or interesting approach.

For learning new things, sensors like feedback in how they are doing and may ask for how to proceed. They are concrete and methodical, trusting practice to grasp and perfect their learning. Intuitives are more likely to want to proceed on their own. Methods, processes and insight come quickly and may even seem to come as if out of nowhere. They trust abstract concepts, readily think in symbols and speak in metaphors.

Recognizing my own preference for sensing, I attempt to provide persons with intuitive preferences the overall concepts at the beginning, and to place the subject into context. In meetings, I outline the agenda by introducing the major concepts that will be presented and try to tie them into each other as we go along. I check in to see that participants can make necessary connections before providing too many specifics. Many times I may start out asking a question, as well as consciously setting aside time for participants to ask questions. For some intuitives, being able to create well-formed questions is as important as any answers. For sensing participants, I offer a step-by-step process, and try to provide time to reflect and exercises for hands-on experiences to incorporate the information. I have smiled to myself when hearing speakers provide multiple ways of presenting a concept, when a person was just wanting to hear the original words to be repeated.

Questions to reflect upon:
General Questions
When you are communicating with another person, how do you know that they understand you?
In order to speak in a similar “language” as your listener, how might you communicate differently?

For persons who understand their MBTI type
Do you tend to use factual and concrete language in communicating with others or tend to express yourself in concepts and metaphors? How might recognizing your preference affect how well you communicate with persons of the opposite preference?
How do you identify a problem? Do the people you work/live/play with seem to go about it in the same manner, looking at it from specifics to the larger picture or vice versa? How might this knowledge assist you in working together more successfully in communicating issues?


2/2013
Becoming More Successful at Working Together, Part I

As a leadership coach and trainer, I work with executives and high potential leaders. As part of my efforts to help clients understand their own leadership styles and how they may communicate differently from other persons in their organizations, I administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®). Although many leaders are aware of the MBTI, having taken it and verified their own type, fewer persons have integrated the concepts into their daily lives. The MBTI help us recognize that we are not all speaking the same “language.” Understanding the framework of the MBTI can bridge differing perspectives which affect teamwork and relationships. The MBTI does not explain everything in terms of a person’s thinking or actions. However, it can be very powerful for recognizing patterns of behavior and identifying multiple lenses for perceiving the world. The MBTI is a tool for working together more effectively and for drawing out the best quality from each other. It also provides pathways for discovering the values and needs of one another, and can illuminate avenues for self-development. Successful leaders can be of any of the MBTI types. Understanding one’s preferences, natural tendencies and blind spots can improve the quality, self-knowledge and sense of satisfaction as a leader.

Katherine Briggs developed the MBTI philosophy based upon constructs from Carl Jung, a Swiss psychotherapist and analyst. Isabel Briggs-Myers, Katherine’s daughter, further developed the MBTI by creating an instrument to help individuals identify one’s type. The MBTI consists of four pairs of preferences, with each pair acting as polar opposites. Individuals are attracted to one side of each pole. The four pairs identify one's preferences for interpersonal response, taking in data, making decisions and problem-solving approach1. In this blog, I will outline the preference of interpersonal response and future entries will provide information about the other three pairs of preferences.

Interpersonal response: Are you drawn to the outer world of people and action (Extraversion) or the inner world of thoughts and ideas (Introversion)? How can the understanding and application of the interpersonal response preferences affect one’s leadership, communication and professional development? Leaders who prefer Introversion generally like to think things through before expressing one’s ideas. When working with persons who prefer Introversion, circulating an agenda before a meeting, asking if they would share aloud, and giving more thinking time can encourage more participation and sharing of their ideas. For leaders and team members that prefer Extraversion, it can be helpful to give the time to talk new ideas out and to check in with each other. Extroverts are drawn to people and action, so working together in the outer world gives them energy.

Discovering that I have a preference for Introversion helped me to recognize in group problem-solving, why a person might repeat some ideas that had already been presented. I realized that people may be processing the information out loud. Conversely, when approaching meetings that were likely to encompass subjects that might require some idea generation or reflection, I began to ask for an agenda and for the specific topics that may be covered. This approach gave me time to think through important issues. As an introvert in very large groups, it took me a great deal of energy to jump into the conversation. I’d be rehearsing what I wanted to say inside my head, and when I was ready to share, or waiting for an opening to speak, the discussion had often moved beyond that subject. With the knowledge of the difference between introversion and extraversion, I became more willing to speak up and offer some of the things that I was thinking about, even if I did not feel quite ready to voice them. I was able to contribute, and surprisingly enough, influenced the direction of the discussion. Furthermore, this understanding of introversion, affirmed me in asking other persons who hadn’t spoken to share what they are thinking about. (Please see future blogs for more on the other three pairs of preferences.)

Questions to reflect upon:
From where do you draw your energy, from other people, or by spending time alone or with 1 or 2 persons? What strengths to you bring with this preference to your work? To your personal relationships?
Think of someone you respect who has the opposite interpersonal orientation (extraversion or introversion) of you? What do you admire about that person’s strengths with this orientation? How can this knowledge become a resource for you?


1 “Interpersonal Response” and “Problem-Solving Approach” are terms created in “The Four Part Framework,” by Susan A. Brock, 1987, revised 1995, Center for Application of Psychological Type, Inc, Gainesville, Florida.


1/2013
On the Path to Happiness and Meaning

As the year ended, I reviewed the theme that I’d chosen for 2012: “Being compassionate to myself and others” (see 1/2012 blog). I was tempted to keep the same goal for 2013, as it has been a powerful focal point for me and has helped me center myself. However, I’ve decided to select a new theme for 2013, “Seeking happiness as a path to deeper meaning.” As I face difficult situations, important decisions and a clearer outlook on life, I have been discovering that as I seek happiness, the way towards deeper meaning evolves. Remembering to seek happiness, when I’m stressed, worried or scared, reframes the experience, provides a spiritual dimension and helps me discern the things and people that are important to me.

Over the past year, my sisters and I have been caring for my parents and we have been encountering some challenges along the way. When I began to view all of the tasks: planning, caretaking and decision-making as opportunities that would allow me to spend time with my parents, I experienced a sense of happiness, which has been very meaningful for me. The focus of being happy with my parents lightened my load, and opened the way to enjoyment and meaning.

The Dalai Lama and Howard Cuthbert have written two books on happiness, The Art of Happiness and The Art of Happiness at Work. The first book was based on the Dalai Lama’s “premise that the primary determinant of one’s happiness is the state of one’s mind, the mental factor.”1 In the later book regarding happiness at work, the Dalai Lama says, “So you see, there is a kind of mutual influence between my commitment to certain spiritual values, my daily spiritual practice, their impact on my overall thinking and attitude to life, and how these in turn affect my political work for the people of Tibet. Then, my political work influences my spiritual practice. In fact, there is an interconnected relationship between everything. If I enjoy a good breakfast, for instance, it contributes to my health. And, if I enjoy good health, it’s possible to utilize life to carry on my work. Even a simple smile can have some impact on my overall state of mind. So, everything is interconnected, interdependent. When you appreciate the interconnected nature of all aspects of your life, then you will understand how various factors—such as your values, your attitudes, your emotional state—can all contribute to your sense of fulfillment at work, and to your satisfaction and happiness in life.”2

From these two passages of The Art of Happiness books, I glean that perhaps it is the interconnected relationships between everything that the act of seeking happiness illuminates. Perhaps it is an understanding of being connected and being interdependent, something that I feel, hear, breathe or know that resonates and helps me find deeper meaning. Wishing you happiness and deeper meaning in 2013.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you ever experienced deeper meaning when you were seeking happiness? What did it look like, sound like, feel like?
Have you ever experienced deeper meaning when you felt connected with a person or group of persons or event? What did it look like, sound like, feel like?


1 His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard Cuthbert, The Art of Happiness at Work, (New York: Riverhead Books, 2003), p. 7.
2 Lama and Cuthbert, The Art of Happiness at Work, pp. 199-200.


12/2012
Fall into Transition

I was walking at dusk the night before a full moon. The sky was full of clouds just before a heavy rain. Everything was a beautiful blue: the sky, the clouds and the ocean blanketing the earth. There was stillness, as the customary ocean waves were absent. I remember the hush and serene feeling I experienced--it felt so peaceful. I noticed that my breath had slowed down and I was calm, yet full of energy.

I don’t normally walk at this time of day and even in the near darkness, was amazed at the beauty. I felt fortunate to have taken stock of the moment. Normally in the Fall season, it is the vivid colors and leaves that remind me of transition of the harvest season to the hibernation with Winter.

Questions to reflect upon:
What transitions are you currently going through? What is something about this transition for which you are thankful? What things are ending? What things might be hidden opportunities as we let go of what is ending and become open to new beginnings?
Is there anything that you may be holding onto that prevents you from being in the moment and recognizing the beauty in the present?


11/2012
Leadership & Teamwork

I loved watching the teamwork of San Francisco Giants as they won this year’s World Series. There seemed to be magic beyond the leadership qualities of extraordinary talent, strategic decision-making, unselfishness and trust in each other. Team development generally follows five stages: Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing and Reforming. While we may have witnessed primarily Performing since the Giants swept the series winning four games in a row, it is likely that the Giants team underwent the other 4 processes during the season. At the beginning of the season they formed their group. During the forming stage, members are generally cordial and polite. The team next moves into the Storming stage where individuals in the group begin to focus on outcomes or processes that they want to see happen. When the catcher, Hector Sanchez, started out the season in place of the veteran catcher, Buster Posey, the Giants were able to develop the rookie catcher and give time to Posey to heal from an injury.

The Giants had a deep pitching bull pen, which can illustrate the Norming stage. In the Norming phase, teammates become polite again and are more cognizant of the group. During the play-offs and World Series, we could see different Giants pitchers taken out even when they wanted to continue pitching. For maximum performance, team members must be willing to challenge each other and support novel approaches, while appreciating aspects of the “tried” and “true.” I suspect that manager Bochy and pitching coach Righetti were keenly aware of the communication and relationship building needs of their players. In the Norming phase, individuals have begun to build relationships and are therefore more reticent to challenge each other. Generally, to be a good pitcher, one usually requires a healthy dose of ego to have the confidence to pitch well. Strategic decision-making is required regarding whether a particular pitcher stays in or is taken out, and how those decisions are communicated supports the relationship and ego needs of the pitchers. This type of relationship building supports a team’s movement to reach the Performing stage and in the case of the Giants may have assisted in achieving peak performance.

In the World Series, the Giants definitely seemed to have the momentum. It is with the Performing stage where individuals begin to challenge team members’ performance and ideas and reap the benefits of maximum productivity. In this phase, a major core of the group contributes to the outcomes. The group has weathered it out, (the two play-offs where they went the full games, and often were not in the lead until the later innings).

The Reforming stage occurred when a player was traded or added to the team and when the rosters of the smaller playoff rosters were announced. Each time changes were made, new personalities and talents had to be incorporated into the team and the culture of the team had to be adaptive enough to welcome new entities, while keeping the same commitment to the group objective of playing together well and respecting what each new player could give. The Reforming stage continually happened with a new line-up of the pitchers at the different play-off games. The Giants needed to maintain momentum amidst the reforming of their group when relief and closing pitchers came in.

A baseball team can certainly develop good teamwork without winning the World Series. At the same time, this is the Giants second World Series in three years. It could be said that there were critical moments where things seemed to go the Giants’ way, such as when Gregor Blanco’s bunt stayed in fair territory. However, the magic and synergy contributed to this sweep of the World Series win over the Detroit Tigers who had the top pitcher (Verlander) and top hitter (Cabrera). The Giants demonstrated leadership by giving their best and trusting what each player could contribute to the team.

(I wrote about “Synergy and Being in Tune with One’s Team,” regarding the San Francisco Giants at the World Series baseball event in my blog two years ago, 11/2010. You can scroll down to it:)

Questions to reflect upon:
Management: How did the coach(es) keep the team congruent? (Scroll down to previous blogs: 7/2012, 8/2011, 8/2010, 3/2008 defining congruency)
Teamwork: What did the team do differently in the last 7 games of playoff and World Series?
Your Team/Group: How can you assess the development of any group with which you’re involved to help it progress?


10/2012
Fear and Being Happy

I’ve recently read an article in Time: Business, “Be Happier: 10 Things to Stop Doing Right Now.” http://business.time.com/2012/10/04/be-happier-in-business-and-life-10-things-to-stop-doing-right-now/ The list is familiar: Blaming, Impressing, Clinging, Interrupting, Whining, Controlling, Criticizing, Preaching, Dwelling. I think we can all relate to these factors. I realize that in my life I have spent all too much time engaging in them. There may be one factor in this list of 10 things, that you are more likely to stick with. In this short blog, I’d like to focus on factor #10, “fearing” that seems to be a recurrent theme in my observations of people in response to the world in which we live and work.

Jeff Haden writes about Fearing; “We’re all afraid: of what might or might not happen, of what we can’t change, or what we won’t be able to do, or how other people might perceive us. … Once tomorrow comes, today is lost forever. Today is the precious asset you own—and there is one thing you should truly fear wasting.”

In observing fear within myself and my clients, I believe that many times we aren’t really aware that fear is driving us, holding us back or entering into our lives. If we aren’t paralyzed with fear, we may not believe that this emotion has a hold on us, no matter how tiny that grasp may be. We are told to be fearless, and sometimes we deal with fear by submerging it, rather than recognizing its presence and acknowledging how it may be driving us.

For people who are leaders and people who strive to lead their lives in effective ways, it is probably helpful to be observant of how fear may be blocking us from moving forward and doing something to get started. And, at the same time trying to eradicate fear and these other 9 factors that Haden suggests we stop right now, focusing on what we want to get rid of may not be the most productive path. Identifying what we want to move towards will probably be more constructive to getting the results we wish.

Questions to reflect upon:
What things were you fearful of that held you back i.e. such as not speaking in public because of not wanting to be criticized or fear of sounding stupid?
What things were you fearful of that drove you forward?
For example: fear of not getting enough work done helped you focus on finishing when you were procrastinating
How can you use fear to motivate you towards positive results? or What are the positive results that you want to move towards?


9/2012
Leadership and Compassion

I have been working with a client who is pretty clear of the strengths and assets she has to offer her organization and she, like many leaders, had been struggling with the down-sizing and cutbacks in funding. How could they create a climate that honored those that would be leaving and keep the morale high for those who stayed, knowing they would be experiencing the loss of colleagues and very likely, additional work?

