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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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Let’s Dance

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

Let’s Dance

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) When I was a student studying to become a certified coach, one of the first lessons I learned was that to become a good coach I had to learn about myself. And one of the first things I learned about myself was I was uncomfortable dancing in public. At first, I was puzzled as to why, every day in the classroom, the teacher would turn on the music in the middle of the day and ask us to dance. I often felt embarrassed and fearful, hanging back from entering the circle where all the confident and coordinated coaching students moved. I tried to make myself invisible. Often, my teacher would grab me by the hand and drag me into the circle. I felt as awkward as a beached walrus, making little shuffling motions with my feet, gamely flailing my arms and biting my lower lip while I tried to move my hips. I was no Shakira, believe me. Little by little though, I began to look forward to the dancing sessions, a time when I could tune into how my body responded to a song and a beat. I started to loosen up and to explore new ways of responding physically to the rhythm. Leading with my body not my mind, I found myself gravitating to the middle of the circle and my confidence on the dance floor blossoming. Clearly, dancing was the potion I needed, helping me to crack through my stiff physical posture to discover a more relaxed and receptive way of moving with my body in public. Dancing in the classroom gradually spilled out into my personal life. These days, I often put on music to do the dishes in the kitchen, sometimes shimmying back and forth as I imagine my new career as a backup dancer for Bruno Mars. This certainly doesn’t help me get the dishes done very quickly but I certainly feel good at the end of chores. Dancing alone, dancing with a partner, dancing in a group ― it doesn’t matter to me. I just want to get up and move. For those of you too shy to get up on the dance floor at parties and concerts, but curious enough to check out what dancing might do for you, here is a little practice you can try, two to three songs at a time, at any time of the day: 1. Create a space in your home where you can physically move with ease and spontaneity. Move any furniture out of the way so that you can move freely without bumping into objects. 2. Put on some music and begin to move around. Let the sound dictate the movements of your body. Feel into your torso, pelvis, arms, hands, legs and feet. Be aware of how you are holding your head, allowing it to move freely. Keep your eyes open or closed. Vary your movements. Dance, walk, or hop. 3. Breathe into the rhythm and allow yourself to be transported by the music, experimenting with various movements and gestures. 4. Stop after one or two songs. Take a deep breath and check to see whether you feel like dancing to one more song. 5. Vary the music daily. 6. Finally, remember to lead with...

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The Clutter of my Life

Posted by on Sep 24, 2017 in General | 0 comments

The Clutter of my Life

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) The other day I hovered in the doorway of my kitchen and looked around. It was a mess. The countertops were cluttered with dirty dishes, sticky pots and random egg shells.  Embarrassingly, some of the plates and cutlery had been sitting there for two days. The problem was I had guests arriving for dinner in several hours. I felt overwhelmed. Before I could create a meal, I would have to roll up my sleeves and tackle the pile. As I did, I vowed to never again leave dirty dishes unattended.  As someone who loves to cook, the kitchen is my sanctuary, a place where I go to relax and create. I knew that committing to cleaning up as I went along would help me become more effective in the kitchen. I don’t imagine I am the only one with a clutter issue. Ironically, as a coach, I have worked with several clients on the same issue. Take the case of “Robert”. Robert didn’t come to see me about clutter. He came to see me because he felt he had reached an impasse in his life. An architect who worked from his home office, he felt stuck and discouraged because his creative juices had seemingly dried up. He was afraid that clients would stop calling and money would eventually stop flowing in. Throughout our five-month coaching program together, I worked with Robert to help unlock what was underneath that feeling of being “stuck”. We worked slowly, chipping away at the “stuckness”, each coaching conversation building upon the last. Early in our program together, Robert and I had a close look at his daily working habits. We started by focussing on the physical setup of his home office, a place where he had slowly accumulated a lot of papers not related to his work. It had become a holding room of sorts. Figuratively speaking, it had become a storage space for everything other than his creativity. I asked him how he felt going into his office every day and he replied, “It is so depressing that I have resorted to working on the dining room table. At least I have a clean surface to work on there”.  At the end of the day though, he had to remove all his papers so that his partner could set the table for dinner. In addition to not having a well-organized office for his work and his thoughts, Robert had also let go of good working habits such as starting work at a specific time, regular time to network, and creating time slots for reading and responding to e-mails. Without going into the “guts” of the coaching program, let me just say that Robert slowly began to see that his days were actually random happenings that held him back from creating precious blocks of time to think, explore and create. Together, we worked on the building blocks Robert would need to help find his creative juices once again, starting with reclaiming his office. This he did by cleaning up the space incrementally – devoting 15 minutes a day to the task. I asked him to sit in a chair in the middle of the room and place at his feet four boxes marked “File”, “Bills to pay”,...

