As a tribute to the wonderful, vibrant JvB, affectionately known as ‘the Traffic Guy’, I am republishing an article which I wrote in 2013. The article below first appeared on my website on February 27, 2013. It was later adapted and included in my book, ‘GROW: How to turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones’, published in 2017 and still available on Amazon.
Johann was a legend and his legacy lives on through the thousands that benefitted from his wise counsel, warmth and kindness. An ex-police-officer, he was a man of conviction who inspired people to do what was ethical. He graciously shared his wisdom and knowledge, encouraging people to be the best that they could be. I was privileged to participate in many of his public seminars and take part in his advanced driving courses.
As East Coast Radio’s ‘Traffic Guy’ for more than 30 years, he became well-known throughout the province. He reported and shared information on the state of our roads at regular times during the day. He warned his audience about traffic jams, accidents and road closures, advising of preferable routes. Listeners waited eagerly for his next announcements as he lightened up any situation with his wonderful, wicked sense of humour. Others knew him personally through attending his talks or going on courses where he and his teams promoted safe driving through his driving school. He had a huge impact on the standards of driving in our province and we are extremely grateful for the many ways in which he enriched our lives.
Johan was gentleman and role model. He was a popular man who was dearly loved. He died last week and will be sadly missed – but his legacy lives on. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________
Life is an exciting journey and you can choose to be a passenger or drive your own vehicle. Which is your preferred way of functioning? And if you are in the driver’s seat, how defensively do you function? This is important in any place that you are ‘on the road’. However, in South Africa where the accident rate and hi-jacking rate are unfortunately exceptionally high, we need to pay even more attention to reducing risk.
Recently at one of our Sunday Breakfast Club meetings held at the auspicious Oyster Box Hotel at Umhlanga, we were privileged to have East Coast Radio’s, ‘Trafficguy’, Johann von Bargen as our guest-speaker. Affectionately known as ‘JvB’, he emphasised lessons and showed us practical ways of minimising risk.
By combining his unique experience in the ‘Police Force’ and practical day-to-day knowledge working with traffic and mishaps, using humour he painted vivid ‘word pictures’ and regaled us with stories, each of which had a powerful lesson. His teachings provide excellent metaphors for reducing risks as we travel the journey of life. Let’s look at just a few of those covered:
1. The risk of separation
In discussing ‘anti hi-jacking techniques’, JvB asked us to distinguish between ‘theft’ and ‘hijacking’. Do you know the difference? He explained that technically, ‘hijacking’ is where the thieves separate you from your car’. The next question becomes: what can I do to minimise the risk of this happening to me?
In life, our adaption to others’ expectations often robs us of being our ‘authentic selves’. Our real selves and the ‘person we have become’ are separated. We sometimes no longer feel ‘whole’. So, what can we do to make ourselves more aware of what we are doing and minimise the risk of losing our true identity? ‘Executive Coaching’ can play an effective and important role in ‘getting us back on the road’.
2. Respond rather than react
‘Traffic Guy’ warned us that if we were in the process of being hijacked that we should not ‘fight with the hijackers’. That sounds obvious. These guys have guns and could use them. JvB warned, ‘these guys react to you in the way that you interact with them’.
Isn’t that true in most aspects of our lives? In highly emotional situations, if we can pause, step back and respond (rather than react) we have a far higher chance of getting out of these difficult circumstances. Practice in these techniques is an important part of our ‘executive coaching’ programmes.
3. ‘Think like a hijacker’
JvB asked a simple question: what do hi-jackers really want? Most of us failed that question because our automatic answer was ‘my car’. No, that is not what the hi-jackers really want. Occasionally they may need a ‘getaway car’, but in most cases their goal is ‘money’. They want to get rid of the car as quickly as possible and convert it to cash.
So, what information are we unknowingly providing to hi-jackers? What patterns of behaviour do we perpetuate? For example, do we always leave home at the same time, follow the same route, and arrive at the office at the same time each day? How predictable are we? In doing this we are providing observable information that hi-jackers can quickly and easily use to their advantage.
By consciously breaking patterns we make ourselves less vulnerable (to those with negative intentions). If we want to reduce the risk of being hi-jacked we should consciously be aware of our behaviour and purposely change our patterns.
So, what is it that others really want from us? If we know what they want and how they think, we can adapt our behaviour to reduce the risk of misfortune. How do we consciously ‘tune in’ to their needs and consider the way they are thinking? Understanding and not presuming that others needs are the same as ours goes a long way in reducing risk.
4. Look far ahead and be pro-active
By ‘far ahead’ JvB is not talking about only as far as two cars in front of us. The emphasis is on distance. The further we project our vision, the more likely we are to be able to observe, interpret and take appropriate action. Timing is important.
In addition, I like to help clients to look at peripheral vision. What is happening ahead, behind, to the left to the right, above and below? Again, this metaphor can be used in ‘driving our lives’. For example, ‘above’ and ‘below’ can apply literally or in our families, to different generations. In our work lives, it could refer to levels of management in large organisations. Are we alert to what might be happening? This links to ‘Who moved my cheese’ and the principle, ‘smell the cheese often’. What changes are there. What might be happening?
