Do You Have a Long-Distance Relationship with Your Body?

Many leaders and executive coaching clients I work with live in their heads. They are intelligent people with excellent analytical skills. They have been successful.

However, a new kind of leader is needed these days. The command and control types of managers do not instill engagement or excitement. Instead, people are asking for empathy, understanding, and even care.

These leaders often care but miss cues for emotional intelligence. I get it. I used to see myself as a bobbing head and never tuned into listening. I had habitual patterns that were automatic and no longer serving me. It took some practice to be curious and notice sensations like an internal contraction. Then, I could be more aware and choose my response.

Leaders need to be aware, manage their reactions, and recognize emotions are contagious. For example, leaders who are overly angry or anxious or close down without awareness can deplete energy. On the other hand, when leaders are open and attuned with awareness, they can inspire hope and possibilities. What type of environment do you think generates the best results?

When we check in and note our experiences, we interact more flexibly. When we notice what brings us a sense of openness, aliveness, and joy, we can more easily experience these states and inspire others.

Begin by simply checking in now and paying attention to your feelings. I often ask myself, “Are you open?” Just notice and make it a practice to do so and see the impact.

What has supported you in listening to your body?

What Are You Not Noticing?

Have you ever had a colleague or friend point out something that you then realized was obvious but you missed it?

I talked with a long-time friend whom I had not connected with in a while. We caught up on our work, our health, and what we are looking forward to. I told her about some pending changes in my family. She said she noticed I focused on how others were experiencing the changes rather than how I felt about it. She caught an old habitual pattern of mine. I hadn’t noticed. It’s a habit of mine to focus on what others need, and sometimes I even forget to ask myself what I need.

We all have such habitual patterns that shape our lives. But, of course, the patterns served us at one time and may not in our current life. So it is nice when a good friend shares her perspective. It is even better when we catch ourselves before we say something, take action or refrain from action.   

When we notice our patterns, we are more at choice in responding. When we are unaware, we tend to follow our old habits. It takes awareness to notice our inclinations. The first step is pausing for a breath and paying attention. It is also helpful to ask a friend or a coach to share what they notice.

It can help us to be kind to others when we appreciate that we are each seeing different things and reacting based on our background experiences.

Be kind to yourself and others and notice. You can be on the lookout for a specific pattern that may no longer be needed. 


Can a Coach Approach Make a Difference?

Are you spending your days fighting fires and solving problems?                                      

As a young consultant, I saw my role as helping people find answers. I was pretty quick at finding solutions. I did cultural assessments of companies. After hundreds of interviews, focus groups, surveys, and weeks of writing, I provided an extensive report with a complete strategy. I conducted quite a few of these assessments addressing diversity, inclusion, and engagement issues. Many commented on the completeness of my reports and the depth. I wondered how often my recommendations were taken.

Everything changed for me when I learned about the power of coaching. Rather than giving solutions, I trusted that clients had the best answers. A load was taken off of my back. Rather than be the one with all the answers, I became the presence that supported people in finding their own solutions.

I became an executive and team coach and incorporated a coaching approach in all of my work. Seeing what happened when team members felt free to envision and create a meaningful culture was amazing.

Leaders I have trained report that taking an open stance, listening, and providing empathy and space for reflection have made a difference in how they lead. They no longer feel that they have to provide all the answers. In fact, no leaders can have all the answers these days. However, with awareness, they can take a coach approach and support team members to find the best actions. They ask powerful questions, listen and allow space for reflection. 

What has been your experience with a coach approach? Are you finding it particularly effective during these times of rapid change and uncertainty?

Do You Know How to Get in the Flow?

You’ve probably felt frustrated about not getting enough done on a project. I have been developing a new course. I notice I feel productive, and the work flows some days. Other times, I wonder why it feels more challenging, and I don’t feel satisfied.

I love the moments I am immersed in the work and lose track of time. I want to keep going and am absorbed and enjoying the process. Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, who was a psychologist at the University of Chicago, called this state flow. He did a lot of research and discovered that when we are in a state of flow, we enjoy what we are doing, forget about ourselves and the demands of the outside world, and become creative and productive.

Who doesn’t want more flow and enjoyment? The key I found is that it takes about 15 minutes of focus before fully engaging in a task. Once I do, I can fall into a state of flow. The challenge is that I would be pulled out of flow when I shifted to answer a call or read an email. Then it takes another 15 minutes to reenter the flow state. So some days, I click in and out of focus, with all the distractions, that I do not feel productive.