My client’s ideas and input seemed to be a driving force in the closing processes. All of the managers at her organization gave input on how to deal with the budget cuts. Throughout it all, this organization seems to have embraced the notion of helping their employees through change, transition and the grief process. The leaders of this organization knew being included in the communication processes, didn’t erase what the employees were going through. They did witness, however, that having opportunities to talk about the changes and to be informed of the processes calmed them down. Their processes also seemed to open the space for individuals to figure out how to support and take care of each other. A minimum of 4 weeks advance notice was given for every lay-off. Throughout it all, leaders were able to navigate around conversations about how traumatized and demoralized they were. This was incredibly powerful in the healing process, because these kinds of conversations often morph into “who’s more traumatized.” Many going-away parties were held, several were spontaneous. After lay-offs were made and some employees departed, the organization returned to their annual ritual of identifying what each individual stands for. It was a joyful ceremony, which declared what each person brings to the organization. Individuals focused on what they stand for as individuals, and collectively what they stand for as an organization. Small and large group discussions helped them identify their individual and collective strengths, while recommitting themselves to the core values of the organization.

My client and I discussed how she was feeling about the processes and the cut-backs. She replied that, although they had been through this cycle before, this was the most healing and promising. The rituals they used helped them to acknowledge this transition--the sorrow and the joy.

My client’s organization seems to have moved through this transition in a very balanced and humane way. Interestingly enough, some of the released employees were hired back. Instead of gaining back “wounded” individuals, there was great happiness.

So many companies dismiss individuals and immediately escort them out of the buildings, sometimes having other persons pack up and gather their things. These rituals of inclusion at my client’s workplace, seems to have afforded an intentional ending and closing, and space for a new beginning, helping both the individuals leaving and those who stayed.

Questions to reflect upon:
How can you be compassionate to yourself and to others in difficult situations?
What keeps you from being compassionate to yourself?
Can you think of other situations where employees are facing loss or change? How could being intentional about endings, loss and new beginnings help the employees?


8/2012
Connecting and Making Meaning

A colleague responded to last month’s “thoughts” on Congruency and Flow. As she thought about the reflection question, Have you ever experienced coincidences and opportunities open up? What did it look like, sound like or feel like?” She wrote: “what came to me was an image of two rail cars connecting up with a satisfying ‘clunk’ as two things that were separate came together in the way that they were designed to do.” She alluded to a feeling of satisfaction, that when she hears the clunk, she can move forward. There may be times when the pieces of our lives come together in this fashion, and there is an instantaneous “knowingness” in that moment.

When she envisions the two cars attaching to each other, she hears, feels, sees and perceives the connection and the train moves down its path in an effortless manner. Each rail car fulfills an important function. For the period where the cars are connected, they work together as a team. Just as a railcar is connected, sidelined, or hooked up to a different car, an individual may work together with a team, rest, work alone, join another team and perhaps rejoin the original team at some point. Whatever follows, the connection of the two cars has provided a rhythm and flow, just as our connections with each other provide deeper meaning for our journeys in life.

Question to reflect upon:
When you experience things coming together, what made them meaningful to you?
What does it look, sound, or feel like when things come together for you? What do you perceive about the connection?


7/2012
Congruency Leads to Flow

When my clients successfully change a pattern of action, I often help them “future pace” the action so that they envision the new way of responding. At the close of a coaching engagement, I recently asked my client to walk down a timeline in the future, when one of his direct reports comes to him asking him to intervene and he responds in the less reactive stance which he has been practicing and has successfully demonstrated. It was clear that he had the confidence of supporting his staff to develop their skills by not personally inserting himself and not automatically fixing the problem but letting his staff find ways to successfully respond to the situation. My client has been coaching his staff in their weekly consultations and gaining time to work on many other administrative issues. He is happy that he is moving forward on his leadership goals and is less stressed. My client has allowed his congruency to lead into a flow, where everything comes together.

I’ve written in earlier blogs about my coaching processes of reflection, focus, congruence and flow*. Congruence is the aligning of all the parts of oneself to move in the same direction. Flow is the unplanned process, where coincidences occur and opportunities open up. Charlene Belitz and Meg Lundstrom in The Power of Flow describe flow as, “being in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing.” I am coming to realize that future pacing oneself increases the opportunity for flow.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you ever experienced coincidences and opportunities open up? What did it look like, sound like or feel like?
Have you ever moved forward on a project effortlessly? What made it possible? Can you see it happening in future projects?

*I have incorporated three coaching processes identified by Donald Gerard, MA, CHT, Relationship Coach, that he formulated as Clarity, Alignment, and Acceleration.

For previous blogs on these processes see: Focus (12/2011, 3/2010), Reflection (2/2012, 9/2010), Congruence (8/2011, 8/2010, 3/2008), Flow (9/2011, 5/2011, 5/2008).


6/2012
Finding Contentment in Work

I recently read from a Forbes article, 5/18/12, that only 19% of workers were “satisfied” with their jobs. From a survey of 411 Canadian and US workers conducted by Right Management, only 22% responded that they were “somewhat satisfied” and 44% indicated they were “unsatisfied.” It appears that a majority of people feel stuck, underemployed and overall not happy with their work. Years ago, when I worked with the University of California and later, primarily as a trainer, I could sense discontent in many of the people around me regarding their work and this sentiment was evident during a good economy. I think that for a long time, many employed people have not been happy in their workplaces and the number seems to be growing. I find this extremely disconcerting. A workplace where more than 50% of persons are not satisfied with their jobs is not a good environment for helping people give their best and feel good about what they contribute.

Towards the end of the article, the writer appeals to employers that if they want a motivated, productive workforce, they should try to find ways to keep their employees challenged, rewarded by work and should offer more training and education. I’m wondering what the message is for individuals who are not happy with their current work. Are you dissatisfied with your work? If so, do you cope by separating your “real” life from what you do at work? Might there be something else that you really want to do or some other company that you’d like to look into? Are you feeling stuck and wish to get “unstuck?” If you are dissatisfied and cannot leave your current workplace, what possibilities are there to make your current work or situation more enjoyable: different projects, assignments, working on an assignment with a new person? If you know there are no possibilities now for changing your job, what are some potential places that you might research which might open up when the economic climate changes? What are your goals for being at this current workplace? Have you met them? Is it time to move on? If so, what do you want to move on to?

Questions to reflect upon:
What do you appreciate? What is one of the things you enjoy in the workplace?
What are ways that you could be more satisfied with your work/life?
What strengths and abilities do you bring?
What are hobbies that you enjoy that you might incorporate aspects of into your work, or perhaps enjoy discussion of with at the workplace?


5/2012
Family Legacies

“It matters not what others say about us. All that comes before us dwells within us. All that comes hereafter is our legacy.” Janice Mirikitani, Poet, Founding President, Glide Memorial Foundation; Excerpted from soon to be published poem: “A Letter To My Daughter”

During WWII, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which authorized the removal of 120,000 persons of Japanese descent, 2/3 of whom were American citizens. During Asian Pacific American Heritage month, there is an exhibit in the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) San Bruno station within the Tanforan shopping center, which presents some of the photos of evacuation taken by the well-known photojournalist, Dorothea Lange. Paul Kitagaki, photographer and Sansei, or third generation Japanese American, has located several of the persons or descendants of the original persons captured in Lange’s pictures. This display is an ongoing reminder that we need to be ever vigilant of our civil rights. How appropriate that this exhibition would be in the very same place where Japanese Americans were rounded up and forced to live in horse stalls at the Tanforan racetrack where they were first assembled en route the concentration camps. My mother was one of the evacuees, and a high school student at the time. We stood where she had been illegally detained.

The words of Janice Mirikitani touched me deeply. A couple of years ago I had attended a similar dedication of a permanent statue at the Merced fairgrounds, (in Central California), which was where my father was assembled and was near my hometown. Since I had heard similar speeches in Merced, I didn’t anticipate having such a strong emotional response in San Bruno, when dignitaries, politicians and artists spoke about the grave injustice of the incarceration. I have attended many educational forums, read numerous books and experienced many works of art depicting the relocation experience, yet attending this reception in San Bruno, moved me to my core. Many of the speakers referred to personal stories from their families in the face of evacuation. They reminded us how similar acts are happening to the Syrian people, and to Arab Americans in the US in the aftermath of 9/11. We also know of Palestinians being moved off their land by settlements and restricted from movement with the ever increasing building of walls. In this country, the scapegoating of people due to race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or physical abilities is not only illegal, but inhumane. United States Representative Jackie Spier, offered her personal apology to the evacuees in the audience, and I immediately teared up. I was reminded how the healing process for the legacy of evacuation that touched me and my immediate family continues to take place.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you know about your family legacy? How does your family legacy influence what you are doing now?
Do you have friends that have shared their family legacies with you? How meaningful are their stories in your life? How do other people’s stories influence what you do?


4/2012
“Gambatte” and Resiliency

In last month’s, “March 2012, thoughts,” I wrote about the half-full glass perspective which two African-American women clients had mentioned to me. I remembered some of the difficult times on the farm and expressed gratitude to have grown up in a family which carried this sense of hope and faith about weathering through difficult times. I thought about closing the blog with a Japanese saying about the half-full sentiment. I realized that the Japanese culture doesn’t have that perspective. The closest thing I could arrive at would be echoed in the phrase, “gambatte,” (GAM-ba-TE), to persevere or to fight through it. I’d like to share three different stories about gambatte from my mother-in-law, my mother and the lay leader from my church. Although the notion of half-full perspective or a specific philosophy about focusing on the positive seems to be absent within the Japanese and Japanese American cultures, both the half-full perspective and notion of gambatte point towards gratitude and are testimonials about resilience.

Mother-in-law, struggling through daily life
While in Boston raising kids, her husband was still a student in college, she experienced hardship during WWII-- not much meat in markets, not enough vegetables in Boston during the winter time. Everyone was responding with the spirit of gambatte, but their financial situation of three children and no regular job made it a harder struggle for them. In Boston, they only had Chinese rice, which was costly. For the most part, they couldn’t afford to eat rice for many years, seven or so, until they returned to California. She remembers ordering rice from New York. It was very expensive and yet they served it to exchange students from Japan, right after the war, for the weekly meals they offered to approximately 200 young adults. When making curry rice, they had to have Japanese rice. Many of the students came from families with more money than them, but it was right after WWII and the national policy was they couldn’t take much money out of Japan, maybe $200 or so, since cash amounts were limited.

Even with the scarcity of rice, she remembers buying it to make "omochi," soft rice and sweet bean confection, for the New Year’s celebration. Interesting how this precious commodity, a symbol of struggling through daily life, was also one that brought joy, ritual and happy memories.

Mother, to persevere in face of adversity
Gambatte in her life brings memories of being evacuated during WWII and entire Japanese communities enduring adversity when over 110,000 Japanese Americans, two-thirds of whom were citizens, were forcibly removed from their homes, due solely on the basis of race. This spirit of gambatte continued for many of the evacuees after they left the camps. The people in my mom’s neighborhood had signed a petition which stated they did not want Japanese Americans to return to their homes. My grandmother had been diagnosed with stomach cancer and they didn’t know what recourse they had. Finally, they returned to their home, where my grandmother spent her last three weeks, able to die in peace.

Lay Leader, to “hang in there”
“For me, my family didn’t know it was hard, because we thought everyone was poor. Growing up, I felt like we were all in the same boat. Following Eastern tradition about not comparing self and with everyone having the same struggle, the hardships were not as big. There’s a beauty in the simplicity of not knowing you are poor or don’t have much. Then when we’ve struggled and toughed it out, the reward is gratitude. Through gratitude, we can turn around fear and negativity. It’s sometimes difficult to let go of fear and negativity. In Buddhism, people are taught that everything is impermanent, and yet, how we treat other people, the good thoughts we have make a difference. Gratitude helps us to focus on the big picture and the flow of our lives. In Christianity we are taught these same principles of gratitude. Whether we express gratitude, consciously or not, we pass it on. The Taoist principle of emptying oneself, giving up, and doing nothing opens up the space so that a lot can happen.” Jo Takada

As I listened to these stories, I was reminded that struggling through adversity provides resiliency. All three of these stories of frugality, living through the tough times of societal mistreatment and just “hanging in there” all underscore the notion of a collective perseverance. Through gambatte, gratitude, the act of positive acceptance and embrace of our current situation can follow.

Questions to reflect upon:
How have you been resilient in your life? What did it look like, sound like or feel like? What are your thoughts on resiliency?
How can resiliency continue to be a positive resource in your life now?


3/2012
Half-full Glass Perspective

Last week I was struck by two separate clients, both African American females, mention how other persons notice that they view the world from a “glass half-full” perspective. Both of them have lived through some very difficult societal and personal challenges, and yet, are conscious that their positive framework are strengths.

I don’t remember hearing that particular phrase much while growing up, however, I do believe that even when there were troubles on the farm, and worries about finances, the notion that we would make it through was always prevalent.

I remember times that were tough, when much of the almond trees or crops were damaged by rain at the wrong time, or when it was difficult to afford/obtain enough water to irrigate the crops. I also remember worrisome times when my grandfather had suffered a heart attack and when my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. Yet, there was always a sense of hope and faith that we would weather through it. I feel fortunate to have lived within a family who carried this outlook.

I am grateful that I was aware of the hard times my family was facing. I think it has helped me to value all the relationships and belongings that I have and to put things into perspective.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you ever looked at a situation through the “half-full glass” perspective? Had you not, how might the outcomes been different?
If you have not experienced this “half-full glass” perspective, can you replay a difficult situation from the past through this framework? Has the intensity of this memory shifted?


2/2012
Reflection

“I LOVED HAVING MY THOUGHTS BEING HEARD BY ANOTHER PERSON. This provided me with some form of feedback and probably a way to hear my own thoughts when I verbalize it.” Lakshmi, Language Coordinator

While coaching people, I engage the following processes: Reflection (see “thoughts” 9/2010), Focus (12/2011, 3/2010), Congruence (8/2011, 8/2010, 3/2008) and Flow (9/2011, 5/2011). Reflection is the inward journey, focus compels the discipline, congruence brings the alignment and balance, and flow unfolds the ease and effortlessness. When I read part of Lakshmi’s evaluation of the coaching engagement, I realized she was referring to how coaching allows one to reflect.

