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Connections

Posted by on Nov 16, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Connections

Like thousands of others in the region, we lost power to the house following the recent tornados which ripped through communities. Unlike many others, we suffered no losses or property damage. Saturday morning I awoke and realized I had no way to grind my coffee so went in search of the closest Starbucks with power. At the Bank and Third Avenue location I joined a line of caffeine-deprived folk seeking a morning java. The estimated wait time of 45 minutes did not faze me― as the long chain slowly snaked its way into the store and towards the counter I had an opportunity to chat with families in line ahead and behind me― people from the West end and LeBreton Flats, all without power and in search of food and drinks. We chatted, we shared stories and we traded photos of our pets. While I may never again bump into these strangers, for a brief period of time we connected. Then we said goodbye. Connection is what makes us human. It is a link, an engagement with someone or something. On a daily basis, we connect with family, friends, colleagues and strangers ―in person, on the telephone and on social media. We connect through nature, through shared holidays and through a community of shared activities and interests. Connection can be sparked through conversation, through a smile, a touch and a brief meeting of the eyes. Sometimes though, there is a disconnect when the intention behind the words or gesture is not genuine. Ever bump into an old friend on Bank Street, someone you haven’t seen in years? You pause to chat on the sidewalk, and then invariably that person says, “We should get together for coffee sometime.” You reply, “Yes, that sounds like a good idea”. There is an awkward pause, then you both turn and wave goodbye. No follow up coffee date takes place. Over time, I have learned to honour my commitment by saying, “I’d love to get together for coffee with you. How about I check my calendar and get back to you with a couple of dates?” Connection also occurs in the workplace where it helps establish a way of getting to know our colleagues and to stand in their shoes. Taking a few minutes on a Monday morning to ask someone how their weekend was or inquiring about their work projects brings us closer together and helps create a community of shared trust. I once coached a newly-appointed manager in a large government department who was struggling to fit in and connect with her team. She felt awkward and shy; her team members perceived these qualities as aloofness. One of the practices I gave her was a simple one —to buy donuts and bring them to a Friday morning team meeting. The gesture was so well-received by her employees that she instituted it on a weekly basis. But donuts were not the only solution. The client and I worked on her connection to colleagues in the workplace, and over time she found ease and pleasure in her new role. Yesterday, I found myself at a red light at a busy intersection. The car windows were down. A black Jeep Cherokee pulled up on my left, a young male driver at the wheel. I cocked...

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Road Trip with Lenny

Posted by on Sep 18, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Road Trip with Lenny

Dinner on the deck of the Coplin Dinner House in Stratton, Maine was delicious. On top of the fresh food, rolling landscape and soft summer breeze, our dog, Lenny, was a welcome guest. He lay under the table, snoozing. That is, until the unmistakable clucking of hens filled the air. Lenny stood up and let out several big dog barks. The couple at the next table, clearly on a date, looked alarmed and held their pastel-coloured cocktails in mid-air. Lenny had never encountered chickens until our road trip. There is something utterly delicious about summer holidays, a time that gives permission to unstructured play. This year, Batia and I drove to Prince Edward Island, Lenny in tow. Our destination was Stanley Bridge, a coastal village in the Cavendish region, where we rented a lovely cottage on the ocean. From the moment we rolled out the driveway, swung by Starbucks and set out for the highway on June 21 ―the summer solstice and the longest day of the year ―our adventure started. The car, our part-time mobile home for the next three weeks, became a place for conversation, debate, reflection and observation. Sometimes, Bruce Springsteen accompanied us; other times, just the sound of tires on the road and the smell of pine trees. Planning our route, we debated whether to travel to PEI through Maine to our first stop—St. Andrews, New Brunswick — or to travel only in Canada. The thought of crossing the border into the United States made us nervous. In the end, we packed our passports on the recommendation of a friend who raved about a dog-friendly motel in Maine. Changing routines allows for a fresh new awareness to unfold. Letting go of schedules, mobile phones and computers to spend time outdoors is good for the soul, opening us to the magic of changing seasons and shifting weather patterns. While travelling with a dog requires more planning —where to stay, what outdoor cafes allow dogs, which beaches are canine friendly —taking a holiday with the family pooch creates new adventures. Enroute to PEI, we drove through Quebec, Maine and New Brunswick. In St. Andrews, New Brunswick, we stayed at the Algonquin Resort, a destination Lenny adored. Evenings, he would lie on the grass, his water bowl within nose reach. No amount of tugging on his leash could budge his 80-pound frame, stretched out, tail fanning the air, waiting for the next family to greet him. Lenny was like a magnet for tourists from across Canada, the US and Europe. Frequently, they would wander over and say, “I miss my dog. May I say hello to yours?” Yes, even the dog was on vacation. There is something grounding about a road trip, a time to appreciate the changing landscape from the car window, chat with the locals and sample fresh regional cuisine. Crossing the Confederation Bridge, we marvelled at the engineering of the 12.9 kilometer structure transporting us to Prince Edward Island. Once the car tires hit the red soil of the little island, we were greeted by lush fields filled with lupines and potato plants. And, of course, there was the omnipresent ocean, one moment sparkling and still, another moment dark and turbulent. Settling into our cottage, we felt the spirit of Anne of Green Gables everywhere,...

