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The Trees are Leaving

I love the Fall season: I see vibrant colored leaves, the air smells different, and I sense a drop in temperature. On many days the sky remains darker and I feel a peace inside as I acknowledge the passing of the seasons. Fall is a signal of change and transition. A couple of weeks ago, I walked along my father’s orchard with my sisters, their families and my cousins, retrieving some almonds in their hulls. I felt a stillness and recognized nature getting ready for hibernation and the colder winter. Our family had celebrated my father’s memorial the day before. My dad was raised in this place and farmed the land until he was 88 years of age. Although my dad grew different crops over the years, he retired with almonds, which another farmer now leases and cares for. The almond trees on the farm were dropping their leaves. Here in Alameda where I live and where my mother and dad have lived these past six years, the leaves on the Japanese maple trees in my yard and in the neighborhood still shine with the fall colors. It’s getting colder and these trees, too, will soon shed their leaves.

Fall is a time of transition and reminds us of the cycle of life. At the service, the grandkids shared some memories. My son, Steven, spoke about how grief can be like a friend that reminds you that you are loved. “I’ve heard this phrase that has helped me and maybe it will help you. The phrase goes: ‘Grief is just love that has nowhere else to go.’ It’s our love for him that has nowhere to go. …It’s like the friend that always shows up at bad times. …Grief shows up for me when I need to be supported. …Grief will be there to support us for as long as we need.”1 It is sad he said, but love can help us through the sorrow.

As he spoke, I felt the emotional connection to the loss of my father and also related to how emotions are the passageway of the Neutral Zone that William Bridges presents with his work on Transition. Bridges outlines three stages of transition: endings, neutral zone and new beginnings. While Bridges admits that the neutral zone is anything but neutral, this is the phase where we may experience the confusing process of something ending. Grief, like Bridges’ neutral zone, is the container where we may experience these emotions. I often refer to Bridges’ neutral zone as the passageway or middle ground. Bridges posits that we must go through “endings” before we move on with our lives. Furthermore, he believes that the passageway of the neutral zone, which can be fraught with psychological changes and emotions allows us to start anew. In other words, whenever we experience change, we need to process the emotions that crop up for us, or it will be difficult to start new beginnings in our lives.

Fall is a season of transition, and moves us through harvest to dormancy in Winter, which is followed by Spring and new life. In our fast-changing world, change is always occurring and therefore we are constantly in transition. I have experienced Bridges’ stages of transition and often observe it in my clients. Moving through change and transition is something with which I can support my clients in their coaching journeys. I wonder, what transitions are you currently experiencing? What are the endings that you may need to process? What are the emotions and what might you be grieving? It may be difficult to envision and create new beginnings until moving through this passageway.

The past six years, my sisters and I brought my dad and mom to the farm on week-ends as often as possible. My dad had said that when he dies, he wants his ashes spread on the farm. He had spoken briefly about other alternatives at different times with different daughters and with my mother. For several reasons, including not knowing if the farm would always remain in the family, I think he knew that his ashes would probably end up at a gravesite. As my extended family participated in the burial service at the cemetery near the farm, I noticed a grove of almond trees in the background. The lot adjacent to the cemetery was an almond orchard!

Questions to reflect upon:
During this fall season, what changes do you notice? Are there emotions that come up from you as you move through the changes? Are there any things that you want to celebrate/honor with these endings?

1 Horikoshi, Steven. Celebration of Life of Frank T. Suzuki, November 9, 2019.


This month, I’d like to address multi-tasking at work, life and in your leadership role. With our high usage of electronic devices, most of us multitask at least some of the time. I have been reading that multitasking is not effective in helping one become more efficient or effective. In February, of 2016, I posted a “thoughts” on “Improving Productivity by Getting Unplugged.” In fact, many of my clients take yoga and are learning to meditate to be able to focus on one thing and to stay in the present moment. Several articles in Fast Company have been dedicated to multitasking. One blog identifies when it’s good to multitask: https://90264034/this-chart-will-show-you-when-you-can-multitask-and-when-you-cant/ It recommends a few strategies. “Go for it” when one task is a habit or skill, when activities reinforce each other and when one task requires intermittent focus and when one task lessens distraction. “Proceed with caution” when you might miss a key detail, when you’re in the spotlight, when tackling a complex task and when you risk tuning out “Don’t even think about it” when you need to relax, when focusing on your family, when one task is high stakes or high risk. A second article https://www.fastcompany.com/90322275/multitasking-is-usually-a-bad-idea-but-here-are-5-times-when-its-ok/ posits that most of the times multitasking isn’t a good idea, but suggests 5 times when it is: when completing simple organizational tasks, reading, creative thinking, practicing presentations, and walking.

One article cites evidence that multitasking is counterproductive and damaging to one’s brain and health. https://www.fastcompany.com/3019659/leadership-now/what-multitasking-does-to-your-brain/. Multitasking, can impede the ability to pay attention, making it difficult to identify irrelevant information. Multitasking rewires the brain and stunts the growth of one’s emotional intelligence. It also purports that multitasking makes people less creative and worse managers. Although an earlier article suggested that multitasking might help creativity, this piece identifies that habitually doing it makes changes in the brain and leads away from sustained focus, the attention needed to spark creativity. If you can’t sort through information and recall pertinent ideas, it’s difficult to manage people. People who multitask all the time become “chronically distracted,” engage larger parts of the brain that are “irrelevant” to the particular task, which makes it difficult to sustain the necessary attention for good decision-making.

One other article provides a process to let go of multitasking. “Why Mindfulness is the Antidote to Multitasking” https://www.fastcompany.com/3026119/why-mindfulness-is-the-antidote-to-multitasking/ suggests relearning how to concentrate and explains how meditation can help you to become more aware when you’ve become distracted.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you multitask? Are you aware that you are multitasking? Does multitasking in each situation assist you in productivity or efficiency?
How do/can you practice mindfulness? Through walking, engaging in yoga, tai chi, meditating?


The past two months, my coaching blog has been focused on listening as a culturally-aware leader. (Scroll down to read them.) This month I’m presenting some “thoughts” on procrastination. This issue has often cropped up in my sessions with coaching clients. I usually work with procrastination in an individual way, depending upon the person’s workstyle and what might be causing my client to get “stuck” in completing something when it is a priority or important issue. In Fast Company, I came across three different articles about procrastination: 1) one which gave ideas to assist in creating an effective “to do list,” https://www.fastcompany.com/90392932/to-do-lists-for-procrastinators/ , 2) another column provided strategies based on the personality types of Perfectionist, Dreamer, Worrier, Crisis-maker, Defier, and the Pleaser, https://www.fastcompany.com/90383266/personality-type-and-procrastination/, and 3) an article that identified procrastination as an “emotion-management problem,” rather than a time-management one https://www.fastcompany.com/90357248/procrastination-is-an-emotional-problem/.

As I read “Procrastination is an emotional problem,” by Sam Kemmis-Zapier, I realized that I work with my clients in a similar way, by asking them questions that might lead them to naming how they are feeling and what is coming up for them. Zemmis-Zapier notes that there often seems to be some kind of emotion attached to procrastination, and cites information from Solving the Procrastination Puzzle, by Tim Pychyl. Pychyl, a psychology professor at Carleton University, reveals that since the 90’s, research links procrastination to a negative emotion, which people subconsciously carry and which underlies some kind of anxiety. There is some kind of guilt or “inner critic” which causes a person who is procrastinating to think and say, “I should have done this, but didn’t,” or “I’m lazy.” This guilt doesn’t seem to help one become more effective in overcoming one’s procrastination, but rather ends up in more worrying and a negative mindset. Zemmis-Zapier refers to a study in Pychyl's book that identifies “significant positive correlations between procrastination and rumination, and negative correlations between procrastination and both mindfulness and self-compassion.1 In other words, a good method for overcoming procrastination is to stop judging oneself, which can help oneself to deal with one’s emotions, step into mindfulness, and let go of ruminative thoughts.

Returning to the column on creating an effective to-do list, I recognize that I have moved my clients through many of the suggested steps: 1) figure out what to eliminate or automate, 2) make sure that your tasks are broken down into specific parts, 3) start a project-specific, rather than day-specific, to-do list, 4) commit to doing one item and then clear out the rest of the day, 5) create a procrastination “low energy” list.

Referring to the article on dealing with procrastination by personality types, the suggestions are helpful and fairly predictable: Perfectionist-get rid of “should” from one’s vocabulary and not worry so much about details; Dreamer-pay more attention to details and specifics and make a plan for a specific day; Worrier-let go of overthinking and be willing to make a decision; Crisis-Maker-create the kind of “rush” by setting a timer to counteract difficulty in not getting motivated until it’s the deadline; Defier-shift out of a reactive mindset and “choose” to act and move into action; Pleaser-since this type aims to please people and ends up having too much to do, find vocabulary to say “no” in a gracious way, “like ‘No, thanks for thinking of me,’ or ‘No, I can’t do the whole thing, but I can do part of it’… .” 2 Regarding workstyles and time management, there is an excellent resource which identifies how the 16 Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® personality styles deal with procrastination-Out of Time: How the Sixteen Types Manage Their Time and Work, by Larry Demarest. For each type, Demarest dedicates a section on how procrastination manifests itself and how each particular type gets back on track.

Most people procrastinate. I think it’s human. Dealing with our emotions, recognizing our basic patterns of how we work and creating to-do lists that work for us may help us to deal better with procrastination. How we respond to procrastination can help us become more productive, calmer and happier.

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there any concept in this issue that resonates with you? What is it and how might you try it out to overcome procrastination the next time procrastination crops up?
Can you think of a time when you overcame procrastination and felt good about yourself? If yes, did you congratulate yourself?

Note: When I posted these “thoughts” above I received a comment. One friend wrote to me and mentioned that as an executive director, she was given an interesting strategy. “I received this wisdom, and it helped me survive those long unrelenting days and nights with some satisfaction. Basically, it’s ‘Worst things first!’ The rewards came with a clearer focus to take on the primary, creative aspects of the jobs, without the heavy guilt that had nagged me before. In the long run, it made time to assess and change processes for those ‘worst’ tasks, too,” Jeri Lynn Endo.

I’m wondering if some kind of emotion, such as “guilt” for not doing the “best” job may be a factor for her previous procrastination. My friend’s suggestion reminded me of another a strategy I used and only recognized it when my husband mentioned that he had observed a co-worker employing. When in a meeting and little follow-up tasks emerged, such as making a phone call or looking up something, his co-worker took care of those items immediately after walking out of the session. My husband adopted that strategy and said that he was able to complete projects with many details more quickly, which saved a lot of time, while preventing bad feelings about putting something off.

1Sam Kemmis-Zapier, “Procrastination Is An Emotional Problem: If you stop treating procrastination like a time-management issue, it becomes easier to manage,” Fast Company, May 31, 2019, [http://fastcompany.com/9035248/procrastination-is-an-emotional-problem/]

2 Kemmis-Zapier

Leadership, Immigration and Listening

With the continued detention of immigrant children separated from their parents, the deportation of families who have come to the U.S. to seek asylum and the mass shootings in Florida and Texas which seem to have targeted Latinos, I have been wondering how immigrant families, communities and the many people who provide services to these populations are being affected. I called a former client who works in Domestic Violence Prevention who came to this country from El Salvador. I wanted to know how she is doing, how she is personally processing all of this and how it affects the services she helps provide, as well as how her clientele is coping.

Sonia said, “We’re definitely feeling it.” Her initial response was that she doesn’t have anger or sadness, but an overwhelming feeling that that the government is not listening. Sonia is proud to have come to the U.S. and feels a great connection with the diversity and beauty of this country and its people. She said the treatment of immigrants affects her every day, especially because she’s a mom. Having many family members who are undocumented, she understands the fear, worry and concern that so many mothers are undergoing. Will it be their children next? When will their families be targeted? How will the mothers at her work who have experienced domestic violence cope with this added layer of trauma?

Sonia shared with me that no matter how many letters they send, no matter how many people they call, no matter how many protests attended, she feels like no one is listening. In hearing Sonia, I realized that she responds to this lack of listening with her own compassionate listening. Her organization sponsors equity women’s groups, where women talk about their issues and share stories of difficulties. Sonia listens and provides information and strategies that can help them. Sonia’s boss asked her to lead a forty-five-minute session on immigration. At first her response was, my gosh for all the years that they had been having women’s groups addressing race, class and inequities, why have we never offered this before and how could she possibly cover the issues in that short time period?

Nevertheless, she agreed to do it. Sonia’s session was well-received and her office will be holding many more sessions where women continue to share their stories of fear, but also of resilience and survival. Sonia reminded me that in our coaching journey I helped her to overcome nervousness in speaking and leading and provided listening and support to persevere in an organization that didn’t have a culturally-aware perspective of immigrants. She really began to understand how powerful her experiences and her stories are. Sonia is a wise woman, who knows how to listen in a compassionate way which enhances her capacity to serve her clients and help them begin to heal.

Sonia believes that, “Fear is not going to stop us from being in support groups and being visible in the community.” She said that these women worry and are anxious, but the support group is a safe place where they can name their fears and share it with other persons who are experiencing it. Although Sonia knows that it will be painful if they are separated, Sonia provides the support to begin making decisions of how to protect themselves and their families, and to learn about their rights if ICE or the police stop them. In these groups, Sonia exposes them to one of the well-known immigrant information programs, “Know your Rights.” They begin to make plans, such as coming up with a person whom they can leave their children with if ICE takes them away. The women can sign up to see an attorney who can help them figure out an individual plan tailored to deal with their specific situation.

I was inspired in listening to the stories that Sonia shared, of her leadership in helping empower and provide healing for immigrants. As a “wounded healer,” she is helping women to voice their fears and recognize their dependence upon each other.

Questions to reflect upon:
Are we listening to the stories of immigrants in our neighborhoods and communities?
What are their stories and what might their stories call us to do?

Listening as a Leader

“Railey Stern Yen, a senior alto sax player at Oakland Tech who’s headed to the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, credits (Helena) Jack with his musical sucess. ‘She never says, ‘you better do this.’ She just shows you how to play something and lets you run with it,” he said. ‘And at the end of the day, she wants us to listen to each other. That’s the most important thing in music. And life, too, I think.’ -Carolyn Jones, “Reaching Beyond the Classroom,” Oakland Magazine, July, 2019.

Saxman Railey is one of Helena Jack’s 2019 music students in the Oakland Unified School District. Jack, who is retiring after 20 years, created Oakland Eastside All-Star Ensemble and influenced scores of students at Elmhurst, Castlemont, Oakland Tech and Skyline High Schools. Jack exposed her young people to jazz, funk and blues and not only inspired some of them onto careers and further college in music, but engaged them in life. Railey’s statement about listening, reveals Jack’s extraordinary teaching philosophy and also how she inspired persons to show up and lead their own lives.

Jack stressed listening, continued learning, as well as independent thinking. Mary Nguyen, a classical pianist until high school was instructed by Jack to listen to Count Basie, “She really pushed me to expand musically and try something new. She taught me that music is about communication. …She taught me to keep improving myself, and not worry about what other people think.”

Jack began teaching at Elmhurst Middle School, a very tough assignment where the students weren’t very cooperative. She started attending the afterschool sports games, getting to know the students in an individual way and letting them know that she was there to stay and couldn’t be “run-out.” Helena Jack got to know the families and the community. The principal helped her to obtain a grant expanding the music program to 10 teachers, enabling all students at the school to take music for all three of their middle school years. Jack worked professionally as a trumpet player before becoming a teacher. Jack paved the way for female musicians and also influenced thousands of students. Grace Gulli, a Oakland Tech freshman, who plays the alto sax shares “There’s not a lot of female jazz musicians who aren’t singers. …But we get to practice with Ms. Jack every week. She’s definitely the coolest band teacher I’ve ever had.”

What I find so amazing in this story is how Jack utilized the arts, good teaching, leadership and understanding the importance of families and the community to reach students where they are. Her transformative approach helped students to apply themselves, find enjoyment and passion in their lives. I believe that in many ways I facilitate this type of transformation as a coach, accompanying my clients as they create passageways in their lives and shift responses to move forward. While Jack inspires her students through music and helps them become disciplined in their lives, I help my clients discover or name their strengths and enlist their sources of inspiration and resources to successfully move through challenges. Helen’s Jack’s legacy reiterates the importance of listening and understanding the connection each student has to family and community. I began to wonder how listening has affected how I provide coaching services. Practicing listening within a culturally-aware framework has really helped me to hear and understand my clients in their unique social, political, economic and cultural contexts.

