Category Archives: Leadership Coaching

Coaching to Health and Wellness

On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself in terms of your health and well being?  Is this where you want to be?  If no, why not?  What’s getting in the way of you achieving your optimal health?  Could it be lack of knowledge?  Or is it something else?

Most of us know cognitively how to live a healthy life, but we are not putting this knowledge into action.  Knowing better does not always equal doing better.  This gap between knowing and doing is the expansive territory of a health and wellness coach.   In this space, coaches focus on the often invisible barriers  and take the hands of clients to support and guide them towards their goals.

In the Health and Wellness Coaching program within Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership Health and Wellness coaches are trained on fundamental coaching competencies in the context of health and wellness.  From  nutritional challenges, stress/anxiety, and sleep disturbances to smoking cessation, chronic disease, and physical activity, the context of Health and Wellness is broad.  Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients to compassionately support and provide accountability to the goals clients set for themselves.  Coaches help clients see what they are missing and better understand what is getting in the way of success.

“Health & Wellness Coaching is the change agent that shifts the culture and delivery of healthcare from dependency to empowerment.”
–International Consortium of Health and Wellness Coaching

Health and Wellness coaching is all about creating change in the most important area of your life.

To learn more about Georgetown’s Health and Wellness Coaching program. click here. 

Graduates Ignite ITL Network

On October 5, 2018, Graduates of Georgetown’s Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL) officially launched the ITL Network.

The mission of the ITL Network is to create connections and foster continued learning and growth among all members of the global ITL graduate community, to support their professional journeys as they extend ITL’s mission of transformational change.

The virtual community-building and learning event showcased a variety of talent from across the graduate community drawing from ITL’s seven certificate programs.  Kate Ebner, Chris Wahl, Frank Ball, Rae Ringel, Amanda Blake, Jackie Bsharah and Fasika Tafera  delivered both Inspiration and thought leadership.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the warm reception we received from the more than 300 graduates of ITL certificate programs who registered for inaugural virtual conference of the ITL Network, Innovations in Transformational Leadership.  The feedback from our participants confirmed how excited our Community is about the future of our ITL Network. We look forward to continuing to serve our members with programs that support professional growth and development and enable ongoing connection with our Community.” Sharon Krohn-Kick-off Event Chair

“As part of the team that’s putting together the technology platform for the new Network, we are imagining all of the different ways in which we might foster a greater sense of community across the population of graduates and faculty of ALL of ITL’s certificate programs is both a bit daunting and extremely exciting.  The developers of the platform that we’re using seem to have anticipated everything that our imaginations serve up (plus many things that we hadn’t dreamed of attempting), and it’s so much fun working with the inspiring and selfless folks who have come together to form our technology team.  I’ve been learning every day, and can’t wait until the community can begin taking advantage of all that is possible.” Steve Heller, Technology Committee Chair.
Congratulations to the ITL Network board led by co-presidents Deiadre Rauch and Pamela Potts and the kick-off event volunteers.

Polarities in Everyday Leadership

This post shared by ITL faculty member Brian Emerson, PhD, Director of the Executive Certificate in Polarities & Paradox. 

Have you ever known a leader, team, or organization to struggle with questions like these?

  • Do we draw a hard line in the sand or worry about being diplomatic?
  • Do we want managers to take time to focus on employees or work faster to achieve more output?
  • Do we do what’s best for the bottom line or what’s best for the environment?
  • Do we give in to our partner’s need for collaboration or do we maintain our competitive spirit?
  • Do we drive to meet our team’s goals or support another team to do what’s best for the whole?

These questions, and ones like them, are paradoxical – they require us to balance two seemingly opposite states at one time.  They can create tension and strife in groups that do not know how to navigate them effectively and they can be leveraged for higher performance and effectiveness – if we know how.

The concept of dealing with paradox in organizations and leadership has received increased focus in both the popular and academic press during the past two decades. The growing complexity of organizations, and the interconnectedness of the global marketplace, has magnified the frequency with which organizations and leaders are faced with seemingly unsolvable situations that contain two or more opposing solutions like the ones above.

The need to effectively address these paradoxical tensions has led many scholars and practitioners to say that knowing how to handle paradox is among the top skills needed by modern leaders (Collins; Cook-Greuter; Van de Ven & Poole). As a result, there is no shortage of literature that laments the difficulty of dealing with these paradoxical situations, also known as polarities, dualities, dilemmas, wicked problems, etc. (Holt & Seki; Johnson; Smith & Lewis), or that discusses the growing importance for leaders and organizations to deal with them effectively (Lewis; Petrie; Solkol).

But, unfortunately, few, if any, authors tell leaders how to develop that skill. While many talk about paradox and polarities, few demonstrate what to do with paradox or how to successfully manage it. Therein lies the need for, and purpose of, the Executive Certificate in Polarities and Paradox. It is a deep dive for leaders, coaches, and consultants into how to navigate paradox in their lives and the spaces in which they work – and to help others do the same.

One way to do this is to assist others as they develop a “both/and” mindset to supplement our natural tendency to think “either/or.” When situational paradoxes like the questions listed above are approached only from an “either/or” perspective, their inherent tensions can turn dysfunctional or even destructive (e.g., draw a hard line in the sand OR be diplomatic; focus on being collaborative OR competitive, etc.).  However, when leaders and systems are able to think and act from a “both/and” perspective, there is increased effectiveness and change efforts move forward with increased speed, less resistance, and more sustainability over time.

