Process Work in Coaching

I met Annette yesterday for the first time. She came to me as a new coaching client but turned out to be slippery as a snake.

Working with her, I suddenly understood why Cindy rolled her eyes the other day. Cindy trains folks in a powerful coaching skill call Process Work.

It’s one of the most advanced set of coaching skills and one of the most effective. It’s is a deeply insightful, powerful and effective way of unfolding what’s trying to happen. It gets clients past blockers, and helps them play to their highest potential. It was invented by Arnold Mindell, who is a physicist as well as a Jungian analyst. Process Work requires years of intensive learning as well as much conscious practice. At this stage in my career I both offer Process Work, and continue to learn it. And part of my learning has been to receive Process Work as well as offer it. I believe in what I do. It’s effective, powerful, and gets results. Both for my clients and for myself.

So Cindy is an advanced level Process Worker and one of my teachers. I went to see her last Monday, and it was a tough conversation. She tried to teach me Process Work by inviting me to participate in it.

But I didn’t let her. I kept flipping around from one channel to another. From the visual to the auditory to the kinesthetic to the proprioceptive to the relationship channel to the world channel and back. I acted like a slippery snake. There was something in my own process that refused to let Cindy get a hold of one channel and help me unfold. I would not let Cindy help me.

Our conversation came to a close because we ran out of time, not because I had allowed any meaningful work to happen. I stood up to put on my boots – it’s winter right now in Chicago – and started to topple over and lose my balance. I realized I could put my boots on better sitting down. So I plopped back down on Cindy’s couch to tug on my boots.

Cindy made an exasperated noise and rolled her eyes. My instant reaction was embarrassment. Who was I to sit back down on her couch and impose on her even more when she had tried her best to help me hone in on one channel, and help me learn Process Work? I felt instantly ashamed, embarrassed and ungrateful. I slunk out of her office deep in self-pity, replaying delightful fantasies in my head of me proudly telling her that I’m never coming back.

At the edge of my awareness, I notice sometimes that things repeat themselves. Especially things that try to happen, don’t quite fully appear, or appear as hints or quantum flirts. Process Work calls these secondary or unconscious processes that are trying to catch our attention.

And that’s exactly what showed up with Annette. She came to see me as an individual client for help to better define her career path, and also for help with anxiety. What I noticed almost immediately in talking with her yesterday, was that she kept flipping around, the way I did with Cindy, and I kept losing her. I’d ask her a question, she’d give me an initial answer, but then she looked down and away from me. And descended into a jag of verbal explaining. I noticed myself going vague and getting lost. In Process Work that’s one sign that you have come to an edge.

The edge in Process Work refers to the boundary between the primary process and the secondary process. The primary is typically something within your conscious grasp, such as the fact that I’m writing this paragraph right now with an intention to share what I experienced to benefit other coaches reading this in the future.

The secondary is a process just around the corner of conscious awareness. Often there is something in the secondary that is trying to catch your attention. It can occur as a sort of quantum flirt, which quickly appears and seems random and then disappears. It’s a signal offering to be unfolded. It’s a sign of the natural energy in nature trying to happen and unfold naturally.

For example, yesterday I taught a course on agile, which is a values-based framework for developing products and software. It is sweeping the planet and represents a revolution in the way products, services and software are delivered today. 80% of IT shops globally are adopting it, according to a recent Gartner study.

Everyone in the training I delivered yesterday was remote. We all had our videos on and could also hear each other very well including the occasional background noises in people’s homes. The group I trained was a group of new employees, or employees new to their role in agile.

Just as we started talking about what it’s like for the participants to be new at the company or new in their roles, a baby started crying in the background. I wondered if that was a quantum flirt trying to catch our attention, a secondary process wanting to unfold. I decided to explore that, and said, “That sounds like a baby!”

The father of the baby said, “Yeah, sorry, she’s two years old and hungry.” So I grabbed onto that opportunity to unfold a secondary. The baby’s cry provided the quantum flirt that gave us the way into that unfolding.

I said, “So we’ve been talking about what it’s like to be new – and now a baby cries who is hungry. What’s new about babies?

The participants laughed and said, “Well, pretty much everything is new about babies. They are new human beings. New to the world and everything is new to them. Even noticing their fingers in front of their faces is a miraculous discovery.”

So unfolding this, I asked “What’s it like for you guys to be “new babies” at this company? Or new like a baby in your new role?”