Our lives are so busy that setting aside the time to consciously reflect seems difficult. And yet, it is through reflection that transformation can begin. A shift of one’s perspective or behavior begins with reflection. Today I was mentioning to my dentist that I don’t notice any tension or pain in my jaw, except for when I lie down in bed. Interesting enough, she said that when she was on vacation and in the evening just before bed time, she was beginning to have a migraine. She couldn’t understand this because she thought she was relaxed. Her doctor said that when one begins to relax the muscles and the body is winding down and tired, it hears the pain signals.

With the recent passing of the solstice, the Gregorian calendar New Year and Lunar New Year, the Winter season seems like a great time to focus on reflection.

Questions to reflect upon:
When you experience pain, how do you respond? What resources help you in shifting the level of pain?
When you feel frustrated with a particular outcome, how do you respond? How does the frustration change when you reframe that outcome?


1/2012
Focus of Growth for Year

I had a business coach that shared with me the process of choosing a theme for the year. In 2011, I chose “Centering Self: Letting go of that which is not mine.” Sounds easy, doesn’t it? I have come to recognize that for most of my life, I’ve been really good at fixing things, whether it be administrative communication, opening channels for looking at oneself to change habits that are not conducive to positive growth and interaction. Until the past 5-10 years, I’ve tended to focus on the immediate outcome and less so on the processes which require a shift in the way of responding so that one begins to be conscious of one’s reactions which transforms and affects future behavior and effectiveness. This theme of letting go of what’s not mine has helped me to juggle many transitions in my life and to unburden myself of the emotional weight of difficult or discordant things happening around me. With this focus, I have moved towards concentrating on what I can change, what I have power over. Of course, that means changes within myself. This process continues to be a humbling and in some ways, never-ending one.

For 2012, I have chosen one of the reiki precepts (principles) as my theme, “Just for today, be compassionate to yourself and others.” Just as in many spiritual and religious traditions, this concept is so simple, yet so redemptive. Love yourself and others. For only if we truly love ourselves, can our hearts and souls be fully open for love to flow though us to other people.

Questions to reflect upon:
How has compassion played a role in your own growth?
Just for today, how can you be compassionate to yourself?
Just for today, how can you be compassionate to others?


12/2011
The Lighthouse: Establishing Focus

Have you ever forged ahead and moved towards your destination despite the fact that some relevant factors had changed? I want to share a story. At sea, a captain was in the fog and saw the light from the lighthouse in the not too distant shoreline. He radioed the lighthouse keeper, who instructed him to not come in. The captain bellowed, “I outrank you. You’re a non-commissioned officer and I’m coming in.” The lighthouse keeper responded, “I suggest you move. I’m not moving.”

Do you ever disregard signs that shine out to you, telling you that something is amiss? Sometimes I become so intent on reaching my destination that I don’t recognize how the fog may cloud my perspective. Sometimes I see clients intent on charging ahead with their plans, not recognizing the warning to back off.

A coach can be like the lighthouse, helping clients see through the fog, supporting them in charting the right business course while being a thought partner in seeking new opportunities, meaning and success. As your coach, I can accelerate your ability to hear the foghorn and see your beacon of light.

Questions for Reflection:
Do you currently live your life consciously?
What are the advantages of bringing more consciousness into your daily life?


11/2011
Shifting Styles

“I can show you the door, but you have to walk through it.” -Morpheus in the Matrix

Have you ever been in the situation where you see or know the answer for how to do things and the other person dealing with the situation doesn’t? Each of us have a dominant kind of style for handling situations, and each of the styles can be the most appropriate for any specific situation. But, what if we use the same style for dealing with every person we work with, and for every situation?

I have a client that came to me to wanting to work on his supervisory abilities. One of his staff persons was spending a large chunk of time complaining about the disrespect he felt he was encountering during the intake process for their services. My client was having difficulty as they had been spending a lot of time in the “check-in” phase of their weekly debriefs and was wanting to move beyond the employee’s “complaints.” My client was committed to being a good listener as it seemed important to set a good climate for their working relationship. Through our work together, my client realized that he felt uncomfortable because there was a part of him that wanted to “fix” the working relationships of his staff person and participants of their programs. Even though my client had begun asking questions to engage his staff person in resolving the complaints, the discomfort from wanting the problem to stop and saving time by telling his staff person how to fix it had remained. When my client became aware of the style he automatically moved into, he was able to reflect upon the real outcomes that he wanted and to create the kind of processes he wanted to use to get there. He began to understand how his reactions could lead to certain responses. He is now able to catch himself and change his style for responding, not “fixing” the situation for his employee, but coaching him to develop alternatives for relationship building and for the intake process. My client is building his staff’s capacity to serve their participants and helping his staff to be fully responsible for their own work. He has been able to create change by shifting and integrating into his actions something that is meaningful to him, helping his employee better deal with their participants. This shift is a huge transformative one, which is helping him be a better supervisor and team leader. And, he is feeling less angst about his supervision.

Returning to the reference of the door to which Morpheus referred in the Matrix movie. There may be one door to walk through. That door may open to many other doors. Or that door may be a revolving one. How can you make your best decisions about which door you walk through and how you walk through it/them? Are you conscious of walking through the door?

Questions to reflect upon:
Can you think of a time when your style or your response did not get you the desired result? How might you respond differently to get the desired response, or closer to the desired response? How much time are you willing to invest in the other person or on the situation to achieve the desired result?
How can you become conscious of your automatic responses?


10/2011
Identifying Power in Leadership

“The general belief about moral and character development [is] this is something that we learn at home, as adolescents. I actually think the formation of character is a lifelong process.

“Abraham Lincoln said that people think that the real test of a person’s character is how they deal with adversity. A much better measure of a person’s character is to give them power. I’ve been more disappointed with how people’s character is revealed when they’ve been given power.”—Professor Nitin Nohria

I read this interview with the Dean of Harvard Business School, in Wall Street Journal, 9/26/11. It resonated with me as we often see individuals rise to the occasion when faced with adversity. And yet, what is it about being stressed with expected outcomes and performance that it seems to make it so easy to lose one’s moral compass?

It seems to me that most of us don’t really believe that we have much power, especially power over institutions or groups of people. And yet, we are basically aware of our personal power to take responsibility for our own lives. How conscious are we of our own decisions when we are in positions of power? -When we are a manager or supervisor? -When we are the adult or parent? -When we are the leader of a group, even if it be providing a response in a group and everyone follows suit? -What kind of influence do we have? What are we consciously doing with that influence or power? Are these instances stories that you would be proud to share with persons you are mentoring or parenting?

Like Professor Nohria, I believe that one’s character and leadership are developmental and that we can take advantage of opportunities to continually grow.

Questions to reflect upon:
In reflecting where you are now, can you identify an experience that helped you grow? Knowing what you do now, is there anything that you would do differently? Is there a significant person who helped you develop your moral compass? How can that memory be a resource for you now?


09/2011
Flow

I was swimming laps one day. I generally swim twice a week. Although I usually have a day in between before swimming again, I had only swam once/week for a couple of weeks and decided to swim two days in a row. On the second day right after I entered the pool, I noticed a rhythm, one that I usually don’t feel until half-way into the work-out. It was refreshing, with no moments fighting myself to continue. It was a feeling of effortlessness, of being fluid with the water. I considered, is this a result of the daily regimen? I swam a third day in a row, and experienced being totally in the present moment. Even after returning to a twice a week swim routine, with at least a day in between swimming, I could feel this flow. I’ve tested this premise again when I felt myself forcing myself to swim. The discipline of swimming daily and focusing on being in the present allows me to glide along. Now whenever I swim, I try to remember what the flow looks like, sounds like and feels like, and I perceive that sense.

I believe that there are certain processes* that can help one to develop oneself. Reflection, focus, becoming congruent and experiencing flow all contribute to transformative growth (see past blogs, Reflection-9/2010, Focus-3/2010, Congruency-8/2011, 8/2010, 3/2008, Flow-5/2011). Focus asks for one’s full attention, clarifies the issues and helps us get comfortable with the discipline required. Flow is a dynamic process, an unfolding that can be tapped into by becoming more attuned to meaningful coincidence and harmony. Berlitz and Lundstrom in The Power of Flow, help us understand how we can practice certain techniques to surrender ourselves into more synchronicity and flow. They write that one way to increase flow into our lives is simply to notice it.

Lately, I’ve noticed flow, with potential clients. While attending a conference, there were specific persons I had hoped to meet with, but it didn’t work out. And yet, different persons came up to me and engaged me in conversations about potential avenues for expanding my services and I networked with people in a way that was interesting, easy and effortless.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you noticed flow? What is meaningful about it? Watch, listen and be open to see how flow continues in your life.

*I am incorporating 3 coaching processes identified by Donald Gerard, MA, CHT, Relationship Coach, that he formulated as Clarity, Alignment, and Acceleration.


08/2011
Being Congruent and Changing Oneself

I have a client who has been exercising her leadership skills. With an eye to trying to balance the needs of the clients, her agency and those of the staff, she often felt overwhelmed and anxious at the prospect of taking corrective actions where necessary. In the short time we’ve been working together, she has changed dramatically, digging deep within herself and responding differently. “My thinking really has shifted. I feel more confident asserting my opinion and speaking my truths without undue regard for others’ reaction. I have new tools to use to continue to do the work on my own and I understand my own patterns better so that I can begin to change them. … I can feel the shift in my behavior; it’s not just an intellectual thing. And it feels so good. I can tell I am modeling better leadership—I am less tentative, more decisive and clearer about direction.” -Melissa

My client has caused me to remember that being congruent—aligning all the parts of one’s mind and body, is a key to change. Being congruent is a major component of making the kind of “shift” or transformation that can be sustained. I continue to learn from my clients and realize areas in which I’m not moving forward as I would expect and to explore how I can become more aligned in my business life as well as my community and personal lives.

Questions to reflect upon:
Remember a time when you successfully achieved a significant change where there was some initial internal conflict that was resolved.
What helped you move forward from point A to point B?
Was there something that helped you integrate your mind with your body?
What did the change look like, sound like and feel like?


07/2011
Appreciating Community

In my coaching with leaders, I have noticed that building community is such an important part of creating an environment where people are motivated, productive and happy. This past 4th of July week-end, I was reminded how enjoying community creates vitality and a sense of belonging. My dad is a retired farmer. In celebration of his 90th birthday, I brought some refreshments to the company next to the cooperative almond shed, where he hangs out. He comes here twice a day to visit and drink coffee.

When I was growing up, I understand that my dad used to regularly meet several farmers at a cafe. Only during the extremely busy harvest season did my dad not show up. My dad was actively farming until a couple of years ago, and we wondered what he would do after retiring. On week-ends, he and my mom started to drive north to where all of his daughters and most of his grandkids live. Yet, I wondered what he did with his week-days. Now after meeting his coffee buddies, and watching them relate, I can tell that this rhythm of going to coffee, provides him a structure for his day, a social outlet, and sense of community. Although a few of the same farming friends with whom he has been meeting for years still come, many of my dad's friends from his generation have passed away. This coffee group, is an avenue for my dad to enjoy people who are engaged in agricultural work and who, are primarily younger than he.

My mother has mentioned to me that when she told one of his fellow coffee mates, that if she and my dad were to physically relocate closer to their daughters, he would really miss them. The listener responded, and said, “I think we would miss him more.”

Questions to reflect upon:
When was the last time you felt a sense of community? What does it look like, sound like and feel like?
How would having a sense of community make a difference in your life presently?


06/2011
Summer and Transition

Summer is a kind of transition period. The regular school year is on hiatus. People often take time off, and enjoy the longer day light. Although many people may become busier with vacations and activities, we also seem to consciously slow down to enjoy the weather and outdoors. It’s almost summer time, yet there is cold and rain in California (and unusual non-seasonal weather in many other parts of the world.) I returned from my extended family’s annual Memorial week-end trip to Lake Tahoe--it was snowing at a time when in most years, people are enjoying water sports.

Like the weather on the cusp of the different seasons, during periods of transition, it can be more difficult to know what to expect. The truth of the matter is that we are always going through transition. William Bridges expresses how organizational and personal transitions take us through a rocky period after which we end something, followed by a period where we experience loss before we can fully start something new. He identifies this passage as the three stages of “endings,” “neutral zone” (middle ground), or period of psychological adjustment and “new beginnings.”

I remember the summers on the farm where I grew up with my sisters. Our farm of grape vineyards and almonds was quieter in June, except for when we had sweet potatoes. Helping with the irrigation—moving pipes in the morning and early evenings, was the primary chore for almonds and we didn’t help with the fall harvest of the almonds until we became adults. The grapes were harvested by other adult crews, so the primary task was pruning and “cutting of the middles,” which is what we girls did, and was reserved for the late fall and winter. However, in the row crop of sweet potatoes, there was always work to be completed—starting and moving siphon pipes and constant weeding. During our high school years in June, we packed nectarines and plums in the fruit sheds, as these crops had earlier and longer harvest seasons.

Busy or quiet, the rhythm of summer was always different from the rest of the year. We weren’t in school, and although it was very hot on the farm during June, with highs of 90-100 degrees, we were outside a great deal-- working on the farm, playing baseball and swimming. I often think of the transitions of the seasons on the farm when I am going through different changes in my life. Summer is a reminder for me that hard work can be invigorating, and that the pace of my life fluctuates. Summer also reminds me that life is full of transitions and that through these transitions I can learn to let go of the old before I fully embrace the harvest of life to come.

Questions to reflect upon:
If you are experiencing transition in any aspect of your work or life:
What things are ending? What might you be losing? How can you let go of the old?
As you move through this transition period, what is energizing you to a new beginning? What does this new energy look like, feel like, and sound like?


05/2011
Flow

“With ardent practice, may all the obstacles be removed.” -Nancy Clarke, yoga teacher.

I am the chair of the local Multicultural Community Center (MCC). It’s a wonderful group of board members, who are single-minded in our vision for building community and multicultural civic engagement. We are at a critical phase, that in order for us to continue providing the “space” and foundation for multicultural programming and community-building, we have to gear up into action. There are many issues within our processes where there has been “magic:” unexpected answers to what we are trying to create. Although there are many substantial meaningful coincidences of this type of magic, or what I’ve called “flow” in past blogs (Hustle & Flow, 5/08), I want to present this seemingly incidental convergence of events, as it worked for me personally. For months I had been trying to get the board to identify another monthly date to meet, as for the past year, I had not been able to attend another organization’s bi-monthly meeting that fell on the same day and time. It is my nature to organize meeting dates as early as possible, because I prefer to have things scheduled, so that I can be prepared and ready to fully participate. After the previous meeting, there appeared to be only one day of the month that all of us could attend and that did not conflict with one of the Center’s activities. It would have been quite hectic for me to commit to that day, and when I brought it up, another date, which I had advocated for earlier, opened up. Very soon, I was going to have to miss one MCC meeting if we did not change it, because I had agreed to present a workshop at the other organization’s meeting. Just going with the flow and focusing on the need to change the date, while staying open to the availability of everyone involved, we worked out a date that had no conflicts for any of us. Furthermore, had I pushed through a date in earlier months, that day would not have been open.