In coaching we provide simple ‘self-observations’ and ‘practices’ that help to ‘look beyond’ and take appropriate action. What might be happening beyond our ‘normal’ comfort zones? We need to constantly ‘scan the environment so that we can minimize threats and maximise opportunities.
5. Keep moving
Further advice given by JvB was ‘keep moving’. If we are moving, especially at high-crime intersections, we are less of a target than those who are stationery. The statistic that he gave was that by moving (instead of stopping) we have 97% less chance of being hi-jacked. An example that he gave was that if an individual were travelling at 20km per hour, no person ‘on foot’ would be able to hold a gun at their heads. And a large percentage of hi-jackers are on foot.
In addition, easing up slowly to an intersection where the traffic-light is red means that we spend less time in a dangerous area. By looking far ahead and pacing our driving we can arrive at the intersection when the light is green, or even spend less time at the intersection. By proceeding without stopping we reduce our risk enormously.
So, how do we apply this metaphor to ‘driving our lives’? The more we fully understand dangers and the more we consciously modify behaviour to minimize potential risk, the more likely we are to proceed without incidents.
6. Stop at a safe distance
Stopping too late or in a dangerous area can have severe consequences. This may sound like an unnecessary warning? But embroidered with Johann's real-life examples, it is an important lesson.
How often do we, hampered by diverted attention come to a halt too late? And this applies in all aspects of our lives. Focus is important. We need to find the balance and still take the risks necessary for us to grow. Stagnation results if we spend too long in our ‘comfort zones’. Yet we need to be aware and consciously stop before it is too late.
7. Reverse park
This is an interesting lesson. I have found that in countries like Australia, where the risk is much lower than here, people are much more likely to ‘reverse park’ than in this country where we need to do this as a matter of habit. The advantages are enormous and Johann explored the advantages and possible barriers to our doing this.
So, how does this lesson apply in other areas of our lives? If we are facing the right way at the start of a journey, we have a ‘head-start’ on those who need to manoeuvre to get going. Think of the time and effort it takes to first reverse, turn your car and then get going. Always reverse park and you’ll be able to have a clean start in the journeys ahead.
These are just a few of the profound lessons shared by Johann and I’m grateful for the role he plays in making this world a safer place for everyone.
How can you take the ‘lessons in anti-hijacking’ and use these as metaphors for improving the way you cope with challenges in your life?
For further information on Executive Coaching, please contact Brenda Eckstein on +27 82 4993311 or e-mail email@example.com. The website is www.strategy-leadership.com
• Who might the hi-jackers in your life be?
• What do they want from you?
• When and where are they most likely to attack?
• How can you avoid being ambushed by them?
• Which techniques above are most likely to give a safer passage as you journey through life?
People continue to enrich my life. Recently I was interviewed by the amazing Michelle Pascoe of Optimum Operating Procedures and Services (OOPS!) who works mainly in the casino, gaming and hospitality industries in Australia and elsewhere.
Michelle and I became friends a number of years ago through our mutual membership of the Sydney Chapter of the National Speakers Association of Australia (NSAA) which later became Professional Speakers Australia (PSA). Over the years we have shared many wonderful conversations as our fields of interest and work are intertwined.
My recent interview formed part of Michelle’s Middle Management Movement (M3) series and can be accessed here. She describes the topic as my “tips on how to find and choose the right coach to inspire you to achieve your full potential and sustain your well-being”. The title of the interview was “Choosing the Right Executive Coach” an area of great interest to me. When a good interviewer, like Michelle, sets the scene and asks you the right questions, you discover that you can add value. So please listen to the recording and let me know your thoughts. Thank you!
The building of relationships is an ongoing process. What are you doing to move away from a transactional approach (meeting a person for the first time and holding a conversation) to following up and building the relationship so that you can help each other? Nurture your friendships, hold quality conversations, explore common ground and you will be able to recognise and optimise opportunities for each other.
My questions for you are:
- What are you doing to network with like-minded people?
- How are you improving the quality of your conversations?
- How can you include someone else in a combined effort?
For more information on leadership development, improving your networking or Executive Coaching please contact Brenda on +27 82 4993311 or firstname.lastname@example.org Thank you!
When engaging the services of a coach, there is often confusion over the level of coaching needed. A general rule of thumb is that there are three levels of coaching and these correspond roughly to the depth of training the coach should have in order to coach the client at a certain level and in order to achieve the desired outcomes. Although based primarily on Integral Coaching, these rough guidelines may be useful in considering other forms of coaching.
Spontaneous coaching is used where the coachee has an immediate issue that they need to address. In other words, this is appropriate where a ‘quick fix’ is required. One or two coaching sessions may help the person find solutions which will get them over an immediate hurdle. This is contracted between coach and client ‘up front’ before the start of the programme.
A minimum of a short coaching course at an accredited organisation may qualify a coach to deal with issues like this. I have found it interesting that even when coaches are qualifying at higher levels, in their practical exams, they are usually tested in spontaneous coaching. This is a matter of practicality as usually a maximum of an hour can be allocated to this part of the practical exam.