A new director said, “I do feel like a baby. I don’t know much about this division I’m supposed to lead. Everything is new to me. And I have some new ideas for developing the product that I’m excited about. So my ideas are new, the opportunity is new, the experience is all new – I can’t wait.”

This went on in this vein for a while with the group, then I said, “And that baby was crying because she was hungry. What are you “hungry” for in your new roles?”

A lot, it turns out. They responded that they are hungry for new experiences, for expanding their careers and skill sets, for meeting new people and learning new ways of developing products and software. And they are hungry to learn how we do agile at this particular company. And hungry to establish their reputation – what they’re good at and what they can be counted on for.

All this from noticing a baby’s cry. This is the power of Process Work in coaching. So when Annette showed up at my door last night and asked for help with the anxiety that eats her from the inside like a swirling dervish who makes her feel like she’s constantly in freefall I thought, “Maybe Process Work would help.”

She said the anxiety was like sitting on the edge of a chair and tipping over. So I laid out a few big pillows on the floor. We sat down side-by-side in chairs and we scooted ourselves up to the very edge.

Then I said, “Let’s be the anxiety. Let the anxiety take over our bodies. Let it tip us off the very edge of the chair.” Process Work often starts with finding a signal in a sensory or other channel and inviting that signal to amplify.

But Annette leaned back in her chair and slumped a little. She said, “It’s not like that.”

Trying to follow her process, I said, “Okay, what’s it like? Show me. Teach me how to do it.”

She leaned back more until she was balancing on her tailbone, her feet and hands in the air. She said, “It’s like I’m falling backwards all the time.” I said, “Okay, good. Let’s fall back together.” She said, “But there’s nowhere to land.”

“Maybe that’s the whole point,” I thought, “Nowhere to land.” But falling backwards in free fall felt very uncomfortable to me. I stepped over it and instead suggested we fall backwards onto the soft couch, which was right behind us. So we did that, and (predictably) it led nowhere.

That’s one big learning I got yesterday on Process Work. It’s this – Don’t step over stuff.

Especially don’t step over stuff that makes you uncomfortable. Because it’s probably a signal of something important that is trying to catch your attention and wanting to unfold.

In Annette’s case, the whole point of being in freefall was her terror that there’s nowhere to land. And of course the horrible experience of feeling like she’s in freefall all the time. That pushed up against my edge of comfort.  But as a coach and process worker, it’s my job to notice things like that. I traveled with her to the edge of that discomfort but then it became too much for me and I stepped over it.

What we could’ve done instead would’ve been to go straight in. I call this “coaching that goes for the jugular.” I could’ve asked things like, “So what’s it like for you, having nowhere to land? How is it to be in freefall all the time?”

I eventually did get around to asking those things, and instead of verbal diarrhea, she looked me straight in the eyes, and blurted, “It’s horrible. I’m tired of it.”

Her voice got lower and her whole body emanated determination. I said, “Geez, I heard that. Let’s do something about it right now. Are you game?”

Bless her, she looked at me straight in the face with a trusting look, and said, “Absolutely. Now, please.”

Since we needed immediate results, and talking a blue streak was not helping her, we stepped right over into my Thai massage room (I’m a Thai massage therapist and yoga teacher). There, Annette learned for the first time in her life, to do the kind of breathing that relaxes the nervous system as well as some biofeedback techniques that deliver results within seconds. By the end of 15 minutes she looked like a different person. Her face had relaxed as well as her entire body posture. She said she felt peaceful and much more calm.

This to me is the magic of Process Work. All I had to do was follow the signals that she herself presented to me. Yesterday those were physical signals, like feeling like she was in free fall all the time, as well as verbal signals like “I’m so tired of this.” And these signals also spanned the relationship channel, when she expressed trust in me.

So for coaches wanting to use Process Work, start by listening for signals. Then invite them to unfold. First through the channel they initially express in, then when the client approaches an edge, consider changing the channel. It sounds simple, and sometimes it is. And sometimes it’s not. It requires much nuance, sensitivity, skill, presencing and courage.

But it’s worth it. Oh, is it worth it. Seeing Annette smile and breathe in a relaxed way at the end of our session was all the reward I could ask for. She still has work to do, and so do I. But we stepped into the flow of the river together last night and will continue on the path.