Question to reflect upon:
Do you notice a flow in your life? What is it? As you look for it, do you notice more welcome results?


04/2011
The Japanese Earthquake-Gaman

It has been very interesting for me to listen and read about the sharing of stories about the Japanese people during the aftermath of the Earthquake. Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times, 3//11/11, writes about how we could learn a great deal from “the perseverance, stoicism and orderliness” of the Japanese people in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake. Not to say that the government’s handling of the 1995 quake was good, but how the culture of the people seems to provide a sense of “gaman,” or toughing it out that is “steeped into the collective soul.” He found this “collective resilience,” the stoicism and the automatic willingness to put the group ahead of oneself, and the acceptance of living with the natural world to differ from western culture. Growing up as a Japanese American, I can relate to how gaman, and how the collective belief of “shikata ga nai,” it can’t be helped, can be a resource for collective survival.

Sukeyasu Yamamoto, a nuclear physicist in Tokyo, who was educated at Yale, understands both Japanese and US culture. Christopher Joyce of NPR, http://www.npr.org/2011/03/24/134800624/in-japan-feelings-of-accept-pain-dont-complain?sc=17&f=1001, reported that Yamamoto believes that gaman might also be a factor in nuancing the devastation of the radiation from the radiation plants that have been crippled by the quakes. Since they need electric power, they feel “shikata ga nai.” Yamamoto also explains how younger people who haven’t lived through the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki may not connect nuclear power plants with atomic nuclear fall-out. Although there has been much education and a sentiment for understanding the destruction from nuclear energy, it seems to be fading from their cultural memory.

I know that people around the world grieve for the losses of life, worry for the safety of the Japanese people and the grave consequences and ripple effects of this natural disaster. I hope that we can learn many lessons from the Japanese people and from this disaster.

Question to reflect upon:
What beliefs have helped you be resilient in times of struggle?
Can you think of any beliefs that have provided a collective resiliency for your group/community?
Can you think of any beliefs that have camouflaged important perspectives?


03/2011
Radiating Effects of Transformative Change

I have been working with a client who has been dutiful and tends to accomplish things by persistence and hard work. She has become clearer and clearer about what is most important to her and what makes her happy. She is changing the way she thinks and the way she moves towards her desired outcomes. Even though working toward these goals may take “hard work,” she is beginning to see her efforts bear fruit. Her work has become less stressful. She is becoming more healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally. She has begun to see and acknowledge how her seemingly small “shifts” are affecting the people around her.

The effects of her changing in a transformative way are radiating outward and changing how her colleague, her assistant and her partner relate and respond to her. She is developing a new kind of energy that acknowledges her commitment, courage, passion, openness, appreciation and trust.

Question to reflect upon:
How do you see transformation happening for you in your work and in your life?


02/2011
Celebrating Traditions

Gung Hay Fat Choy (Chinese), chúc mừng năm mới (Vietnamese), Saehae bok man-hi ba-deu saeyo (Korean), Amar mend uu? (Mongolian), Tashi Delek (Vietnamese), Happy New Year. Although the celebration of my cultural calendar being Japanese American, is the same as the western calendar year, I recognize many similarities between the Japanese new year and other Asian lunar celebrations. Tsanaan San, a Mongolian holiday of white moon, is celebrated about the same time as the lunar new year, where candles are burnt to symbolize enlightenment. Most of the Asian new year celebrations include being with family. Koreans often visit their parents, families and ancestral grounds. The day before Losar, the Tibetan new year, is the last day of the year to cleanse and prepare which is a similar practice for Asian new year celebrations. On Losar, the Dalai Lama consults the Neching Oracle and people participate in a ritual of gratitude, giving offerings to the spirits, which basically are embodied within the elements of earth, fire, air and space.

Acknowledging the Lunar New Year, I am taking this opportunity to cleanse my mind and spirit, center myself, and reflect on what is really important in this moment. What do I have control of? What are the outcomes that are most important to move towards? How can I perceive signs that specific outcomes are just not meant to be? Am I open to hearing other alternatives that might be a better process or outcome than what I’m envisioning? Celebrating the lunar New Year is a reminder to align myself with the spiritual, not only the mental and physical. I invoke my 2011 year theme of Centering Self: Letting go of that which is not mine.

Working with multicultural clients, I am beginning to notice that there are many traditions that are good to keep and that some which may hold us back in our work. I work with each client in finding ways to honor the spirit of one’s cultural traditions while finding alignment in values and desired outcomes.

Questions to reflect upon:
What traditions do you celebrate that are meaningful to you?
What traditions do you celebrate that are good to keep? What do you like/enjoy about them?
What traditions might hold you back? What is it about engaging in the tradition that holds you back? What new traditions can you create to help you move forward?


01/2011
Appreciating Meaning

“Tom Landry wrote, ‘A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear, who has you see what you don’t want to see, so you can be who you have always known you could be.’ You are helping me in this way. Slow, but sure.’” -Joan, Small Business Owner

”I really appreciated your listening skills on our call the other day and your understanding of the nuances of non-profit culture and leadership.” -FH, Executive Director

Shinnen Omedeto, Happy New Year. I hope that 2011 ushers in the shifts and transformations that allow you to reach your desired destinations. As the 2010 year was ending, I was reflecting upon everything that I am thankful for. Many things around my coaching practice filled my thoughts. I am so appreciative of being able to accompany my coaching clients in their journeys to get “unstuck,” to become more balanced and effective in their work and lives. I am grateful that my clients trust me and are willing to share their stories. One of my core values is that coaching sessions are meaningful for my clients. I marvel at how each of us have unconscious habits and patterns which have kept us from hearing, seeing and figuring out the puzzle pieces in the current processes of our work and life journeys. I am filled with awe and reverence in the coaching sessions when I hear how each person has different strengths and how each person uniquely and creatively utilize their talents to deal with their challenges.

Recently, while reviewing the message from Joan, I realized that many times we seek discipline in our lives to help us reach our desired outcomes or the paths which we know we are called to walk. Joan’s reference to “slow, but sure” struck me. She values the changes that she is making in her life and appreciates the discipline and discovery about herself that she is creating through coaching. Through FH’s comment about my listening ability as a coach, I realize something else I receive from her and all other clients. Coaching provides a container where I am totally present. What a gift this is. Being present enhances meaning in my own life.

I am hoping we find meaning in the New Year. May 2011 bring you continual opportunities to experience the present.

Questions to reflect upon:
Reflecting upon 2010, what things are you thankful for? What events, experiences were meaningful to you?
How will these things that are meaningful help you to continue your journey and growth?


12/2010
Gratitude

Recently my partner returned to work after being out for a month as a result of falling from a 22-foot ladder. He doesn’t remember the actual impact of the fall, for which I am grateful, nor does it appear that he will sustain lasting disability. I believe that there were and continue to be a series of small miracles that happened, and for which the philosophy of gratefulness buoyed our spirits and helped us sustain a sense of calm immediately after the accident and which continues to help in the healing processes.

With an accident, I think one tends to just react. Immediately after the fall, I found Peter in shock and unable to speak. We both instinctually, tried to help him get up. All of a sudden, something told me to stop. I realized that he should not move, and we needed to get the ambulance. I ran inside to get my cell phone, and the 911 operator stayed with me until the paramedics arrived. The EMT officers asked which hospital we preferred, with one of the officers mentioning the name of the County hospital, which I knew had an excellent 24 trauma center. Before we got into the ambulance the respirator and IV were hooked up. The ambulance driver told me that, “His vitals are fine, we’re only taking him in as a precautionary method,” which was a little “positive” stretch of the truth. On the ambulance, I remember feeling thankful that Peter was OK, that we had the cell phone technology where I could phone for help while returning to Peter’s side, that the EMT and paramedics came so quickly, that we were going to the best trauma hospital in our area, that we had insurance, that I had seen Peter “schooch” his feet towards the board as they got him onto the guerney so that he probably did not have extensive spinal damage.

Since leaving the hospital, there have been a maze of specialists, doctors and dentists that needed to be coordinated. The timing of getting referrals, getting appointments and transferring medical records to was more complicated because the County hospital was not with our insurance carriers. I am grateful for the relatives that were accessible just at the right moments to help expedite these processes, many of which were coincidental and synchronistic. I am thankful that my husband had so many days of sick leave, and an understanding boss and coworkers, who graciously picked up many of the pieces of his workload. I am grateful for the friends, neighbors and family members who have been so supportive to us. I am grateful that I was able to take the time to be a caretaker and just be with Peter. In retrospect, it is clear to me that being in a state of gratitude precluded any room for fear. For the most part, my usual habit of worrying to figure out if I’m doing the “right/best” things, could not surface and take away my focus of being open to what needed my attention in any particular moment.

Questions to reflect upon:
Reflect on a period in your life when there was a crisis and a positive outcome. Notice what it feels like, sounds like, and looks like.
Has there been an experience that you have been grateful for? What shifted for you when you felt gratitude?
What are you presently grateful for? How does being grateful affect what you are doing now?


11/2010
Synergy and Being in Tune with One’s Team

The San Francisco Giants, just clinched the World Series. From a team of misfits and cast-off players, they played with heart and determination. Every night there were different heroes. Being a home team for me, it has been very exciting to not only watch them win, but experience how they fed off each other, never giving up and all responding about how they were just doing their part while giving props to their teammates. As the underdog team going into the Series, the Giants seemed to have an indomitable spirit that held them together, scoring so many of their runs when there were already two outs.

Both the Giants and Rangers had incredible pitchers. What helped the Giants do so well? What created the sense of team? What allowed them to play well until the end of each game? How did they play better with each series following the regular season? I think the Manager, Bruce Bochy’s leadership may have been pivotal in the disciplined playing, while being planned and in the moment with the changing currents of each game. In his laid back manner, he didn’t get overly excited, he seemed to be really in tune with the players, especially the pitchers, knowing when they were feeling “up,” and when they couldn’t quite deliver. He also seemed to know when to let his coaching manager call the changes and when to just decide. When the decision to change pitchers came, I’m sure that the pitchers may not have been happy, but, one could see that they accepted the decisions. They got to the World Series with their pitching, but may have well won the Series with the change-up of players. Bochy was unafraid to mix up the player roster and batting line-up. He strategically called upon different players at different times to create their strongest defensive or offensive plan for each game, inning and moment. And yet, it may well have been more than just leadership and great playing. I think the Giants created synergy, something that is stronger than the sum of its parts. Webster’s Dictionary-Thesaurus states synergy as “ combined and correlated force,” which when applied to a team, could be summed up as the concurrence of action from different parts of an organization. How delightful to watch such synergy in action!

Questions to reflect upon:
Having witnessed the synergy that took place with the Giants, how can it happen in your life? What would it look like, sound like and feel like?
If you have experienced synergy how did it affect you at the time? Now?


10/2010
Resiliency

Most people come to me as a coach in hopes of reaching specific outcomes in their work or their lives. The primary shifts that my clients make tend to be changing habits and becoming more resilient. This reminds me about the Ecological and Resiliency Model that I learned about while working in youth development. The Model identifies how multiple factors work together to help young people grow into healthy adults. These factors are illustrated through concentric rings with the individual being in the center sphere, and family, community and informal adult/peer relationships forming rings around the individual. These relationships become protective factors which help youth to grow and develop in a positive way. I wonder; how does this model change as we become adults?

What makes one person survive and thrive through the same environmental conditions that makes other individuals become victims of insurmountable troubles? What parts of this model for development still work for us and what parts don’t? Although we may not notice, the people and relationships represented by the different rings of family, community and formal/informal relationships keep changing. Our tendencies as creatures of habit are to go back to what feels comfortable and/or what has worked for us in the past, even if the particular behaviors may not be the most effective process for what we are presently encountering.

I believe that everyone has the potential to be resilient. As a coach, I will help you identify the resources within you and guide you to access these resources to be resilient in any challenging situation.

Questions to reflect upon:
How have family, community and other relationships been resources for you? What does it feel like, look like, sound like?
Think of a time when you were resilient, able to bounce back from a difficult time. What did it feel like, look like, sound like?


9/2010
Reflection

Have you ever made the same type of mistake over and over again? I have heard many persons say with regard to young people and young adult behavior, “Oh well, they’ll learn.” In reality, I’ve experienced that most of us don’t necessarily learn from mistakes. What is it that helps us identify what were the circumstances in which we made a mistake, what can we learn from it and how can we move forward and not get stuck again with a similar undesired result? I call this process “Reflection.” (In previous blogs, I have identified other processes* I use in coaching: Focus, 3/10; Congruency, or alignment, 8/10 & 3/08; and Flow, 5/08.)

In the learning and development field, it is said that it is not the experience from which we learn. It is Reflection upon the experience that is rich for learning and developing oneself. While stopping the process of continuing to act in the outer world, Reflection moves us through the inner journey of meaning and uncovering different perspectives.

In placing Reflection in context with learning and coaching, I’ll share an example from my life. I’m very committed to my work. Growing up on the family farm, my family survived, in part, because when there was watering of the crops, sprinklers that needed to be changed, hot beds of sweet potato plants that needed to be covered with plastic because of dropping temperatures, harvest that had to be completed before it rained and while we had possession of the shared harvest equipment, we dropped everything to help out.

I realize that I have approached my work with the same type of imminency. I remember suffering from an injury to the back of my left knee, getting a shot of cortisone which was not effective, and in fact further inflamed the leg. I went to work the next day because I had organized a photo shoot at numerous sites and rode with the camera persons and hobbled around. I owned a stick-shift and when I got inside my car to drive home, I knew I couldn’t drive home without considerable pain. I remember screaming in pain each time I used my left leg to shift gears. And while I learned that I needed to take better preventative care of my body, a few years later in my life when I incurred a back injury, I went ahead and overworked myself at critical junctures when babying my body would have avoided reinjury and other potential lifelong consequences. Reflection upon my behavior and responses, have helped me to take better care of myself.