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Not Just Child’s Play

Posted by on Sep 18, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Not Just Child’s Play

My next-door neighbours have two young boys who play outside all the time. They run, they tumble and they hop. They play hide and seek behind our big rock in the front yard; they brandish imaginary swords and kick a soccer ball for hours. Years ago, I would have thought nothing of this kind of activity. But in an era where structured activity and electronic games dominate, it is rare to see children playing outside rain or shine and delighting in creating their own entertainment. I recall that as a young girl, my parents would open the front door and gently push me out to play. And play I did, for hours with my friends until my mother called me back in for dinner. In those days, there were no malls or fast-food restaurants to distract us or computers to keep us glued to a screen. Play is a dynamic process that engages our senses, our bodies and our spirits. It focusses on the actual experience, not on accomplishing a goal and helps us tap into the element of surprise while giving us pleasure. The wonderful thing about incorporating play into our lives is the physical and emotional benefits it brings by boosting our energy and vitality. In addition to improving brain function, play can relieve stress and may even improve our resistance to disease. Play makes us feel good all around! Children and dogs instinctively play. For those of you with children, lean into the memory of kids running at the playground or playing in a sandbox. And dog owners know the joy their pooches feel when a family member reaches for the leash. Play is not just for children. It’s good for adults too. I am not talking about structured activities like working out at the gym with a goal of deadlifting 80 kilos or trying to lower your golf handicap. Sometimes those activities can result in feelings of disappointment and frustration when we don’t achieve a personal best. Rather, I am talking about channelling our inner child to get down and dirty with finger painting, going out one evening to look for fireflies and seeing how long you can keep a hoola hoop rotating around your waist. Can you recall the last time you experienced the sheer joy of play? When, between childhood and adulthood, did we let play go and when did life become more serious. Many of us became preoccupied with school studies, earning a living, raising children and caring for ageing parents. Life became filled with commitments, appointments and agendas. But imagine a life with no play. Sometimes we just need to be reminded about its benefits. I remember once coaching a client who was struggling to balance being a mother, spouse and employee and feeling like she was failing on all three fronts. On top of that, she felt like she had no time for herself. One of the practices I gave her was a simple one―blowing bubbles. She was astonished at my request but curious to try it out. She dutifully bought a bottle of bubbles and began to blow. Soon her husband and daughter came to join in the merry-making. While blowing bubbles may not seem life-altering, it was a small step in moving towards reconnecting with play. The practice...

