Category Archives: Leadership Coaching

Of Tailwinds and Gratitude

“The wind has its reasons.  We just don’t notice as we go about our lives”

-Haruki Murakami


As a recreational bicyclist who likes to go hard at it and reach for new levels despite the protests of my middle-aged body, I’m frequently reminded of the seeming inequity of the wind.  What I’ve noticed is that on a windy day, the negative, hampering effects of the wind are acutely noticeable during 75% of a ride.  Indeed, a direct headwind can be soul crushing and the nuisance of a stiff cross-breeze can prevent the best cyclists from establishing their natural rhythm.  Maddening.

And then there’s the tailwind.  Ah, sweet tailwind.  Its physical benefits are irrefutable; when riding with the effects of a tailwind, we are faster and far more likely to feel like we’re in the zone.  Beautiful.

Yet what I’ve noticed over the years on the bike is that I am far more acutely aware of the effects of the “negative” winds than I am of the lifting, carrying forces of the tailwind.  Naturally, as a coach I began to question what’s behind this phenomenon and to explore its implications.  At one level, it makes complete sense to me that we should notice adversity more than we notice aid; it’s forever been a fundamental part of the human condition to heed and remember threats.  A design element that’s been critical to our survival.

I am fascinated by the tension that emerges at the intersection of  “the way we are wired” and “the ways we’ve agreed to behave.”  The world we now live in is far safer and more civilized (at least for readers of this post) than the life-threatening world for which our brains were designed, and we no longer need to be so imbalanced in our ratio of noticing threats to noticing opportunities.  The modern implication of this ancient design is what’s known as Attribution Error.  To oversimplify, it’s our tendency to attribute our own good fortune to character traits while dismissing our misfortune to forces outside of our control.  And to reverse it when making sense of the successes and failures of others.  Quite a powerful force that distorts our view of the world.

We would all be well served to increase our noticing and appreciation of the forms and forces that lift and carry us.  Don’t let the tailwind go unnoticed.  Identify and thank the people behind you who are contributing to your sense of rhythm, flow, and speed.

Is Your Signature Coaching Presence Your Ally? (Or a hindrance to your success?)

authored by Suzanne Scurlock-Durana

As I have worked in the Georgetown leadership coaching community in the last few years, it has become apparent that most who are successful have a clear, congruent sense of their own authentic presence as a coach. What is also apparent is that each person has what I call his or her own unique signature presence.

Presence is a powerful concept with many facets in the coaching world. It involves conceptual knowledge and how you connect with the leaders and clients you work with. It is reflected in how you physically present yourself. Are you aware of how you come across on this level?

At a slightly deeper level it is defined by posture and stance. While this is often initially outside of our awareness, it is now recognized as an integral part of how one’s presence comes across and how energized you feel. Are you aware of your general posture and how that comes across to the clients? Are you aware of how posture can change the dynamic in an interaction?

An even deeper level of presence is the one I want to mainly address today. I call this your signature energy presence. It has to do with where you are most present in the navigational system of your own body. There is innate, profound wisdom in every cell of who we are as human beings. Unlocking the doors of your inner awareness, so that this wisdom can translate from an unconscious aspect of who you are, to a more conscious ally in your signature presence is a powerful tool to add to your coaching skill set.

The curious thing about this level of presence is that while each of us has our own signature energy presence that we have developed across our lives and careers, many people are not conscious of what makes theirs work for them, and what is working against them. I’d love to start a bit of a conversation with the following questions:

• Who is currently “driving the bus” of your awareness at this deep level?
• Is it your inner critic who causes you to shrink and withdraw, perhaps unconsciously, when under stress?
• Is your driver that part of you that becomes more grandiose under pressure with the hollow, false sense of presence that this brings?
• Or is it an authentic, grounded sense of who you are, able to have resilience as stress comes up in a coaching situation?
• What areas would you like to increase awareness in for a more authentic coaching presence? (If you do not know what these areas are, that is a valid answer.)

I see this process of growing one’s unique signature presence as a lifelong journey. In my experience, as I deepen this awareness, life becomes richer, I develop professionally, and there is more grace and ease all around.

Hero or Coach?

Are you rewarding leaders for the right behavior?

A new study published late last year suggests a different way to look at leadership.

The study measured productivity in technology-based service jobs by looking at what the best supervisors do and how that impacts results. The study found that those leaders who focus on teaching and coaching their teams get the results of ten associates from a team of only nine. Spread throughout a people center, this has a big impact on the bottom line.