In any given situation, Reflection helps me identify what has happened, any patterns of response that seem automatic, and allow me to create new ways of responding. Alternatively, when I have done something right, Reflection helps me understand the processes and how my reactions have moved me towards the desired outcomes. As your coach, I can assist you in achieving your goals through focus, reflection, congruency and flow.

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of a time in your life when you felt totally aligned with your existence, when everything felt right, and you were amazed at your good luck.
Why do you think this occurred? Why did it change? What changes could you make in your life right now to bring back that sense of alignment?

*I am incorporating 3 coaching processes identified by Donald Gerard, MA, CHT, Relationship Coach, that he formulated as Clarity, Alignment, and Acceleration.


8/10
Being Congruent

A triangle is made up of congruent angles. The sides align perfectly to form the shape. Similarly to a triangle, when all the parts of one’s self are in alignment, one is congruent. When this is the case, there is no question about what one believes or what one is focused upon. One’s mind, body and spirit are in agreement, just like the sides of a triangle, and that energy is conveyed as confidence, self-assurance and inner strength.

When my clients are congruent about what they believe, they are able to make complicated and difficult decisions with ease. They report that their decisions are less questioned by other persons. Somehow the clients have conveyed their alignment and commitment to the decision. How does one become congruent? And since being congruent is a dynamic process, how does one stay congruent?

Congruency is a process of becoming whole, of getting and maintaining balance. The yin and yang are present, making it possible to get “unstuck.” Congruency is one of the processes*, along with Reflection, Focus, and Flow that I help clients use in coaching sessions to envision and achieve their goals. I introduced the concept of Focus, about how I noticed that athletes from the Winter Olympics were disciplined in my 3/10 “thoughts.” (I will touch upon Reflection and Flow in future ”thoughts.”)

I have had several clients who have were considering leaving their jobs. Until they became congruent about it, they were not able to take this step. I was impressed with the courage it takes to do so in this difficult economy. They recognized that they’ve finished what they came to do in their present positions and were ready to move onto the next step in their journeys. Along the way, it has been fascinating and satisfying for me to see their new-found confidence in all that they have achieved and all that they have to offer the world.

Questions to reflect upon: Think of a time when you were quite sure about your position, idea or decision. What did it look like, sound like, feel like?
How do people respond to you when you are congruent?

*I am incorporating 3 coaching processes identified by Donald Gerard, MA, CHT, Relationship Coach, that he formulated as Clarity, Alignment, and Acceleration.


7/10
Resiliency & Learning New Things

"'You must speak clearly, … and be sure to get out at the right grate…’ ‘Don’t panic and get out too early, …’ Trying hard to bear all this in mind, Harry took a pinch of floo powder and walked to the edge of the fire.” -J.K. Rowling

This July 4th week-end, I was on the family farm reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Harry was thrust into a learning situation without much meaningful guidance which could have disastrous consequences. I turned to my older adult son, “Remember how Harry learned to travel by floo powder? That’s how I learned to do things on the farm, learning by necessity.”

I was referring to how I learned to drive when my father instructed me to “Bring the pick-up to the other ranch.”

It was interesting to hear my son’s response, “Learning that way could make you not want to learn something difficult, even when given the opportunity, because it’s discouraging.” I could relate to what he said. And yet, in my case with driving the car while being on the farm, having little pressure of other cars behind me if I stalled out the clutch, and ample time to make it to the field, I was able to learn by necessity. I believe this type of experience helped me to figure things out, while gaining this sense that I can do anything that I really needed to.

What provides us with the eagerness and confidence to explore new things and what makes us turn away from them? I wonder what opens us up to new experiences and what makes us become fearful and shut down? I think that acknowledging different natures in individuals may give us a clue. Perhaps recognizing one’s patterns or habitual ways of responding to past occurrences that were difficult may provide additional insight. This reflection moved me to begin pondering, “What makes us resilient?”

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of a time when you were thrust into a new learning environment and had positive outcomes. What did it feel like, look like, sound like and/or how did you figure it out? How would you use this new resource to open yourself up to new experiences?


6/10
Being in the Moment while Calling Upon our Elders

Last month, a week before Mother’s Day, I was singing at a festival. I could tell that most of the people were not focused on the musicians, but were enjoying each other’s company, the good food and beautiful weather. I was physically tired after a couple of weeks of work helping to prepare for the event. I’ve sung in this festival for several years and my presentations tend not to be as strong as other venues where I only offer music. For a second I caught myself thinking, “what the heck am I doing here, this is probably too much for me and I should skip the singing next year.” And then, I heard a voice, saying, “just be in it.” I happened to be singing a song about my grandmother, and closed my eyes. I saw and felt her presence. I no longer felt tired, and by the end of my set, was energized again. My grandmother was a very strong woman, full of confidence. I remember how she toiled on the farm, nurtured her garden and was also quite musical and artistic. As Mother’s Day approached I recognized how powerful remembering our mothers and our grandmothers can be.

Questions to reflect upon:
What is it feel like in your body when you think of a loved one? What does it sound like, look like?
How might connecting with the memory of being with them help you be more in the moment?


5/10
Laying the Groundwork for Change

“Nemawashi (根回し) in Japanese means an informal process of quietly laying the foundation for some proposed change or project, by talking to the people concerned, gathering support and feedback, and so forth. It is considered an important element in any major change, before any formal steps are taken, and successful nemawashi enables changes to be carried out with the consent of all sides.”—Wikipedia definition

I have many clients who put the priorities of the collective above their own priorities. The cultural values of western society values the individual goals before that of the collective. Both styles have their own strengths. I believe that it can be helpful for us to be conscious about which “lens” we are looking through. Having worked with many clients who value the collective and report being told that they lack leadership skills, I also hear their reluctance to “toot their own horns.” They may have difficulty fully expressing their contributions when asked, “How are you a good leader?” On the other hand, if they are asked, “What things have you done which have helped the group become more productive, work together better, move the group forward, problem solve in a more effective way, or lay the foundation for change or a project, they have plenty to say and identify efforts and results that may have gone unnoticed because major problems were averted. For persons who value the collective it may be easier or more natural to embrace and use nemawashi in their work and lives.

Wikipedia further describes the process, “Nemawashi literally translates as ‘going around the roots’, from 根 (ne, root) and 回す (mawasu, to go around [something]). Its original meaning was literal: digging around the roots of a tree, to prepare it for a transplant. Nemawashi is often cited as an example of a Japanese word which is difficult to translate effectively, because it is tied so closely to Japanese culture itself, although it is often translated as 'laying the groundwork.’ ”

Questions to reflect upon:
What subtle processes in your life have laid the groundwork for change within you?
How have these subtle processes continued to sustain the change?
How can you elicit these processes presently to influence change in your work or life?
How do you know that the change occurred? How are you seeing, feeling, hearing and doing things differently?

*Thank you to Kevin Uchida, LAc, OMD, for introducing me to the concept of nemawashi.


4/10
Ritual of Silence

I had the opportunity to visit Japan again. The Tokyo area where we primarily stayed, is very dense in population. The hustle and bustle can be intense and most Japanese people take very few consecutive days for vacation—one or two days in conjunction with the week-end is considered a long time. As I toured some of the sites with my family, my cousins arranged for us to participate in the partaking of green tea. One occasion was in the outdoor bamboo gardens, where there was a natural waterfall with beautiful landscaping within the large bamboo that was only a few months of age, and another time was in a tea room looking into a castle garden where the sakura (cherry trees) were blooming. Both times, the ritual of receiving and drinking of tea were in quiet. The second time was quite ceremonial yet, with the reverence of silence. I can still remember the sounds of the water, the bristle of the wind, and the deliberateness of the person serving the tea. Amidst these two different places, a “new” bamboo garden, that is constantly being cut back, and the garden of a 600 year-“old” castle, I experienced the same feeling. In these moments, I could feel beauty and peace abound.

At the castle there were two different rooms, one for tea and one for coffee. I realized that in the US, we also have rituals around coffee, although when people meet with others for coffee, it is generally to talk and socialize. I began to wonder how I could create rituals that offer the opportunity for me and for those around me to step into the silence where we can fully experience the moment.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you experienced a sense of fullness through silence and stillness? How did it look, sound and feel? How can you take that moment and integrate it into the next moments?


3/10
Discipline and Focus

I enjoyed the Winter Olympics. It was amazing to watch the athletes trying to hit their peaks at a particular time, while competing under tremendous amounts of pressure. I was struck by a comment that Lindsay Vonn blurted out immediately after winning the gold medal in alpine skiing. She was crying and said, “My whole life…, I’ve worked so hard for this.” I’m sure that all of the athletes at this caliber work hard and it’s just not this element that makes them champions. Yet, she was clear about her need to work hard. Commentator and previous gold medalist in men’s skating, Scott Hamilton, spoke about how figure skater, Evan Lysechek, worked hard, retooled himself, presented the whole package and came back with a flawless program which garnered him the gold. I realized that with the words of “hard work” these persons were referring to consistent practice and the “discipline” of that practice. Katherine Reutter, who won medals in the short-track rink, found ways to maintain her focus. She would practice by the Chinese flag, to remind herself of their work ethic. At other times she would bicycle by the US flag, which spurred her on to finish her work-out.

Discipline is one of the processes* that I help clients establish and find within themselves in reaching the outcomes or changed behaviors that they desire. Coaching allows clients to find their focus and to discover what motivates them to maintain their discipline. As a coach I use strategies that help clients Reflect, Focus, reach Congruency (become fully aligned) and then experience Flow, or move easily and effortlessly towards their goals. I have incorporated the process of discipline into Focus: Focus brings about clarity and concentration, which can lead to habit or practice. It is a process of getting grounded and creating the mindset that opens the way for removing any obstacles. In my coaching work, marketing, growing in my coaching abilities and fully completing my work are my practice. In my life, enjoying music through singing and playing the flute are important hobbies for which I have established a practice to continue growing and receiving the uplifting energy they give me. Swimming, walking, stretching, doing weights and yoga, are part of the discipline which keeps me mobile, pain free and heart healthy. Meditating is a discipline that contributes to wholeness in my life. All of these disciplines help me maintain balance and appreciate being alive. (More about the other processes of Reflection, Congruency, and Flow in future “thoughts.”)

Questions to reflect upon:
What are the disciplines/practices that make you a top rate leader, learner, entrepreneur, educator, artist, parent, spouse, child, citizen of the world?
Do you remember a time in your life that discipline helped you focus on achieving the outcome that you wanted? What did it feel like, look like, or sound like?
Can you become disciplined in other areas of your life to create similar results?

*I am incorporating 3 coaching processes identified by Donald Gerard, MA, CHT, Relationship Coach, that he formulated as Clarity, Alignment, and Acceleration.


2/10
Coming Home

I have a colleague with whom I offered to be a sounding board regarding her role in leadership of a professional organization. She is bright, visionary, committed and tireless in creating meaningful outcomes. She also reflects upon her experiences. My friend recently moved to another part of the country to join her significant other, which also includes a ready-made family of children and pets. She loves her new life, and is very happy, yet her voice sounded more tired than I ever remember hearing in her. She longed for uninterrupted time for problem solving and getting her “bearings,” in the new surroundings of geography, family and community. I took her through an exercise of visualizing a time and place that she was at her best. The words she associated with this optimal problem solving space were “feeling grounded” in the physical, mental and spiritual realms. She recreated a walk in her mind of her former residence, one that she took whenever she felt “stuck.” Through this process, she recognized that some of her discomfort with this new house and neighborhood was likely a “throwback to the negative emotions” she was experiencing way back as a teenager, which was the last time she lived in a similar setting. With this new understanding, she began to feel differently about her new residence. To make a long story, or a continuing story short, she received a GPS from her mother, which has helped with the physical grounding. She is still working through the implications of the childhood emotions. And yet, several days after our conversation, she reported returning from an out of town business trip to her new residence, and it felt like “coming home.” Home for her, is a powerful place where she can feel safe, resourceful and open to living in the present.

I do believe that coaching helps clients to “come home” where they can appreciate and develop the “best” that is within themselves. I’d love to accompany you in your leadership and life journeys of “coming home.”

Questions to reflect upon:
Reflect back in time, to a place where you had positive feelings and where you felt safe. It can be a building, a place in nature or an inner sanctuary.
How has it helped you when you are experiencing difficulty?


1/10
Shinnen Omedeto, Happy New Year

In Japanese culture, on the days prior to New Year’s day, one is supposed to pay all their bills, clean their houses, and basically get one’s personal and business lives in order. On the days prior to New Year’s, one is supposed to pay all their bills, clean their houses, and basically get one’s personal and business lives in order. Tradition has it that on New Year’s day one does not work or cook, and enjoys family and friends, eats mochi in ozone (rice-cakes in soup), sushi, oden (Japanese stew), kuromame (good luck beans), tai fish, gobo (root that is sliced thinly with teriyaki flavor), gomame (crunchy little fishes), namasu (stringed daikon radish and carrots with vinegar) and other dishes that each family seems to have added to their celebration.

I remember one New Year’s season, when my grandmother, who lived in a house next door in the same country driveway, was confined to the bed due to cancer. Several of her granddaughters were working on different dishes and we ran over and asked her how to make a particular food, and step-by-step, we learned how to recreate many things that she had been making all of our lives. I find it interesting that I remember these moments above the eating of New Year’s foods. Even with her illness and not physically being able to show us, we learned. It was all the more remarkable because from the time my grandmother fought cancer, she began speaking only Japanese, and our capacity of the language was quite limited. This was a special time of being handed down some of our traditions.

I understand that in Japan, the knowledge of cooking many of the traditional foods has been lost because one can buy them already prepared. There are fewer persons who cook these things here in the US, too, because it’s very time-consuming and in many ways we may not fully appreciate the time and effort to prepare them, nor what they represent. And yet, many Japanese American families still celebrate Oshogatsu as the New Year begins. From my mother- and sister-in-laws, I am continuing to learn the names and symbology of New Year’s dishes. I am reminded that rituals in which I participate, I always have the ability to choose or change how I incorporate the meaning of each celebration. It is with a sense of appreciation that I acknowledge the passing of 2009 and stay open to new life, new growth and courage to experience life in 2010. I am grateful for all of the things I have experienced this past year and thank each of you for the part that you have contributed to my learning and meaning in life.

Questions to reflect upon:
How has a significant person in your life influenced who you are now?
What are rituals in your family or culture that you appreciate and value?