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The Courage Within Me

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in General | 0 comments

The Courage Within Me

A number of years ago, I registered for Toastmasters, a program designed to help me become a better public speaker. As the owner of a yoga and meditation studio, I was at ease talking to large groups of people about my discipline. So I was surprised to see a new side of me as I stood at a podium in front of a group of strangers to deliver my first prepared speech. A straightjacket of paralysing fear descended. My heart began to pound, my mouth got dry and my hands started to sweat. I was knee-deep in unexplored territory. I called upon all I had to deliver that first speech. When I finished and I heard applause, I felt enormous relief and a great sense of satisfaction for having pushed through my physical and mental discomfort. Fear is an emotional and physiological response to a perceived threat. Often, fear makes us want to hide, run away, or to freeze in our shoes. Courage occurs in the moment we choose to wriggle out of the straightjacket of fear and stand in the space that is unknown. The word “courage” has its roots in the old Norman French, “coeur”, or “heart”. To have courage means connecting deeply to the wisdom of the heart to confront our fears, aversions, doubts, timidity, apprehensions and dread. Many of us associate courage with physical acts of heroism ― diving into deep waters to save drowning children, rushing into licking flames to rescue family members from burning houses, and fending off grizzly bear attacks. But in addition to outward displays of heroism, courage appears in quiet acts. Courage is with the woman who escapes a bad marriage. It is with the boy who risks rejection by crossing the floor to ask a girl to dance with him. It is with the woman who calls up an old friend to ask why she no longer talks to her. It is with the man who leaves the security of a full-time job and a regular pay cheque to open his own business. Courage also informs how we live our lives and the values that we hold dear. When I think about courage I draw inspiration from so many ordinary and extraordinary people throughout history. I think about the women and men behind the #Me Too Movement who came forward to shine a light on sexual predators in the entertainment industry. I think about the students of Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida who lived through a horrendous mass shooting and were unwavering in standing up to the politicians and the National Rifle Association. I think about Jonathan Pitre, the local teenager who lived with a rare and painful skin disease, yet who displayed strength of character, resilience and joy, day after day. I think about Rosa Parks, the American activist who in 1955 in Montgomery, Alabama, refused to obey the bus driver`s order to give up her seat in the “colored section” to a white passenger, after the whites-only section was filled. And who can forget the beloved Cowardly Lion from the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz who did not recognize his innate courage until the Wizard brought it to his attention and made him a member of the Legion of Courage. Courage is like a muscle....

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You’re Retired, Right?

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in General, Workplace | 0 comments

You’re Retired, Right?

At a Hanukkah party last December I bumped into an acquaintance I had not seen in years. Our conversation got off to a surprising start when she said, “So Batia, you must be retired by now.” The statement caught me off-guard and I thought about the assumptions some of us make about age and employment. The Oxford dictionary defines “retirement” as follows: “the action or fact of leaving one’s job and ceasing to work”. To me though, the “tired” part of the word “retirement” resonates the most, along with images of withdrawal and pending death. I am not opposed to the idea of retirement. In fact, I am delighted for people who choose to leave the workplace at age 65 to spend more time travelling, pursuing studies, gardening, enjoying grandchildren and engaging in volunteer activities. How delicious to linger over a second cup of coffee while listening to the morning radio traffic report about congestion on the Queensway, knowing that you don’t have to stand on a crowded bus or grip the steering wheel of your car during a winter storm to get to the office before 9am. Canadian seniors are living longer and some are looking for new ways to continue to make a contribution. Many who are blessed with good health are choosing to work beyond age 65. And as I ponder my own future path, I take inspiration from the countless women and men who are forging new careers in their 70s and 80s. Recently, I tuned into a CBC radio interview with Beverly McLachlin, the former Chief Justice of Canada, who retired from the bench in December 2017, nine months before the mandatory retirement age of 75. After writing hundreds of legal decisions, the publishing house Simon and Schuster Canada, will publish her first novel, a thriller, in 2018. And who can forget Hazel McCallion, the colorful Canadian politician and businesswoman who served as mayor of Mississauga, Ontario, from 1978 until 2014? At age 96, she now serves as the first and current Chancellor of Sheridan College. As a certified Integral master coach, I have worked with people who wrestle with the butterflies of anticipation and fear as their retirement date approaches and they ponder the question “what next?” Many struggle with feelings of pending loss —loss of work community, loss of routine and loss of feeling needed. Let’s face it. Work defines us. How many of us can relate to going to a dinner party and being asked, “What do you do for a living?” Perhaps you too are guilty of leading off a conversation with this question. Our labels define us —educator, public servant, artist, realtor and student. Imagine how rich and exploratory conversations could be if we opened with “how do you like to spend your time?” In a keynote address to the Celebrating Age-Friendly Niagara conference in June 2017, McCallion said she did not retire from politics; rather she left her job. The key to a successful retirement she added was to plan for it well before and to do your homework. “Don’t fear your future; shape your future,” she said. To Glebe Report readers who, like me, struggle with the word “retirement”, I would like to propose that we replace the “R’ word with a new phrase like “next act”...

