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A couple of weeks ago I travelled to Montreal to do some intensive sessions with a practitioner who uses somatic (body) approaches in her coaching/therapy to help her clients be radically alive. I was excited and scared.  For someone like me who has often relied on my brain to look smart and stay safe, I knew I would be challenged to drop my defences and sink into my body.

Quote: “When you can learn to engage powerful feelings without the need to control or tame them, that is radical aliveness.” Ann Bradney, Founder, Radical Aliveness Institute

Sure enough, when Josée gave me a soft bat (called a bataka) and invited me to pound repeatedly on a big cube while saying what I was angry about, I could do it, but only to a point. As soon as my brain chatter got loud with: If I keep doing this, I am going to look really stupid/lose control/be humiliated, I would stop the physical actions. At one point, we did something similar with boxing gloves.

For me, stopping was a control strategy: If I stop now, I can still look smart. If I stop now, I can stay back from the edge of what might come up. And while this strategy has seemed to keep me safe in life, it can also prevent me from doing some pretty great things like bold business ventures, having fun, and letting myself get really angry, to name a few!

It just so happens that The Conscious Leadership Group is talking about control this week too. Their short quiz on control might stump you.  Take the test before you scroll below.  No cheating!

This ENTIRE list is of things we cannot control, try as we might:

Our thoughts
Our feelings
Our sensations
Other people’s emotions
Other people’s thoughts
Others actions towards their goals
How others take care of themselves
Other people’s choices
Rush hour traffic
The weather
Aging, illness, and death
Who likes us
Our past behaviour
Others people’s happiness
Climate change
How people will react to our creations
Other people’s interest in us
Others worrying about things and people
Others keeping their time agreements
Others’ reactivity
Other people gossiping
The behaviours and value of a company
Other people’s judgements of us
Our children’s behaviours
Customers buying our products/services

Despite not being ready to pound the shit out of that cube in Montreal, I still had a breakthrough: I fear that if I am not in control, I will be humiliated.

I wish I could tell you that my breakthrough means that I am cured of my need to control to feel safe. I cannot.  

I can tell you this “waking up” is a journey that’s helping me drop some armour. Some of my relationships are growing deeper.  Some of my relationships may fall to the side. And I am willing to take some bigger and bigger risks to live a life that has impact.

What about you?


Our year-long Where It Changes! Conscious Leadership Forum starts in September 2019 in PEI with the first of four overnight retreats. We’ll slow down to take a strategic time out together. No punching bags but great colleagues, beautiful nature and lots of experiential learning for a profound and playful journey together to grow our lives and leadership. Save your spot by August 9th.

“How do you know if someone is ready for coaching?” my client Darcy1 would ask. For her, coaching got to the heart of the matter quickly and helped her transform her leadership. She desperately wanted her senior leader colleagues to embark on their own leadership journey but felt most of them were not ready. From what I experienced at her company, I believed she was right.

Until now, I have been using my experience and intuition to determine coaching readiness. This didn’t fully satisfy Darcy. And it didn’t sit well with me, either.

While most times I have been right about a leader’s coachability, even recently I was wrong.

This CEO I am thinking about showed up to our initial conversation complaining about his overwhelm and wanting help. I wanted to help!! He said he was willing to do The Leadership Circle™ 360 Profile to get feedback from his team. In reality, he had a zillion reasons why he wasn’t ready to start it. And sadly, his relationship to overwhelm didn’t change one iota through the course of 3-4 coaching sessions.

What became clear to me is that this leader wasn’t ready to face certain things in his private life even though they were wreaking havoc in his business life. It started to feel cruel to push for change.  And frankly, it was getting exhausting for me. (After some overthinking on my part) I suggested we stop the coaching at the midway point. We ended amicably and I think he felt relieved. I know I did.

Looking back, I can see I ignored a red flag in our initial meeting. My ego wanted to win the work and help (maybe rescue) this leader (More red flags in this quick HBR article). As the coaching unfolded, I chose not to ignore how the leader kept rebooking our meetings and his resistance/fear regarding getting 360 feedback. 

Happily, for this CEO, for Darcy and for all of us who work in leadership development, there is a new model to assess coaching readiness: RIPEN. Authors Sacha Lindekens and Jeff Grady, unveil their model through a very readable business fable that has lots of coaching tips, too.2 This model would have served me well in deciding whether my CEO client was ready for coaching.

The RIPEN Model looks at five key areas to assess development readiness:

  1. REALIZATION: Does your leader recognize they need to change? Are they ready to take responsibility? (See 3 min video on 100% Responsibility). Or are they blaming others or circumstances?
  2. INCENTIVE: What do they really want and what counter-incentives might be keeping them stuck.  Leaders really only change when they are ready to move toward a delicious vision or to get away from serious pain. And even then, they may (consciously or unconsciously) keep the status quo because it feels safer.
  3. PRESSURE: Presentation of a lifetime coming up? Relationships among team members starting to implode? Pressure can certainly prompt a focus on development.
  4. EXPECTATION: Does the leader believe they have what it takes to accomplish a goal? Does the coach believe they can? Both need some confidence that success is possible.
  5. NATURAL INCLINATION: Is the leader naturally curious to learn and grow (growth mindset) or dubious that they can change in a significant way (fixed mindset)?