12/09
Thanksgiving/Unthanksgiving

With my younger son and husband, we attended “Sunrise at Alcatraz” on the day dubbed the Thanksgiving holiday. It was the 40th year commemoration of the occupation of Alcatraz, when Native Peoples came to the island to put into action a law that says that federal lands which were not being used could be claimed by Native Americans. As the sun came up, it was a beautiful day, warming up our cold bodies as we listened to the drumming and connected with the history of our country’s unjust treatment of Native people. The first occupation of Alcatraz was a galvanizing event that started the civil rights of Natives. I’m thankful for the opportunity to remember that amidst all of our joyful family traditions, including the spirit of thanks for the bounty of the harvest, and friends and family, in order for me to fully hear my soul, I want to consider and remember that Thanksgiving and Columbus Day are grieving periods for Indigenous people. I began to wonder, how do whole communities of people heal from the travesty of massacre and domination?

It is interesting--for some time I have wanted to attend this Sunrise event. For me, “Thanksgiving” has always been about family and community. Growing up on the farm, this day symbolized time to reflect upon the fall season--for the bounty of the harvest, gratefulness for the hard work and time with extended family. This time, being at Alcatraz, I felt privileged to be with the Native community and puts a damper on our celebratory mood. Going to the Sunrise Ceremony helped me hear their stories of courage and perseverance. I heard the word, “Unthanksgiving” and it made sense.

I have been searching for ways to put in alignment these two different meanings of this day. Over 15 years ago, I wrote an article for the University of California’s youth program and school-age childcare newsletter, about how the November and December holidays might not be so joyous for all people. I touched upon how the history of how Thanksgiving and Christmas are not really inclusive for many persons. I was somewhat surprised to receive so many angry responses and notes that I didn’t have the facts. It seems that each of us come from different perspectives and carry emotions around our celebrations, especially religious holidays. I understand that being reminded about our country’s inhumane treatment of Natives really puts a damper on our celebratory mood. Going to the Sunrise Ceremony helped me process this day, and move closer to making meaning of this day. I continue to reflect upon this experience and how rituals influence what I do.

Questions to reflect upon:
Are there rituals in your life that affect what you do?
Which of these rituals have a positive influence on your life?

How has it helped you when you are experiencing difficulty?


11/09
Double Edged Reality

In a coaching session, a South Asian Indian woman was recalling a time when she was feeling very successful. We were going to use this memory with a new challenging situation. She had owned her own flower design studio. While at the wholesale flower market, she could see the beautiful flowers smiling at her, and their scents filling the space while the sun shined on her and warmed her spirits. She was very good at her work and knew the flowers were bringing joy to her and her customers. In recalling this story she suddenly fell silent. She had flashed upon the reason that she left the flower business--persons saw her come in with clothes befitting a florist, yet, treated her like she was a hired hand, speaking with her like she was "less than" a person. She mentioned how she had grown up with privilege, and although she didn't care that persons may think she was a helper, rather than an owner, she eventually decided that that she couldn't stay healthy in this type of environment. At the end of the session she thanked me for the cathartic healing of that moment. I thought it was interesting that she had chosen for a recollection of "feeling successful," one that contained both a joyful and a painful experience at the same time, like a double-edge sword.

I realized that when a person experiences prejudice, his/her moments of success can be paired with the soft bigotry of low expectations. For her it was like a double-edged sword that many people don't recognize cuts both ways.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you had an experience of being perceived differently? How did it feel? How did you arrive at this view?
Now that you reflect upon the discomfort of your own experience, have you ever inadvertently or purposely looked down on someone? How does that make you feel?
Now that you've reflected on both of these experiences, and having greater perspective and resources, how would you respond differently?


10/09
Habits: Relationships

"In a dynamic and healthy relationship, you need to go into it willing to be changed.”

I have written several blogs about habits--creating new ones, sustaining them and changing undesired ones. I offer this particular story because relationships are critical components of our work and our lives. Our behavior in relationships become habits, and we may not be aware of them or that some habits in our relationships have changed.

I was listening to a client converse about how he was coaching a colleague who had another business. His colleague was bemoaning how in his interactions with his partner they kept opposing each other’s ideas. My client responded, “In a partnership you’re not going to have everything you want.” He later added, “A marriage is the same thing.” I responded that you can’t expect the other person to change. And then my client offered the pearls of wisdom, about the inner journey, the transformative change we can make if we enter relationships with the willingness to be changed.

How much of our lives are spent wanting to change other people? How effective are our efforts? How much time do we spend trying to change ourselves? Do we notice when our relationships offer us opportunities to change and grow? For me, these words were quite humbling and produced many things to think about.

Questions to reflect upon:
When did you notice that you made a positive change in the past?
How did this change affect the people close to you?
What if you could make a change now? What would it feel like, sound like and look like?


9/09
Letting Go of Things

I recently coached a client who had just retired. He had gone through all of his materials from work and had many training binders, books and papers that he had culled down from his library and files to 20 boxes. He had more boxes from the home of his sibling and parents which had been in his garage for over a year. To place the client's personal habits into perspective, he is not the typical "saver," who holds onto "stuff," and mentally he really wanted to get rid of these boxes. He knew he was at an impasse. In the first session, we explored the positive intention of why he kept getting this feeling in the pit of his stomach every time he earnestly began to sort through any of the boxes. In the process, he discovered there were totally different reasons for why he was having difficulty getting rid of the contents from his work and from his family home. The interesting part was that we hadn't fully completed the exercise, but it was the right time to stop. He had negotiated with himself to look at the things and keep some of what he really did need for some facilitation roles that he was still conducting in his retirement. He called me the next morning, saying that within the two hours at the end of the day, he had been able to not only go through three of his work boxes, but that funny feeling had disappeared. It wasn't there anymore. We met together for a couple more sessions and although at the close of each session, he wasn't fully convinced that the issue was resolved, he noticed progress. Strangely enough, within the same or following days of each session, he moved through another 6 boxes. I heard from him again when he reported completing the 20 boxes. After a fourth coaching session, the client is enjoying the process of going through the boxes from his family home, having developed a creative way for remembering and preserving the memories. I was astonished with the pace at which he accomplished these tasks. He already knew the primary reason why it was difficult for him to let go when he came to me, and being able to explore the attachment to the "stuff" allowed him to make record time in going through them. It made me think about some things in my life where I am stagnant. What am I attached to and what am I holding onto?

Questions to reflect upon:
What are you attached to?
What are the positive intentions of these attachments?


8/09
Changing Direction and Sustaining Change

Last month I reflected about "Sustaining Change" and I wanted to elaborate a bit more about one concept I included, about "changing direction." As a child, I was chubby and pretty much up until my 30's, I was very careful with my eating and exercise habits to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Often, it seemed easier to just stay away from my culprits of overeating, even when friends/family would say, "oh just have it this one time." Even when I was maintaining my target weight, it was difficult to say "yes," only occasionally when I desired a treat and really wanted that particular treat. It was as if continuing to go in the same direction was easier than to entice myself to just go back to eating the "banned food" whenever it was available, without thinking about the choice I was making to eat it. In the past 20 years, maintaining a healthy weight has not been as significant an issue for me, even with my changing metabolism and body fluctuations due to aging. Once I was able to find tools for learning how to change direction, one decision at a time, this approach could be incorporated into my life as a new direction.

Interestingly enough, my husband has recently embarked on a whole new way of eating, and has been told by his doctor that he is at a healthy weight. He said to me, "I didn't eat the Neldam's chocolate dream cake, even though I love it, because it's easier to just to skip it." My son, who, like me avoids wheat and sugar to maintain allergy-free symptoms, often says, "I don't want to eat any sugar, (the lesser of the two allergens), because "if I start, I can't stop." Eating just one bite of dessert/candy or food with sugary sauce, starts a spiral where he fears will get out of control.

Dieting and learning healthy ways of eating and exercising are not rocket science. Incorporating the changes in one's life seems to be the difficult part. It took me years to develop the strategies for my own weight control. I know that coaching could have accelerated that process of changing direction. Moreover, coaching could have provided me with resources for sustaining the positive habits over time. Coaching is a great method for helping one change one's habits and experimenting with moderating processes for one's life. Coaching can help one discern whether modifying one's patterns are healthy and help one create that new direction. It can also support one in aligning oneself to achieve one's goals. Each person's path towards improvement may differ from another person's. Whether it be about eating, exercising, getting more sleep, bringing your projects/dreams to fruition, reacting differently to one's boss, employee, lover, significant other, coaching can help you change direction and sustain that change.

Questions to reflect upon:
What is one positive thing that you changed direction in during in your life? What do you think sustained the change?
What if, you take a moment to stop and reflect. Reflect on how you responded differently to a situation that gave you positive results. What did it look like, sound like or feel like?


7/09
Sustaining Change

Recently one of my college-aged sons, who's away at college, came home because he had caught a cold severe enough to keep him out of school and work for a few days. I began making associations with patterns of how people learn to take care of themselves. I hear how my clients work themselves into the ground before realizing that their bodies have given them notice. It popped into my mind, how I have continually made adjustments to learn how to take care of my body. I remembered how I got very sick when I was in college and worried about the intensive summer school class I had just started, and couldn't make it to the first day of school. From that experience, did I learn how to listen to my body, explore what was going on inside and link it up with what was going outside my body? I remember wondering if I'd ever get well but don't recall observing signals to prevent future episodes. It's interesting because I think that as soon as I get healthy, I forget what it's like to be sick. I think there's a positive side to this in that I don't dwell in the discomfort, and also another aspect that allows me to go down the same path of not noticing my body until it's too late for preventative methods. I think this type of habit is similar with other patterns in our lives that we want to change. We are not in tune with our ways of responding to our lives that are automatic until some major impasse demands that we notice or ask for different strategies. For example, we don't really hear ourselves saying, "I'm feeling sick," and understanding the importance of it with our subsequent actions.

With a little more reflection, I realized that after I was ill, I took good care of myself, and was fortunate to have persons around me who supported me in healthy patterns of taking care of myself. In my personal timeline, it wasn't until I was working a supervisorial job with tremendous responsibilities and pressures that I again remember driving myself until I dropped. I remember one instance where I was pretty sick and also had a minor injury to my leg, which prevented me from driving my manual shift car to work sites. With the cold, I remember my doctor saying that it was probably better to stay home for a day, instead of medicating myself to go to work, be ill for a longer period of time, and perhaps miss more days of work. Come to think of it, I needed more than my doctor's words to change my pattern. I eventually incurred a back injury and was suffering chronic pain. I had established the habit of swimming and walking, which were helping with my stress and back mobility. I didn’t know if I should skip them because I felt cold symptoms. She responded, "When people are going in a certain direction," (in this case my keeping to the exercise regimen) "it's hard to stop.” In her observation, “most people continue going in the same direction." These words were the beginning of some very powerful understandings that I have about myself. Just stopping and changing direction for one time, for one day could make a difference. I already knew that I had difficulty making good decisions when I was sick or stressed, but learning to listen to my body, allowing it to give me signs about my physical, mental and emotional health has become a lifelong process.

One other observation I've made about learning from experience. I don't think that people automatically learn from their mistakes. For example, I kept getting sick and not noticing, not hearing my body, not stopping or changing my pattern until I was too sick to do anything else. So, how did I change this pattern? It was not until I recognized the pattern and reframed how I responded. After I learned to rely on new resources, instead of staying in automatic pilot, could I shift gears. Coaching can help clients reflect, reframe and shift their personal habits and patterns. Coaching can accelerate these processes, so one can learn from their experiences and change their lives.

Question to reflect upon:
What resources make you resilient?


6/09
The Joy of Letting Go: Graduation & Parenting

This is the season for graduation: a ritual for young people as well as for parents and significant adults who have been responsible for them. My younger son walked through college ceremonies this Spring. Parenting has always been the most rewarding and challenging aspect of my life, and I notice this is the case for many of my clients, friends and colleagues.

With my type of personality, it would have been easier for me to just totally “let go” of parenting when my children entered college. When I went through college, financially I was on my own and worked to pay for it. Times are different now, and it’s extremely difficult for a person to go through college without some financial assistance. Yet, parenting isn’t only about financial support. It’s about relationships. I know that I am incredibly fortunate that my parents have been there for me. As our young people matriculate through pre-school, middle, high, college, and graduate schools; other training programs, and when they enter and move through the work world, that wonderful relationship of being a parent can still exist. It just changes. A parent gets to “let go” of the responsibility and enjoy the changing relationship. With nurturance and some luck, I believe the relationship keeps on growing and changing.

From the time my boys entered high school, I tried to step back and let them take initiative and responsibility for their classes and routines. There were a couple of times when by their words and actions I could see I needed to accompany them when going to see a teacher, counselor or principal. It would have been far more comfortable for me to not go and not get the feeling that other people think I’m this pushy parent. I now realize that my choices around supporting them in this way rested upon whether I felt they could learn from the situation, and whether the environment would make it difficult or impossible to do so. My role was to be there so they could talk through their situation and make their own decisions. Throughout their college experiences, entering the work world and developing their own communities, my husband and I continue to hear their processing around their decision-making. Looking back, I recognize that the process of helping them sort out their objectives, supporting them as they developed their own way to weave through the possibilities for deciding and helping them make their own decisions were the real “parenting” issues. That role is very similar to the coaching role. Although it’s delightful when our children ask for our (their parents’) opinions, I’m finding it much more interesting to watch them discover their own journeys. That’s really the same thing that a coach does. However, with parent and child, it’s easy to move back into the familiar role of the parent taking responsibility for the child. (Thus, a good reason for young adults to have a coach who is not their parent or mentor.)

Questions to reflect upon:
For parents:
What have you or your child recently “graduated” from? What did you let go of/what are you letting go of?
For everyone: What are significant changes in your life this past year? What transitions surprised you? Knowing what you know now, what would you do differently now and in the future?


5/09
Confidence: Being Different and Fitting In

I recently returned from a trip to Japan, which was primarily personal but had some business meetings. I’ve only visited Japan once before. The experience was different this time. When I first visited Japan 28 years ago, I was conscious of entering an unfamiliar culture, especially with my limited knowledge of the Japanese language. This time, all of the subway signs were in English (as well as Japanese) and the hotels and information desks in the Tokyo area seemed to have persons who had a great deal of English facility. The experience didn’t feel much different from driving through Asian communities of California, where there are bold shop signs in two languages. (Note: I’m not inferring that Japanese and Asian American cultures are the same—just that the external visuals and the usage of the English language provided me with a feeling of familiarity.)