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On Becoming Grateful

Posted by on Aug 6, 2018 in General, The Heart | 0 comments

On Becoming Grateful

I’ve been thinking a lot about gratitude. My dog, Lenny, just had dorsal laminectomy surgery on his lower back and his excruciating pain has left. I feel grateful for the results, for the skilled hands of the neurosurgeon and the compassionate care of his team. Most of all, I feel grateful for the life of my canine companion who brings me much joy and laughter. The gratitude I feel is more than just the thanks I express to the barista when I order my Starbucks or the thanks I give a stranger who holds a door open for me. The gratitude I am talking about is the deep appreciation I feel for the goodness in my life, in this case expressed in the life of my dog. Gratitude is the mental tool we can use to remind ourselves of the good stuff in life. It’s also a spotlight that we shine on the people who give us the good things in life. And it’s a lens we apply to otherwise-invisible blessings, like good health and having enough to eat. Practiced on a regular basis, gratitude can become a way of being which may yield huge benefits for the quality of one’s life. Let me give you an example. Two years ago, a man in his 40’s came to see me for coaching. Let’s call him Ray. Ray was very unhappy and dissatisfied with everything and everyone in his life—his job as a bank manager, customers, his boss, his family, including his wife and children. His first conversation with me was filled with sighs about his weight, his health and his insomnia. He had dark circles under his eyes. He felt no attraction to going out with friends anymore. At a certain point in our discussion I stopped him dead in his tracks by asking if there was anything or anyone in his life he was happy about. He hesitated for a moment and then said “no”. During our time together, a prominent theme Ray and I explored was what not complaining would look and feel like. One of the first exercises I gave him was a gratitude practice. Once a day, I asked him to identify three things he was grateful for. He found this tough. He listed the fact that he had steady employment, a regular salary and a mortgage-free home. I coaxed him to include the people in his life. Having loyal employees, a spouse with a great sense of humor and a daughter who loved to play softball came up. I invited him to keep a gratitude journal beside his bed and to jot down a word or two about the things and the people he was grateful for before turning in for the night. If he was too tired to put pen to paper, I invited him to simply visualize them. By focusing his attention on gratitude before closing his eyes he began to replace the usual negative images and conversations he rehashed in his head with positive pictures. As a result, his sleep became more restful. Gradually, gratitude became a habit. One Friday he surprised his employees by suggesting they all go out bowling together the following week. To demonstrate his appreciation, he bought a dozen red roses for his wife. He also set...

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Dear Diary

Posted by on May 10, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Dear Diary

I love to write in my journal. Every morning, I get up at 6 am, pour a cup of coffee, settle into my writing chair and reach for my journal and pen. Words tumble onto the page, sometimes slowly and deliberatively, other times in a steady flow of stream of consciousness. The only thing I ask of myself is to keep pen to paper until there are no more words. Sometimes, by the time I have finished the last drop of coffee, I will have written several pages. Other mornings, I might have written just a paragraph. Keeping a journal is a passion I developed at a young age. The diaries of my pre-teen years had soft pink covers and little-heart-shaped locks with keys. Invariably, I lost the keys. My entries covered the universe through the eyes of a young girl —from how much money I made babysitting to interesting butterflies and caterpillars I had caught. One time, I scoured the house for an empty journal I could use for an upcoming coaching workshop. I found one in the basement. It looked new. It had a lock on it. The key was nowhere to be found. I located a pair of pliers and popped the pages open. My first entry read: Wednesday, November 17, 1999: “Writing in this dairy marks a new passage in my life of journal-keeping and journey noting. It’s a time to be more reflective about who I am and what is important.” My promise to journal fizzled out four pages later. Fortunately, my journal has now become a constant companion and daily habit. Journalling helps me think, work through issues and challenges, create and dream. Before the age of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, where every moment of our lives are recorded, shared and commented on by scores of followers, keeping a journal or diary provided a place of private introspection where people expressed thoughts and feelings on paper. Diaries can recreate a picture of a certain time and place. Queen Victoria, for example, kept a diary from age 13. For 63 years she wrote almost every day until ten days before her death in 1901 at age 81. The first entry the young princess wrote was: “This book, Mama gave me, that I might write the journal of my journey to Wales in it.” And following the death of her beloved husband, Albert, she wrote: “My dreadful and overwhelming calamity gives me so much to do that I intend henceforth merely to keep notes of my sad and solitary life.” One of the world’s best-known and beloved diarists was Anne Frank, whose book, “The Diary of a Young Girl” was written at age 13 when she was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. How poignant is this from her diary: “For someone like me, it is a very strange habit to write in a diary. Not only that I have never written before, but it strikes me that later neither I, nor anyone else, will care for the outpouring of a 13 year old schoolgirl.” And how heart-breaking is her entry from July 15th 1944: “I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us too. I feel the suffering of millions. And yet when...