A “both/and” approach is necessary in these situations because the poles are not opposites, although some people see them that way.  The two poles are actually interdependent—they need each other and their benefits over time. While focusing on either pole can produce good things in the short term, choosing one pole as a “solution” to the neglect of the other pole causes the benefits to turn negative. It’s easy to imagine that dynamic at play when you consider polarities such as the examples below.

Some common polarities in organizations:




Internal Focus::External Focus

Focus on Task::Focus on Relationships

Employee Needs::Organization Needs

Local Focus::Global Focus

Some common polarities for leaders:


Big Picture::Details

Develop Bonds::Maintain Distance



Reward the Team::Reward Individuals


Unlike problems, which are typically puzzles involving independent solutions (e.g., Do we hire Vendor A or Vendor B?), polarities require solutions that are a more complex blend of both poles. Knowing how to navigate paradox by maximizing the upside benefits of both poles while minimizing the downside limitations is a competitive advantage for individuals, teams, and organizations. Unfortunately, doing so is not as easy as we would like – and some researchers say it is virtually impossible for many adults (Kegan; Cook-Greuter) until they are given different ways to make sense of the situations.

The good news is that there are ways to help individuals and organizations develop a “both/and” mindset. One of the most effective ways is by using a polarity map, created by Barry Johnson.  A map is an easy way for individuals and teams to capture the paradoxical tension in a way that allows them to make sense of it and take action to navigate it more effectively. When this happens, instead of the paradoxical tension turning destructive, results actually improve, communication in the group is strengthened, morale increases, and relationships deepen.

The Executive Certificate in Polarities and Paradox at Georgetown University helps leaders, coaches, and consultants deepen their own capacity to navigate paradoxical situations and provides practical applications for helping organizations and clients develop a both/and mindset.

Your One Wild and Precious Life

This post is adapted from Kate Ebner’s graduation address to ITL program graduates.  

In her beautiful poem, “The Summer Day,” Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”  Tell me, what is it that you plan to do next?

This week, we celebrate our graduates in the Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL). At ITL, our mission is to develop and sustain worldwide communities of transformational leaders, facilitators, consultants and coaches who are dedicated to awakening and supporting the leadership required for a more sustainable, harmonious and compassionate future.   Our mission is ever green.  This week, America has watched families seeking asylum being separated at our border, children, including infants, taken from parents and placed in detention centers.  We look around us and see daily evidence that our planet is suffering due to climate change caused by human activity, that there is great unrest around the world as countries struggle to determine the balance between compassionate policies and protecting their economies and ways of life.  We see great work that needs to be done in order to for us to learn how to communicate, relate and respect one another, respecting the full range of human experience in a way that includes people of every race, gender and sexuality.  We see that our generation of leaders is grappling with 21st century complexity – from new ways of working enabled by technology to changing expectations about the very nature of work in the global workplace.  Leadership today looks and must be different than ever before.  Our context calls for us to recognize and step up in a new era.

And so, our mission to engage in the work of awakening and supporting the leadership needed for a more sustainable, harmonious and compassionate future is right here, right now for us to do.   And, through our programs and learning events at ITL, we are doing it.

Sometimes, when I talk like this, people say, “But, Kate, it is not all bad.”  And that is absolutely true.  In fact, life – our lives – always present the dynamic polarities that give us hope and help us to envision a future that we want and can believe in even as we grapple with inevitable challenges. Here at ITL, our work is an investment in a positive future, a buddy jump if you will to create that positive future.  That harmonious, compassionate and sustainable future.  We see evidence every day of the goodness of humanity, our willingness to be stewards of the future.

This brings me back to you.  You have taken time and put in much effort to complete your certificates.  Congratulations!!  Leadership Coaching.  Transformational Leadership.  Facilitation.  Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Management.  Organization Consulting and Change Leadership. Health and Wellness Coaching.  You are the vanguard of the future.  Through your experiences here, you have created the kind of communities within your cohorts that model the transformational values that we teach in our classrooms.  You have learned to “set yourself aside” in order to open up to the possibilities of life, of work and of what you can do in this world.  We celebrate your achievement joyfully!

Choosing to go back to school, to learn more at this stage of your life is a courageous act.  We know that you have made sacrifices to achieve this certification, that you have put in many hours and that, most likely, along the way, you’ve asked yourself, “Is this right for me?”  Despite those moments and challenges, you stuck with it.  You practiced.  You shared.  You probably journaled!  You worked on it.   Congratulations on your outstanding achievement.  In making this choice, you have opened a door and walked across the threshold into new experiences that can change your life and open up the field of possibilities for you.  Now, it is up to you to decide how you will travel forward, how you will continue to embrace the discomfort and excitement of working at your learning edge, your own frontier.  This frontier is the place where leaders live.  As edgy as it is, it is familiar territory to you.

I’d like to close by reading Mary Oliver’s poem, The Summer Day, in its entirety to you.  Before I do that, I want you to know how proud and excited we are to welcome you into our community of compassionate leaders.  You are part of a proud tradition and now belong to a community of ~2000 graduates of ITL’s programs.  Together, we are awakening the world to be stewards of the future.

Here is The Summer Day:

Summer Day

By Mary Oliver

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

Please, stay connected with us.  Thank you and congratulations!

Be Intentional about Women’s Leadership

This post shared from guest faculty members Kristin Haffert and Jessica Grounds. See more from Kristin and Jessica here. 

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?

Two 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.

As last year’s 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.