Category Archives: Leadership Coaching

On the Hard

This post was shared by Bebe Hansen – faculty of Coaching for Presence-Based® Leadership 

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.” ~Louisa May Alcott

My husband identifies himself as a sailor. He is the proud owner of his father’s 30‘ Alberg sailboat, and he carries that legacy with care and respect for all his father taught him about the beauty and art of sailing. And, Sun Spur is in need of some loving attention right now. She has been in the water a bit too long and recently sprouted a tiny but significant leak in her bowels. This was not a dire emergency (despite my husband’s triggered reactions to the situation), yet she required a trip to a nearby marina sooner rather than later, where she could have access to experienced technicians who could repair her hull and perform some needed maintenance.

I watched the story of Sun Spur’s situation unfold, entangled with my husband’s reluctance and several dilemmas about how best to take care of the problem (should he travel further to a marina where he could perform the work himself at less cost but more time and effort?  Should he try to find someone to travel to his current marina to fix the leak — which turned out not to be feasible? Did he actually have the skills necessary to repair this leak? You get the picture). There were many nuances and layers between the boat’s objective needs, the potential costs involved (monetary and time), and my husband’s personal history of “do it yourself” mindset.

Recognizing Changing Tides

I began to see underneath these surface issues into a beautiful metaphor for what I, and perhaps many of you, might be going through right now. There are so many current forces at work in this country and in the world unfolding at once, it seems hard to catch my breath before the next news item is surfaced. And each event has its impact on each of us, often at deep and personal levels.

As Sun Spur is still sitting in the parking lot of the second-choice marina at this moment (and that’s another story in itself!), what’s becoming clear is that I, too, am needing some maintenance. I, myself, have some unattended to minor leaks of my own. For example, I seemed to have lost my north star in the fog of rapidly changing seas that have impacted how Presence Based ® Coaching  (PBC) training is delivered.  I’ve gotten caught up in the urgency of making tough decisions and pivoting quickly to create virtual versions of this work.

Looking Beneath the Surface

So, what’s below the water line for me? It looks like my disorganized office space with papers and piles spread everywhere. It shows up in feeling blindsided by deadlines that I had forgotten about in the fray and details of doing. It shows up in my reactivity to others when I’m tired from having pushed myself too hard at work. Or when I skip some of my regular practices (like yoga and meditation), rationalizing I really don’t need them today.

What’s leaking is my energy, and my Presence. When I was training many years ago in the Toltec work (from Don Miquel Ruiz, author of “The Four Agreements”), I learned that we as humans have some insidious and subtle habits around leaking our own energy. We do this by gossiping or complaining, by becoming buried in social media, by dismissing our needs for rest or connection or quiet time in nature as we get pulled into the ever-changing external context. By ignoring our Being.

Lifting Out of the Water

I have learned to operate on fumes pretty well…for a time. And then, I suddenly wake up to discover that I am off course. I realize need to attend to myself, to re-commit to the self-care practices that I know reliably feed me. And, my hull needs painting! What I mean is: my office needs organizing, cleaning, and the disposal of no longer needed papers. What I mean is: I am longing for connection with myself – space to be with my inner world in an unstructured way.  See the view from a bigger perspective.  I need to put myself “on the hard” for a bit.

This act of pulling myself out of the water invites paying attention to what’s calling me now and discerning what are the few priorities toward which I really want to invest my energy. I want time to re-gather myself as I notice what’s true for me, and for my heart. To stop the energy drains from those familiar things that draw my attention in reactivity and habit. I want to organize myself around my commitments and purpose. To take the rudder of my own ship again. I’m taking a deeper breath and sensing the ground of my own anchoring into Presence just writing this!

Have You Sprung a Leak?

Perhaps you have your own version of a leak, or your own hull needs some fresh paint. Perhaps it’s an inner knowing that you need to take a Presence Pause in your life or work. To re-evaluate, re-assess or re-imagine what’s truly needed now, in the midst of this stressful time period in history, and within this precious moment of your life’s trajectory. I encourage you to sense in and name what may be arising for you as you read this blog, and to capture it somewhere for your own reflection. And to give yourself permission to put yourself “on the hard” if needed.

Now, Adjust Your Sails

  • What might you see for yourself within these metaphors?
  • What’s underneath your own or your client’s water line that might need some attention or maintenance?
  • How can you create some space to lift yourself out of the water or onto the hard, or encourage your clients to do the same, in order to consider what course correction may most be needed in this moment?