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Are You Listening?

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Are You Listening?

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) Marcel finally got the news that he had been dreading. He was being laid off. While he knew that cuts were coming to the telecommunications firm where he worked, he was not prepared for the moment he was called into his Manager’s office and told to clear out his desk. He was escorted from the building in a daze. What was he going to tell his wife who had just gone on maternity leave and was excited about the pending arrival of their new baby? Rather than go home right away, he decided to call his old friend, Paul, to ask if he was free for coffee after work. Friends from university, Marcel and Paul used to spend weekends cycling. In recent years, however, they didn’t get together as often. Now in their late thirties, both men were married and working hard on their careers. They met at Bridgehead. Marcel was distraught, pouring out his heart to Paul who had never seen Marcel in a state like this before. Shortly into the conversation, Paul heard his BlackBerry ping. Try as he might, he could not resist the urge to pull the device from his pocket to check the message. He typed a response. Then, he kept on checking, looking up every once in a while in Marcel’s direction. The conversation went on like this for an hour following which Marcel went home feeling like he had not been heard. This little story about two friends getting together to talk about a personal problem is one that takes place in countless interactions in the workplace and in our personal lives. This is a story about listening. Listening is a powerful communications skill which helps us connect with one another. It allows us to stand in the other person’s shoes in such a way that a whole new world opens to us. To listen fully is a gift. To listen with awareness during a conversation increases understanding, helps build relationships, resolves conflicts, and enriches relationships. Deep listening invites a conversation of hearts and minds. If you were to “check in” with your self during a conversation with a partner, family member or colleague, how would you rate your ability to listen in that moment? By that I mean: • How were you holding your body? Were you relaxed or were your arms crossed? • How did you feel in your body? Did you feel at ease or tense? • What was your state of mind? Were you fully listening to both the content and the context or were you already interpreting the conversation in your mind and making assumptions about where the conversation was going? In a time of so many distractions ― mobile phones, electronic games, Internet browsing, social media ― there is a tendency for some of us to focus on honing our skills with these applications at the expense of cultivating listening skills. While these applications help us organize and, in some cases, speed up our work, they do not replace listening. And it is through listening that we can learn more about ourselves and others. According to writer Linda Stone, “We pay continuous partial attention in an effort not to miss anything. It is an always-on, anywhere, anytime, anyplace behavior...