I recently received an email from an African American client who was retiring and with whom I worked with more than 10 years ago. In it he wrote,“I never forgot you. Your words helped me so many times when I just wanted to walk away. I was able to use your advice to promote (to a higher institutional leadership position). When I first met you, I had my doubts, I was so WRONG. I hope you continue to inspire and motivate your clients as you have done for me.” -KC. It’s interesting that he used the word “advice,” because the majority of my time with clients is composed of questions that probe their understanding of the situation and respond with statements that summarize what I think I hear which often results in continued inquiry.

Last month as Asian American client wrote, “I appreciate all your time and coaching and was especially grateful for the time and emails you sent before/after sessions with reflections and additional thoughts. They were so reaffirming and often anticipated my own thoughts.” I believe that the culturally-aware philosophy that I strive to embody contributed to my capacity to assist and support these two clients, embellishing and unearthing aspects to the experiences they shared. Their stories became richer and deeper. My clients reached their goals in creative and authentic ways.

Sometimes a client shares directly about how my culturally-aware coaching approach unlocks their own stories and/or how building and understanding community strengthens their effectiveness. These words are from TL, a White Executive Eirector, “She (Wendy) helped me to reflect upon my goals and break them into realistic pieces. Her questions challenged me to think about why I wanted to achieve those goals. It has been so much fun to make plans and see them come into fruition. I have never experienced anything for myself like the trip to Mexico to learn Spanish. …We have taken time to reflect on our history and for new staff to hear about our agency story and see themselves as part of that story. Everyone was able to think about their strengths and share them with each other, to see how we come together as a team. I feel like we have created more equity in the organization and it is part of the everyday conversation, which sometimes is in Spanish.”

The stories of each client reveal different experiences, strengths and capacity for growth and leadership. With regard to listening, where might your growing edge be and how might listening strengthen your leadership?

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there an arena in your life where listening might deepen the quality of your life or relationships?
How might “just listening” provide a path to your leadership?

Collective Pain & Healing

The month of May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and my church had a special service with the Topaz group, youth and families attending a Topaz Pilgrimage in June. Peter, my partner, and I were asked to present Tanforan, a song that Peter wrote with Sam Takimoto, a former bandmate, about the shopping center in San Bruno, California which was formerly a race track and used in 1942 to assemble persons of Japanese-American ancestry before evacuees were sent to a concentration camp in Topaz, Utah. Topaz was one of 10 camps that people of Japanese ancestry were imprisoned during WW2. I found myself tearing up when the main speaker who was born in Topaz shared stories about pioneer members and the role the Buena Vista Methodist church played when members of the church prepared to evacuate and also during the resettlement time after evacuees were released.

Although I have participated, attended and watched many films and shows that focused on evacuation, I was surprised that I got choked up. I knew that these tears were not coming from my individual sadness, but from the sorrow of persons present in the room, of those whose stories were being remembered and from the experiences of my parents, their families and communities rounded up 77 years ago. This collective pain and sorrow were visceral and people in the congregation felt it, too. In addition to being an educational process, I believe that the sharing these stories of pain and injustice are part of the healing process.

In a similar fashion, I feel moved when hearing stories from clients about their experiences of culturally-insensitive remarks or experiences, including when bias is occurring from systematic policies. When the client shares experiences rooted in being different from majority culture, the client usually isn’t coming to me to complain about them. The issues arise within the challenges that they face. I often inquire whether culture had something to do with it or whether culture might be affecting the angst or conflict they are experiencing. Generally, it feels like my clients are not wanting to be personally offended by the issue--they don’t want to be “overly reactive,” or “oversensitive” about the incidents, yet are puzzled or torn about what has occurred.

In these instances, the coaching session can provide an opportunity to recognize that the something they are feeling is “invisible,” is weighing them down and getting in the way of their goals and progress towards achieving them. When my clients name the incident, they can see it as an issue, rather than a personal shortcoming or weakness. They become clearer about what they are dealing with and can more readily make decisions of how they wish to proceed. I have previously written about being “stuck” and having barriers that keep one from being able to achieve one’s desired outcome(s). I do believe that the naming of these incidents helps begins a process of healing. I am acutely aware that some of the barriers we face are institutional. The shifting of oneself amidst institutional blocks can begin with the naming of it, which can release emotional feelings such as confusion, disbelief, anger and fear. Similarly, attitudes and treatment of an individual as a result of culture, class, gender, sexual orientation, religious or mental/physical ableism can be significant blocks in one’s ability to move forward.

The Topaz program reminded me of the concept of redemptive suffering. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 granted reparations to all Americans of Japanese ancestry with an apology from President Reagan. Many Isseis (first generation Japanese Americans, immigrants,) Niseis (second generation) and Sanseis (third generation) spoke at Congressional hearings to pass the Act. After evacuees received their apology and reparation check, many more of them began to tell their stories about this period of time. For many Japanese Americans, this event helped to recover from the shame they had buried, feeling somehow guilty for being evacuated and not being accepted as “real Americans.” Through the passage of the Civil Liberties Act, redemption from the unjust evacuation was codified into law. Having experienced this type of suffering, it is not surprising that many Japanese Americans and Japanese American community groups have been outspoken about treatment of Muslims in any efforts to round them up and incarcerate them.

At the same time, part of the healing process for Japanese Americans is acknowledging their strength and resilience. Although the students and families attending the Topaz reunion will connect with the stories of pain and loss, they will probably see and hear stories of love, military service, swing dance, music, and art in the camps. Celebrating relationships and joyful experiences in life aid in the healing process. For persons whose families did not experience evacuation, I believe that they can participate in the healing process through listening to the stories, recognizing the damage and loss and resolving to be a part of the movement to keep this type of illegal and inhumane treatment from happening again.

During this month of Gay Pride, as we celebrate our LGBTIA communities, I hope that we are open to hearing their stories of joy as well as sadness so that collective pain can move us forward towards collective healing.

Questions to reflect upon:
Can you think of a time when you identified with someone’s or some community’s pain?
What is a story or experience of struggle for you that is similar to that of other persons, perhaps of an entire community?

Using Coaching Processes to Heal

As I grow older, I am increasingly becoming aware of how it is important to me to appreciate life, to be mindful about living in the moment and to find the joy around and within me. These past two weeks I had some experiences that tied together some of the processes that I employ in my coaching practice, reflection, focus, congruency and flow, and helped me deal with a minor health issue. Reflection helps us to identify the issue, focus, helps up to discipline ourselves, congruency helps to align ourselves and flow helps move us towards meaningful coincidence.

On a Friday, Saturday and Sunday before my church’s annual Spring Bazaar, which celebrates Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month I had been helping. Buena Vista United Methodist Church, BVUMC, is committed to understanding and practicing God’s love and healing, and believes that we are called to engage in social justice and inclusion. I typically do not participate in other activities during the Bazaar week-end because BVUMC’s mission is a priority for me and I tend to get overtired. However, I agreed to play music with the Wesley Jazz Ensemble, WJE, in San Jose, another event during Heritage Month. My partner and I had missed playing at a fundraising dance with WJE due to health issues for my partner and son and for caretaking of my parents. I really wanted to sing the song from Crazy Rich Asians, “Wo Yao Ni De Ai” and play with the Ensemble when the San Jose Taiko joined us for two musical pieces. Some of the preparation work at the Bazaar was physical labor and my back and shoulders became tight. As I sat playing the instrument with WJE, I realized that it was difficult to sit up straight and to hold my flute parallel to the ground. I noticed it (reflection), but became so energized by our set and the taiko drum music that I forgot about my stiffness.

Ordinarily I’m beat at the end of the Bazaar. The “high” that I got from engaging in the music felt so uplifting, that even though I had been up at 6 am to work the Bazaar, had left around 10:30 am to travel to San Jose for the music, and came back to the Bazaar to help and clean, I was only mildly tired. I was glad I had made the decision to participate in both events and felt congruent about my decision to do so. For me, life felt like it was flowing and I was very happy.

The following Monday, I engaged in a restorative yoga class, being able to soften my whole body and release some stiffness from my shoulders. On Tuesday, I had an infusion (for bone density, not cancer) and had arranged my schedule to limit coaching sessions and adopted a “wait and see” attitude towards my exercise schedule. While I was tired and had minor back pain the first day after the infusion, the second day, Wednesday, I engaged in a Pilates class. For the first exercise the instructor had us stand up straight and hold our arms in a goal post shape, opening our upper bodies. It was a challenge to hold my arms up in a straight plane and not notice the strain and my body’s reluctance to keep it there. In this stance, I began focusing on the impacted shoulder areas, breathing into them for the count of four, holding my breath and breathing out for the count of four. My shoulders softened and relaxed. I was able to swim the next day and don’t think I would have been able to exercise the full 30- minute workout had my shoulders still be affected. On Friday, my yoga class was dedicated to stretching the whole body, opening up the spine and aligning the body. With an initial pose of laying one’s side body over a bolster (big, firm pillow-like prop), all of the tightness of my shoulders was released. Reflecting and noticing my shoulders during Pilates, yoga and swimming, focusing on the processes, especially through the breathing, helped my shoulders/body become aligned (becoming congruent). Although yoga often helps me in this way, it was synchronistic (flow) that this particular yoga session was dedicated to stretching and opening of the back and hips.

So, why might it be important that I observe the coaching processes in my daily personal life? When I’m busy, it’s easy for me to dismiss any aches or pains that I have and they grow to be much bigger issues. Before I know it, I’m in a bad mood and it affects all of my work and even my attitude towards life. Without recognizing it, I’m in “overdrive” and feel compelled to finish and fix things, and I’m sure that other people around me notice this energy. In this particular situation, observing the coaching processes helped me to take care of myself, increase my gratitude for being in community, acknowledge how much satisfaction I gain from contributing my little part to the larger Asian American and faith communities, as well as enjoy special opportunities in music.

Questions to reflect upon:
Where have you missed noticing small aches and pains, literally and figuratively, that have turned out to be bigger issues? How can you reflect more intently so that you can take care of these issues and yourself in the future? What steps can you take to then focus, become congruent and let the flow bring a better resolution?

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

To read more about my coaching 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

Evaluation: Collecting the Right Data

I have a coaching client who was exploring a position that evaluated data for compliance and quality assurance. She was intrigued by the job, although has always known that her top strengths were dealing with the big picture, seeing patterns in data as opposed to compiling and monitoring of technical data. I asked her if she was competent in obtaining data, compiling, reviewing and evaluating it. She answered affirmatively. She also had a history of being able to relate to people well and to gain information as to whether her department’s services addressed equity issues, the general principles of fairness, justice and access. I began to think of many instances where the right type of data was not being collected.

With this mindset of equity, I recounted a segment on “CBS This Morning,” 3/02/19, how law enforcement can be focused on particular offenses with the outcome resulting in disparate impact on certain groups of people. Frank Baumgartner, a professor of Public Policy, spoke about data he had collected about traffic stops by race in North Carolina, which is presented in his book, Suspect Citizens. After reviewing 22 million traffic stops over 20 years in North Carolina, Baumgartner, found that “People are not making this stuff up” about racial profiling. African Americans are pulled twice as often, four times as likely to be searched, while White persons are less likely to be issued a traffic ticket. This was the case even though Whites are more likely to be found with contraband than Blacks or Hispanics. Furthermore, if these cases go to court, Baumgartner said that since the court system reflects White middle-class values, the power is given to this perspective.

The purpose of traffic laws is to keep us all safe but, Baumgartner has concluded that the traffic law is used “as an excuse to do a police investigation.” This is the case of Walter Scott, an unarmed man who was fatally shot after being stopped for a broken tail light. Most media accounts did not report that Scott had been pulled over 46 times for traffic infractions. This is not an uncommon statistic for many African Americans. Anyone pulled over that many times can not afford tickets on trivial infractions, and are unlikely to be trusting of police stops. In minority communities, especially poorer areas, African Americans are viewed as criminal suspects. Baumgartner said, “There’s a way that police interact with middle-class white Americans, and there’s a way that people and the police force interact with members of minority communities, especially in poorer neighborhoods.”

At first the North Carolina Association of Chiefs believed that Baumgartner’s data was deeply flawed. They were initially resistant to embrace the findings because they basically believe they are doing police work for noble reasons. As a result of the data, police in Chapel Hill, North Carolina are trying to reform their processes that have had inequitable impact on communities of color. They are focusing on the big picture issue of fighting crime. They have deemphasized low level traffic enforcement. The numbers clearly show that old processes had a disproportionate effect on persons of color, and their efforts. With these changes, Chapel Hill Police have found that it has not impacted their ability to serve and protect. Officers are still making traffic stops. The quality of the traffic stops has improved, the number of unnecessary searches has gone down and searches of contraband actually being seized have gone up.* The Chapel Hill Police Chief said, “For years citations and arrests were a measure of success. The kind of results around traffic stops showed us that good policing was not achieved in the manner they thought it would.*

Baumgartner concludes, “Don’t use the traffic code to alienate people for no good reason. Don’t use the traffic code to go on a fishing expedition, to try to show who’s boss.” Baumgartner concludes that the data indicates that our society needs to listen to perspectives from minority communities. He encourages communities to find ways to have a significant voice in their local governments and strongly believes that voting and participation matter.

Returning to my coaching client, she further identified her interest in data collection. She talked about how this job as well as her role in her current job might continue to search and collect data that reflects any disparity in which the services of her department may have on communities of color and the poor.

Questions to reflect upon: In any situation where you evaluating something, what is it that you are looking for? Does focusing on issues of equity suggest collecting different data? How does trying to ask the right questions affect the quality of the responses and subsequently the data that is collected? How might you include differing perspectives that include situations that persons of color and the poor are experiencing?
With the U.S. Census coming up in 2020, what kinds of questions should be added? What kinds of questions should not be asked?

*Bolding and underlining, are mine, not Baumgartner.

Womens's History Month: Three Stories

During February, I enjoyed reading a couple of articles distributed for African American Month—one about “23 Black Female Scientists Who Changed the Damn World: I got 99 problems but black women will cure all of them someday,” and another about the transatlantic slave trade, “The Maafa: The Journey Toward Healing the Trauma.” I thought about integrating at least one of the articles into this month’s “thoughts” maybe under the theme of personal learnings from African American Month and/or under the theme of Women’s History Month. In trying to relate these topics to coaching, I decided to present some stories of women of color who have been my clients. These stories each underline at least one of the values that they wrestled with: commitment to organization, commitment to the movement and commitment to self.

Commitment to Organization: One client, an Asian American woman, was working for an organization that was committed to educational opportunities for young people of color. She was being bullied by one of the directors and passionate about the organization’s commitment to helping youth develop and gain access to higher education opportunities. Since she had been at this institution for many years and had strong ties to staff and their constituents, she kept hoping that things could change. It was making her ill. There were some fundamental practices which could threaten the organization’s demise, and if given the opportunity she could help them recoup and become healthy again. She ached over these problems that the organization was likely to incur and it was difficult to let go of her commitment to the vision and mission of the organization. There was another cultural issue which was troubling her- any potential fall-out on the directors, as they were both persons of color. Even as she was being maligned by one of them, she believed so much in the organization’s ability to contribute to the transformation and growth of youth. In addition to the power difference in her position, being a woman and an Asian American weighed heavily in the situation for this client. When she realized that she was likely to be scapegoated for the problems for which she did not create, she decided to look for another job. It was a good move, a place where she could invest her passion, skills and talents.

Commitment to the Movement: One client, an African American woman, had committed her life to the elimination of violence against women. She was the primary community builder for the organization, developing young people and the staff to lead programs. She was skilled in writing and obtaining grants, leading and evaluating staff and group-building. The staff saw her as the wise woman. The outgoing executive director had longed wished that my client would take over as ED, but she knew that she could have more impact in being a part of the direct services. A new executive director entered and seemed to dislike the “messiness” of direct services. She cut out my client’s department and cut her hours. The ED soon discovered that many of the organization’s other functions didn’t work as well without this woman. There were blatant occurrences of being disrespected as a Black woman. My client slowly transitioned out of her role by helping those remaining at the organization heal from the changes and tying up the loose ends of the many programs she helped to create. She was in such a position of respect from the entire organization that she coached many of them who were losing their jobs there, as well as those that remained. This woman moved to consulting and is still active in eliminating abuse against women.