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It’s a Matter of Balance

Posted by on Sep 24, 2017 in General | 0 comments

It’s a Matter of Balance

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) Like a lot of people, I love social media. I tweet, I have an Instagram account and I’m on Facebook. I blog, I just got Netflix and I use Photoshop. I used to spend hours of face time in front of a screen. Way too much time.  At the peak of my obsessive screen time, I would resurface feeling fatigued and slightly disoriented. These days, I have learned to pull back and to balance screen time with other activities. It is a given that social media is a big part of our children’s lives, both at school and at home. And it’s astonishing to imagine how youth are forging new territory with the world at their fingertips. Don’t get me wrong I’m not advocating a return to a world without social media. I’m advocating tapping into a way of living that balances the online experience with the natural world. Batia and I are certified Master coaches with Integral Coaching Canada. We work with all kinds of people on all kinds of topics – the sky’s the limit, as long as there is a desire for our services by people who wants to make sustainable and long-term changes to their lives. Often, we work with individuals who are at a cross roads in their lives – at work, school or home – and seeking to find more balance. Last year, I had the pleasure of working with a woman who was struggling with balance. Every two weeks for three months, we would meet at 5 pm. I would arrive first and wait in her office. Suddenly, she would burst through the door clutching her Blackberry, muttering, “sorry, sorry, sorry” under her breath, sometimes an employee in tow clutching folders. The phone would ring and her Blackberry would ping urgently. She looked frazzled. I quickly assessed that I would have to use baby steps to introduce my coaching client to new ways of doing things. Together, we looked at her work agenda. There was not one blank space anywhere. The calendar was chock- a- block with meetings. She had not even allotted a break for lunch. When I proposed that we build a daily walk into her calendar, she looked panic-stricken. The idea of taking a break for herself was overwhelming. So, I introduced the notion of a daily five-minute walk without her Blackberry. At the beginning, five minutes seemed impossible. We decided to schedule the walk into her agenda as she would a meeting. Slowly, with each coaching conversation, she began to find herself enjoying her “me time”. Her five minute walk became a ten minute walk, then a 12 minute walk. You get the picture. Now that Hanukah, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are over, many of us are looking at 2017 as a return to good habits. But rather than creating one of those long scrolling New Year’s Resolution lists pinned to the refrigerator door, here are a few small and gentle things you can do to help create more balance in your life: Schedule a daily short stroll in your neighborhood or in nature. Walk slowly and deliberately. Look around as if you are seeing your environment for the first time. Challenge your family to a mobile- free zone for...