For more cool stuff on Process Work, check out:

And to learn about some of the techniques that worked so fast, see:


What Improv Offers to Agile Coaching

The town where I live has this wonderful New Year’s celebration every year. The way it works is about 20 churches, banks, libraries, retirement homes open their doors for one night to become equal opportunity public spaces for people to celebrate. One of those spaces was the local Methodist Church. It has these wonderful old wooden balconies and a big stage up front.
When my daughter was 12, I took her to a New Year’s comedy show in that church. We sat up in the balcony right by the stage, in front row seats. The group performing was the famous Chicago Second City. They are the birthplace of Saturday Night Live and hundreds of well-loved comedians and actors like Tina Fey, Gilda Radnor and Alan Alda.
I’d never seen them before so I had no idea what we were getting into. Thirty seconds into the show my daughter was laughing so hard, that I grabbed the back of her overalls to keep her from falling off the balcony. We laughed so hard that night, our ribs hurt and tears streamed down our faces.
Having grown up in Los Angeles, I had never seen live comedy, only studios where movies and TV shows were filmed. And I knew something different and unique had entered my world. I wanted more.
Ever since that night, I wanted to take improv classes myself. I finally got around to it, and my first class was so terrifying I broke out in a cold sweat and almost left. But that was six years ago and I’m immensely grateful I chose to stay. Because choosing to stay is at the core of comedy, and at the core of being human and being in relationship. There is something intensely valuable about being present – to the moment, to each other, to what’s trying to happen. There is a kind of joy in it.
After I got over my shyness and began to be more willing to take risks, I realized that what was happening in improv was much bigger than me. It was about community building. It was about making freedom possible in relationships. And as an agile coach, relationships are my business. We are spitting in the wind if we don’t learn how to talk with each other, both within the team and company, and with the customer. As I got more comfortable with improv I began to wonder what it had to offer to companies wanting to be awesome, to companies wanting to adopt agile sometimes without knowing why, to teams and organizations exploring innovation, taking risks, and “swinging out big.”
So a couple of years ago, having survived and loved several improv classes at both The Second City and the famed Piven theater workshop, I began bringing improv games to agile coaching as one of the services I offer. 
The results have been explosive. 
I’m at a loss for words at how transformative improv has been and continues to be for the teams and companies I coach. I regularly see people go from letting of “fear driving their bus,” and move towards innovation and levels of fun and collaboration they’ve never, ever experienced before, inside or outside the workplace. 
Customers have started showing up absolutely delighted. Even people outside the improv rooms are showing up in the hallways and peeping around corners into the room, on fire with curiosity about what’s happening in there, and why that team is suddenly kicking ass, tripling its velocity, and becoming the cool team that everybody wants to hang out with. The gratefulness I feel to the improv community is beyond measure, because as an agile coach my whole job description is to help people unleash their potential and for companies to succeed beyond their wildest dreams.
Thank you, improv! And much more to come!
Check out these great links:
Second City:
Piven Theatre Workshop

What Coaching Has to Offer for Stakeholder Happiness

Here’s what there is to know about unhappy stakeholders. They are capable of being happy. In fact, they WANT to be happy.photodune-182656-unhappy-business-team-at-a-meeting-xs

They’re not being unhappy to annoy you. They’re being unhappy because they have a good reason for being unhappy. As agile coach, it’s your job to coach the relationship between the product owner and the stakeholders in a way that empowers the product owner to find out what the valid needs are behind their unhappiness and to work with them collaboratively to get those needs addressed.

A fundamental assumption I go in with to any agile engagement is that people have reasons for what they do and say. Good reasons. Reasons that are based on valid needs, like building community, being acknowledged, being heard, surviving, being in relationship, curiosity or growth.

Assuming my stakeholder needs are valid allows me as an Agile Coach to more clearly see the “dream behind the complaint.” It allows me to ask, “What do you hope for?” and “If this were going really well, what do you see happening?”

It’s kind of that simple. It comes down to a basic confidence in human beings, that they do things for a reason. Even when we act all crazy and weird, even competitive, hierarchical, domineering, cruel or destructive, I believe there’s always a valid human need at work. It’s my job as Agile Coach to find out what that need is, and invite it to speak.

This is a basic process of unfolding that is so part and parcel of Agile Coaching. And it’s a Zen type of unfolding, because it’s being open to whatever shows up in the moment, whatever craziness, or hope or pettiness presents itself. Each one is an opportunity for something great. Each is something solid and human and whole trying to happen. I’m in the fortunate position as agile coach to simply act as midwife for the emergence of something new – whether it’s a high-performing team, a 500% improvement in Sprint velocity, or an innovative product idea. The beauty of it is, I myself really don’t have to do anything. The team, department or company is already naturally creative, resourceful and whole. If I trust it enough to invite its wholeness to unfold, even if gremlins show up, like politicking, craziness, aggression or fear, the wide sunny meadow I spill out onto every time is basic human goodness.