Commitment to Self: Another client, a Latina woman, worked in legislative advocacy and had just given birth to a child, her first. The ED position was opening up and given her family circumstances, she had not been thinking about advancement or other big changes in her life. We moved through some discussions and exercises to sort out how she felt about it. She believed that she was competent to fill the role and began to explore how she could help the organization grow and develop in improving their services, specifically to underrepresented communities of color and the poor and working class. We also envisioned how the increased work and travel might affect her routine and capacity to “be there” for her newborn and partner. We talked about what her cultural values around family, around honoring the group, serving others and being committed to the movement. In the end, she realized that in her commitment to herself, she needed to apply and was appointed to head of the organization.

With each of these clients there were cultural issues, whether it be values instilled by their parents or community, or cultural assumptions of being personally disregarded due to gender and/or race. The relationships were sometimes between white persons and persons of color, and sometimes inter-ethnic. In my years of coaching, I have observed many examples of persons being pushed out which included strong cultural components of mistreatment. For many of my clients, making space for a balanced personal life can be difficult. They are eager to do well in their jobs, relentlessly working to serve their clientele, their organization and/or the movement to which they have committed themselves. It is often a difficult path to take the time and energy to continue to reflect upon what it truly important at any point in one’s life. During this women’s history month, I urge women to take the time to reflect upon what’s really important to them and to become congruent with their intentions. I encourage men to do so as well, and also to actively support women to make the space to do so.

Note: A special shout out to the three women willing to share these stories.

Questions to reflect upon:
How might you honor important women in your life?
How might you learn more about the contributions of women whose stories are not as commonly shared or known in the mainstream?

Becoming Oneself

“In sharing my story, I hope to help create space for other stories and other voices, to widen the pathway for who belongs and why. …There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice. And there’s grace in being willing to know and hear others. This for me, is how we become.”1 -Michelle Obama, Former First Lady

I’m often asked what I do in coaching and the answer is not always the same. Each individual is unique and so I think that that may be the reason that my answer varies and develops. My response about what coaching is morphs and changes according to the breakthroughs and new “aha’s” that my clients share with me. For although I often say that I help persons develop their leadership capacity, which may mean to lead others more effectively or to more meaningfully lead their own lives, I know that my coaching supports their learning and development to move towards the person they want to become or feel called to be. Michelle Obama captures this notion of “Becoming” with her book by the same name.

There is a part of me that has always felt that our lives are about becoming, learning and developing and transforming to find deeper meaning in our own lives and the lives around us. Growing up as a woman and person of color, it was not common to read stories about persons with my cultural background. In Becoming, I could identify with Obama’s experiences. I felt a resonance in Obama’s discovery process about culture, class and human nature and appreciated her ability to name them. Her stories surface the meaning of how persons of color and women have to navigate the world differently.

Obama writes, “Speaking a certain way—the “white” way, as some would have it—was perceived as a betrayal, as being uppity, as somehow denying our culture. Years later, after I’d met and married my husband—a man who is light-skinned to some and dark-skinned to others, who speaks like an Ivy League—educated black Hawaiian raised by white middle-class Kansans—I’d see this confusion play out on the national stage among whites and blacks alike, the need to situate oneself inside his or her ethnicity and the frustration that comes when it can’t easily be done.”2 Obama recounts her life as it leads up to the White House, through stories which underscores her understanding of how and why caring people don’t understand racism and white privilege. She shares how she was taught to uphold and integrate her values into her everyday living and to take responsibility for her decisions.

Sometimes, when I am working with clients, they are feeling torn or unsure of something because underneath there may be two different values which seem to be conflicting with each other. Through coaching, I help the client to identify and name the underlying values and to envision whether the two values can be held at the same time, which typically helps the client to get “unstuck.”

Another topic that Obama addresses is dealing with dominance. “I can hurt you and get away with it. … Every person who’s ever been made to feel ‘other’ recognized it. It was precisely what so many of us hoped our own children would never need to experience, and yet probably would. Dominance, even the threat of it, is a form of dehumanization. It’s the ugliest kind of power.”3 In my previous workplace, I have lived through this kind of dehumanization, and didn’t recognize it as workplace bullying until I had a client who was undergoing it. I began to research bullying in the workplace and was flabbergasted at the high incidence of it, the small or non-existent controls to prevent and control it and the lack of processes to support the persons receiving the abusive treatment. I was no longer surprised as this issue came up in coaching sessions with other clients. And, unfortunately in sessions with my clients, bullying behavior was revealed in other arenas as well, such as the home or community.

Obama’s reference to dominance in the book was in the arena of male privilege. “Women endure entire lifetimes of these indignities—in the form of catcalls, groping, assault, oppression. These things injure us. They sap our strength. Some of the cuts are so small they’re barely visible. Others are huge and gaping, leaving scars that never heal. Either way, they accumulate. We carry them everywhere, to and from school and work, at home while raising our children, at our places of worship, anytime we try to advance.”4 Michelle addressed the Democratic National Convention in 2015 and used her words to speak out about dominance.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Michelle Obama’s book. She created space to tell people’s stories. She lifted up the voices of others, spoke her truth through stories and encouraged us to share our stories. Becoming is a journey that I’m on and one in which I feel privileged to accompany with each of my clients.

1 Obama, M. Becoming, (New York: Crown), 421.

2 Obama, Becoming, 420-421.

3 Obama, Becoming, 408.

4 Obama, Becoming, 408.

A Moment of Change

In past “thoughts,” I have commented on issues of diversity and fairness and how it might affect my clients in terms of their learning, development and leadership. I don’t believe I’ve ever written about this topic with regard to movies or television. I was struck by some of the words that Sandra Oh spoke as the emcee of the 76th Golden Globe Awards and as recipient of the best actress in a drama. She said that she was only willing to step up and inhabit the nervousness of being the emcee because of this past year’s diversity of movies, such as the “Black Panther” with an all-Black cast, “Crazy Rich Asians,” featuring an all-Asian cast, written by and produced by Asians, and a record number of females in lead positions and in directing/producing roles. Actress Oh wished to “witness this moment of change. … This moment is real.” She also acknowledged that next year the moment may be different.

When I grew up, I remember my whole family sitting around to watch David Carradine, a white man playing an Asian Shaolin monk, who was a martial arts master in “Kung Fu.” My sisters and I looked forward to each moment where Hop Sing, the Chinese cook in Bonanza made an appearance. When “Crazy Rich Asians” first came out, I didn’t know if I was particularly interested in a show about rich people, but then when I saw the movie, I experienced diversity within Asians, Asian Americans and within Asian American/Asian men and women. For one of the first times on the big screen, the story dispelled the often-held stereotypes that all Asian Americans are the same, that they are all kung fu experts. The acting, singing and artistry were beautiful and the story was heart-warming. The audience in the theatre I attended was diverse, however with more Asian Americans than I’ve seen at one time in that particular venue. I felt like I was at home. I had experienced a similar feeling when I attended “Black Panther,” where the cinema had a predominantly African American audience. I especially enjoyed listening to the comments that persons in the audience was making quietly to each other, which included issues about culture and history. Hearing young children asking questions about family and hearing the parents answer with pride was delightful. I realized that although Black Panther was a story taken from a comic book, the filming and viewing of it opens up possibilities for creativity, story-making and for African Americans to get more parts in future movies. It was delightful and added to the feeling of being in community, enjoying an Afro-centric story with universal appeal.

Sandra Oh’s opening comments included, “I see you and you and you,” while she acknowledged persons of color and women in the industry. The Golden Globes seemed to be recognizing the issue that persons of color and women have not been recipients of their awards. Lady Gaga, who co-wrote and acted in “A Star is Born” when being honored for co-writing the song, “Shallow,” said “As a woman in music, it is really hard to be taken seriously as a musician and songwriter,”and she was grateful that the male co-authors of the song supported her and “lifted her up.” In systemic change, the rules and treatment need to change to create a foundation that will support and encourage equal representation.

As Regina King accepted Best Supporting Actress in “If Beale Street Could Talk,” she said to the film writer, Barry Jenkins, that as her son watched it, it was the first time he really saw himself in the story. The story was adapted from a novel by James Baldwin. With the social backdrop of race prohibitions, this movie portrayed how one could begin to envision the possible from the impossible. King went on to say that “Our microphones are big and we’re speaking for everyone.” She vowed to make sure that everything that she produces will employ 50% women and challenged “everyone out there… to stand with us and do the same.”

Placing our attention to who receives media awards is more than an isolated issue of fairness. Doing so acknowledges the diverse world that we live in and also underscores the notion that films and television profoundly affects our thinking and social consciousness. When the stories of African Americans, Asian Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, Middle Eastern Americans are not shared, they are invisible and often rendered powerless. Persons of color are often only portrayed as perpetrators and villains. When Barack Obama was elected President, I wondered if the popular TV show, “24”, with Dennis Haybert depicting the character of David Palmer had influenced people’s thinking. When I looked up African Americans portraying President, there was an article that said popularity for an African American President was high. To my surprise I also discovered that by the year 2008, there were numerous roles of African Americans dating back to the 1930’s, although many reflected the contemporary racist attitudes of the times. I don’t recall seeing these programs. I am reminded that it takes times for people’s attitudes to change and that even with breakthroughs in the social consciousness of society, attitudes go back and forth and that many times with forward progress there are reactionary responses which take us backwards. Thus, Ms. Oh’s remark that next year the moment may be different.

Many of my clients are heart-broken with the increasingly intolerant and hateful attitudes towards immigrants, persons of color, poor people and persons of diverse sexual orientation. It has been difficult for my clients to keep from being overwhelmed by sadness and sense of frustration for our society’s ignorance and lack of compassion. Celebrating moments of change can give us hope. Watching and hearing many of the speakers at the Golden Globes has reminded me that we all have arenas of influence. I think we need to give and be given opportunities to dream for change and to influence change. Where can we step up to tell our stories and join in these moments of change?

Questions to reflect upon:
How do any of the stories from the films or television shows that you watch identify or reflect voices that aren’t often heard from?
In your area(s) of work, community, family and leisure, what can you celebrate about the increasing diversity and inclusive embrace of it?

Is It Cold Outside?

I participate with a jazz group that presents music to the community. Last year, my husband and I sang a classic Christmas call and response type of duet called “Baby it’s Cold Outside.” It was a lot of fun to sing. This year in the Me, too movement some radio stations have banned this song about a man continuing to urge a woman to stay despite the female repeatedly saying “no.” Even in the liberal minded San Francisco Bay area, many listeners objected to the ban and at least one station starting playing it again. The radio stations said that more persons voted for the music to be played than seemed to object to it.

Several writers suggested that things were different in the 1940’s when it was written. One writer responding to this ban wrote that the originator of the music, Frank Loesser, was actually commenting on how it’s OK for women to have power over their sexual decisions even though society told women that they shouldn’t flirt or show desire for love. Might there be other questions we ask that might help us address the question of whether the song should be played over the air waves? I wonder whose opinion we want to focus upon: -the managers of the radio stations? -the families of the famous singers that popularized the song? -the persons feeling slighted and insulted by the music? -the listeners of the radio station? Do we deal with the collective values and power in society which influence whose narrative we are familiar with?

In these types of situations, I find it problematic to focus on the issue by minimizing it to one of political correctness. I wonder if there’s a way to understand not only the historical context, but also the current day understanding of what is offensive. Are we marginalizing people with it? What, really, are we giving up if we choose to not continue to use the song? How do my values line up with the issue?

I asked Michael Omi, PhD, Professor of Asian American Studies at U.C. Berkeley, his take on this issue. He wrote, “In the case of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside,’ the contemporary context is crucial. The lyrics to a song written in 1944 might have seemed innocuous at the time, but might be read as offensive today given the concern over sexual coercion and date rape. Thus, contemporary listeners are attuned to interpreting the lyrics in a very different way in than in the 1940’s.”

It’s curious to me how this winter song doesn’t talk about Christmas and yet has become a “Christmas” classic. It seems to me that many of us have patterns or processes that we repeat each year during the season. Rituals are important, and yet, just because we have done things a certain way for many years, does it mean that this is the way we always need to do it? What is the meaning of the ritual? The song is catchy and cute. And yet, do I need to keep repeating some song just because I like it? If the song conjures male harassment or rape for even a seemingly small number of people, I’m not inclined to sing it. There are way too many other songs that can be used.

In thinking about this issue, I also wonder when and where is it sensitive to play Christmas songs? We know not everyone in our society is of the Christian faith. Many people who aren’t Christian feel fine with playing “Christmas” or holiday songs especially when the words do not include any “religious” connotations. And yet, playing Christmas music can be very tiring for persons of other faiths or agnostics who feel uncomfortable and deflated with the entire Christmas season. Many persons view the playing of Christmas songs as promoting commercialism. And there are many people for whom the focus on holidays and being together with family and friends may bring sadness and depression. So, how do we celebrate things that are important and meaningful to us without disenfranchising or being insensitive to whole groups of people?

I suppose that with these types of issues, we might muddle through each situation and arrive at answers that line up with our values and objectives. I try to understand the situation within the context of inclusion and institutional power, as well as the historical and contemporary contexts. If you celebrate any end of year holidays, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukah or New Year’s, enjoy. If you don’t, I hope for you a peaceful end of the year as we transition into 2019.

Questions to reflect upon:
If you celebrate a holiday this season, what is the meaning for you? Do you do some things during this season to “fit-in” with what others around you are doing, and/or because you have “always” done these things? What are these things and do you feel uncomfortable about doing any of them? If you feel uncomfortable or situations happen that ask that you think about them, are there some questions that you might ask to help you better understand the situation?

Deepening Our Perspectives: Megyn Kelly Blackface Remarks

On October 23, 2018, on Megyn Kelly Today, Megyn Kelly questioned blackface when it comes to Halloween costume choices. Amongst a panel of persons, Jenna Bush Hagen, Melissa Rivers and Jacob Soboroff, Kelly bemoaned how Kent State University banned certain costumes for Halloween. Kelly introduced this segment as “political correctness going amuck.” From my perspective, I thought this piece could have been a great opportunity to discuss why the banned costumes might be racist, offensive and feed into stereotypical thinking. I wonder if political correctness is more of a hot button issue for conservative white people.

For me it was difficult to understand why Kelly would invite a panel of all White persons to respond to this topic. Kelly wondered why persons can’t paint their skin darker when posing as an African American character such as Diana Ross. “When I was a kid, that was OK, as long as you were dressing up, like, as a character…. I felt like, who doesn’t love Diana Ross. … I can’t believe all the number of people we are offending by just being normal people.” The following day on her show, Kelly apologized and she was fired the next week. (There were many responses about how Kelly had made insensitive and inflammatory remarks before coming to the Today Show and also ones that mentioned that this issue probably wasn’t the only reason for the firing since ratings were never as good as NBC executives had hoped.) One thing that struck me about this incident was Kelly’s use of the word “normal.”

Kelly’s statement about being normal resonates with what I’ve been writing and discussing for many years ago about what it’s like for persons of color, women, immigrants, persons with disabilities, differing sexual orientation, diverse cultural and religious backgrounds not considered to be the mainstream of society. It’s as if persons who are not in Kelly’s normal world are invisible. People of color have to live in two or more worlds, needing to shift between a mainstream “white” world and with their own cultural worlds, knowing when it’s best to inhabit each one.

Without realizing it, I believe that Kelly provided us with a good description of white privilege. Being white is normal for Kelly. Her perspective is that all of the privileges that come with being what she finds to be normal is not something that she has to think about. Melissa Rivers said during the broadcast that “If you think it’s offensive, it probably is.” That may be somewhat helpful in trying to keep from offending people. However, what if you don’t understand the racial history of this country and haven’t had to experience prejudice and stereotypes about your cultural background?

We are all limited by our own perspectives. Racism, white privilege and inclusion are uncomfortable subjects for all of us to face, and yet these issues remind us how limited our perspectives may be. In applying River’s advice to a coaching perspective which is culturally-aware, I am reminded of the question, “How do you know what you don’t know?” Do we want to understand that what is normal for us may not be the same as for other persons? What do we gain by expanding our understanding of differences? How can we benefit from a more comprehensive knowledge of our history and treatment of persons who are different from us? It seems like many people believe that having to be politically correct infringes upon their rights, as if they are losing something. Perhaps a critical question in understanding white privilege is, what are we losing in acknowledging white privilege? What would we be giving up? Conversely, what do we have to gain in learning more about the effects of privilege? How can being curious and humble about our limited understanding of white privilege within our diverse society help us fully acknowledge, appreciate and gain the wisdom and talent of all people in our society?