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Forging a New Path

Posted by on Sep 24, 2017 in General | 0 comments

Forging a New Path

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) Fran was elated when she won a competition with the federal government as a director in a large and very busy policy shop. She came from the private sector and was chosen over ten other candidates for her expertise in the field of marine science. Her new job included managing a team of 15 employees, providing policy advice and participating in national and international fora. Two months into her term, the confidence Fran had shown at the interview faded. She felt like an imposter, ill-equipped to provide advice. She spent long hours in her office with the door closed. At meetings, she was quiet, rarely offering her opinions on issues being discussed around the table. She shied away from the stack of reports her staff had prepared for her to read, overwhelmed by the volume of paperwork and feeling she could not keep up with the pace. She avoided holding regular meetings with her employees, two of whom had applied for the same position. She wondered if they resented her. She felt nervous and was sleeping badly. At our first meeting, Fran and I identified the fact that she was well-qualified for her new position and that our work together would focus on building her confidence. One of the first exercises I designed for Fran focussed on bringing awareness to her current interactions. Twice a day, for 1 to 2 minutes at a time, I had her tune into the feelings and sensations she felt in her body when talking with people. Gradually, she was able to identify a pounding heart, shallow breathing and a tendency to cross her arms at the chest, constricting her breathing even more. Once she connected to her breath, she was able to relax in the moment. I also encouraged Fran to arrive five minutes before meetings began and to engage whoever she was sitting beside in light conversation. I asked her to drop by the cubicle or office of someone she did not know for a chat. To bolster communications with her employees we worked on establishing weekly meetings with an agenda. For her first meeting with them she arrived with donuts from Tim Hortons -a small gesture that proved so popular she made it a bi-weekly habit. I also gave Fran a poem that I thought might serve as a powerful doorway to a wider and deeper perspective on her coaching topic. “The Importance of Setting Out” by Rumi moved her so much so that she carried the poem with her in her purse and posted it on the wall beside her computer. Rumi’s words sparked a discussion between us about how winning the competition was just the beginning of something new, not the end of a process. Fran had been chosen for her expertise and skills. Now it was up to her to actualize them within a new context and to forge her new path with confidence.  That helped shift her feelings of inadequacy to claiming her own power. The Importance of Setting Out If a tree could fly off, it would not suffer the saw. The sun hurries all night to be back for morning. Salty water rises in the air, so the garden will be drenched with fresh rain. A drop leaves...

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The Never-Ending “To Do” List

Posted by on Sep 23, 2017 in General | 0 comments

The Never-Ending “To Do” List

(written for the Coaching Corner; Glebe Report) Monique was at the end of her wits. When she first called me seeking a coach, she was considering taking a leave of absence from work. Balancing her responsibilities as manager at a large advertising firm with being a spouse and mother of two teenagers felt overwhelming and her doctor was concerned about her blood pressure. At our first meeting, Monique and I discussed her daily routine, interests, family, work and all the things she enjoyed doing. We very quickly identified the focus of our coaching program – for her to connect to what deeply mattered to her and to what brought her ease and joy. From the start, I observed a sense of urgency around Monique’s expression. When she spoke, words tumbled from her mouth so quickly she appeared not to take a breath. Weekdays, Monique literally sprang out of bed at 6am, jumped into the shower, made breakfast for the family and prepared lunches for the kids. Throughout, she rarely sat down, moving about and sipping her coffee as she orchestrated everyone’s schedule in the kitchen. When the kids were finally out the door, her husband dropped her off at work. Some evenings she would work late and have to take the bus or a taxi home. At the end of a long day Monique resented the fact that the family still expected her to make supper for them. Weekends were spent driving her son to sports practices and her daughter to dance lessons. She literally had no “me time” left. Over the course of our six-month coaching program, Monique and I met every three weeks, focussing on conversations and practices that would help shine a light on how to find that path to the ease and joy she so deeply longed for and felt was unattainable. Our work together was slow, steady and deliberate. One of the practices I designed for Monique she found hugely challenging. Twice a week for three weeks, I asked her to transcribe the “to do” list she carried in her head onto paper, numbering tasks in terms of their importance to her that day. Then, I asked her to post the list to the refrigerator door where she and the family could see it. Every day she had to remove one task from the list and replace it with an entry called “TIME FOR ME”. It was up to her to decide what “TIME FOR ME ” would entail. It could be anything from taking a walk around the block, to reading a magazine article, reciting a poem, calling her brother or pausing for a cup of tea. The key was to keep the activity short, no more than ten minutes long. For Monique to make the changes that would result in finding more ease and joy in her day, she would have to become deeply aware of her habitual pattern of not including herself on the “to do” list. By deliberately bringing attention to her habit and by introducing one new element to disrupt the habit – the “TIME FOR ME” activity, Monique would gradually develop the “muscles” to be able to shift to a new way of being – a shift from feeling selfish to feeling deserving. Initially, Monique struggled to remove...

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