When I first started working in cultural transformation 20 years ago, I tried to bring in consulting-like solutions that companies said they wanted, then got confused on why they didn’t work. What I didn’t understand at the time was how important it is to start with people where they are, not where I want them to be or even where they want themselves to be. Just where they are. And I’ve learned that starting with “what’s here now” brings a richness that is material to work with as a coach, unfolding right in front of us. My journey of learning to start in the “now” in for my clients in transformation reminds me of the poem “Guest House” by Rumi:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.

Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

— Jelaluddin Rumi,
translation by Coleman Barks

There’s a field in coaching that we all work in, kind of like field theory in physics. It’s an open field where everything is known and knowable, or at least available, if only we slow down enough to notice it. We let the warmth of that sunny meadow ground us into the warm solid ground of human kindness. In agile transformation coaching, what that looks like is values-based work; ways of working together based on courage, trust, collaboration, risk-taking, willingness to fail and desire to creatively learn together.

I temporarily took over one of the teams at my current client last month because their leader quit. He was a command-and-control leader who had been driving himself in the team to work 60 to 80 hours a week. And still things had fallen by the wayside. One of those was attention to certain stakeholders. Stakeholders with needs, stakeholders with worries. Stakeholders who wanted to talk, but no one was listening.

I’ve been with this team about four weeks and in that time span we’ve started listening to each other and to stakeholders for the first time. It’s hard work. It’s slow work. Each team member still sees him or herself as existing on separate islands, like young children who don’t know how to share yet, and instead, do parallel play. They don’t know how to collaborate, and they fight with each other when they try, for now anyway, til we have time to wade into some coaching on conflict resolution, Emotional Intelligence and team play.

And wading through this together, yesterday we met with three very worried, very neglected stakeholders. Jeannine, Denice and Bob, in operations. Together, they manage the groups of people who do the daily customer facing work – the people who answer the phone and help customers with-real life problems. The people who help customers better do their jobs using our software products. The trainers who train those customer service representatives. The documentation people who write the training.

And the team I’m temporarily leading was supposed to release cool new charts three months ago, but Jeannine, Denice and Bob vetoed that, because they didn’t understand the product well enough to support it. Uh oh.

So yesterday when we talked to them, the air was tense. Worried. Yet the simple human act of opening up a dialog to find out what it’s like on their side of the fence made all the difference. Yesterday the team stopped hunching their shoulders and covering their ears. Coaching allowed them to stand up face to face with Jeannine, Denice and Bob, then line up shoulder to shoulder, us against the problem. A partnership alliance got forged, and we’ll see our way clear together.

So much of agile coaching is simple human decency. It’s being willing to step into a field where which we co-create each other and our shared future. In that field, I know I exist because I’m in relation to you, because we can talk. I can actually hear you, and you can actually be heard by me. We can work together in a kind of creative fidelity. There’s a delicious scent to that, like warm chocolate. I will gratefully take it into my conversations today with Jeannine, Denice, Bob and the team. It will perfume our interactions as we invite possibility to unfold, emergent. And who knows, we might even get to go live this time.

Defeating the Four Horsemen of Hell Through Team Coaching

Jim* made Susan cry yesterday. In nursery school, this is normal and expected. However, I work with adults in IT, not three-year-olds in nursery school. Jim and Susan are senior IT professionals with about 20 years of experience each.

But the dynamic is the same, at least until teams learn conflict resolution skills. Let me explain.

We all have our own ways of dealing with conflict. Sometimes people do a pretty good job at that. And sometimes people don’t. When we are at our worst and our least skilled, we don’t deal with conflict well.

There is a wonderful researcher by the name of John Gottman who has categorized the places we go when we are at our worst. He calls them the Four Horsemen of Hell. When these horsemen run rampant, they turn into team toxins. The toxins pollute teams and relationships, and sneak around like nasty little gremlins that gobble productivity before it can happen.

The Four Horsemen of Hell

So what are these team toxins? And where do we as coaches find antidotes to offer to the organizations we coach?

The four Horsemen of hell are blaming/criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling. These are both more and less obvious than they seem.