The concept of white privilege reminds us that there is not a level playing field, no matter if we are white or people of color. Acknowledging white privilege helps us to recognize that simply being kind to individuals who are different from ourselves does not provide equity or equal access to education, services, resources and opportunities. I believe that understanding institutional power helps us become aware of what is normal for some individuals and not for other persons. I’m especially aware of this notion of being “normal” as we have completed the holiday of Columbus Day and moving towards Thanksgiving and Christmas. How do we celebrate holidays that are important to us while being inclusive in acknowledging that these holidays may remind other people of grief or one’s religion or cultures being ignored? Would love to hear your responses to these questions.

Questions to reflect upon:
Can you think of a situation where you might have some advantage and another person might not have the same access? If yes, what might be some remedies to better provide that opportunity? And/or, where is a supportive and enlightened arena that you might discuss this?
During the months of October through December, is there a holiday which you feel like persons take out the fun or meaning from it for you? Might they be coming from different perspectives? Might you ask them what does that holiday mean to them?

Passion & Perseverance: Getting "Gritty"

As a leadership and strategic coach, I am always wondering what will help my clients be more successful. Dr. Angela Duckworth has researched this notion and found that one characteristic stands out as a significant predictor of success. It is not social intelligence, not IQ, not socioeconomic status, not good looks, and not physical health; it is “Grit.” Dr. Duckworth explains, “Grit is having stamina, sticking with your future, day-in, day-out, not just for the week, not just for the month but for years and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like a marathon, not a sprint.” https://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_grit_the_power_of_passion_and_perseverance/

Dr. Duckworth studied students at the National Spelling Bee, cadets at West Point Military Academy and rookie teachers serving in difficult neighborhoods. She observed which Spelling Bee candidates continued on, which cadets dropped out and which educators were still teaching at the end of the year and which of them improved learning outcomes. She found that talent doesn’t make you grittier or help make students or teachers follow-through with their commitments. Dr. Duckworth connects grit to a “growth mindset” as identified by Dr. Carol Dweck in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. A growth mindset sets forth the notion that the ability to learn is not fixed—it can change with effort. If one believes that failure is not a permanent condition, it can become a challenge from which one can learn. Grittiness helps one persevere towards one’s short-term and long-terms goals and can also grow one’s ability to thrive in the learning journey.

Duckworth’s construct of grit resonates with me—from my own continual learning journey, from working with youth in academic and leadership environments, and especially with clients in coaching and training. Duckworth’s work supports my belief that it is vital to help clients become clear about what they are passionate, to reframe their failures as temporary setbacks from which they can learn, to evaluate how important the specific outcomes they are moving towards are and how they want to use their energy, resources, creativity and talent. The issue of evaluating desired outcome can be critical. For many of my clients, success may not only require personal change, but understanding how they want to contribute to a larger movement or collective action. Each step of their learning journey may be incremental towards their overall long-term goals, which can amplify hope and motivation for staying gritty. I believe that coaching is a perfect arena to become grittier. I welcome you to seek coaching with me to explore, practice and express your passion and perseverance.

Questions to reflect upon:
What are you passionate about? What challenges have you faced in being successful in pursuing this passion? How have you persevered and what might motivate you to continue to move towards your goals?
Have you shown grit in one of more areas of passion and what were the results?

Aretha Franklin, Author of Her Life

"When she sang, she embodied what we were fighting for, and her music strengthened us. It revived us. When we would be released from jail after a non-violent protest, we might go to a late night club and let the music of Aretha Franklin fill our hearts. She was like a muse whose songs whispered the strength to continue on. Her music gave us a greater sense of determination to never give up or give in, and to keep the faith." -U.S. Representative John Lewis

"From the time that Dinah Washington first told me that Aretha was the 'next one' when she was 12 years old until the present day, Aretha Franklin set the bar upon which every female singer has and will be measured. …You will reign as the Queen forever." -Quincy Jones, Music Producer

“Aretha Franklin was not only an unparalleled artist, she was a freedom fighter and civil rights activist. … She was a feminist before feminism.” -Reverend Al Sharpton

Aretha Franklin, Queen of Soul has passed away. Aretha has to be on the top of my list of singers. Sometimes there are entertainers who mesmerize me as they share their extraordinary talent. Aretha was much more than that. Bob Hope once said to her, “Nobody handles a song the way you do. What’s your secret?” She answered, “It’s no secret, I just do my thing in my own way and I hope people like it.” When the Pastor of Aretha’s church spoke about her, Robert Smith, Jr talked about how she performed for decades, stood the test of time and still had the voice at 76 years of age. She ushered in a whole new way of creating, appreciating and utilizing music in many genres of music.

Aretha was humble: a fighter for women’s rights, African American equity and the poor and downtrodden. As a teenager, Franklin traveled with Martin Luther King, Jr. singing, rallying the crowd and providing inspiration with her talent. She was the first female to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. During Franklin’s celebration of life and coverage on the news immediately after her death, we heard story after story of how Aretha would call or visit artists, politicians, reporters and community people just to talk and tell them how proud she was of them and to listen to their encounters with racism, sexism, difficulties with the criminal justice system and other unjust treatment or inhuman living conditions, such as the contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. She provided a listening ear and inspired hope for change and challenged persons in leadership positions to do something about the unjust or unhealthy situations.

Generous in spirit with her music, love and money, Aretha Franklin was deeply passionate about the human condition, wanting to be remembered as a good mother. She conducted an annual 3-day revival in memory of her father, C.L. Franklin, the former minister of the church, providing soul through music and food. Her revivals fed people from 4 pm to 1:30/2 am in the morning. Not only did Ms. Franklin actively fundraise to feed the needy and persons having difficulty, she donated freely with her money, always accompanied with the spirit of caring and dignity for the recipients.

Willie Nelson, Country Singer/Songwriter said, "Whether it was Gospel, Blues, Jazz, R&B, Pop or Civil Rights, Aretha Franklin was the greatest gift and the voice of a generation. She could turn any song into a hymn. She will be greatly missed here on earth, but that band in heaven just got our Angel." It occurs to me that Aretha Franklin was not only the Queen of Soul in music. She was deeply spiritual and used her gifts and graces to influence and affect us in how we live our lives. More than an innovative musician and storyteller, she was the author of her own life.

Questions to reflect upon:
Aretha Franklin was passionate about sharing her music for the betterment of the human condition and in doing so became the author of her life. What are you passionate about? How are you using your gifts and talents to live and write your own stories and become the author of your life?

Culturally-Aware Framework

“Food for me has always been my language. It’s something that if someone doesn’t understand my culture, I always serve them a plate of herring or Ethiopian chicken. The other one is music. Food, music and art are these incredible pillars. They’re kind of like pillars into windows which make each culture very, very unique.” -Chef Marcus Samuelson

I have begun watching a cooking show called “No Passport Required.” In one recent episode on the Indo-Guyanese food in Queens, New York City, I was intrigued with how Chef Marcus provided us with history, music, art, dance, religion and walked us through Richmond Hill of Queens, which is very much influenced by the Guyanese community of South America.

Guyana’s culture is similar to the Caribbean culture, and includes a mix of Indian, Portuguese, Irish Dutch and Chinese. Chef Marcus showed us fresh markets, restaurants, faith and entertainment centers of Richmond Hill in Queens. Ancestors from the Indo-Guyanese community were originally from India and who came to Guyana in South America before making Queens their home. Chef Marcus, as a masterful storyteller, facilitated the stories of each of his guests and provided insight into what makes the community so vibrant and alive.

Chef Marcus travelled around the neighborhood, connecting what ties the people together underscoring unique cultural differences. Truly a culturally-aware approach, I thought to myself. Just as the use of food is a language for Chef Marcus, the use of stories is the foundation for culturally-aware coaching. Chef Samuelson told us that food “is a path to culture, identity, and history.” I believe the telling of stories also illuminates culture, identity, history and community. In the coaching experience, each person shares one’s own narrative. Each story stands on its own.* For example, when certain hardships or successes are shared and a listener feels that other people believe the story to be novel, that listener might respond in a way that seems to diminish the narrative, for example, “I had that experience, as well, it’s not a big deal and that’s not anything special.” However, each person has their own story. Similar or different experiences do not take away from the story being told. Stories have the power to deepen the understanding of the person, the person’s culture(s) and the community.

Stories highlight what things are important to each person and provide a historical and cultural backdrop for the narrative. When clients share their stories, I pay attention to social-economic matters, as well as cultural, gender, sexual orientation, liberation and healing issues. Although the patterns of stories are universal in meaning, each narrative is unique. Some aspects of each story bring forth unconscious meaning. In coaching, recognizing the meaning for the client can uncover the client’s blocks, struggles and aspirations. Identifying each person’s history can help us better understand the person’s experiences. Art, culture, music and story can trigger emotional understanding for deeper meaning and motivation.

Chef Marcus presented West Indian Trinidadian food from a cross-cultural bush cook, which was traditionally made in the jungle then moved to the open-fire and now cooked in a big pot on an induction burner. I watched as many Indo-Guyanese persons played cricket, a popular sport in Guyana, then tail-gated with a big spread of cultural foods. Chef Marcus also chatted with Indian DJ entertainers who were innovating their electronic music which highlights their Caribbean and Indian roots and fuses it with hip hop. Chef Marcus then visited one of the DJ’s parents who was hand-making roti-an Indian pancake-like bread. I drooled over curry dishes with Chinese influences and saw how this roti shop with long lines at lunch transformed into a cultural hang-out with tasa drums, calypso music and singing and dancing.

In answering Chef Marcus Samuelson’s question about how do you connect with your culture, and how do you express your Guyanese culture, Ryan Madray, a U.S. born Indian/Guyanese DJ of music responds, “We almost live through the stories of our grandparents and our parents. …We feel so close to it because of how we were raised. … We have to keep the culture alive or it will die out.” Madray’s grandparents spoke English more than Hindi because of the British occupation during their lifetimes.

My creative writing instructor in graduate school, N.V.M. Gonzalez, often said that good stories have general patterns or motifs, and the social, political and economic milieu make each story come to life. With culturally-aware coaching I hope to help each client connect with the stories they have lived and also to become clearer about the future stories they wish to weave.

Questions to reflect upon:
Where do your stories come from?
What can you learn about others from their stories?

*This idea was first articulated to me by Jennifer Chien, culturally-aware coach and independent filmmaker.

Strategic Plan of Action

In last month’s 6/2018 “thoughts,” I blogged about “Goal-Setting” describing how I assist clients in creating goals that focus on the outcomes they desire. Formulating a realistic goal can provide motivation and support in attaining it. This month I am addressing taking a well-formed goal and generating a plan of action for it.

In developing a client’s plan of action, we ponder what difference the client wants to make and where the client wants to be. We brainstorm methods for achieving the goal. We identify the strengths and challenges the client may have in reaching the goal. Although many of my clients are familiar with producing workplans, in our sessions together I think the coaching process helps each client go beyond putting into writing what they already know. The client becomes aware of forces at work within oneself. We explore areas where the client might have blocks which typically prevent oneself from moving through the strategies. It helps the client to review whether the tactics are ones that s/he would realistically complete and whether one is motivated to complete them. The client then produces a contingency plan for overcoming any block(s). We may uncover whether there may be some habits or patterns that have prevented the client from being successful in the past. (See “thoughts” 4/2017, 11/2016, 10/09 and 4/09 for transforming habits.) I also ask a question from CompassPoint’s1 learning development template, “How will you celebrate success?” Just as the answer to the question about what blocks the client is often personal and unique, the response to how one plans to celebrate success tends to vary greatly from person to person. I have come to realize that celebrating one’s success is vitally important because in we tend to just move on to the next crisis or priority that occurs, not recognizing that we have achieved something major which is of great importance to us.

I believe that as a coach I am assisting clients in illuminating their own learning processes, helping to develop and recognize their own resources while creating a map to achieve the desired outcomes. I help facilitate and support my clients transform and grow as they do the work generating a plan that will work for them.

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there a goal for which you’d like to develop a plan of action?
How might you creatively and strategically create that plan?

1CompassPoint is a non-profit organization whose role in social change is to partner with leaders to develop themselves and others, to guide organizational strategy and capacity building, and to share knowledge and perspective with the colleagues across the field.


Many clients in my coaching practice wish to develop a plan of action for envisioning and achieving their goals. I believe this can be a very helpful process for supporting clients in developing and growing beyond our sessions together. Over the next month or two, I will be posting a series of “thoughts” about the strategic processes for creating plans of action. Goal-setting is the first part of this process and I am devoting this month’s coaching blog to it.

In goal setting, I assist my clients by leading them to identify the outcomes that they desire. Sometimes they begin with a goal which encompasses skills that they are already good at, so we try to hone in on the specific outcomes or development that they seek. Fleshing out their strengths and weaknesses or challenges and reflecting upon how the improvement or learning arena will help them achieve the outcome they want are parts of the processes we move through in order to identify the “real” goal they wish to pursue. Chipping away and refining the goal are critical elements in identifying a goal for which they can creatively map out strategies and tactics.

Most of my clients are experienced goal-setters and often don’t need me to help them do what they already are successful at. However, clients generally engage in coaching to help themselves grow and develop and their typical pattern for goal-setting may not be working. Anisa Purbasani Horton in “Five Alternatives to try when traditional goal setting doesn’t work” https://www.fastcompany.com/40578662/5-alternatives-to-try-when-traditional-goal-setting-methods-dont-work offers five tips from five different people. Entrepreneur Reshma Chamberlain suggests “adopting a mantra,” instead of changing your habits, because transforming one’s routine way of doing things is very hard work. Adopting a mantra helps you consciously choose what you want to focus upon. This process can help persons let go of focusing on what they don’t want.

Productivity expert, Laura Venderkam points out that because we live in a constantly changing environment, setting “90-day goals if year-long ones don’t make sense.” Establishing 90-day goals can help us stay accountable to the longer-term ones and adjust to changes that weren’t and couldn’t be anticipated. With 90-day goals, we may come upon some necessary processes that take a year or two or more and severely affect meeting the longer-term goal.

Typically, we are taught to start a task or goal at the beginning. An interesting alternative Horton mentions is an approach from Spencer Greenberg, mathematician and entrepreneur, “optimize what’s already right in your life” rather than trying to fix a problem. I remember speaking with a counselor friend about some issue that my adolescent son was having. She responded that she was hearing an area in which my son was not doing well. She was sure there were many things that were going “right” in his life. She had experiences of working with parents and young people who were focusing on the negative and how it tended to make the undesirable actions grow. Similarly, she observed that when parents and young people focused on the positive, it also grew. I think this was the beginning of my seeking out a positive frame to learning, (see “thoughts,” 12/2017, 12/2010) one that grew into incorporating appreciative inquiry, (see “thoughts,” 2/2008) culturally-aware coaching (see “thoughts,” 3/2018, 2/2018) and focusing on strengths (see “thoughts,” (5/2017) instead of primarily weaknesses. Although I saw myself as a fairly good problem-solver, I realized that honing in on only the “problem” had its drawbacks and prevented me from seeing the bigger picture and being creative and curious about how to embrace the development I wanted to achieve.

Going against the grain of traditional goal-setting, Scott Young, author of How to Change a Habit, counsels persons to “start some goals in the middle of the process.” Whereas in some cases we know the end point and can move back through the process, sometimes we may not understand all of the ramifications of the goal. Young says that in these cases, “Committing to a certain amount of effort, and then setting a reasonable goal once you have a better idea of what it would take” can be more productive.

I was especially intrigued with this goal setting method that Daniel Dowling, Fast Company Leadership contributor advises us to ask ourselves, “Did I do my best?” instead of the typical suggestions of being “specific, measurable, achievable, realist and timely (aka SMART).” Effort is measured. We typically tend to evaluate whether we are good at something and we can’t be good at everything. The question of “Did I do my best” reframes our mindset to a learning and growth one placing our attention on what it is that we have done to reach our goal, rather than focusing on being a failure. A feeling of failure can affect our motivation and make us become more “stuck.”

All of these five alternatives to goal-setting are factors why I take my clients through a full process to establish their goals. It reminds me of the saying, “Go slow to go fast.”