Click here to learn more about  Coaching for Presence-Based® Leadership offered this fall at Georgetown. 

Educating the Whole Person

The Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL) has always derived great strength from the foundation on which it was built, Georgetown University and its Jesuit Heritage.  Today, the work of ITL is best captured in its mission: to develop and sustain worldwide communities of leaders dedicated to awakening, engaging, and supporting the leadership required to create a more sustainable, harmonious, and compassionate future.   In addition to offering educational programs that develop leaders, this mission speaks to our higher purpose and responsibility to prepare leaders who can address the issues that will lead to greater peace, environmental and economical sustainability, and a future in which human beings relate to one another with a caring approach consistent with Georgetown’s Jesuit values.

Connecting with and Embodying our Values

Each year, ITL chooses one of the Jesuit values as an area of curricular focus.  This year our focus will be the value of “Educating the Whole Person.”   We will explore this value through our programming, our community dialogue and in our classrooms.  By making these explicit connections, we will link our unique Jesuit and transformational missions to the learning experiences and outcomes of our students with a committed focus on the development of the intellectual, artistic, social, physical, and spiritual aspects of each person.

Mind, Body, Emotion, Spirit, Identity

While institutions of higher education are recognized for challenging and developing great minds, the mastery of leadership must address the whole person; mind, body, emotions, spirit, and identity.  Through our Certificate programs, advanced training, and professional workshops, the ITL curriculum guides participants to explore these rich domains and to develop continuous on-going practice and reflection on the life-long journey of leadership.

We look forward to engaging with our faculty, students, staff and community as we embrace our commitment and value of “Educating the Whole Person”.

Introducing Executive Director – Denise Keyes

Denise Keyes is the new Executive Director for the Institute for Transformational Leadership. Denise brings extensive industry and academic leadership experience to her new role, as well as her own experience as a practicing coach and facilitator, and a grateful graduate of both Georgetown Certificate programs. She is honored to join ITL managing director Lynn Screen and the ITL program team, as well as the inspired founding director, Kate Ebner, the ITL program directors, and their faculty, and the ITL Network to work together to continue to strengthen and grow the Institute, and its global network of graduates–all in service to ITL’s mission. More to come about plans for the future in the months ahead.

Prior to her new role, Denise served as the Senior Associate Dean of Georgetown University’s Division of Professional Communications for over a decade. In this role she founded four masters programs, and the Center for Social Impact Communication (CSIC), which educates and inspires communications professionals to create positive social impact through their work.

She retains the role of Executive Director of CSIC, as well as ITL and will bring the lessons learned from this experience to her new role, particularly in the areas of strategic partnerships, thought leadership research and communications, fundraising, and branding.

Denise’s foundational knowledge and approach to leadership was developed through many years of collaborating across sectors, from big corporate brands and government agencies, to innovative nonprofits and large foundations. She has designed signature cause and CSR programs for Fortune 100 companies, developed award-winning social marketing and advertising campaigns, and crafted strategic corporate partnerships while serving in senior management roles in industry-leading agencies including Ogilvy & Mather, Cone, and Fleishman-Hillard in New York, London, and DC.

In addition to her role at Georgetown, Denise is a principal of–a strategy and leadership coaching firm. She is also a meditation teacher and incorporates this practice into her own life, as well as into her leadership coaching and training for graduate students and clients in mindful leadership.

Denise lives in Bethesda with her husband Bob, and their Aussie-doodle Dylan. She has two grown children Molly and Patrick.

Women’s Leadership in Action

This post shared from guest faculty members Kristin Haffert and Jessica Grounds on their inspiration behind Women’s Leadership in Action.  

We began to be exposed to the issue of gender imbalance when we were in college.  For Kristin, it was during her studies at Rutgers University where she learned that clinical trials for heart disease at the National Institutes of Health, only included men, even though heart disease is the leading killer of women.  And for Jessica, it was her junior year in college when she worked on her first political campaign in California for a woman running for the state assembly. She quickly understood the power of political office, but also the fact that few women represented the public in elected bodies throughout the country. In each instance we wondered, how is this lack of representation by women impacting the outcomes?

We were inspired to this work for different reasons and now after decades of experience working globally to advance women’s leadership and develop approaches to incorporate gender differences into business models, policy-making, and leadership strategy, we find that we are still stuck.