Looking back, I would not have gotten past the first point with my CEO client. He recognized something needed to change. It just became clear over a few coaching sessions that it wasn’t going to be him. That said, I have rarely seen a client who could tick all the boxes right at the beginning of our coaching.  I have seen the opposite happen, too. I worked with a very skeptical leader in a team program and he turned out to be one of the best “students” of the work. He’s even hired us to coach someone else on his team after he completed his own coaching.

The value in this framework for me is the reminder to talk through and make explicit how RIPE or not the leader is. Together, prospective coachees, coach (and sponsor) can enter into the relationship with eyes wide open to determine how to proceed.

Given a do-over with that CEO, I’d tune in more to my intuition and be brave.

I’d say:

Dear CEO, I hear you blaming your partner and staff for YOUR overwhelm. I hear you blaming yourself, too. Let’s talk about whether you are really ready to take 100 percent responsibility for your situation and what that would look like…

We might have come to a different conclusion about coaching. And it still might have taken a few coaching sessions to uncover what was really going on. We’re complex beings after all. And leadership development really is art and science.

If you think you’re really RIPE for an adventure in leadership development and you’re naturally curious to learn and grow, check out our new year-long Where It Changes! Conscious Leadership Forum. We have some spots left for this September. Reach out if you’d like to chat about joining us.


1 Name changed.
2 They also offer an online coaching readiness assessment (for $60 per use). I haven’t used it yet so cannot speak to its value.

Are you a social detective? Do you know how to use your superflexible powers for good?

Do you have any idea what I am talking about?

I didn’t either until my daughter Lali got invited to join a new program at her elementary school called The Superflex Superhero Training Academy (Social Smarts). The program teaches self-awareness, self-monitoring, self-control and social problem-solving. Through my lens, it’s leadership development for eight-year-olds! I smiled broadly realizing that Lali was about to learn the kid version of the work I do with adult leaders. Then I found myself wondering what I’d be like if I learned social smarts when I was eight.

Can you think of a few leaders around you who could use some social smarts?

  • Leaders who’d be more effective if they were more aware of their surroundings and the people in it?
  • Leaders who’d be more present if they tuned with their own and others’ thoughts and feelings?
  • Leaders who’d be more resourceful, influential and impactful if they looked a little deeper into the “why” behind their social behaviours?

Many of you know that we teach leaders “social smarts” by using The Leadership Circle Profile 360 and conscious leadership practices. The kid version is admittedly more fun! They start with a comic book story: Superflex Takes on Rock Brain and the Team of Unthinkables.  The story follows Aidan and his dog Bark as they get challenged by different characters in Social Town. Together, they learn that everyone has superflexible thinking powers and can become Superflex.

Superflex is present when Aidan/we are “above the line”. When we are superflexible, we are able to tune in to people’s wants and needs to help keep ourselves and others calm while also getting our turn “to play and speak”.

When Aidan/we slip “below the line”, which happens often, The Unthinkables appear! Let’s meet some of them:

The Unthinkables as drawn by Lali!
The Unthinkables, as drawn by Lali!

Firstly there is Rock Brain. He’s the opposite of flexible. This guy wants to do only what he wants to do. He tries one solution over and over, even though it is not working. He’s rule-bound and rigid.

Un-Wonderer doesn’t show interest in others. She doesn’t ask many questions about others and doesn’t add her ideas either.

Grump Grumpaniny thinks the worst and that people are unkind. He sees everything as negative. He’s blind to how his emotions spread and make others feel unhappy.

D.O.F. The Destroyer of Fun is very competitive. She insists on going first and playing only what she wants to play. She doesn’t compromise or sense how others feel when she dominates.

Worry Wall feels nervous about the people around him or the situation; when he is scared, he “hits a wall” which stops his ability to talk to people nearby or think clearly.

Other characters are Brain Eater, Body Snatcher, Space Invader, Glassman, Topic Twistmeister, WasFunnyOnce, Energy Hare-y, One-Sided Sid, and Mean Jean!  Perhaps you can have some fun figuring out what these characters get up to when they take over?

Lately, my own brain has been hijacked by some Unthinkables. Rock Brain, Grump Grumpaniny, Destroyer of Fun and Worry Wall have practically formed a committee in my brain and they are overstaying their welcome! I know they are there. And when I notice them (or someone else notices them for me and points them out…oh the “gift” of feedback…), I can sometimes shift back to being superflexible in that moment. And sometimes I cannot. And increasingly, I can have some compassion for myself and recognize I am feeling threatened somehow.

And this, my friends, IS the work. We all benefit when we get better at spotting where we are, accepting ourselves for being there and making an effort to shift IF we are willing.

Here’s the sequence:

  1. Where are you? Are you in the land of Superflex (above the line) or the Unthinkables (below the line)?
  2. Can you accept yourself for being where you are in this now moment? Maybe you are just scared and if you welcomed that in, you could make friends with your fear.
  3. Are you willing to shift? You may want to desperately but not be willing. And that is ok. You can learn about yourself and behave more like a leader even while some Unthinkables are taking up residence in your (rock) brain☺.
  4. And if you are actually willing to change the game, how will you shift?

And can you smile and be grateful?  Whatever is going on IS PERFECT for your learning, even if your life isn’t!


For the grown up version of Social Smarts, check out Where It Changes! Conscious Leadership Forum. Wouldn’t it be fun to create some Unthinkables and Thinkables for leaders as part of our journey? We have some spots left for this September. Reach out if you’d like to chat about joining us.

The Magic that Happens When We Trust and Surrender

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