Questions to reflect upon:

What is important to you about any goal you have or that you are setting? What will achieving this goal give you or provide for you?
When you approach your goals, do you look at the positive or the negative aspects of your actions?

Teambuilding through Art and Performance

My clients often talk about teambuilding in their workplaces. How do I get the best quality from my team in working together? How do I utilize strengths while continuing to nurture growth and development? How can I best communicate so that everyone feels included and understands the group direction? How do we create synergy, where the whole produces much more than the collection of the individual parts? Recently I had the privilege of playing/singing with the Wesley Jazz Ensemble in a collaboration with the San Jose Taiko, "Japantown Immersive." This event, staged in an open street festival manner, was directed with Epic Immersive where the San Jose Taiko, SJT, worked together with several different artistic groups to “connect people through cultural understanding, creative expression, and rhythmic heartbeat.” It included opportunities for the audience to be a part of the event and collaborated with different performance groups at two different stages. One of the Japantown Immersive performing sites was with the Wesley Jazz Ensemble, WJE, offering a shortened version of Swingposium, a musical play about the incarceration of Japanese Americans during the 1940’s. I marveled at how SJT members worked together to provide a moving experience of music, art and meaning. Reflecting upon this performance, I have been pondering how SJT creates and builds teamwork. I noticed the essence of how individuals were confident in their interactions with each other and with their collaborators. This seems to set the foundation for teambuilding factors of nurturing growth, development and synergy, developing the roles that each team member plays, being intentional about their communication and fully enjoying their art. The SJ Taiko’s mission of using rhythm and cultural understanding to connect and build community was creatively orchestrated in this Japantown Immersive experience.

Focusing on Roles
In watching and in conversation with individual SJT members, there seemed to be many elements in the structure of how they work together. Each of the members played different roles. Those roles could alternate, but each member was deliberate in each action they took. In some numbers, one member videotaped the players. In another, one played a different type of drum than the core group. In some pieces, one, two or three members played other musical instruments, like a cowbell or cabasa (percussive), or a Japanese wooden flute. I also noticed that different persons immediately swept up the practice area of the drums and they all helped to put the equipment away. Each SJT member seemed eager and happy to be engaging in each of these roles.

SJT’s non-performance and performance behavior are something that they are very intentional about. Franco Imperial, Artistic Director of SJT shares that each individual member contributes “to the longevity of the company - this means our roles are defined beyond the stage.”

Although individual SJT members play different roles, there is one sound, a unified rhythm that is practiced to perfection. We, the listeners, became mesmerized by their music and visually entertained by their physical movement and dance. I think it’s easy to see and hear if one person is out of synch with the rhythm, but SJT’s art seemed effortless. Each of the players knew their cues for setting-up the appropriate instrument or props for each successive number. The players jumped onto different drums and percussion instruments. Everything was committed to memory, even the progression of the next piece, unlike we, WJE musicians, who had sheet music or lists in front of us.

Individual & Group Communication
I noticed that immediately before and after SJT practiced, they sat in a circle shape, checking in with each other, evaluating and problem-solving difficulties they noticed in their processes. When we practiced with them, different SJT members coordinated different aspects of the collaboration with WJE, asking questions, and providing helpful ideas and being responsible for specific group cues. With Swingposium. this enhanced the ability for the three groups to get on the same page. I felt as though our joint practices efficiently utilized the group time together, which is often difficult for just one group. The coordination of communication seemed very tight, yet open and malleable for suggestion, input and improvement.

Each initial joint practice with WJE and Epic Immersive, SJT asked persons to introduce themselves, creating the same environment which SJT in their circles. Greeting and recognizing individuals seems to play into the open communication and cohesiveness within this organization. SJT’s processes seem to facilitate individuals in being able to “step-up or step-back,” which can be a valuable group-building tool.

Nurturing Growth and Development & Creating Synergy
At the Swingposium stage, the SJ Taiko danced in swing style. It was extraordinary how they were so competent at dancing while playing and moving their large drums. Since none of the players had previously been familiar with swing dancing, they had committed to dancing lessons as preparation for this performance piece.

SJT develops and cultivates individual strengths through a two-year training process emanating from four principles first developed by the founding members of SJT: musical technique, kata (form), ki (energy) and attitude. Franco described these principles: “Musical technique is what/how we hear, the manner by which we make sound, the way we strike the drum. Kata, (form), is what/how we see, how we use our bodies efficiently and expressively to create sound and movement. Ki, (energy), is what/how we feel, the way it comes from our hara, (center of our being), the energy that we project when we play and how that connects with the audience and fellow performers. Attitude is what/how we think. Respecting ourselves, those that came before us, those that play with us, and the knowledge that we have yet to learn (beginner’s mind). This is the criteria we use to evaluate anyone auditioning for our company. It’s also the way we evaluate each other and ourselves as performing members once we make the cut. We continually strive to integrate these principles into our art.” As these principles drive their performance, they also seem to lend towards the synergistic energy that is created.

Cultural Understanding and Creative Expression
Franco painted SJT’s canvas by explaining that “Japantown isn’t one thing, but a tapestry—we wanted audiences to get a taste of Japantown on Saturday and leave people with a sense of wonder and gratitude for what Japantown is and can be when we take a moment to celebrate and reflect.”

I believe that storytelling through culture and creative expression can be an incredible vehicle for teambuilding. At the Swingposium stage, SJT moved us through a love story between two young persons who were evacuated and incarcerated during WWII. SJT created art and meaning in a collaborative way that built connection and community while sharing the story of an infamous chapter of American history. Franco elaborated, “With the swing and hip-hop collaborations we’re showcasing the multi-faceted story of Japantown: a fantastical telling of its past and future. Swingposium forces us to relive some painful parts of this community’s history but primarily it’s a vehicle to show the spirit of a people turned to the arts for hope and survival.” On another stage with Get Down Dance Studio and DJ Cutso, Franco told me that “SJT shows its range as their taiko switches from swing to hip hop. Hip-hop is part of a movement born out of the 70’s (when SJT was born) and continues to be a source of inspiration and exploration for us. Being able to connect with the youth of the Get Down Dance Studio folks gives us a glimpse of what’s possible which is very exciting for us.”

Creating Joy
I wonder if SJT’s principles of ki and attitude help produce the joy that is apparent with the players, the audience and the collaborators. The SJ Taiko members exuded joy--in practice sessions, in performance and in talking with us about their art and their organization. Speaking for myself, I had so much fun watching and playing with them. I believe the joy we shared, much like the energy, was synergistic, having a much larger effect than the result of individual persons experiencing joy. SJT’s performances reminded me of an expression that my short story teacher in grad school used to say, “Art evokes emotion.” When one is fully immersed in art or an experience, people can feel the emotion and make meaning from it. SJT had anticipated about 500 persons attending and there were over 1000 persons in attendance. When I visited the other performance site, it was difficult to view the entire stage because there were so many people. Yet, the crowds stayed. Focusing on roles, communication, nurturing growth and synergy, transmitting cultural understanding through creative expression, and creating joy are probably just a few of the elements of teambuilding that SJT offers. Do you notice any elements of teambuilding in your team, in your community, in other art collectives?

Questions to reflect upon:
In any groups you work with, what are the role(s) you play? What role(s) might be needed that is/are not being played?
What norms typify the individual and group communication? Are they intentional? What improvements might occur if they were intentional? How does your group work allow you and other team members to contribute their individuality and strengths?
What do you find joyful about your group work?

Engendering Hope and Optimism Amidst Strife

“How many times must a must a man look up before he can see the sky?
How many ears must one man have before he can hear people cry?
How many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?
The answer my friend, is blowin’ in the wind, the answer is blowin’ in the wind.”

- “Blowin in the Wind,” by Bob Dylan, sung many times by Peter, Paul and Mary.

April is a month that has been designated to “Celebrate Diversity.” I think it fitting to honor the life and works of a civil rights leader, Reverend Lloyd Keigo Wake, who passed away in late December, 2017. Eva Okida Sato, Glenn Watanabe, my husband, Peter and I were asked to sing Blowin’ in the Wind for Rev. Wake’s celebration of life service. The words printed above are from the third verse of the song. All of the verses and the chorus aptly describe Reverend Wake’s philosophy and leadership. He mentored and supported hundreds of community activists. As a fellow board member with Rev Wake at the Asian Law Caucus, Karen Kai, attorney and legal writer, mentioned to me after the service, that the board would be discussing situations and it felt like there was no hope. She said that Rev. Wake would “sit back, take it all in, offer some words and open the way.” He helped groups of people find the answers that were “blowin’ in the wind.”

Born on a farm in Reedley, California, incarcerated at Poston concentration camp with his family during the 1940’s, Rev Wake became a social activist who dedicated his life to furthering peace and justice. His life is a testament to envisioning equity in our institutions and ways of governance. Rev. Wake carried faith which engendered hope and optimism amidst strife. In many different ways, he fostered teambuilding, community building and leadership. Rev Wake created paths for individuals and communities to heal and resist; to face discrimination and systematic oppression.

Being an American citizen of Japanese ancestry, Rev. Wake was an internee who was stripped of his rights. As all evacuees did, he completed a loyalty questionnaire. Rev. Wake answered the selected service items about willingness to serve in the armed forces, with “yes, but I will not bear arms.”1 While in concentration camp, Lloyd felt called to the ministry. Rev. Wake incorporated healing as a necessary step in fighting against injustice.

Rev. Wake was one of the first leaders within the Japanese American community to support efforts begun by young adults to seek redress and reparations for Japanese and Japanese Americans incarcerated during WWII. He understood the need for healing within the Japanese American community, to deal with issues which arose from being behind barbed wires. Many individuals had been further hurt, since the Japanese American community felt forced to believe that there was only one way to respond to the abrogation of their rights. The loyalty questionnaire divided the Japanese community. Questions #27 and 28 were: “Are you willing to serve in the armed forces of the United States on combat duty wherever ordered?” and “Will you swear unqualified allegiance to the United States of American and faithfully defend the United States from any or all attack by foreign or domestic forces, and forswear any form of allegiance or obedience to the Japanese emperor, or any other foreign government, power or organization?” Evacuees were asked these questions while being incarcerated and without due process of law. Since Japanese citizens were not allowed to apply for citizenship, pledging allegiance would mean they would be without a country. Answers to these questions caused much angst and confusion. The community took sides against each other for the answers they gave. Some evacuees, both Japanese immigrants and American citizens were “repatriated” to Japan. The stories of the “no-no boys”, evacuees who answered “no” to both questions #27 and 28 were not really shared openly until 50 or so years later. In many ways the no-no boys were treated like pariahs in the community, when they were simply resisting illegal treatment by the government.

Rev. Wake began his ministry serving the Japanese American community, within a “provisional” church, since Asians could not be a part of the larger United Methodist Conference. He later was appointed to be an associate pastor at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church where he was the first minister to perform a “Covenant Service” for a gay couple in the United Methodist Churches in the 1960’s. As part of his ministry at Glide, he shepherded many young adults who filed for conscientious objection to find alternatives for military service.

Throughout his life, Rev Wake was an ally of marginalized people, demonstrating and bringing together different communities. Within the United Methodist Church, Rev. Wake was the only Asian delegate that joined with Blacks and progressive Whites to establish the General Commission on Religion and Race, an agency to eliminate racism within the Church. He demonstrated for rights of Zainichi Koreans; supported the United Farm Workers, chaired the Wendy Yoshimura Fair Trial Committee; advocated for admitting a gay person to join the board of the San Francisco Family Service Board, served as President and board member of Asian Law Caucus for 21 years, was arrested at a sit-in protesting sham elections in the Philippines during the Marcos era, and joined the human rights trip to South Korean when Park Chung-hee was in power. Rev. Wake became the first chairperson of the National Federation of Asian American United Methodists. Although these actions are only a sample of Rev. Wake’s leadership, they give us a glimpse of his commitment to marginalized individuals and communities in our society.

Not only was Rev. Wake a courageous leader, but a humble, kind and loving person. At one of the services his children and grandchildren spoke of his humor, sports ability and how fun he was to be with. Much of my coaching practice is about facilitating transformation and transition to help clients develop and grow. It is clear that Rev. Wake’s life helped countless individuals and organizations grow, in transforming and opening the path towards liberation with dignity and joy. In closing I want to share with you a few of his words:

“The only criterion for action is love. I hesitate to use that word because love has become so distorted. The opposite of love is not hate: it is aloofness, apathy, indifference. The love I am talking about is not a romantic love; it is a love that very often takes sides, that takes the side of the oppressed. It is a love that tears down evil systems so that it can build up people who have been dominated by and dehumanized by those systems.”

“There are three ways in which men and women deal with their wounds. One is to cry, one is to be silent, another is to turn the pain into joy and healing. Blessed are the wounded who respond with the totality of their lives to bring health and healing and joy to all people.”

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there any arena in your life or in our society where you suffer from aloofness, apathy or indifference? How might you begin to heal, transform and bring hope? How might the group “open the way?”

1Celebration of the Life of Rev. Lloyd Keigo Wake, Memorial Program Timeline, March 10, 2018.

Women's History Month & Culturally-aware Coaching

“Feliz Dia De La Mujer. Hoy quise regalarte la flor mas hermosa, pero no pude, porque la flor mas hermosa eres tu. !Felicidades!”

“Happy's Women's Day. Today I wanted to give you the most beautiful flower, but I couldn't, because you are the most beautiful flower.”

On March 8, I received this text from a special Latina woman who watches my parents. She was sending me a greeting for International Women’s Day. She is a kind person, a thorough caretaker and has a positive effect on my parents’ mood. As an immigrant and single parent, she is not only a hard worker, but resilient as well. This was the first time I had received a salutation celebrating Women’s Day. Earlier in the day, I had visited a gay woman friend who is in seminary, gifted with dance and movement and undergoing chemotherapy and we had exchanged the greeting, “Happy International Women’s Day”. As my friend struggles with the debilitative effects of the cancer, it is amazing how upbeat she is. I am constantly touched by her compassion, openness and appreciative spirit she holds for everything in her life. She is immensely grateful for her the mental, physical and spiritual support from her partner and the persons accompanying her on her healing journey. Similar to so many women I know, at times I detect a hesitance in “accepting” help--her not wanting to impose on other people. However, when I mention how might she react with friends facing similar illnesses, she acknowledges the natural outpouring of love and finding space to receive these gifts of grace. Sharing in these exchanges with both of these women on this day was celebratory and meaningful. As March 8, 2018 marked women’s activism around the world and this month honors Women’s History, I have decided to share a story about culturally-aware coaching with a female client.

A Latina client, let’s call her Maria, was wondering whether to spend her session time about a concern she had about a direct report. Her direct report seemed to be finding ways to avoid following through with certain tasks and having difficulty in communication and joint work. This staff person also seemed to be taking sick days off that didn’t seem to match the situation. A colleague responsible for HR issues in the organization said that this person had demonstrated this pattern when she was an intern, although apparently nothing was done about it then or during her probation period when she was later given the position. Maria said that she felt the position may not be a good fit for her direct report. When I asked whether the direct report could do the necessary work and is motivated to learn the job responsibilities, or if it might be a disservice for her direct report to stay in the position, I recognized that Maria had already pondered these issues. Maria would have liked to move her into a position that better utilized more of her staff person’s strengths, although this was not a possibility. We talked through the situation and I began to realize that in her mind, my client had already mapped out a performance improvement plan and had covered the bases for forging and continuing a respectful relationship with her direct report. Maria seemed to shift when asked about whether it was in the best interest of the direct report and the organization for her to work towards the kind of performance that was desired and needed for the organization. I think that my client had been torn because she was focusing on the direct report—her contributions and hope in helping her grow and develop. When we named that Maria was wanting to hold both values of caring for the direct report and the organization, she felt more aligned and congruent in moving forward with the situation.

I got this feeling that there may be something deeper than her sense of duty to her staff person and organization, possibly pertaining to culture. I asked her whether her direct report was a person of color and she responded affirmatively. Maria was the first Latina in a management position and she hadn’t been there very long. Additionally, her direct report was one of the first persons of color of hire in that particular position. The organization may well have fast-tracked her direct report’s hire as the organization was consciously trying to be more inclusive. While my client acknowledged that she was supportive of her organization’s efforts to be more diverse in their hires, she also recognized that there needs to be support for these processes. We talked about how it is typical for the first few persons of color, the first few women in departments, and the first persons who are “different” in organizations to consciously or unconsciously shoulder the responsibility for “fixing the institutions” when they are not reflecting the organizational values of diversity and inclusion. My client was cognizant of the inclusive values the organization was trying to uphold and how dominant culture typically carries privilege and access. The act of naming what was going on in my client’s leadership journey helped her to regain her footing and balance.