Women to continue to make up only 20% of U.S. Congress, 5% of Fortune 500 CEO’s, and just 38% of tenured professor positions.  We see the low representation of women in leadership as a near universal problem globally.  So why is this and what can we do?

Three years ago, we created Mine the Gap in a business climate where we continue to see that organizations do not understand the strategic advantage of bringing women into leadership roles with men. When men and women understand and respect each other more deeply in their professions, productivity flourishes and retention improves. When an organization works to build a gender inclusive environment, the organization is more innovative, nimble, and profitable.  More women leaders, working with men, open up new markets, perspectives, and approaches.  But most industries have a long way to go to put these strategies into practice.  There is a competitive advantage to advancing a culture where gender differences are seen as a benefit, not a liability.

Scientific American cover page explains, This is Not a Women’s Issue.  This is an issue that is disrupting the workplace today.  We are limiting the potential of our workforce.  We are underutilizing our talent and we are losing ground.  The potential is there if we are aware and strategic.

We are teaching a course at the Institute for Transformational Leadership, housed at Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies, because we want to equip professionals with the knowledge base and skills to better understand the challenges that women face accessing places of power, and how we can be more intentional to grow women’s leadership.  We want to equip business leaders with the knowledge to become more gender aware and see the strategic advantage gender balanced teams offer. In the climate of #MeToo and #TimesUp, there is a rich conversation about issues impacting women and men. We will be sharing strategies that we use globally with our clients.

Come learn how you can mine the gender gap and become a trailblazer on gender dynamics in your field.

Learn more and register for Women’s Leadership in Action: Tools & Tactics to Transform the Workplace here. 

The Presence to Embrace Complexity

This article is based on an interview with ITL faculty Carolyn Coughlin (CC) and Bebe Hansen (BH) on the three-day Advanced Training: Coaching for Presence-Based® Leadership. 

What sparked the creation of Coaching for Presence-Based ®Leadership?

BH: Doug Silsbee has long been considered a thought leader in both mindfulness and presence in leadership coaching.  His latest (and last) book, Presence-Based Leadership was written specifically for leaders, and thus moved the Presence-Based® work into a new realm.  We have always trained leadership coaches, as Georgetown does, and the new book speaks directly to the challenges leaders face in today’s current fast paced and global organizational environments.  The training was a natural offspring of Doug’s work on the Presence-Based Leadership book.  The trainings served as a practice and evolutionary ground for the content in the book, and a lab to experiment with both coaches and leaders in a live workshop environment.  I have witnessed and been a part of this type of emergent learning in years of co-teaching the Presence-Based® Coaching training to our students. This work is continually evolving and changing, with many iterations and refinements along the way that hone the material and support the curriculum to grow and mature.  And, it’s fun and enlivening to learn this way!  We might say this method of experimentation supports a dynamism that continues to spark more creativity.

CC:  For many years, my colleagues and I at Cultivating Leadership have been helping prepare leaders for a complex world by teaching them about complexity, helping them to recognize it in their daily lives, and supporting them to work in ways that are more complexity-friendly. Most of our clients love the perspective shift and the new tools they get from our programs, our coaching, and our work with teams.  And yet, many of these same leaders–even those with more than enough organizational power and influence to buck cultural norms – tend to quickly revert to their tried and true approaches to leadership.  Through my somatic training, my many years of using adult development ideas and practices in my coaching, as well as training other coaches to do the same, coupled with my own personal experience, I had the sense that the missing link lay in finding a way of better integrating these into my work with clients who were seeking to lead well in complexity.

The fact is that, by our nature and our nurturing, we humans are not particularly fit for complexity.  Even when our brains have learned plenty of tools and approaches that are fit for complexity, our bodies and our identities remain fit for a predictable, controllable world. While our human tendency to predict, to know, and to be in control is extremely useful in the right conditions, they are seriously anti-helpful in the wrong ones. So it was this dissonance between knowing that our context demands a particular set of actions and ways of being one hand, and the lack of psychobiological fitness for such action and ways of being on the other, that Doug and I saw the opportunity for this workshop and the body of work upon which it is based.

What makes the Institute for Transformational Leadership at Georgetown the right place to offer this training? 