It was a perfect time to visit Japan, with the blooming of the “sakura” cherry blossoms and watching how the Japanese people engaged in the reverence (and commercialism) of celebrating Spring. Visiting extended family relatives, meeting with friends with whom we’ve not seen in 3 decades, while also renewing relationships with business friends, it was a time for me to connect with things from the past and present and to take in a breath for the future. Getting on and off the subway, I noticed Japanese people walking with the physical posture of confidence. I thought to myself how, although I’ve seen many Asians in the U.S. with good posture, this “air” of confidence was different. For me, it reflected being in the majority, fitting in and being part of the norm. Although through conversations in Japan and elsewhere with international, bicultural and multicultural persons I am aware that even if one is in the majority culture, individuals feel differences; I was reminded that there is a great deal of energy wrapped up in noticeable differences. Some of the learnings that I may glean from this observation include: How does the kind of person I am trying to become carry oneself? How does a spiritually evolved person carry oneself? How does a good listener carry oneself? How does a leader carry oneself?

Questions to reflect upon:
What differences do you notice about yourself when you enter into an unfamiliar culture?
In your workplace, how does the leadership of a person from a different culture affect you personally?


4/09
Transformative Change: Developing Oneself and Creating New Habits

I’ve been engaging in a year-long coaching job with several people who supervise staff that work with youth. Unlike most of my clients that come to me with specific issues that they want to develop, I was assigned to them. They weren’t necessarily requesting coaching, and yet all of them developed a leadership development plan. They accomplished transformative changes—shifts within themselves, not just adjusting or controlling results for one particular action. I’ve come away with a great appreciation of their commitment to developing young people, which is very inspiring considering the institution in which they work. One of the insights that I’ve gleaned from this experience is that coaching supports people in developing new habits. These habits include gaining perspective from persons with whom they were having “issues,” and reframing how they (the clients) were dealing with the issues. Some clients developed new ways of dealing with stress, eating more healthy, and avoiding excessive drinking or other addictive-type behaviors. Other clients became more conscious about choosing their responses to situations in which they have very little control.

These shifts took a certain amount of courage to be willing to deal within their individual selves. I witnessed resolution in both outcomes and inner turmoil. As a coach, I did not provide the answers, but facilitated the processes for them to develop new ways for dealing with their lives and moving towards the worlds they are creating.

Questions to reflect upon:
What habits are working well for you professionally and personally? What habit would you change that would give you greater flexibility?


3/09
Letting Go: Emptying Self of the Practice

One of my teachers said that in yoga we move towards “emptying self of the practice.” I was not sure what she was talking about. Does emptying oneself mean letting go of my attachments? Is it being in the here and now, so that I’m not carrying excess baggage? Is it detaching so that I can fully engage in the beauty of this moment? Is it letting go of my own ego and seeing myself from other perspectives? I think it may be all of these things. I find in my own life’s journey and in accompanying my clients, letting go of my ego is powerful.

I was working with a client helping him see events from three different perspectives: from his own eyes, through a person he works with and then in the third person viewpoint. When he stepped into the last position, he said, “Oh now you’re making me care about this person,” (-the person he works with). I laughed and said, “No one else is really in this room, but you can choose what you want to do with any information that you gain from these perspectives.”

Reflecting about how this type of perspective shift occurs, I realized that “emptying myself of the practice,” can help me see from a different lens. For myself, this is the kind of continual transformation and insight that I desire.

Questions to reflect upon:

What are you attached to?
What has holding onto your perspective or point of view given you?
In this particular situation, what is it that you really want or feel called to do?


2/09
Transitions

In my coaching practice, I am continually reminded that we are going through transition. Transition means some things are “ending”, and we may be going through a “middle zone” of psychological change before we can move on to “new beginnings.” I was listening to a client speak about how his schedule was changing for the third time this year, only three months before the regular annual change. Schedule changes cause uncertainty about which shift or floating shifts each person will have and affect the employee configurations within departments. They can produce feelings like “loss of control,” typical during transition. I’ve seen how disruptive and stressful this change has been for the entire organization. My client said he was trying to not focus so much on it, not worry about it, even though he knew everyone was pretending that it didn’t bother them.

I suggested that he might want to use different language instead of negative language like “not focus” in his thinking, as the brain has difficulty processing the negative and tends to filter around it, subconsciously viewing it as the affirmative command of “focus,” which is what the person is trying to avoid. I asked him if he’d like to set an intention about what he wants to focus upon, instead of what he wants to not focus on. He replied, “No, I’ve sent a memo about which extra week-end shifts I can work and know that I’ll speak up for myself if the new schedule simply won’t work with my family needs.” He basically was telling me that he’ll do what he needs to do and seemed to have a healthy attitude about it. He and his fellow supervisors had collectively put together suggestions for schedules with each change, including this time. He wouldn’t know when the new schedules would come—it could be anytime within the next two weeks before the new shifts were implemented. He had told me that he hadn’t wanted to come to work that day, but did so, anyway because of additional workload that had been piled upon him. He was also eagerly awaiting a week-end trip which he felt would be a good distraction for him.

I realized that he was moving himself in a very positive direction by focusing on his trip. My statement about using the negative, might have been helpful, but didn’t address the crux of the situation. My query about setting an intention had the result of focusing on an outcome for his schedule. Being in transition about his schedule, he didn’t need to focus on the outcome of his schedule because he really didn’t have any control over this change. I remembered William Bridges, a guru of transition, outline four principles of transition: show up, be present, tell the truth and let go of outcomes. My client was following all of them. Once I realized that my client knew what was best for him during this transition, it was a matter of asking specific questions for him to continue to access resources that help him through transition.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you remember a time in your life that you realized that you were going through a transition?
Reflecting back, what were the positive factors that helped you through your transition? What would you do differently now, having the resources that you learned from past experiences?


1/09
Hope in our Leadership

"Black Man Given Nation’s Worst Job,” Onion, November 5, 2009.

“This is the first time I’ve ever felt proud to be an American.”-Donald Gerard, principal of Prism Coaching, a culturally-aware coaching collective, on Veterans’ Day, November 11, 2008.

“State Jobless Rate hits 9.3%--A 15 year High, SF Chronicle, January 24, 2009.

We were there—all 2 million of us. My family stepped onto the Metro subway at 5 am, moved with wall-to-wall persons in the dark, claimed a spot on the Washington mall in the 20 degree weather at 6:15. We became friends with the diverse group of people around us, felt grateful to make space and sit down for a couple of hours, huddling next to each other, gaining warmth.

The jumbotron (large TV screens) came on about 8 a.m., replaying the star-studded concert from the Sunday before at the Lincoln memorial. They handed out flags to everyone. People got up and danced, and moved around to keep warm and enjoy the celebratory mood. Being rather short, and with the movement and flag-waving, I could see glimpses of the ceremony through the jumbotron. Finally, about noon, our President, the first African American, (that we know of) took oath. I cried, along with millions of others, sharing in the moment, cognizant of the historic moment, while understanding how the impact of this process has strengthened persons feeling of belonging to this country.

After the election of President Obama, a colleague of mine shared with us the pride he had in being an American, something he hadn’t particularly noticed before. I think I understand how he feels. I also think everybody else in the National Mall felt the inclusiveness that this administration is building. I believe the trek we made to Inauguration is a continuation of the grass-roots organizing of his campaign and a journey of service towards building a better nation and world. Amidst these difficult and uncertain economic times, I feel hope.

Questions to reflect upon:
Electing Obama as President has given us hope in our own leadership, in the possibility of being a leader, and making a difference in our community and nation.

Community leadership is not limited to traditional roles such as elected officials, bank presidents and executive directors. It can mean roles such as journalists, teachers, organizers, parents and volunteers. Fill in the blanks:

If I shut my eyes, and let go of my fear, my dream leadership role in the community of _______ would be ___________. I know I have skills related to this area, which are ___________, and I want to learn more about __________. I can create change within myself and influence everything around me.*

*Thanks to Coro Foundation and Niel Tam for the idea for these reflection questions.


12/08
Gift Of Ourselves

Holidays with the family is a period of transitions. In a way it is like stepping back to the past, but at the same time noticing the subtle change in the present. Some of the habits are deeply embedded, yet new habits continue to manifest themselves. It is a period where we can reflect, observe and at the same time be thankful for where we are today and to enjoy the present, and be present with new eyes, new ears and new feelings, and being thankful of the opportunities that happened this year.—Nielsen Tam

I was listening to a speaker talk about Alzheimer’s and how it causes persons to lose short-term memory while retaining things from their past and how almost childlike, persons with Alzheimer’s live their lives “in the moment.” I remembered how I marveled at my kids when they were young and how living in the moment brought us so much joy. The boys were playing, fully enjoying each other’s company and we needed to go somewhere so that we would “be on time” and celebrate with extended family. I had been focused on getting things in the car and leaving. For a moment, when I was able to stop and share in their happiness, something within me shifted. Their lives were a wonderful cue for realizing what was important to them and how I could refocus my life to experience the same kind of joy. Their presence and sharing of themselves were bigger gifts than I could ever ask for. Moreover, being in the present was the best gift I could give them. These thoughts coalesced and I began thinking about how during the holiday season, amidst the hustle and bustle we all can give and receive this gift. Hearing the speaker on Alzheimer’s reminded me that living in the present can provide a perspective of the past, while opening up the potential for new discoveries.

This year many persons are saying they would rather not exchange presents, even if in the past they were exchanges of simple, baked or hand-made things. We know the economy is slow and donations are down, therefore focusing away from the materialism of our lives and giving more to people and communities in need may be different ways that we can celebrate with meaning. These actions also remind me that being present in the moment, giving fully of myself with this moment, may be the most meaningful gift. And it’s something that I have the opportunity to give and to receive everyday.

Questions to reflect upon:
What does being present with a person look like, sound like and feel like for you?
How does the past affect how you act in the present?


11/08
Harvest Time on the Farm

I grew up a Japanese American Christian farming community. Thanksgiving was a time to celebrate the bountiful harvest and the advent of a slower winter pace. Most of my first cousins were scattered throughout the East coast so we didn’t see them but it was a time when many of my second cousins from Los Angeles and Oakland/San Francisco areas of California, all came to celebrate with us. My grandmother spent the night before making huge plates of “o”sushi. Aunts and uncles and my cousins, who were a little older than my sisters and I, helped with preparation, setting the tables and cleaning up. My mother, who actually grew up in a city (Oakland), seemed to give great thought as to including things in the meal that were grown on the farm: almonds, walnuts and kuri (chestnuts) in the stuffing; oranges, lemons, grapefruits, apples in the fresh cranberry relish, and sweet potatoes, sometimes in the casserole dish with marshmallows, but often baked in the skins, so that each person could add butter and brown sugar by themselves.

As I think back upon it now, my cousins were so kind to play with us and make us feel included in their social activities. We often played into the night, and if there was no fog, they could stay later. My sisters and I always looked forward to seeing them and spending time with them. From when we were little, we helped with many different things, but I just remember the fun we had. That was my perspective about Thanksgiving until I grew up and learned how Thanksgiving isn’t necessarily such a thankful time for Native Americans. After learning about how Native Americans must be insulted by our myth about how settlers “discovered” America, “taught” the Indians how to be at peace with them, I see that celebration around Thanksgiving can be complicated. And yet, if there really was a Thanksgiving celebration like we were taught in school and in church, we should be thankful for the cooking and farming skills that the Native people passed onto the Europeans. Perhaps that is the point of Thanksgiving—to be filled with gratitude which opens our hearts and minds towards more peaceful ways to live together. With thanksgiving of the harvest, perhaps this is a time to thank the land, the earth and it’s inhabitants for what it gives to us. Thanksgiving may be the time to recognize the interdependence and stewardship we are given for the earth and for each other.

In this season, I am thankful for my health, the health of my extended family and community. With my 96 year-old auntie and the pastor of my church, a social justice activist, both recently suffering from heart attacks, many of us are very thankful for their healing and the limited damage that was incurred by both of them. I am also truly thankful for the coaching clients I have who continue to teach me about learning, loving, resiliency and healing.

Questions to reflect upon:
What do I notice about the experience of Thanksgiving? What do I now know that I didn't know a year ago? Five years ago?


10/08
A New Set of Eyes

Have you ever had really good insight that you knew would be helpful for your child, friend, colleague or client?
Have you ever had the best advice for someone else, and either didn’t realize it or couldn’t follow that advice for yourself?

I have had repeated times where I’ve thought that if my clients were willing to experiment with finding a third person perspective that they could give themselves the insight needed to shift from feeling helpless to understanding what’s true and necessary to move through the situation. Creating a movie where you view yourself interacting with someone else can often help illuminate a deeper meaning of the situation. Then it hit me, that I’ve had limited practice of doing this for myself. For years, I’ve used the technique of second person perspective, or “stepping into the other person’s shoes” by role-playing the situation, discussing issues with the other person, and/or asking for the advice of a third party to listen to the situation and help me understand other possible perspectives. This has been helpful. But, the third person perspective takes the process one step further, providing a different kind of information where I can gain insight into my own needs and expectations. Interestingly enough, I had the perfect situation to try and learn more about my own perspective.

I came away from this experience with a new set of eyes. I realized that there were many things that I logically accepted. But on an emotional level, I was unconsciously holding onto a certain aspect of the relationship that may never have been there. I was clinging onto a desire for things to be a certain way. I’m learning that my expectations in all arenas of my relationships, whether they are business, community or familial can affect how I respond. In reflecting upon this, I gained two powerful lessons: practice what I preach, and after identifying what I’m clinging onto, be willing to let go or not.

Questions to reflect upon:
Have you ever experienced a new perspective, an “aha” moment?
What experience gave you that moment that all of a sudden you could “see” the tree that was always there?
What does this profound moment look like, sound like and feel like?


09/08
Fall Transitions: Moving the “Fire in the Mind”

I have had such a full summer. Both of my sons were living in our home during the summer—a rare occurrence in the past several years. One child graduated from college and was preparing in August to move for a job, and the other child planning his life after he finishes college in a couple of years. Since this would be the third year that both boys would return to their own routines away from our home, I expected that the typical flurry with the onset of Fall would no longer be a major transition time for me. Fall began and life has been busy with work, business and personal travel, music, community and other family gatherings. It’s all been good. And yet, I have found myself and several of the other people I work with feeling engulfed by noticeable transitions and carrying the highs and lows of our clients’ lives.