Connecting culture to the storyline of the client’s journey, naming the cultural backdrop of each situation as well as the values affecting one’s behavior and decision-making, are critical to culturally-aware coaching. Instead of the situation being two isolated issues—1) valuing both the direct report and the organization and 2) naming the cultural perspective, my client could acknowledge the multiple forces occurring within the context of her leadership story. Addressing individual and organizational values was helpful. Identifying the cultural perspective and issues about organizational power was healing. We often hear the adage, “The truth will set you free.” I believe that through culturally-aware coaching, assisting the client in uncovering the social, cultural, political and economic milieu of each person’s storylines while illuminating how power is embedded within organizational structures can be healing and transformative. May this month focused upon Women’s History highlight a greater understanding of individual and organizational values and the process of being curious about each other’s cultural perspectives and realities.

Questions to reflect upon:
How might you learn more about women’s history, in your family, in your community, or in the world?
How might culture affect any particular issue you are dealing with?

2/2018 Black History Month: Reflecting upon Culturally-aware Coaching

“The cultural crisis though which we are passing today can be summed up thus, said Cesaire: the culture is strongest from the material and technological point of view threatens to crush all weaker cultures, particularly in a world in which, distance counting for nothing, the technologically weaker cultures have no means of protecting themselves. All cultures have, furthermore, an economic social and political base, and no culture can continue to live if it’s political destiny is not in its own hands.” -James Baldwin

James Baldwin, who was referring to a speech by Aime Cesaire at the Conference of Negro African Writers and Artists in 1956, published these words in Nobody Knows My Name. These words strike me as something that still has great application for today. As we live in a multicultural society with individuals coming from influences and cultures different from mainstream society, I am reminded that persons of color, females, working class persons, differently-abled persons, LGBQTia persons, agnostics and persons of faith other than Christianity, are forced to live in at least two different worlds at the same time. And, one of these worlds always has power over the other institutionally and in ways that drives personal perspectives. This country’s history has not only fueled slavery, brought immigrants to supply a cheap labor force, it has become prosperous economically, intellectually and technologically from its rich heritage. Today, in February, 2018, sixty-two years after Baldwin wrote these words, stereotypical views of African Americans abound. African Americans, especially African American males are often viewed as the “problem”, as the bottom of the heap, as a “lower class” simply because of their skin color. Yet many people believe that African Americans are afforded an equal playing field.

In coaching I sometimes refer to this saying: “How do you know what you don’t know?” By this, I mean, how do you hear what you don’t hear? How do you feel what you aren’t experiencing? How do you see what you don’t see? I believe this notion applies to the privileges of class, color and religion and all other institutional privileges. Just because one is white doesn’t mean one is racist, however, being white makes it more difficult to understand racism because one isn’t a daily target of it.

How do these concepts about race and religion enter into the coaching field? Many of my clients are persons of color. All of my clients work in diverse environments. The majority of my clients are social justice advocates in the non-profit field and serve diverse audiences and persons who are in need of specific services. Being conscious of culture and race allows me as a coach to be present for all of the stories of my clients’ lives, not just ones that are familiar in our mainstream society. Being culturally-aware encourages clients to bring their “whole” selves, to not separate the different worlds in which they live. Providing an environment where clients can incorporate their cultural strengths while also identifying when race, culture, white privilege are factors in their lives which can help them create the ongoing narratives of their lives.

I continue to learn from my clients and to embody “cultural humility,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SaSHLbS1V4w or a multidimensional concept that recognizes that I can only be an expert in my own culture. Cultural humility was developed and piloted at Children’s Hospital Oakland, Multicultural Curriculum Program by a team led by Drs. Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia. Inherent to this concept is the belief that no culture is better than another. This program has become a national effort within the medical field. A key value of this approach to health is that being aware of privilege and race in America can strengthen positive health outcomes. Residents discuss in small groups cultural issues which they realize may affect their practice with patients, including life and death situations. Many other social justice advocates have adopted this cultural humility framework and have infused them into their organizational practices. Cultural humility encompasses three principles: lifelong learning and critical self-reflection, recognizing and challenging power imbalances that are inherent in our institutional structures and taking responsibility for institutional accountability by modeling principles as everyone in the organization helps each other grow and learn.

I have worked with several organizations in adopting cultural humility. It is a creatively dynamic process that can lead to transformation and healing. As we celebrate African-American History Month, I encourage you to explore new learning not only about the contribution and achievements of African Americans, but also about how the history of conquest, slavery, exploitation and racism have a great deal to do with African Americans not having an equal playing field.

Questions to reflect upon:
From the definition of cultural humility, what culture(s) do you have expertise? What culture(s) might you want to develop cultural humility? Is there a way you might explore new learning about race, racism and white privilege? *

*People often ask me if there is one book they might read about cultural diversity. That’s a difficult request to fill, similar to asking how can I read one book to appreciate all cultural differences. Understanding diversity and culture is complex, with continual learning being a requisite. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in viewing some stories about race in America, I’d suggest: Footprints on the Land: American Stories of Race, by Helen H. Helfer. If you have a request for resources within a specific context about race/culture, please don’t hesitate to contact me through email. If I feel like I don’t have an adequate response, I will consult with other culturally-aware coaches or colleagues with a background in understanding race and get back to you.

New Years and Seeking Transformation

Shinnen Akemashite Omedeto Gozaimasu-or Happy New Year in Japanese. Over the years, I have composed several blog entries on creating a “theme” for the year. I believe that selecting a theme for the year is focused on process, personal learning/development and transformative change. Dr. Robert Kegan, Harvard professor and principal of Minds at Work, a program which helps people move through unconscious resistance to change, believes that if you want to lose weight, don’t make a new year’s resolution about it or go on a diet. People often forget their New Year’s resolutions or quickly abandon them before February rolls around. Typically, resolutions are created with a particular result in mind and with little reflection about what processes are needed to achieve the result. Dr. Kegan has written a book, Right Weight, Right Mind to incorporate his “Immunity to Change” approach to identifying and working with one’s unconscious resistance for weight loss. I utilize this immunity philosophy in my coaching and in uncovering barriers to moving towards the life that one wants to lead.

Why is it that making a traditional New Year’s Resolution rarely ends in achieving the desired goal? Kegan believes that there are competing commitments to arenas where we have not been successful. Until the complexity for why we do what we do are tackled by uncovering these conflicting commitments, recognizing how our automatic responses once helped us achieve other desired outcomes, sometimes even life-saving ones, each of us will continue with blinders on, not recognizing the whole field in play. In several books that Kegan has coauthored with Lisa Laskow Lahey, Harvard Professor and other original principal of Minds at Work, they detail how one can use their Immunity to Change, ITC, for many different type of desired outcomes, including weight loss, communicating differently, exercising regularly or staying on one’s medications. In my personal life and with my clients, I have found Kegan and Lahey’s approach to be transformative. Their strategies are not necessarily “quick-fix” ones, and they are clear that their processes entail focus as well as stick-to-it-ness. They view their clients as “brave” and willing to commit themselves to change, learning and developing themselves.

Kegan and Lahey’s model also presents how the words and “language” reflect one’s mindset. One’s mindset is a very powerful tool in change. When we are able to “shift” our mindset, when mind, body and spirit are aligned, transformation occurs. I believe that transformation occurs at the spiritual level, whether we identify the particular change as spiritual or not. This notion came to mind as I was listening to the pastor of my church speak about how making New Year’s resolutions has its roots in Methodism, (a Protestant religion.) Wikipedia states that “Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each new year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts,” and “Romans began each year by making promises to the god Janus, for whom the month of January is named.” My assumption from all three examples is that the origin of making resolutions may include a spiritual awakening. Perhaps this awakening is beneficial in moving towards the shift, or desired outcome. I wonder if a New Year’s resolution was adopted as a learning process, as opposed to a specific outcome, would it increase the odds of reaching it?

Kegan and Lahey assert that New Year’s resolutions do not result in change and tend to create worse outcomes, for example, increased weight gain if “going on a diet” is the resolution. I wonder if you are desiring growth, development and transformation, if creating a theme or engaging in a coaching journey with me may help you seek your desired outcome(s).

Questions to reflect upon:
Is there a theme that you wish to focus upon for the New Year? What is it and what might the barriers be to achieving it? What is your contingency plan for reckoning with the barriers?

*For previous related blogs:
Creating a theme for the new year: 2/2015- “Seeing is Believing”, 1/2013- “On the Path to Happiness and Meaning,” 1/2012- “Focus on Growth for Year.”

Kegan & Lahey transformation
11/2016- “Growth Beyond Our Current Abilities”

Is there Negativity in your Workplace?

Most coaches utilize a positive framework in their philosophy: appreciating strengths and identifying positive aspects of one’s contributions. I have found this approach to support the growth, development and transformation in my clients and in the work that they influence. I recently came across an article in Fast Co Leadership, 6/26/17, titled “Four Signs That You’re The Office Debbie Downer,” by Stephanie Vozza. It reminded me that persons who are focused on fixing problems and what is wrong with any situation can be unintentionally infusing a negative vibe to the workplace.

I sometimes find this tendency in my clients and I remember being this way when I worked for the University of California. My former workplace came with its strengths as well as some of its bureaucratic aspects that often accompany a big organization. Vozza’s article identifies four major signs of a pessimistic cycle: focusing on what’s wrong, assigning blame, not letting go of the past and motivating with fear.

In my former workplace I was good at focusing on what is wrong with something. I tended to replay how it could have gone better with the intention of improving. I didn’t realize that this process of consistently pointing out what’s wrong, could also lead to self-criticism, reinforcing the neural connection of those negative feelings and making it more likely that I would use those neural connections again in the future. As a leader, how I presented issues to my staff and teams could easily bring them down and make them feel inadequate.

I now actively try to recognize when I am assigning blame or worrying about something not being perfect. This has been helpful because affixing blame can shut down creative ways to move towards better performance and outcomes. I was fortunate because I had friends, outside of the organization who helped me to acknowledge what was done well. Eventually I incorporated this technique in supervising and in coaching. Coaching can be of great help in interrupting the blame game and in identifying a cycle of negativity. People need to be held accountable for their work, however assigning blame that demeans a person is likely to be counterproductive and create a pessimistic environment.

The third sign of being a negative influence is not letting go of the past. Vozza refers to Jon Gordon, author of The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organization and Change the World, who writes: “Anyone pursuing anything worthwhile will fail and fail often. You can dwell on the past or look forward to making the next opportunity great. You can see life as a game of failure or opportunity. It’s all in how you see it.”

In the corporate, small business, academic and non-profit worlds, I have repeatedly seen negative leaders who motivate with fear, the fourth sign of negativity in the workplace. When I was in their buildings I could see how tired and stressed the staff looked. Think about it, how creative are you when you are worrying about whether you aren’t measuring up to the task or when you believe that your supervisor is unhappy with your performance? Are you in your best mode for developing new ways of improving the results? Perhaps you don’t motivate with fear. Do you worry when things don’t seem to be going well or the way you anticipate they should? How effective have you been when responding to that worry/fear? If individuals are concerned about making mistakes, they usually avoid taking chances, quite possibly the chance necessary for them to succeed.

Is it possible that you may be a part of negativity in the workplace or in your social environments? If you are not sure if you’re a negative influence, Gordon suggests asking your team questions such as, “Do you feel energized working with me?” “Do I encourage you?” Do you feel I believe in you?” “Do you believe you accomplish more with me as your leader?” It seems to me that there are all good questions, although I wonder if a leader who motivates with fear would receive honest feedback from one’s team or direct reports. I wonder if it might be more effective to ask a colleague who one trusts will be forthcoming.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do you contribute to a negative atmosphere in your office or life by focusing on what’s wrong, assigning blame, not letting go of the past or motivating with fear? If yes, what might you do to shift or transform this negativity?

Rituals for this November Holiday

At the end of this month, people in this country celebrate Thanksgiving, which provides many persons with a four-day holiday. What do most people think of in connection with this holiday? For some people it is a special opportunity to gather family and friends together, to eat turkey and all of the fixings. For others it is a spiritual time or being grateful for one’s blessings. And for others it is a time to watch football, and to begin the shopping season in anticipation of Christmas. What are the rituals that you observe during this time?

Personally, I struggle with this holiday. I am looking for meaning in this holiday that I can fully embrace. Growing up, Thanksgiving was a time when my cousins from Los Angeles and the Bay Area would visit the farm. My grandmother would make sushi “appetizers” and everyone would contribute food. My mother taught us how to make the turkey stuffing and hand-cranked fresh cranberry dressing with chestnuts, almonds, apples and oranges from our yard and farm. The Thanksgiving holiday was a joyful tradition of family and thankfulness for the harvest bounty.

As an adult I’ve learned that the portrayal of Thanksgiving of Pilgrims preparing a feast for the “natives” is hurtful and disrespectful. Pumpkin, turkeys, corn and squash are native to the Americas, so it is much more likely that the Pilgrims learned how to cultivate and cook these foods from Native people. A reenactment of the “first Thanksgiving” does not include the oppressive treatment of Native Americans who were intentionally exposed to small-pox and life-threatening diseases by Europeans. For Native people, Thanksgiving does not produce positive thoughts of the first contacts and historical relationships with European settlers.

Several years ago, I attended “Sunrise at Alcatraz,” a long-established tradition on the fourth Thursday of November (scroll down to “thoughts, 12/09”). It was a solemn ritual reenacting the occupation of Alcatraz in 1969, when a group of Native persons inhabited the island, attempting to invoke legislation which stipulates that unused federal lands could be claimed by Native people. This holiday continually reminds me that I am conflicted with how the traditional Thanksgiving story ignores the history of our country’s massacre and domination of Native people.

I have been wondering if in addition to giving thanks in general, I adopt a spirit of gratefulness for the culture, heritage and contributions of Native people. Many cities already identify a day in October, Indigenous People’s Day supplanting Columbus Day (and in S.F., they have renamed their previously called Columbus Day parade to the Irish American Heritage Parade). For Thanksgiving, some persons might suggest celebrating both the Pilgrim’s desire for religious freedom and gratitude for Native people. And yet, these alternatives don’t address the historical and institutional mistreatment of Native people. Since Thanksgiving is a national holiday with institutional significance, is there a way to both celebrate and give thanks, while observing a day of apology or atonement for taking away Native lands and subjugating them to a European way of life? I wonder if communities could rethink Thanksgiving in a way that could help us take a step towards healing the woundedness that our country has inflicted upon Native people.

I am looking for rituals and learning processes that help me to observe the holiday--to identify and uphold Native American history, take responsibility for the stripping of their human rights, while preserving the act of being thankful. Do you have any suggestions?

This year, we are hosting our family’s dinner. We often begin with a prayer and a hymn. In honoring Native people’s respect for the earth, I’d like to ask the younger children to take turns reading aloud from a beautifully illustrated children’s book, Chief’s Seattle’s Brother Eagle, Sister Sky. These words, from over a hundred years ago, are a message to us about how the earth is sacred and a reminder to take care of the earth. I’d also like to have a prayer or hymn of thanksgiving which includes the acknowledgment of the exploitation of Native people and which offers words of healing.

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you feel or what do you think about the traditional interpretation of Pilgrims and Thanksgiving?
If you were (are) Native American, how might (do) you feel about this holiday?

Honor your Journey through your Story, Part V

Carol S. Pearson writes about how stories can act as guides for growth and development. In the past four coaching blogs, I have highlighted the basic patterns of these narratives and presented them through her categories of stability and structure, learning and freedom and results and mastery. In this month’s “thoughts” I will cover storylines of people and belonging or how people connect and work with each together. It is the final entry of honoring our journeys through our stories.