Blaming/criticism is basically attacking someone personally versus their behavior. It’s been hard this week for me to support Susan when she attacks Jim, even though I know that that’s the only way she has available to her at the moment for trying to make things better.

And then on Jim’s side, the horse he rides when he is at his least skilled in conflict resolution is stonewalling. That’s basically turning your back, giving the other person the silent treatment, cutting off communication, withdrawing, and refusing to engage. This is exactly what Susan’s husband of 30 years does when they have a fight, so when Jim does it at work, it makes things even worse, because the more Jim does it, the more Susan attacks. And that it’s a downward spiral that leads nowhere good. And when stonewalling doesn’t get Jim what he wants, which is relief from blaming then sometimes sarcasm shows up, which makes everything worse.

The third Horsemen of hell is defensiveness. We all know this guy and he’s ugly. When I first started coaching this team three weeks ago, defensiveness showed up a lot. It sounds like this, “Oh, well, the bad thing only happened because (fill in the blank – they/the bad guys / the dumb technology) didn’t let us do what we wanted to do. But we would have if we could have. Worry, Ms. Stakeholder, you can’t have that, but gee, it’s not our fault.”

There were lots of excuses and I sat there getting pissed off because I saw the team selling itself short. I have confidence that every team and every organization has 20 times more potential than they think they do. My job as a coach is to open that up, invite them to look at that door and walk through it into a whole new place of possibility.

The fourth Horsemen of hell is contempt. This horseman has pooped all over my current team recently. Manure in the form of sarcasm, cynicism, belittling and hostile humor. In fact, in my first meeting ever with this team, the day after their leader quit, they sicced this horseman on me.

It’s natural to sometimes attack the leader if nothing else is handy. And it was valuable information to me to begin to understand the system of that particular team. It showed me that they were under incredible stress to be acting like that with a new person. Any of the Horsemen can be bad habits that we’ve learned in terms of how to deal with conflict.  And they can come out particularly when an organization or a team is in a transition or under stress.

And that’s valuable, because the Horsemen often represent the “edge behaviors” that give the coach insight into both what’s happening in the organization that’s challenging, as well as what new positive thing is trying to happen. It’s my job as leader and coach to on the look out for these edge behaviors, and then to leverage them to help the organization unfold its current stage of development.

The good news is there are ways to stop each of the Horsemen. It’s to invoke antidotes to each of the team toxins.

There are some general antidotes that can be effective at chasing away any of these toxins. First, call out the toxins when you see them show up. Help people see the negative impacts they are having and ask, “Is that really the impact you want to be having?”

Second, constantly look for what’s right versus what’s wrong, and express gratitude to others out loud for what’s going well. That goes an incredibly long way. What you look for, tends to show up. It’s a basic principle of both quantum physics and life.

In your team partnership agreement, or agile social contract, you can also create a team behavioral plan to handle the toxins. This behavioral plan might be with each other or each individual with him or herself. It might sound like, “when I feel a toxin coming on, I will go to the balcony by taking a break for a few minutes.”

One team I coached recently decided that one of their top values is positivity. So we made up a game that goes like this. Any time a team member “stinks” up the room with negativity, everybody gets to throw the stuffed skunk at him or her. (They named the skunk Pepe; it’s really cute). And since whatever you look for tends to grow, I also got them a stuffed giraffe, because the giraffe has the largest heart of any land mammal. They decided the giraffe was about gratitude. And they made up a rule that they would look for things to thank people for, then toss them the giraffe. The skunk and the giraffe are now part of every daily stand up with that team, and the giraffe is getting increasing amounts of “fly time.”

You can also coach folks to check the team and themselves for flooding. Flooding is emotional overwhelm. In your role as coach, you can help them practice ways to respond to that, like taking a deep breath, and increasing their awareness of one negativity or any of the toxins try to creep in.

It’s possible to increase positivity during conflict by using what Gottman calls a “soft start-up.” This matters greatly in business, because the highest performing teams have high positivity, according to researcher Marciel Losada.

The soft start-up is where you can get a lot out of the “yes, and” approach. The best example I ever saw of this was when I was talking with two business partners about establishing our own office.

Melissa said, “I think it would be cool to have concrete floors.”

Janet looked surprised and a little upset, but then she said, “Yes! And what I love about that idea is that we could put a drain in the middle of the floor. That way we could water our plants and just let the excess water run out of the pots, over the floor, and down the drain. And we could have skylights, too.”

We all busted up laughing and ended up with a really nice office. In the words of Holocracy, we exercised the ability to resolve tensions between “what is” and “what could be” into productive conflict.