Try an experiment and notice how you can shift into the flow state after about 15 minutes of focus. (For me, that means no social media surfing or taking calls.) I am experiencing a lot more enjoyment and creativity. I hope you will have the same experience. Let me know.

Does Gratitude Make a Difference?

There is a calmness to a life lived in gratitude. A quiet joy.” — Ralph H. Blum

By now you have heard people praising the power of gratitude. Yes, research is consistent that groups that reflected on what they are grateful for experienced more satisfaction, happiness and better health than groups that engaged in other reflections.

I have made it a part of my daily ritual to reflect on what I am grateful for and write it down as I start my day. What this does is train the reticular activating system (RAS) part of the brain to be on the lookout for what is going well. We are naturally predisposed to notice what is not going well. However, due to neuroplasticity, we can train our brains to focus on what is going well.

Have you ever noticed that when you decide to buy a certain car, or study a specific topic or even are considering having a baby that everywhere you go you see that type of car, that topic and even more babies. Yes, our RAS, helps us to sort out what we are focused on amid all the possible data.

When we focus on what we are grateful for, we begin to notice more things to be grateful for and we become open to more possibilities and insights. It is a useful habit to reflect on how much we do have.

Today, we need more of us to take an Open Stance and be grateful for what is going well. We will experience more well-being and positively influence others. We will have more energy for co-creating solutions that work for all.

Embrace Self-Compassion with 3 Easy Steps

The curious paradox is that when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change.

— Carl Rogers

Compassion is essential these days. We can start with self-compassion. Like many of you, I had a lot on my plate and was trying to manage many requests and respond to the needs of people. Then I got some difficult news. I could feel a sense of overwhelm.

Kristin Neff offers a simple process that can serve each of us. First, simply notice what is happening in your body and say to yourself, “This is a moment of suffering.” You might also put your hand on your heart. Next, recognize that “Suffering is a common human experience.” All of us face challenges and this is a part of living on this earth. Third, we evoke compassion and kindness, “May I be kind to myself.”

Yes, it is simple and this makes it easy to remember in a time of stress or self-belittlement. It corresponds to what Deb Dana and Stephen Porges talk about in Polyvagal Theory. When you feel overwhelmed, notice that your nervous system is in a survival response. They call this dorsal (freeze) or sympathetic (fight/flight) reaction. Next, recognize that we all have moments where we shift from ease into a state of protecting ourselves. Finally, we can wish for kindness and allow some ventral energy to regulate our bodies. With practice, we can develop strategies to do so with ease. For example, I focus on grounding myself in the present moment, breathing, appreciating the moment, and being grateful or optimistic that things will work out. I call this taking an Open Stance.

The great news is that when I am self-compassionate and calm my nervous system, I have more capacity to be compassionate with others. When I take an Open Stance and am feeling safe, others can experience this and it helps them to regulate and also become calmer.

Just as trees are connected by their roots we are always influencing others, both consciously and unconsciously. I can be more compassionate when I recall that everyone is being influenced by their environment and others and we, as humans, naturally become dysregulated. Compassion is one of the Open Stance Postures, when we practice compassion with ourselves and others, we are supporting wellbeing, and connections and making a difference.


Wishing you self-compassion. What supports you during challenging moments?

What Supports You These Days?

You don’t have to look far to see all the challenges and uncertainty these days. It’s clear that we are not fully in control. Circumstances such as climate disruption, changes in the job market, illnesses, relationship breakdowns and negativity abound. 

While there are many circumstances that we cannot control, we can work on strengthening how we respond. We can set our intention on being aware and choosing to be open. We can pay attention to what is happening within us. By acknowledging our emotions, we give them space to transform into energy for action and possibility. For example, when I give myself empathy and acknowledge my disappointment and fear, I allow my humanness and can be more at choice on how to act. Of course, we each have to process our grief and emotions in our own timing and way. When we acknowledge our emotions, we can focus on the resources available to us, rather than dwelling on being a victim and staying with the experience of self-pity, anxiety or anger.  

We are likely to access more resources when we focus on developing them. One practice is to build the internal muscle of shifting to being grounded, optimistic, grateful, curious, compassionate and courageous. We can draw on the felt sense of these emotions when we most need these higher-frequency emotions. 

We also can create communities where we support one another as we go through uncertain times and we can enjoy the connections. Research shows how loneliness is more detrimental to our health than smoking cigarettes. We can also connect spiritually to a sense of awe, to nature and possibility. Of course, we benefit from the basics of taking care of our health with sleep, nourishing food, play and rejuvenation. 