People and Belonging
In the workplace as well as in personal lives, clients exist in human community. Almost all clients have lived the great story of the everyperson/orphan, where the narrative is about opportunity and equality for each person. The storyline ends with a happy ending as people work together, receiving and giving help while they embrace their interdependence. The everyperson story can be a reaction to the unrealistic hopes of the innocent (see “thoughts,” Part III, 8/2017) who believes with enough faith anything is possible. I can’t help but think that in our current sociopolitical situation, many people are living this storyline of feeling like nobody is looking out for their individual interests, and they may be identifying with the rhetoric of someone who espouses taking away civil liberties from other people, who they do not consider as being a part of their community. At the same time in the U.S., current events seem to be galvanizing persons who were never before political, to protest, stand up and support individual rights. I coach many clients who advocate for social justice in a variety of services and communities. The everyperson in us “reminds us of our vulnerability and our dependence on others, require us to see real problems and the negative side of life.”1 I believe that the coaching process can help clients honor this everyperson story to unearth their fears, express empathy, and develop a deeper sense of compassion.

Still, other clients are living the story of the lover, people creating beautiful experiences, services and products. The lover storyline is active when my clients are following their bliss, actively engaging with their passion, commitment and loved one(s). When we fall in love with something, whether it be a person, a job, or a movement, we want “to be in loving relationships with self and others.” I have many clients that are passionate about eradicating domestic violence, providing inclusive education or services or creating a better environment. Pearson tells us that there are many different levels of this pattern, with love for oneself being the foundation for “loving humanity and the cosmos.”2 This narrative helps us by “showing beauty all around us, giving us energy and providing us with appreciation.”

Another storyline that helps people to belong is the jester, which creates pathways for enjoyment. Using “cleverness, clowning it up to enliven a dull situation, or using humor to speak with impunity what would ordinarily be an ‘unspeakable’ truth” are all devices of the jester. I had a client who said she chose me because I made her laugh. She was a humble and strategic thinker, a leader in uplifting the disenfranchised. I later learned that although she was rather quiet in their group processes except for when a value or perspective was not being voiced, in their social interaction, she was the life of the party. In hearing her stories during our coaching journey, I discovered that she could find humor in the most difficult of situations and seemed to be able to “balance freedom with a sense of ethics and personal integrity.” I considered her comment about me as a compliment, because I can be known to be overly serious. I truly desire to be able to lighten things up, to laugh at myself, and to look for different “alternatives to fight or flight dilemmas.” The “jester in each of us helps us and others by showing us the fun in difficult situations.”

Pearson teaches that each storyline offers us a story, a goal, a worst fear, lesson(s) to be learned and specific gifts. Pearson writes that one may not wish to view the storylines in terms of applying to self-understanding and personal growth, however they can still be an aid in ‘educating individuals for success, citizenship and leadership in a democratic society.”3 Different storylines are active within us at various times. We can activate storylines which help us towards wholeness and use them as tools to navigate the challenging currents which are occurring in our lives. Pearson suggests that if our inner guides are wanting to express certain storylines and we push them down, they will be expressed in their negative or shadow forms. If we don’t learn the lesson each storyline presents, the challenge presented to us is likely to recur. There are different levels of each storyline pattern. As we spiral through any particular storyline a second, third of fourth time we can grow and access a deepening awareness. In this series of “thoughts” over the past five months, I have introduced Pearson’s twelve storylines. For more information on honoring your journey through your story, please check out the wealth of resources written, co-written and presented by Carol S. Pearson.

Questions to reflect upon:
How do you best connect with people? Of these storylines of people and belonging: lover, everyperson and jester, which one(s) resonate(s) with you? What can you learn or gain from each narrative?

1 From this point on, all words enclosed within “quotation marks” without a subscript endnote number, refer to language that Carol S. Pearson created in instructional materials for her training with archetypes. Pearson has written and co-authored numerous books on archetypes, or the plots and patterns within stories. While I hope to convey how her stories and body of work apply to coaching, I want to acknowledge her brilliance, and creation as the primary source of this work. For more information, see references.

2 Pearson, C.S. Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, (SF: HarperSanFrancisco), 152.

3 Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within, 14.

-For discovering the storylines active in your life, take the Pearson-Marr Archetypal Index online, and receive an interpretive report: https://www.capt.org/catalog/MBTI-Book-PMAIonline.htm

-To take the Organizational and Team Culture Indicator, go to https://marketplace.unl.edu/buros/organizational-and-team-culture-indicator.html

-Pearson website on storylines: https://www.carolspearson.com/about/the-12-archetype-system-a-model-for-discovering-your-archetypes

Carol S. Pearson, Archetypes in Organizational Settings: A Client's Guide to the OTCI Professional Report, CAPT, Gainesville, 2003.

Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, Harper San Francisco, 1991.

Carol S. Pearson & Hugh K. Marr, Introduction to Archetypes: The Guide to Interpreting Results from the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator, CAPT, Gainesville, 2002.

Carol S. Pearson and Sharon Seivert, Magic at Work, Currency, Doubleday, New York, 1995.

Carol S. Pearson, Persephone Rising: Awakening the Heroine Within, HarperElixir, San Francisco, 2015.

Carol S. Pearson, The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-First Century, Berrett-Koelher Publishers, 2012

Jon G. Corlett & Carol Pearson, Mapping the Organizational Psyche: A Jungian Theory of Organizational Dynamics and Change, CAPT, Gainesville, 2003. (capt.org)

Originally published in condensed form in Collective Wisdom: Powerful Practical Advice for Achieving Success, Edited by Donald Gerard, 2009.

©Wendy C. Horikoshi, 2017, wendy@transformativeleadership.net. Primary sources of information from works and trainings by Dr. Carol S. Pearson. Do not copy without permission

Honor your Journey through your Story, Part IV

As I continue to draw from works by Carol S. Pearson that provide insight for our life journeys, this month’s “thoughts” addresses story patterns about production and getting things accomplished. Pearson groups these stories under results/mastery. What are the narratives of these stories? Is it the hero who champions some cause or the leader in some industry service or product who helps one’s organization/company to make a profit, increase those products and/or win the competition in one’s field? Is it the revolutionary, who through unconventional methods strives for innovation to break tradition, implements the cutting edge so that growth and change can occur? Or is it the magician, who with intuitive insight moves toward unprecedented success?

Stories of Results/Mastery
Many of my clients have goals of accomplishing and providing services for their clientele and communities. Many of my coachees are committed to social equity and justice. The hero or warrior narrative is often played out by my clients and their organizations. In this role, the hero must be “strong, effective and overcome any fears.”1 Winning is what counts most. One important lesson which can be learned from engaging in this narrative is to “fight for what genuinely matters.” Especially in today’s current social climate, I am finding many clients are seeing the over-reliance on this storyline. For example, there are many times when persons living the hero story must consider whether winning at all costs is worth the fight and/or whether the warrior storyline is the only way to achieve what is desired.

Some of my clients follow the revolutionary or destroyer narrative, helping the organization to shut-down old or ineffective ways of operating. The storyline is about “growth and metamorphosis.” I accompanied one client who followed this revolutionary path helping her organization to make a significant change in how they worked. She pushed for her organization to expand their programming to integrate older youth and young adults into the leadership of their programs. It was met with resistance, but her leadership and willingness to take responsibility for the supervision and any fall-out that might occur helped the organization to grow and move in a new and powerful direction.

I remember another client who lived the story of the revolutionary as an individual. She was the fiscal director of her organization, who cared deeply for the mission of the organization, but was being asked to operate in a manner that she considered unethical. Initially engaging the warrior narrative, she kept fighting the effort and tried to get support from the organizational hierarchy to deal with the issue, but without success.

Following the revolutionary narrative, she shared her concerns with a board member. This destroyed her chances to continue working there, potentially placing the organization in jeopardy, as well as abandoning what she felt was her commitment to working in the field. This client had reached her limit to contribute to this organization, was blocked from giving fully of her talents and understood that it was time to let go and move on. The revolutionary storyline “helps us to be humble, to accept our mortality and limitations.”

Interestingly enough, this same client landed another job in the same general area which paid more, was less of a commute and worked for persons and an organization where her principles of ethical fiscal management were welcomed. I believe she summoned the storyline of the magician. Initially fighting with the warrior story, she realized that pattern was not working and was not helping her to champion her cause in the former organization. Invoking the revolutionary allowed her to “deal with loss with some grace.” Searching and finding a new job required a major shift in my client’s perspective, one that was transformative and unearthed the magician within herself. The Magician finds “win/win solutions.” The magician often solves problems by letting go of the outcome while “valuing order and stability” and “understanding the interdependence of everyone and everything.”

The magician in me has helped me to see possibilities and solutions beyond my “understanding of the situation or problem.” It helps me to be more flexible and open, while recognizing “the interdependence of everyone and everything.” I have witnessed the magician in my clients numerous times-- when listening to clients and together renaming or reframing something which caused shifts in thinking, solving the problem and opening the way for unexpected outcomes or windfalls. This is the magician at work, expanding our understanding and transforming our realities.

As a coach, I strive to help my clients recognize that there are different manners in which they can produce results. Recognizing the story which we are living may help us find new ways to achieve our goals.

Questions to reflect upon:
Which of these storylines are active in your life?
If you desire results or production, which of these narratives of the hero, revolutionary or magician might best lead you towards your individual or organizational desired outcomes?

1 From this point on, all words enclosed by "quotation marks" refer to language that Carol S. Pearson created in instructional materials for her training with archetypes. Pearson has written and co-authored numerous books on archetypes, or the plots and patterns within stories. While I hope to convey how her stories and body of work apply to coaching, I want to acknowledge her brilliance, and creation as the primary source of this work. For more information, see references.

Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, Harper San Francisco, 1991.

Carol S. Pearson & Hugh K. Marr, Introduction to Archetypes: The Guide to Interpreting Results from the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator™, CAPT, Gainesville, 2002.

Much appreciation to Adam Frey for editing and imparting his wisdom of storylines (archetypes.)

Originally published in condensed form in Collective Wisdom: Powerful Practical Advice for Achieving Success, Edited by Donald Gerard, 2009.

©Wendy C. Horikoshi, 2017, wendy@transformativeleadership.net. Primary sources of information from works and trainings by Dr. Carol S. Pearson. Do not copy without permission

Honor your Journey through your Story, Part III

Throughout this summer, I have been sharing insights from works by Carol S. Pearson about story patterns that can inform us about our journeys in life. In the June “thoughts” I wrote about how discovering my own stories have helped me to incorporate important learnings in my life and how to better connect with the stories of my clients. In last month’s entry, I presented how the narratives of caregiver, ruler, and creator can provide stability and structure. This month I’d like to honor three storylines of Learning and Freedom which can inform us how to continue to grow and develop: the explorer, the innocent and the sage.

Stories of Learning/Freedom
Quite often I see clients when they move beyond providing structure and stability to their organizations, communities and families. The explorer seeks new adventures by leaving home, family, job or embarking upon an internal journey. I have coached clients who recognized the need for more or different types of challenge in their work. They felt bored, trapped by rules, regulations or responsibilities. Being in places of leadership in which they needed these areas to be covered, they provided stability in their current work, either by developing other staff persons to tackle them or creating systems that were more self-sustaining. In this way they felt empowered to stay true to themselves and to take their internal journeys while still serving their communities. They began to pay attention to their restlessness, rather than dismissing it as a sign of bad character. My clients gained independence and insight about their identities. In other situations, I remember clients who were passionate about their organizations’ missions, the constituencies they served and were therefore torn about leaving. The coaching processes were instrumental in clarifying their core values and their needs to step into healthier work environments where they could fully give of themselves.

Some clients simply have faith and hope there will be a happy ending, as in the story of the innocent. This pattern encourages people to stay upbeat and to see the good in others. The goal of the innocent is to remain safe and protected. I consider myself to be a fairly upbeat person, nevertheless, I remember times in my life when I had become cynical and found it difficult to hope for a better future or for better outcomes. I knew that there was no one who was going to swoop down and magically change all of the institutional systems that weren’t working. The narrative of the innocent provided me with optimism that help will come if I am attentive and if I recognize the help. I believe that this optimism and faith are critical elements to being resilient. I continually learn from the storyline of the innocent, as my clients share their journeys, their hopes and dreams for their organizations and the legacies they hope to impart.

One other story of learning/freedom is the sage, who finds deeper truth and understanding. The sage is curious, wise and adept at noticing flaws. Clients living the sage storyline are objective, and can more easily contribute dispassionate analysis, planning and evaluation. I have seen clients detach, no longer feeling the need to defend themselves. Honoring the sage within helped them to let go of personal insecurities. For myself, I find this storyline a fairly easy one to access in noticing defects or flawed thinking. However a growth area for me in fully embracing the sage continues to be expressing truths in a non-judgmental manner and being aware when there is openness to hearing them. I believe I access the sage when listening and feeding back to my clients what they have presented. I help them unearth the deeper meaning in their quests, problem-solving or decision-making. I ask questions and help them to get curious about their concepts, values and desired outcomes, assisting them to seek the sage within. We may engage in strategic thinking or alignment of their values with their goals and outcomes, which provides them with new ways of thinking, responding and moving forward.

Questions to apply to stories of learning/freedom:
Explorer: Are you experiencing a type of restlessness about your work or life? How might you pay attention to it as a sign of wanting to learn or becoming more true to yourself?
Innocent: Can you think of a time when optimism was a key ingredient to being resilient? Is there some issue in your life which might benefit from the pattern of the innocent?
Sage: Can you think of a time when you were free of needing to defend yourself, letting go of how to best convince other people of your competence? Is there some aspect in your life where you might engage the sage to free yourself of the need to prove your competence?

-For discovering the storylines active in your life, take the Pearson-Marr Archetypal Index online, and receive an interpretive report: https://www.capt.org/catalog/MBTI-Book-PMAIonline.htm

-To take the Organizational and Team Culture Indicator, go to https://marketplace.unl.edu/buros/organizational-and-team-culture-indicator.html


John G. Corlett & Carol Pearson, Mapping the Organizational Psyche: A Jungian Theory of Organizational Dynamics and Change, CAPT, Gainesville, 2003. (capt.org)

Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, Harper San Francisco, 1991.

Much appreciation to Adam Frey for editing and imparting his wisdom of storylines (archetypes.)

Originally published in condensed form in Collective Wisdom: Powerful Practical Advice for Achieving Success, Edited by Donald Gerard, 2009.

©Wendy C. Horikoshi, 2017, wendy@transformativeleadership.net. Primary sources of information from works and trainings by Dr. Carol S. Pearson. Do not copy without permission

Honor your Journey through your Story, Part II

“Myths are stories of our search through the ages for truth, for meaning, for significance. -Bill Moyers, in a dialogue with Joseph Campbell, “The Power of Myth” video

Stories evoke thoughts and emotions and can touch us in profound ways. In Mapping the Organizational Psyche, John G. Corlett and Carol S. Pearson organize storylines around specific themes or life energies, which serve as containers for learning and development. One of their categories is Stability and Structure. Although Pearson and Corlett present their ideas for organizational learning, I want to focus upon how stories of stability and structure may provide insight for individual growth too.

Stories of Stability/Structure
Identifying the collective stories of your workplace, family and community can help lead your life. Each person may move through many different storylines with certain types of stories being more active in one’s life at any particular time. Pearson posits that each story inherently provides a goal, lessons to learn and accompanying gifts or virtues. For many of us, our lives and work focus on the story of the caregiver, tending to people and being of service. The caregiver’s goal is to be “good, caring and unselfish.”1 The caregiver teaches us to work hard, to give and to love others. The caregiver in us can also help us to understand who we are and to “discover for what or whom we are willing to sacrifice.” Many clients who work in the non-profit world have dedicated their lives to this narrative. Sometimes, it has been instructive for them to understand this pattern so they may continue to give, but without burning themselves out. One of the ways they journey towards more balance in their lives is to enlist the caretaker narrative for themselves through self-care. Their journeys help them to recognize that being compassionate with oneself provides a deepening foundation to care for those around them.

At some point our story for achieving stability and structure may be about the ruler, “finding positive use for everything and everyone.” The ruler’s story creates order, maintains it and provides governance. This storyline can be powerful in dealing with scarcity and in “prioritizing goals and resources.” The journey of the ruler may occur in one’s inner or outer world. Achieving stability in one of these worlds can help mirror structure in the other. I remember times when my life was so chaotic that establishing order in my inner world facilitated capacity, energy and insight to deal with the outer one. I have seen clients adopt this narrative to make tough decisions and follow through with them. This narrative can work in the opposite fashion, creating structure in the outer world, which influences order or balance within. For example, when leaders implement policies which improve efficiency and redundancy, it can provide stability and ease the feeling of disorder and confusion for staff.

