Posts Tagged ‘transformation’


September 29, 2014 4 comments

IMG_5247During the autumn months in New England, we coaches have a co-conspirator in Mother Nature. Wielding her paintbrush and bending the angle of the light to move the seasons, She forces us to take new perspectives and directs our attention to marvels un-seeable in the full sun of summer or the winter dark.

A visit yesterday to the Trustees of Reservations’ Coolidge Reservation in Manchester, Massachusetts stimulated some reflection for me. With good reason, light is probably our most common metaphor for understanding…enlightenment, illumination, clarity. To see something clearly is to truly understand it. But I think the light during the transition from summer to fall works a more subtle magic. To see something differently is to understand it differently. What looks like a beginning might be an ending, and vice versa.

What practices help you bend the angle of the light to see things differently throughout the year? Particularly when you feel confused or stuck?

The Power of a Systems Perspective

Graphic facilitation by Elise Crespin In Warren Berger’s book, A More Beautiful Question, he recalls an anecdote from education pioneer Deborah Meier that stopped me in my tracks when I read it:

“We had one of those world maps with the U.S. right in the middle—remember those? And one of the students looked at it and said, ‘How come the East Indies are in the west?’ And that question got me thinking about the impact of what you put in the center and what it does to everything else.”

I love this story because it so nicely illustrates the value of what my partners and I call “coaching from a systems perspective.” Like a good coach with a provocative question, this little girl created an opening for Meier to talk with her students about their place in a larger system and the perspective they were holding about that. Meier changed the curriculum as a result of this inquiry because “it had so many implications for how you see yourself.”

This is exactly the kind of opening we try to create with leaders who are grappling with the challenges of effecting sustainable change for themselves and their organizations. We find that it is often new insight about the vantage point from which they’re viewing a complex systems environment—and their ability to try on other vantage points—that allows them to break through to new ways of thinking and acting.

One tool we use to get a fix on what our coaching client has put in the center of her awareness, and what that “does to everything else,” is the Butterfly Framework of Complex Human Systems.  Like Meier’s world map, this framework allows us to step back and ask, “Where in this landscape of internal and external systemic forces is our client’s awareness focused? What would be possible if she shifted her awareness to another part of the system?”

Having just returned from the SoL Global Forum in Paris, where I had the pleasure of presenting a workshop on the Butterfly Framework, I can report that there is a vibrant international community of coaches and consultants who understand the evolutionary importance of greater systems awareness. Colleagues from no fewer than fifteen countries shared stories with me about how they are catalyzing transformation by helping their clients ask more beautiful questions and better see the systems they are and the systems they’re in.

What question, if you asked it right now, would move you to a new perspective?

Mid-Life Crocus

March 25, 2011 3 comments

CrocusesIs there any vision more hopeful than a crocus triumphantly pushing forth from the icy soil of a New England garden in March?

This year, as I witness the magic of new life advancing out of the retreat of winter, I am thinking of the many people in my life who are surprising themselves with their capacity for fresh starts and new learning—regardless of how many birthdays they’ve clocked.

In her book The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50, Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot shares the uplifting stories of forty men and women between the ages of 50 and 75 who, far from regarding this phase of their lives as a time of deceleration, have discovered new channels for learning and growth (see her talking about it with Bill Moyers).

Noting the hushed and “confessional tone” that her interviewees often adopt when talking about their blossoming passions, Lawrence-Lightfoot wonders whether “somehow, we feel that people our age should be consolidating our experiences, integrating all that we’ve learned and accomplished, and resting on our laurels—not engaging in risk-taking projects, embarking on unmapped adventures, and enduring the awkwardness and vulnerabilities of new mastery. Maybe we even feel it is somehow undignified to be so childish in our enthusiasms and eagerness to explore new domains of knowledge, recover ancient passions, and try on new roles and costumes.”

There is something of the crocus in these Third Chapter adventurers as they start new careers, adopt new personal development processes and uncover the writer or potter or chef or storyteller that has lain dormant within them all this time.

With delicate yet assertive gestures, they are finding ways to give expression to the surging life force still constantly renewing itself in their hearts.

What’s blooming in you?

A Space for Choosing Wings

Photo by Mike Schubert

Butterflies make an excellent metaphor for transformation, don’t they? Observe the difference between a squat little caterpillar and the resplendent flier it becomes and you’re reminded that dramatic, even magical, change is possible.

I can think of at least two important differences, though, between butterflies and humans when it comes to transformation…

  • We aren’t limited to just one metamorphosis but are capable of transforming over and over again throughout our lives; and
  • For us, change can be a matter of choice.

But choosing to transform takes a sustained effort. And sometimes we need a little help. As a coach supporting others in their intentional and multiple transformations, I’ve been delighted to discover the power and flexibility of “designed alliance”—the shared space that forms the chrysalis of the Co-active coaching model.

I like to think of it as an inspired alliance, where both client and coach breathe life into a cocoon of conscious change. While the client is responsible for the results, the coach bears primary responsibility for holding the space of possibility.

This relational aspect of the coaching process, this intimate, intricate system of mutual investment, represents another quality that distinguishes human transformation from that of our friend the butterfly. We can help each other get there.

What will your next set of wings look like?