And there are also specific antidotes to each of the four toxins. The antidotes to blaming/criticism are first to ask yourself, “Am I willing to resolve this without blaming?” and “what’s the thing we both believe is important here?” If individuals are not ready to ask this, then the coach can ask it and model this behavior. This is basic alignment coaching which is an essential piece of effective organizational coaching.

Other antidotes to the blaming/criticism Horseman are to address the behavior you don’t like instead of criticizing the person. You can also listen for the dream behind the complaint, or for the request behind the blaming, both in yourself and in others, and then respond to that request instead of reacting to the blaming.

An antidote to defensiveness is active listening. You can say, “So I hear you saying “x>” Did I hear that right?” Then let them correct you. Get curious and put yourself into a learning mode. Another antidote to defensiveness is the 2% rule. Treat any complaint as if it were 2% true. For example in the team I’m coaching now with Jim and Susan, my coaching might sound like this, ” Jim, if 2% of what Susan says is true, and the rest isn’t, what with that 2% be?”

And the basic antidote to the Horseman contempt is kindness. Coach your teams to seek opportunities to practice kindness and compassion. Ask them, “Are you willing to resolve this without sarcasm, accusations or name-calling?” Asked them to tell you the truth, and if they’re not ready, invite them to take a break, or maybe ventilate to the coach (who keeps that confidential). Encourage them to not triangulate. Triangulating is your basic nasty sixth grade trash talking gossip circle. It’s where “person a” on the team complaints to “person b” on the team about “person c.”

Triangulating never, ever, leads anywhere good. Tell your clients that you are coaching, “If you’re thinking is it’s us against them, take a good hard look at yourself in the impact you are having. Ask if those are the impacts you really want to have.” And another antidote to contempt is to learn to soothe in cases of emotional flooding and learn to soothe, like taking a deep breath or a break.

Finally, antidotes to stonewalling are to coach your teams to check for emotional overwhelm. Teach them to recognize the amygdala hijack – getting upset in a split second – and to teach them how to be proactive and to soothe. And more direct painkillers for stonewalling are to coach people to address their fears of what will happen if they do speak out. This might feel frightening or threatening to them initially, so go slowly at the pace they need. And last but not least is to put the behavior “out in front.” You can even take a mobile device or pen or whatever and stick it in the middle of the table and tell your team that it’s the issue “out front.”  That it’s us shoulder to shoulder against the problem and not us against each other. I put bagel “out front” with a team 6 months ago, and last week I found out they still keep that bagel on the table (rock hard by now no doubt), and they “put it out in front” every time they have a disagreement, to frame it as “us against the problem” vs “us against each other.”

Here are some great links, if you’re interested to learn more about offering antidotes to the team toxins and killing off those productivity gremlins:

* Names and details have been changed to protect privacy.

Power, Empowerment and Freedom in Team Coaching

I’ve been thinking about power lately. Power over, empowerment, power to. Abuses of power, power held lightly, power balanced with love by skilled leaders.

One of the teams I’m coaching these days fights a lot. It’s like they’re scrambling for power. Making quick feints and grabs for airtime. Waiting (or not waiting) to butt in and be heard.

Except no one gets heard. Because there’s no high quality listening happening. Fear and Anger are driving the bus. In fact, Fear and Anger are acting like tyrants, body snatchers that sometimes take over team members and make them shamble around like zombies seeking to quench any signs of life.

As a coach, I want people to have choices, including the choice to say no to Fear and Anger driving the bus. And what I stand for as a leader is dignity, growth and freedom. That includes combining power with love in the right ratios, that lead to transformational, exponential change.

So today after a meeting full of conflict, I decided to take on the zombies who are hijacking this team’s talents. It’s time to “take back the night.” I’m not willing to lose out on talent, and committed to helping every coaching client, individual, team, or organization, maximize their potential.

I told the team, “I’ve noticed different uses of power on the team. Several of you are powerful people with powerful voices.”

“So I’m asking you to take home a few inquiries with you and bring back answers tomorrow:
– How well are you using your power and voice in service of the team? Is the team as a whole getting the results you want?
– What’s more important to you than staying safe or being right?”

And that’s my invitation to you agile coaches and practitioners, to take on these inquiries for yourself, if you’re wanting a change, and these resonate with you.

As the poet Rumi says, “This being human is a guest house, every morning a new arrival.” Let’s welcome the morning and see what it brings.