One other story of stability and structure is the creator, designing "one’s life, work or any new kind of reality”. The creator may design a new product, method or solution. I often accompany clients through their journeys of creating unique pathways for dealing with organizational issues and also for envisioning their own professional development. The creator in us can “help us to know what we really want to have, do, or create; allow ourselves to let our dreams come true and provide vocations for ourselves.” Through this storyline I have consciously become more accepting of myself, more in tune with my connection with the universe and with my ability to inspire and imagine the future. I work with clients in activating the creator in their lives, helping them to envision their futures.

Although all of these types of stories can help establish stability and structure, the processes and outcomes differ. Which of the narratives of caregiver, ruler, and creator can best provide us with stability and structure in our current situations? Recognizing the narratives, goals, gifts and lessons of each story may assist in developing ourselves and in authoring our own journeys.

Questions to reflect upon:
Do any of the storylines of caretaker, ruler or creator have resonance for you?
What might you have learned or gained from the story?
Regarding stability and structure in your work/life, might there be a particular storyline that provides insight or inspiration for the optimal path in your present situation?

(Stay tuned for Part III in next month's "thoughts.")

1 From this point on, all words enclosed by "quotation marks" refer to language that Carol S. Pearson created in instructional materials for her training with archetypes. Pearson has written and co-authored numerous books on archetypes, or the plots and patterns within stories. While I hope to convey how her stories and body of work apply to coaching, I want to acknowledge her brilliance, and creation as the primary source of this work. For more information, see references.

John G. Corlett & Carol Pearson, Mapping the Organizational Psyche: A Jungian Theory of Organizational Dynamics and Change, CAPT, Gainesville, 2003. (capt.org)

Carol S. Pearson, Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World, Harper San Francisco, 1991.

Originally published in condensed form in Collective Wisdom: Powerful Practical Advice for Achieving Success, Edited by Donald Gerard, 2009.

Much appreciation to Adam Frey for editing and imparting his wisdom of storylines (archetypes.)

©Wendy C. Horikoshi, 2017, wendy@transformativeleadership.net. Primary sources of information from works and trainings by Dr. Carol S. Pearson. Do not copy without permission

Honor your Journey through your Story

Discovering and honoring my own stories helped me integrate all of the important parts of my life’s journey and have enabled me to connect with clients. Through several books and workshops of Carol S. Pearson, I have learned about the pattern of stories. Pearson writes in Archetypes in Organizational Settings:

“Workplaces are thus the settings in which they live out the great human stories—whether in their comic (happy) or tragic (unhappy) modes. As we pull back the veil of appearances, we may notice great heroism and pernicious villainy, devotion and antipathy, the pride of victory and the indignity of defeat—all right before us, every day. The great challenge is to be certain that the organization and those in it are living the optimal story available to them.”

Identifying which stories were active in my life and which ones offered the silver lining or new learning that I wanted to pursue has helped me to travel my career journey—contribute what I needed to with the current organization, leave a 13- year stable position that was a great job, continue my inward growth about myself, and move to a field of work that I love and feel most privileged about engaging in. Unearthing the stories continue to help me integrate all the important parts in my life: my calling, my family and community and my desire to live a responsible, productive and meaningful life. I keep rediscovering that life is a continuous process where each storyline helps me to feel more whole and better equipped to face the challenges and difficulties of each stage of my journey.

As a coach, listening to clients and inquiring about their storylines has helped me to metaphorically accompany each of them in their lives, especially when their stories are very different from mine. Alternately, when the underlying storylines are similar, each narrative with the social, political and economic milieu provides for a different telling of the same story. Through hearing and reflecting upon these stories we can recognize and experience the meaning and lessons which can be gleaned from each symbolic pattern.

Questions to reflect upon:
What is a story that is of particular interest to you? What is the narrative or plot? What is the goal? What are the lessons that can be gleaned from your story? Are there any gifts or virtues which can be gleaned from this story? If yes, what are they?

Stay tuned for Part II of "Honor Your Journey through your Story" in next month’s “thoughts."

Carol S. Pearson, Archetypes in Organizational Settings, CAPT, Gainesville, 2003.

Carol S. Pearson, The Hero Within: Six Archetypes We Live By, Harper San Francisco, 1998.

Originally published in condensed form in Collective Wisdom: Powerful Practical Advice for Achieving Success, Edited by Donald Gerard, 2009.

©Wendy C. Horikoshi, 2017, wendy@transformativeleadership.net. Primary sources of information from works and trainings by Dr. Carol S. Pearson. Do not copy without permission


I am a loyal and ardent fan of the Golden State Warriors. There is something quite special about the philosophy that Coach Steve Kerr has infused into this team. Kerr embraces individual differences and nurtures the strengths of talents of each player. He seems to build solid relationships with the players and the coaching staff. His value of finding and cultivating joy seems to be present with basketball, his relationships and his life. Although many leaders tend to believe they are successful solely because of their own personality, he is also cognizant about each player’s style, strengths and willingness to buy into the same team vision. Moreover, his leadership is inclusive in nature, incorporating individual knowledge to benefit the team. Kerr helps his team learn from individual mistakes and team miscalculations. As a leadership coach, I have seen clients follow this type of “learning by doing” while nurturing the skills and leadership of individuals. This approach strengthens the foundation of the team and organization. For example, one client who was an assistant director of a non-profit was willing to nurture a young staff person, whom the organization was calling to fire. The staff person had made a mistake in being too much of a friend with the high school participants. My client helped to develop the staff person who provided the organization with fresh, young leadership that offered new and different ways of community organizing with teens. As a coach, I created an environment that gave my client the time and space to think about why she wanted to help this person and how to accomplish this goal within the organizational restraints.

As a superb leader, Coach Kerr develops his staff as well as his players. Coach Kerr builds his team of coaches to complement their strengths and work together in an almost seamless manner. In selecting Luke Walton as the Warrior’s assistant coach in the 2014-15 season, it was amazing to see the Warriors win 39 games when Coach Kerr was out for back surgery. When Walton moved to become head coach of the LA Lakers, Kerr selected Mike Brown, a defensive specialist who had coached in the finals as a head coach in Cleveland. Brown is currently coaching in this 2017 play-off series in Kerr’s absence and the Warriors have continued to win. I have had leaders of organizations who have brought me in to coach them through transition, succession-planning and retirement. I helped my clients to figure out their plans for developing their teams so that the organization could carry on without their presence. I also helped the clients to identify their joy and meaning and how they want to incorporate these elements into the next phase of their lives.

Building relationships can be critical to fostering leadership. I find it delightful to watch how first team players of the Warriors have extraordinary relationships with the second and third teams, on and off the court. Golden State is well known for their team dinners. I believe that this type of relationship building has spill over to the court with their strategy of giving starting team members rest periods, leaving one or two of them in play, while bringing in players off the bench. Additionally when wanting to rest players for a full game, or when a starter is injured, the team maintains a flow with varying players out on the floor. While building relationships may seem as if it is intangible, it produces results and can be one of the more difficult skills to incorporate into one’s work. I support my clients with relationship building by helping them to be guided by their inner selves and to incorporate into thought and action their kindness, compassion as well as the mission of their organizations.

When the Warriors play they seem like they are having fun. I believe that one important quality of leading is helping individuals find what they value, cultivate and honor these values. In an interview, Steph Curry shared how Kerr has taught him to appreciate all aspects of one’s life, taking time away from the game to enjoy one’s family and friends, savoring golf and other activities. Coach Kerr seems to be a leader who treats his players as “whole” persons, who are more than just basketball players with “on” and “off” nights. As a coach, I often ask how my clients want to create joy for themselves and the people within their organization.

The Warriors provide me with enjoyable moments of respite and joy. In coaching leaders, I hope that some of the work we do together helps them to consciously utilize their strengths and differences, builds and deepens their relationships and brings them more joy in their lives and in their work.

Questions to reflect upon:
How might you nurture the strengths of people in your work or life? How do you nurture your strengths?
What might you do to build the relationships of persons you work, play and live with?
How might you cultivate joy in your life and in your work?

4/2017 Barriers to Your Development and Successful Outcomes

What are barriers that keep you from developing or reaching the outcomes that you desire? Very often individuals tend to continue to utilize the same pattern which has been leading to the same barrier. I have a client that has been working on being conscious of her tendency to take on more than she can fit into her schedule and life. She works in a non-profit for immigrant rights and even prior to the recent immigration orders and new policies, has been working for an organization where the employees carry workloads that are at or above capacity. It is not surprising that she feels a bit underwater and worried that things will soon get out of control. She is concerned that she will begin doing more work on week-ends and evenings, sleeping less and experiencing more health problems as has been her previous pattern. Coaching has helped her to become more successful in understanding her workstyle that gains energy from completing things close to the deadline. In her coaching processes, she has worked diligently to create and implement strategies that help her focus on what to do, how to prioritize and schedule things with extra cushion space. She and her colleagues have also gotten through the panic, initial shock and emotional turmoil of drastic changes in the political climate for immigration policy in this country. In our last coaching session we paid attention to a situation she identified how a specific emotion comes up for her which often becomes a stumbling block to completing her workload—guilt.

You may experience guilt or it may be other emotions or thoughts that tend to weigh you down. Although coaching is not counseling, coaching can help you figure out your priorities, which direction you desire, identify stumbling blocks and create pathways for reaching your desired outcomes. Nancy, (we’ll call her), recalled the most recent time by re-walking the timeline of events of when she focused on finishing work and home duties while ignoring signals from her body that something was not right. She identified this point in time where she experienced guilt. I had Nancy step off the timeline, move into the future and give herself advice and wisdom. “Nancy, you don’t feel well. You have a fever. Why don’t you call and cancel your meeting, stay home and rest. I know that you’re trying to come through for other people.” Nancy stepped back into the timeline to receive that information and then moved further on the timeline. I asked Nancy, “What will it take to care for yourself?” She didn’t know. I had Nancy step off the timeline once more and move to her wise self. She realized that arranging for increased childcare when she took on more work obligations was also stressful. As Nancy returned to the timeline, she identified new resources that would help her take care of herself; creating an action item to develop connections with persons who could help with baby-sitting. Nancy felt guilty about caring for herself and making plans for her child when there was a schedule of work meetings. She realized that although cancelling a meeting may be disappointing for the other attendees, not doing so often means missing more work later when she absolutely must due to illness. Walking the timeline and making different choices helped Nancy transform the guilt and become more resourceful. And to top it off, Nancy has confidence that she will listen to her body and take better care of herself the next time.

Questions to reflect upon:

What might be a barrier that keeps you from taking your own good advice? What strategy or plan might you make to follow that advice? If you could use help in working through this process, could a coach help you?

Teamwork and Resiliency

What constitutes a good team that works together well? Is it when teams have great talent, are successful, and when they know how to pick each other up when they fall short of the mark? Is it when individuals know how to speak each other’s language, to understand differences, strengths and capacities and to utilize all of their different contributions to create much more than the sum of their individual parts? Is teamwork when individuals are willing to sacrifice their own agenda, their own need to control the direction and/or their own egos for the team’s overall goals? How does a good team nurture talent, utilize experience, and provide leadership while encouraging individual and group growth and development? How does a good leader look to replace a team member who leaves while nurturing teamwork during the interim? In listening to the experiences of my clients, I am beginning to think about resiliency as an additional component of leadership and teamwork. I formerly thought of resiliency as an important part of individual leadership, but in watching the Golden State Warrior’s play basketball, I am learning that resiliency can be a part of group leadership, as well. In the workplace, teams change. How do we help the teams we work with become more resilient? In this month’s “thoughts,” I want to focus on resiliency in teamwork, how teams make the most of their teams while undergoing transition, change and loss.

The Warriors play as though each of the team members know their individual efforts are needed. They are a self-less team, sharing the ball, sometimes even to a fault. They are the best shooting team in the NBA, the number one in field goals percentage and the top team in defending the three point shot better. And as all teams, they struggle, lose games and have injuries. Their strategy when in a slump is to get back on defense, move the ball well, create spacing, and to move without the ball. Everybody in the team is expected to contribute and they are fully aware of their roles. Much could be written about the Warrior’s talent and experience, their leadership and concentration on continual individual and team growth. Until the past several years, I have been reluctant to talk about professional sports teams when referring to teamwork. With basketball I felt like there was a tendency to focus one individual as the hero. “Hero ball” isn’t my idea of teamwork. Pro sports are also about competition, entertainment and business which can deter from teambuilding. I think teamwork has drawn me to watch the entire game, even when the Warriors are way ahead. I can observe the teamwork and skill development of the second and third teams. I am engaged when the Warriors are behind, rooting that they will be resilient and win one more time. The Warriors are willing to learn from adversity and see each game as an opportunity to learn, especially from the losses. This theme is echoed many times by different players as they are interviewed.

How does the Warrior’s resiliency connect with resiliency in the workplace? How does a leader hire a new team member? Does the leader hurry just to fill the vacancy, or does the leader assess what strengths are available, what areas of individual growth might each team player be working towards, and what qualities are most needed for the team? How can you engage the team to buy into a new team with the new person added to it? What elements might help impact and encourage the team to do well and continue to grow and flourish? All of the qualities of teamwork and leadership contribute to a team’s success. Building the team’s resiliency can be an important tool for working with changing personnel, environment and situations.

Many times, Warriors are asked sacrifice play time and all of the team mates strive to be ready when their names are called. The leadership treats their players with respect and in a manner that takes into consideration individual needs and strengths. The leadership seems to let each player be who they are. For example, not muzzling Draymond Green’s exuberance even when technical fouls may be on the line or deterring Steph Curry when he is playing around before the game. They seem to count on each player’s unique personality to bolster their teamwork. The players exhort and challenge each other to contribute their best for the team. They don’t seem to scapegoat each other when individuals make mistakes, yet take responsibility for areas in which they could have played better. On your team(s), how do you take advantage of poor performance and use it to build resilience? In the workplace, how does a leader deal with changes due to illnesses, special events and vacations? I was struck with how Green and Shaun Livingston took time away from a game to be with their partners during the birth of their children. I know persons who are reluctant to take time off from work, fearing they may lose their jobs or not be given opportunities for special projects or promotions. This is unfortunate and perhaps short-sighted, for orientation and replacement of good team players are costly and time consuming.

The Warriors seem to be intentional about having fun as they play. I don’t doubt that this adds to their team’s resiliency. The Warriors have already clinched a seed in the play-offs. I guess one could say that they are facing a big test of their team’s resiliency now, with the MVP Player, Kevin Durant (KD) out for at least a month. General Manager Bob Myers and Coach Steve Kerr’s quick response to KD’s injury was to pick up Matt Barnes, who they hope could help with defense and scoring. Although they had already signed another player, Jose Calderon, a point guard, within 2 hours they released him upon hearing the severity of Durant’s injury. This was a costly, but undoubtedly strategic move that is already helping the Warriors. The Warriors were resilient in configuring their team, providing it with good options when a change occurred. Myers and Kerr are counting on the Splash brothers, their two great shooters, Klay Thompson and Curry to carry on. Nevertheless, in the first half of the recent Atlanta game, both Curry and Klay Thompson were not hitting. Andre Iguodala, veteran player, stepped up his game, shooting and making baskets and energizing his team. Together with the outstanding performance of the bench, the Warriors were back in the game. How are you equipping yourself to deal with changes and to anticipate and withstand unexpected changes in your workplace and community teams?

Questions to reflect upon:
Think of a time when you were resilient. What fueled you to be this way?
What things might you do to exercise your resiliency and that of your team?
Remember a time when you worked together with a team or group of people and underwent transition and/or severe challenges? How did your team respond and what things contributed to your team’s resiliency?

*Thanks to Peter Horikoshi for ideas and support.

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.

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.

Questions 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?

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?

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 coaching 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

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?

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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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?

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?

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.”

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?

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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?


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?

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?

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?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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).


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?

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?

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.

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?

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?

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.

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.

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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).

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?

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?

“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?

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?


“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?

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?

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?

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?

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?


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.

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?

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?

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?


“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?

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?

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?

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?

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?


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?

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?


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?


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.

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.

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?

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?

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.

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?

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.

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?

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?


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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?

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?


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?

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.

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, School Board Member, Former Principal and Community Leader

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?

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?

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?

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?


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?



Do not Worry

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?


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

“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?


Your Transitions/Transformations

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

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?


Leading and Following within a Group

"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 bac