It is easy to feel that we are alone and don’t have resources when we are challenged. We can build the habit of recognizing our emotions and resources. I believe that connecting with an internal sense of JOYBeing and taking an Open Stance are essential supports that enable us to be resilient and thrive. As we embody this JOYBeing (a sense of well-being, no matter the circumstance or emotional climate) and openness, we inspire others to do the same and collectively we can address the challenges we face and embrace possibility. 

I have been facilitating Open Stance Circles, where colleagues meet regularly to share how we are being open and support one another with challenges using a peer coaching approach. Participants report being more grounded, aware and connected. This is one example of how small actions can be resources amid life’s challenges. 


What is supporting you during these times? What practices and resources are you finding and developing?

Can You be Confident Amid Stress?

There is no doubt that we experience a lot of stress these days. There is uncertainty about our businesses, health issues, family challenges and how things will turn out. 

We know that stress has been associated with negative effects such as insomnia, heart problems and infertility. It is easy to adopt habits such as overeating or web surfing that don’t really serve us. We can become stressed about how to reduce our stress!

Alia Crum, a researcher at Stanford University has studied the effects of stress on the Navy SEAL Program. She found that once trainees changed their view of stress and understood that stress could be a mechanism they could use to grow, they completed their obstacles and training faster and more effectively than others who maintained the negative damaging view of stress.  

I am reminded of a statement by the Gestalt therapist Fritz Perls, “Fear is excitement without the breath.” We naturally hold our breath when we are fearful or stressed. We hope to  get rid of the feeling. It doesn’t work. However, when we breathe and change our paradigm about stress we can transform our fear or stress into a positive force. 

When I began my career as an organization development consultant and coach, I recall the stress of facilitating a team with the goal of  helping them to become aligned. There were times of conflict when I wondered how a team could work together. I was able to use the moments of uncertainty to harness my focus and be open to what could emerge. My stress actually served me to stay centered, open and grow in confidence.  Many teams benefitted. 

Of course, too much stress can take a toll on us. However, it is worth reframing stress as an opportunity to grow and learn how to manage it. Whether you are a manager, coach, parent or citizen, we know that anything worth achieving will come with some stress. Ask any consultant, parent or entrepreneur who has managed to achieve results. We all face stress in our lives. If we believe we can learn to manage it and grow from it, we can actually build our confidence and skills to be more successful. We can choose to take an Open Stance. 

The Benefit of Broadening our Experiences

I attend meetings with other executive and team coaches on a regular basis. We share our experiences as well as what we are learning. I appreciate hearing about others’ cases and staying abreast of developments in the field of leadership and cultural change. 

Recently, someone presented a case and we each shared how we would approach the situation. It was interesting how many different responses there were. People tend to rely on their favorite models and perspectives. Someone suggested that they would offer an in-depth psychological assessment, while others did not have that skill, so had not considered it. It reminded me that we are always making sense out of situations and life based on our background experiences. Of course. We tend not to be aware of our natural biases.  

It is important to keep exposing ourselves to different perspectives and to appreciate the benefit of diverse groups. We need to be open-minded and expand our views. This is especially critical these days when there is so much change and uncertainty. While it is natural to depend on what we know, we need to expand our horizons so we have more choices to address new challenges. Of course, we will build on our wealth of experience.  

Take simple actions to expand your view. Join in regular dialogue and learning with colleagues and people with different backgrounds. Read diverse sources for news and insight. Experiment with new books and resources and continue to be open to learning. 

Make efforts to continue to expand your perspective and engage in conversations with others with the intention to learn. 

Are You Finding Meaning?

Many are experiencing what has been called the “Great Resignation.” For some, this has meant leaving jobs where they did not experience caring, empathy and collaboration. Some have moved locations and others have even changed careers.  Some are “quiet quitting”–reducing their engagement. Some say they have felt immobilized in the face of all the uncertainty. No matter how you have used this time in the world to make decisions, it is still a good time to reflect and ensure you are finding meaning and a sense of purpose. 

It is our nature to want to believe we are fulfilling our values and living a purposeful life. Research has demonstrated that those who have a sense of purpose are likely to have greater longevity. This is an important time to consider what is meaningful to us and how we want to spend our life energy. There are many needs and we can each make a difference in our spheres of influence. 

A good first step is to allow yourself to spend some time in the unknown and live with the question of “What’s next for me?” “What is needed? “What will be meaningful?”  “What do I love doing, studying or being with?” Then simply pay attention to what draws your attention after you set your intention to be open to finding and creating meaning. You may find it useful to journal or work with a coach or a group to reflect. 

There are many avenues and paths we can take. The key is to experience excitement and energy on the path we choose. We are meant to live meaningful lives even during these times of change and uncertainty.