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Spacious Being

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Spacious Being

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) Recently, I was talking with a friend about the challenges of keeping her teenagers busy during the summer holidays. She created a list of activities for them so that they wouldn’t get bored. As we chatted, I thought about the word “bored” and how often I hear it in everyday conversations – “I’m bored to tears”; “school bores me”; “work is boring”; “I’m bored out of my mind”. Boredom has become something to avoid. Many of us pride ourselves as multi-taskers who can juggle several things at the same time― our heads filled with a million thoughts and “to do” lists, we leave no room to daydream, an activity that can lead to enormous creativity. Instead, we have become a generation of bowed heads and earbuds. Everywhere you look, someone is staring intently at a small mobile device cupped in their hands – behind the wheel, on elevators, crossing streets. It’s an epidemic that touches all ages. In restaurants, I’ve stared in amazement at whole families indulging in this activity. And I wonder, what is the impact of constant screen activity on our nervous systems? A while ago, I met with a coaching client who was feeling increasingly anxious about having to be available by BlackBerry, long after leaving the office for the day. She was sleeping poorly and her blood pressure was inching dangerously up. She had her device set to “ping” every time a new message arrived. To alleviate some of the stress she was feeling, we worked on breaking a habit of putting the Blackberry on her night table in the bedroom before going to sleep. I also introduced her to a short, daily meditation practice. At first, she resisted, calling the idea of sitting with eyes closed “boring”. To me, when someone says they are bored or describes something as boring, they are expressing their own restlessness and revealing an overactive nervous system that responds on cue like the urgent “pinging” of a Blackberry. Meditation provides an opportunity to break that pattern and to sit with mindful attention with what is happening, gently allowing the breath and breathing to ground the body and mind in its own spaciousness. This is the way I introduced meditation to my client: 1.Create a space in your home or office that is airy, clean and free of clutter. Place a comfortable chair in this space. 2.Sit on the chair, your feet touching the ground and open at hip width apart. You may sit against the chair back or sit forward with your back not touching the chair. 3.Place your hands on your knees or thighs, roll your shoulders back, engage your sitting bones and find your comfort zone on the chair. 4.Take a deep breath and autosuggest to yourself the length of time you wish to sit. At first, autosuggest a sit of five minutes. Gradually build up to 20 minutes at a time. Between meetings at the office, sit for one to three minutes. 5.Now, feel your spine, connect with its natural curvature and once again roll your shoulders back, let your neck sit over your shoulders and let your chin be neutral. Soften your jaws and eyes and let your skull be at ease. Close your eyes. 6.Gently bring your...

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Finding Your Voice

Posted by on Jan 12, 2018 in General | 0 comments

Finding Your Voice

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) As a child I was outspoken at school, a class clown cracking jokes behind the teacher’s back. Come high school, my whole world as I knew it turned upside down. I became a teenage girl, filIed with angst and insecurity and a deep desire to be popular. I stopped talking in class. University was even worse. I don’t think I uttered a word during my fourth year semester on Shakespeare. Like a lot of young women, I did not want to stick out. I kept my head down and stared at the page in front of me, hoping I would magically become invisible. Heaven forbid that I draw attention to myself. It took me a long time to regain my confidence. Over the years in the workplace I have worked with men and women who ooze confidence. The confidence that comes across in how they enter a room, walk and speak at meetings. I have also worked with individuals whose self-doubt causes them to shrink when they enter a room and to whisper so softly you have to lean across the boardroom table to hear them. “Sorry” is a common word in their vocabulary. And in a lot of cases, they are women. In her 2013 best seller “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead”, Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg discusses the tendency of women to question their abilities and downplay their achievements, especially in the presence of others. And in their book, “The Confidence Code”, broadcast journalists Claire Shipman and Katty Kay examine the difference between men and women, citing evidence for how devastating a lack of confidence can be for women. For example, they refer to a Hewlett-Packard study that shows that under-qualified and under -prepared men don’t think twice about applying for a job for which they did not have all the competencies. Over-qualified and over-prepared women, on the other hand, still hold back. Women feel confident only when they are perfect or practically perfect. The Hewlett-Packard study reminds me of my days as a coaching student seeking volunteers to be coached by one nervous and rather green novice. Two men I approached in the workplace turned me down, saying they could not think of a single thing they need coaching on; most of the women I approached joked about how long their list of topics was! All of these observations came together when I met Lucy, a woman in her early 40s, who contacted me for coaching. Lucy longed for a position as a manager and was frustrated by her inability to get ahead. She was taken aback and puzzled when she received feedback from her boss that she was too passive in meetings and did not speak up often enough and when she did, nobody listened to her. Learning to find her voice at the table became her topic during our coaching program. Over time, she began to see the importance of learning to believe in herself and to develop some much-needed confidence. While there were many aspects of “finding her voice” we would eventually focus on, Lucy and I decided that she first had to learn how to become more visible in group settings. To find her voice she needed first to claim her space...

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