Some questions for you to think about during performance management reviews:

  • Do you reward leaders who spend time coaching, developing, and teaching? (Or is it easier to notice and reward “heroes” who are focused on special projects and driving their own results?)
  • Does everyone you reward look like this: smart, driven, single-minded, intent on what can be personally achieved?
  • How do you support leaders to become better coaches of others?

Final question: How do we develop leaders who are heroes AND coaches?

Holly Williams is a faculty member in the Leadership Coaching program at the Institute for Transformational Leadership.  She is also the Founder and President of the MAGUS Group Coaching.  Her blog is available at

Values and Leadership Coaching at Georgetown

I am often asked why our Leadership Coaching program has been so successful at Georgetown.  By far the most significant reason is our incredibly talented and dedicated faculty.  The exceptional students admitted into the program also play a large role.  And of course there are the program administrators and the curriculum.

But there is one more “ingredient” that I would like to highlight because I believe it has played a small but consequential role: our values.

Georgetown University, like every academic institution in this country, subscribes to a set of values that define who we are, what we stand for, and how we interact.  In fact, Georgetown has nine core values that I encourage you to read about.  I would like to highlight three values that have particular importance for leaders and leadership coaches.

1. Cura Personalis: Cura Personalis is a Latin term meaning “care of the whole person – mind, body, and spirit”.  It requires each of us to be intentional in recognizing that we each have unique gifts, challenges, needs, and possibilities.  And it is incumbent on each of us, as part of this community, to invoke Cura Personalis in our relationships with each other.  In other words, Cura Personalis is a call to empathy.

2. Contemplation in Action: In the Jesuit context, Contemplation in Action is a call to prayer.  In a secular context, it is a call to reflection.  In today’s world, we sadly marginalize the act of reflection – we are constantly drawn “to do” or “to act”.  We must recognize that the act of reflection is just as important, if not more important, than the act itself because it is in reflection that we find meaning.

3. Women and Men for Others: Women and Men for Others is a call to serve. It requires us to recognize that the value of our education does not depend on how it benefits each of us individually, but how we apply what we have learned to serve and support others.  We have to be connected to something bigger than our individual selves.

If you can’t remember these values, then just remember a call to empathy, a call to reflection, and a call to service.  I believe these three values stand out in our leadership coaching faculty, students, curriculum, learning experience, and our community.  These values are part of the reason the program has thrived for over 12 years.  Over the next few months, we will discuss each of these values in more depth.  We hope you join the conversation.

An Invitation to Transformation

Deep winter is an excellent time for reflection, renewal and learning.  As the new Institute for Transformational Leadership gets started, we are selecting course offerings that invite coaches and leaders to deepen their skills and lay the foundations for sustained success.  The intention of the Institute is that it will be a place where people are having conversations that are vital for addressing the challenges, needs and opportunities of our time.  Perhaps one of the most enticing aspects of the Institute’s mission is that we are offering not only courses but also a chance to be part of a vibrant community of engaged, lifelong learners.  We expect that our students will be coaches and leaders from all walks of life — people who are eager to grow while learning how to make a great contribution through their gifts.

Mike McGinley, Kristi Hedges and Kate Ebner can’t wait to convene the Coach Entrepreneur course next week.  They have designed a virtual course that will help coaches launch or grow their businesses in a way that is aligned with values and purpose — and that leads to financial and professional success.   Delivered in eight parts, the course will be recorded so that those who can’t make each class don’t miss anything.  We’re particularly excited about their workbook, which contains exercises that help you to build and sustain your business.  Perhaps best of all, we enjoy teaching you how to add the entrepreneur’s mindset and distinctions to your coaching practice.

The Mentor Coaching course is a BIG idea — taught by master coaches.  We believe that mentor coaching is very important to the future of the profession.  Check out our Mentor Coaching course if you are interested in helping other coaches master the practice of coaching — AND take your own coaching to the next level.  As people take this class, we hope to build our offerings and options in this area over the coming year.  This is an innovative and exciting growth area in coaching — and gaining this learning may help you expand your coaching practice this year.

In Leading Positive Change Roz Kay and Ada Jo Mann work with managers and  leaders who must bring about organizational and cultural change using a positive approach that leads to significant and sustained organizational results. This program is for leaders who need to inspire, create collaboration and offer a positive engaging vision of the future.

Leading from Values offers a chance for leaders to work with two distinguished faculty members — Sue McLeod, longtime leadership coaching faculty at Georgetown, and Manny Elkind, who is new to our Georgetown community, but whose work on values is highly regarded.  We believe that values are a foundation of leadership, and this innovative program is designed to connect you with your values and help you see how to bring them into your work as a leader.

Whether you are a leader or coach, we believe the Institute will have something of value to offer you. We invite you to join us and grow with us in this endeavor.