CC: Over the years, my colleagues and I have, through our Growth Edge Coaching Program, trained hundreds of coaches to use the theory and practice of Constructive Developmental Theory as an integrated part of their coaching practice. Many of them have been Georgetown Coach Certification Program alumni.  My experience with Georgetown alumni is that they have been exposed to and are deeply intrigued and informed by all three of the threads from which the tapestry of Presence-Based® Leadership is woven—Complexity Theory, Adult Development Theory, and the Presence-Based® approach.  Coaching for Presence-Based® Leadership provides an opportunity for Georgetown alumni to both deepen their understanding and application of these ideas to which they’ve already been exposed, and to use the deliberate weaving together of these, to support their clients (and themselves) in cultivating the complexity fitness they need to address the challenges of today’s world.  Put simply, ITL’s philosophy of educating the whole person is very much aligned with both the philosophy of Cultivating Leadership and Growth Edge Coaching, and particularly with the very heart of the Coaching for Presence-Based® Leadership offering.  I am also deeply committed to bringing the ideas and approaches of PBL to as many coaches and leaders as possible because, frankly, I think the world needs it.  ITL’s reach, attracting a broad and diverse range of coaches and leaders, is a great way to do that.

BH: I live in the DC area, and Doug and I have many colleagues in this region. We have taught the Presence-Based® Coaching work at universities, ICF conferences, and directly to leaders over the years, locally (as well as internationally).  Doug most recently taught as faculty of the ITL program, co-teaching a module on presence in the Executive Certificate in Transformational Leadership.  It seemed a natural fit to continue this work, now as Presence-Based® Leadership, as part of the ITL offer.  The work is a good fit for the mission and feel of ITL, and of course, we are excited to be a part of its excellence and impact for those in this region and beyond.

How do participants respond to this approach?

BH: Coaches find many useful new perspectives and tools that enable them to support clients who are navigating the current territory of turbulence and disruption.  The view of complexity theory and practice offers a new way to understand the context of our current reality.  This view of complexity is woven into the new Nine Panes model described in the book and operationalized in the training. Doug’s collaboration with Carolyn Coughlin, and in particular around the complexity piece, has been a valuable addition to the framing of this work. This training material is accessible and inherently developmental in nature, with very practical applications.  The new Nine Panes model is quite profound, with many layers to dive into for more information, understanding and practice ideas. Participants respond with enthusiasm and leave the training excited about new experiments to try in their own coaching practice with clients.

CC:  Having just completed a running of this workshop on the cliffs overlooking the Tasman Sea in New Zealand, I am more convinced than ever that this work is not only immediately accessible and useful and also transformational.  Participants bring their most pressing challenges and use the workshop’s simple, elegant ideas and practices to help them make sense of their challenges and themselves in new ways.  Because the workshop is designed create the conditions for participants to cultivate the very things the theory suggests will be helpful to their clients as they face complexity, participants report they come out of it feeling they are not only more able to support their clients to be more fit for complexity, but that they themselves are more fit as well.  I’m already hearing reports of last week’s participants trying things out in their real lives. What could be better feedback than that?

How might my coaching change as a result of attending this program?

CC: Because this program blends together the three overlapping but complementary threads of Adult Development, Complexity Theory, and Presence-Based® approaches, every participant is likely to walk away with both a deepening of your current practice and an expansion of it into related but different areas.  Depending on your starting point, you may find one or another of these threads is more novel to your current practice, and you will walk away with a more integrated and holistic approach to supporting your clients.  In addition to integrating these three theoretical threads, the program takes an integrated approach to complexity itself—inviting participants to engage with the full range of both their environment and themselves.  It would be difficult to leave this workshop and not have your coaching changed in some way.

BH: For experienced coaches, this approach brings a breath of fresh air to coaching best-practices. The program is highly experiential and includes the whole person.  The program offers participants an opportunity to understand the new models and frameworks by trying on the material in the present moment of the classroom, with their own challenges as the context.  This method includes the body, mind and heart of the coach in the learning, and allows space for the practitioner to glean their own personal and professional insights and shifts from the material.  This translates into the coach’s capacity to offer a more integrative view and experience to their clients. This methodology aligns with our principle that we must do our own work before we can offer new and congruent coaching moves successfully to our clients.  And in the process, we cultivate our own presence as a coach, which adds a depth and resilience to our coaching moves.

Click here to learn more about the Coaching for Presence-Based® Leadership training at Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.