I continued my regular meditation, exercise, healthy eating, but the schedule was not as routine. The work rhythms especially have been unavoidably frenetic and I felt like I was expending a great deal of time to keep my energy from being frantic. After sessions with an acupuncturist and a healer, I realized that I’m out of balance--my mind is too full. The acupuncturist told me that our bodies are just energy and there’s too much fire in my mind. I was encouraged with my work, community and family to give what I need to and then let it go. I am beginning to envision how to empty my mind. I’m working with moving this fire out of my mind, fully emptying myself. I’m recognizing the dynamic flow of energy. Like the falling of the leaves, the emptying of my energy clears the way for new energy and new growth to take its place.

Questions to reflect upon:
Are there noises in your mind, maybe like a tape that keeps playing even after you have done some problem-solving?
If your body is only energy, what is it telling you? Or, what do you notice about your body with relation to its dynamic state of energy?


08/08
Attachment

Attachment is that which rests on pleasant experiences. Aversion is that which rests on sorrowful experience. –Yoga Sutra 2:7-8

Recently a client remarked how attachment to work had been keeping her from being happier. She has been pondering whether to pursue some other career. She began to create new challenges in her work and be fully present with the processes. She felt lighter and happier at work.

Interestingly enough, she was offered a promotion at work. She believes that when she was not so attached to her expectations, her attitude changed. Serendipitously a new opportunity opened up. She finds the new job more interesting. Simultaneously, she is in a better place to consider changing careers, returning to school and pursuing something else if that is where her path leads her.

The wisdom I draw from my client’s experience is that one can expend a great deal of energy reacting to something. One can choose whether to be controlled by an outcome. By letting go of the attachment one experiences the fullness of what is unfolding, whether it be sorrowful or joyful.

Attachment and Aversion Practice:

Do you find ever find yourself feeling irritated because things don’t seem to be going the way you want them to? Try this experiment.

In Living Your Yoga, Judith Lasater suggests counting the number of times that you become frustrated because things don’t go as planned or anticipated.

Questions to reflect upon:
What was the last time you had this kind of attachment? What would you do differently?


PREVIOUS THOUGHTS

BALANCE--HEALTH & WHOLENESS

Do not Worry
12/07

Much of what my clients are searching for is congruency: when the physical, mental and spiritual are aligned. Although alignment can be dynamic, if one thinks about something else or physically moves, that state of congruency can be elusive. One of the ways we can maintain alignment is by being in the present moment, not letting any other thoughts or distractions cloud our connection with what is unfolding before us, right in this very moment.

This past Thanksgiving I was visiting my family on the farm. It was a wonderful spirit of everyone--adults and kids helping with the meals, house and outside work. As we were laying concrete to the walkway towards the outside laundry/Japanese bathhouse, I felt very present. In reflection upon this, I realized that the work, the land and the company—the community of my extended family, were collectively grounding all of us. Of course, my family cannot be on the farm, especially on holidays, without also feeling the presence of my grandparents, relatives and all of our ancestors. It was the same feeling as when we’re out in the fields and receiving the energy from the earth, feeling nurtured and spent, all at the same time.

In returning to my home and work, I have begun meditating on the principles of reiki, healing through touch. The first one, “For today, do not worry.” I’m realizing that this is a great way to “be present.” For my daily practice, I am focusing on this principal, engaging in energy (ki) exercises to ground myself.

Questions to reflect upon:
What grounds you?
How do you know you are centered and balanced? What does it feel like, taste like, look like, sound like?

Congruence
03/08

I am learning and re-experiencing through the stories of my colleagues, friends, and children how being congruent, or in alignment can be transformative. I first heard about congruence in connection with the type of confidence and personal power that leaders display. As I work with coaching clients, I understand more clearly how congruence, or the embodiment of mind, body and spirit in the moment seems to emit a type of clarity, coupled with determination and simplicity. Recently a colleague told me of how she was on the platform to board the BART (transit) train, in the middle of the day with about 30 persons in the vicinity. Someone bumped into her. She looked through her purse and realized her wallet was gone. She began chasing him, which by this time, allowed the person to get a good lead. She spoke aloud, “He’s stolen my wallet and there he goes.” She ran as fast as she could, down the stairs. Strangely enough, the man stopped, which gave her a chance to catch up to him. By the time she reached him, he had the wallet visible in his hands. “What the >>>>?” she said, as he stretched out his hand to return the wallet. He responded, saying she had dropped it and he was returning it to the station agent. Calmly and resolutely, my friend walked back to the platform and boarded the train. There was silence; none of the other bystanders said a word.

My friend was not afraid, nor had she desired for the wallet snatcher to be punished. In her congruence, she confronted him, put out energy communicating that, of course, he knew better and she expected better of him. She reported feeling peaceful and powerful.

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you experience congruence—when your mind, body and spirit are aligned?
Can you think of a time when you had expected there to be some questioning or refuting or your ideas or action and there was none? What did that feel, look, hear, smell, or taste like?
How do we access that congruence,incorporate it into our daily lives and move forward to more effectively accomplish our vision and callings in life?

Hustle and Flow
05/08

“I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river, I’ve got peace like a river in my soul”-African American Spiritual

Like a river, I can experience peace. Currently, in my life, I’ve been “working” at going with the flow and recognizing how “letting go” can allow energy to move in, provide tranquility and a sense of peace. So much of my earlier life has been about intensely attacking a goal or fixing something. I had become good at problem solving in this manner, often feeling the need to rush and hurry. This morning I opened a deck of angel spiritual cards, and randomly selected the card: “Hustle and Flow”. I thought this was an interesting pairing of ideas and wondered if I could be in alignment with the two concepts at the same time. The word hustle means “to work or act rapidly or energetically” (Webster’s College Dictionary). I generally think of tranquility and peace as being a sign of a spiritual flow of energy, but continued to ponder the juxtaposition the word “hustle” with “flow”. Hustle or quick movement of energy doesn’t necessarily have to be oppositional to a sense of peace. Hustle need not mean harried or frenetic. Hustle can mean intensity or quick energetic movement. Like a river, I can experience peace, whether the flow is tranquil and slow or rapid and intense.

Question to reflect upon:
Do you notice a “flow” in your life?


TRANSFORMATION

Your Transitions/Transformations
11/07

The crane in my logo depicts the Japanese children's story about a man, who, instead of spending money for blankets, gives it to some young men in return for releasing a crane from their trap. The crane returns to the man's house, as a young orphaned girl, asking to spend the night. The couple adopts the girl. Eventually the girl offers to weave cloth throughout the night, for the poor couple, requesting that they not disturb her. The cloth is beautiful and is sold. The young woman continues to weave cloth until the couple becomes very comfortable. Curiosity gets the best of the man, who opens the door while the girl is weaving. What he sees is not a girl, but a crane, who is using her feathers to weave cloth. "I am the crane you set free. Now I must return to the sky."

You may know that I've been coaching for the past seven years, finding fulfillment in accompanying clients in envisioning and achieving their goals. Life is a journey and through coaching, the client's unique stories spring forth. Aspects of service, reciprocity, receiving comfort, love, healing and livelihood, transformation and moving on are all embodied in the crane story. The story contains many aspects of transformation and transition that my clients resonate with. Coaching can help persons move through the transformation and transition portions of their life stories.

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you relate to the crane story?
What are transitions that you are going through in your life?
What transformations do you wish to experience?
What transformations have you experienced? How are they giving you deeper meaning in your life?

Appreciating and Valuing Beauty and Brilliance
04/08

Ap-pre’ci-ate, v., 1. valuing the act of recognizing the best in people or the world around us, affirming past and present strengths, successes, and potentials, to perceive those things that give life (health, vitality, excellence) to living systems 2. to increase in value, e.g., the economy has appreciated in value. Synonyms: VALUING, PRIZING, ESTEEMING, AND HONORING

Inquire’(kwir), v., 1. the act of exploration and discovery. 2. To ask questions; to be open to seeing the new potentials, and possibilities. Synonyms: DISCOVERY, SEARCH AND SYSTEMATIC EXPLORATION, STUDY.

-From A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry, Cooperrider & Whitney.

A client related an experience of being at a spiritual retreat, watching the night sky, seeing the stars and noticing how immensely beautiful they were against the pitch black sky. She described the sensation created by the experience as a sense of fullness and awe that brought her great peace. She slept deeply that night and woke with the same feeling of gratitude and groundedness. Another night she was watching the sky and then thought to herself how wonderful it would be if she could see a shooting star. Then she caught herself and said, “No, it’s perfect just the way it is. Thank you for this magnificence.” At that moment a star shot across the sky, in a flash of brilliance.

I took three lessons from her story: 1) So often the simple act of noticing and appreciating beauty can bring peace that we often feel is lacking in our daily life. 2) In these moments it feels like the universe is conspiring with our highest intentions to help us create the best of what is possible. “Magic” happens. 3) So often when we’re able to let go of what we’re desiring, it comes to us.

With Appreciative Coaching (see appreciativecoaching.com), inquiry taps into our experiences. Appreciative coaching reveals our positive core and reminds us that there is much that is “right and true” about oneself that can guide future possibilities. I am continually amazed and inspired by the creativity and growth that my clients exhibit in moving towards envisioning and achieving their goals.

Questions to reflect upon:
What are past experiences of beauty that helped you appreciate your life?
What was your new or renewed perspective?
What did you come to value about yourself as a result of your experience?
How might these things you value help you face challenges you’re currently facing?


LEADERSHIP & LEADING OUR LIVES

Leading and Following within a Group
06/08

"A good leader must know how and when to lead and how and when to follow." --Wendy C. Horikoshi

I participate in musical groups with voice and a little bit of flute and piano. Recently during the instrumental solo part, the musical director asked me to play claves—the sticks that become the beat of the music. The director has always maintained that all of the instruments get their rhythm from the claves. In the band, I had been accustomed to letting the drums, conga, rhythmic guitar, piano or bass lead the music. The rhythmic instruments provide a foundation or core for the music. For that short portion of the solo, I was learning that the claves need to lead the music. The claves contain a concentrated energy. They can be quite loud and powerful. They provide the pulse.

Another person was also playing the claves, but the other claves had a different sound, making the combined output stronger and more interesting. When we came to the solo part, the rhythmic pattern of 2-3 came naturally for me and I could hear that the other clave player was not quite in synch, but then very quickly we were altogether. These were magical moments, all of the instruments aligned--breathing and sounding as one. I kept listening and then heard the other person just slightly miss the first beat of the pattern. I thought we were enough in a flow that we’d be fine. But, by the end of the pattern I was off the beat.

Listening for me has two parts: it helps me feel the whole and it also helps me hear the quality of my own output. And yet, there’s a special tension between listening and what the musical director terms “being there,” being ready to play, essentially, being ready to lead. Within the music, I believe that it’s the same balance between laying back into the music and being right there to move the music forward. Leading a group can be akin to this tension: asking questions and listening for different perspectives and needs of the individual members balanced with critical moments of moving the group forward to make decisions or initiate action. Returning to the story about the claves and music, I began to ask myself, what do I need to do to stay in balance between listening and being there? What’s my balance between leading and following? The lesson I took from this is: it’s important to blend with a group, to mix in and follow appropriately. And yet, when it’s my turn, I need to keep my focus on leading.

Questions to reflect upon:
Are you conscious of when you’re leading?
What is your balance between leading and following, being there and relaxing?
How do you know when you need to listen or follow?


LEARNING FROM LIFE'S STORIES

The Stories in our Life
01/08

Have you ever watched a movie or TV program, or read a book where you knew the story and didn’t like the ending? Or watched/read something and quit watching because you felt like it’s the same old story?

What storylines are we living? Do we keep repeating the same story and action lines, hoping that the outcomes will change? As we start the new year, what story might set a course for you in the journey you want to live?

A wise coach shared with me her practice of choosing an annual theme—a concept that might link together one’s dreams and focus for the year. Just as in identifying a storyline, a theme can give direction and intension. Choosing an annual theme has a timeline, while also providing a built-in rhythm or schedule to review one’s outcomes. I’ve found that selecting a theme has been very fruitful and meaningful, especially in comparison with a New Year’s resolutions, which often seem to go unfulfilled.

Questions to reflect upon:
What is your overall quest this year?
What is a theme that might link together your dreams and desired focus?
What guiding concept gives you more meaning, simplifies your life, helps you feel more whole, or calls you closer to your vision?

Making Meaning of Our Life Stories
07/08

I recently decided to revamp my bio that appeared in Prism, a multicultural coaching collective for which I'm a founder. The brochure and website concisely explain the culturally-aware approach that each of the six principal coaches employ in our own practices and then offers some individual information about us. My bio seemed like a boring list of education, employment and training. I was depending upon the previous text to convey who I am. I realized that I had to tell my own story.

I started my rewrite with a quote which expresses the journey of my coaching clients. My story then flowed. It was as if I’ve been wanting to tell this “story” and the act of writing helped me synthesize the meaning in my life right now. My bio reads as follows:

Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength, mastering yourself is true power.--Lao Tsu

Wendy Chiyo Horikoshi, MS, Certified Coach is a guide for knowing and mastering others and oneself. Mastering oneself is a discipline that can lead to transformation. Growing up as the second daughter within a Japanese American farming community, Wendy learned the discipline of hard work and the value of family and community support. From these experiences she understands the importance of the collective. How people learn new things and work together as a group has always intrigued her. The economic, cultural and historical milieu of each individual’s life is a fascinating way to understand the insights, wisdom, capacity and strengths that each person has to offer the world. Wendy helps people envision and achieve their goals, whether they be personal or organizational. She has trained and coached for more than 20 years. Her community-building experiences include facilitating multicultural group discussions at Children’s Hospital in Oakland, helping Washington Elementary School on the west side of Alameda create a more caring learning community, spearheading multicultural leadership training programs/antiracism seminars; administrating, developing programs and relationships for the University of California Youth Program; codirecting the Migrant Education Summer School Program and teaching at JFK University in the Cross Cultural Counseling and Graduate School of Psychology Departments. Wendy holds a MS in Multicultural Curriculum, serves as adjunct faculty for the Association of Type’s Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® program. Wendy has published several articles on leadership, diversity and human development and has also coauthored Teamwork Tools: A Revolutionary Approach for Managers and Trainers (Kagan, 2007)

Questions to reflect upon:
What is your story?
What is the short bio for you in your work? In your community life? In your home/family life?

 
 
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