Sometimes as the coaching proceeds through the agreed spontaneous coaching conversations, both coach and client realise that the coachee would benefit through a more intense coaching programme. If this is being considered, this new programme would be contracted as a separate programme either with the same coach, if they are qualified to work at a deeper level, or with a new coach.
Competency-based coaching helps coachees to become more competent at managing their lives whether it be their roles at work or in their private capacities. Here typically a 3-month coaching programme would be contracted where coach and coachee meet every second week for an hour. The coach helps the client, through reflection and practice, to build new neural pathways and thus become more competent.
I recommend that the coach engaged in this type of coaching should have successfully completed a training course of at least 6-months – again at a reputable institution. Coaches trained at this level will also be effective at spontaneous coaching.
The next level of coaching is where a fundamental shift in the person’s ‘way of being’ is sought in order to help them flourish in their occupational and private capacities. The required outcome would be the person viewing the world differently through enhanced awareness and ability to develop new neural pathways thus embedding their new practices. This takes time and usually at least a six-month programme seeing the coach for an hour every second week is needed. In addition, the coachee needs to be committed to changing themselves and diligently practice assignments crafted together by coach and coachee. Outcomes include being able to self-correct and self-generate.
In this realm there are no ‘quick fixes’ neither for the coachee nor the coach. A programme like this requires that the coach has a deeper level of training, ideally spanning about 2 years at university post-graduate level, or other highly regarded institution. Coaches qualified at this level are competent to coach at lower levels, too. In other words, they are capable of doing Competency-based and Spontaneous coaching.
The converse does not apply. Professional coaches with insufficient training should not be working in higher levels of coaching. In other words, a coach trained to deal only with spontaneous issues should not attempt to work with someone requiring a shift in their way of being. After all, we are working with people’s lives! Similarly a General Practitioner would not practice complex spinal surgery.
Of course, the above are general guidelines. There are many permutations of these levels. However, no coach should ever go beyond their level of training and competence. Professional coaches will also refer clients to appropriate outside professionals in other fields, like counselling, when this seems necessary and they will not try to handle issues beyond their scope, or situations outside the realm of their competence, training and experience.
Furthermore, to call themselves a coach, a person should have gone through training as a coach and be qualified in that field. So let’s look at the definition of professional coaching and here I’m using the International Coach Federation (ICF) definition which is fairly generic, covering a wide range of coaching approaches:
ICF defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’.
No matter how highly qualified in other fields such as psychotherapy, counselling, mentoring or consulting, if engaged in a coaching role, the coach should respect those boundaries and stick to their role as a coach. I have personally found that in working with or mentoring emerging coaches-in-training, the ones who battle most with developing their coaching skills are often those who are qualified in other fields such as counselling.
In brief, make sure you engage the right coach whom you know is qualified and will provide a professional service in line with your requirements. You are more likely to gain positive outcomes, often way beyond your expectations!
For more information on leadership development or executive coaching, please contact Brenda personally at email@example.com or phone +27 82 4993311
There is a strong international move to professionalise the coaching industry and I fully support this approach. We want to make sure that consumers, instead of just buying ‘coaching’ as a ‘nice to have’ commodity, will consider ways of ensuring that they are gaining a professional service and value for money. Those who engage coaches – and particularly executive coaches - would benefit through being more confident as to what to expect. Coaches need to make sure they have earned the right to offer the service that they promise to provide. Currently there are too many grey areas and no real barriers to entry.
Often organisations or individuals invest in coaching without knowing what questions to ask the coach before engagement. There are many variables to be considered. I have outlined a few of the watchpoints which may lead to more successful outcomes. My questions should not be considered as a comprehensive list as many of them will be dependent on the context. So rather consider the list below as a starting point for developing your own approach, whether you are a Human Resources (HR) or Learning and Development (L & D) professional or an individual interesting in being coached. Coaches might consider this useful in creating awareness as they should be able to answer these questions without hesitation.
The suggestions below are based on my own experience as an executive coach, through mentoring emerging coaches engaged in post-graduate studies at various universities and through my own academic studies.
1. When contemplating engaging an executive coach, the first question to consider is whether the candidate really needs coaching or would benefit more through counselling, mentoring, consulting or other approaches? Would another modality better match the person’s needs? Is their manager trying to delegate their managerial responsibilities to an external coach? Where does the coaching need truly lie?
2. If it has been established that coaching is the right path to follow in order to address certain issues, the next question is which coaching approach would be most suitable? Bearing in mind that there is lack of clarity in defining types of coaching, examples might be leadership, executive, integral, performance, neuro-based coaching, or a combination.
There has been a shift over the last few years in the reasons for engaging coaches. International surveys show that while coaches were engaged mainly for corrective reasons ten years ago, now leadership development has become the primary purpose for engaging coaches. Thus coaching should not be viewed as punitive or something that is inflicted on some-one who is not performing, but rather as a way in which to enable individuals to become more productive and flourish. Most coaches nowadays use a strengths-based approach helping people to use their natural strengths and find their own solutions and in so doing, enhance their capabilities. An added advantage is their being able to confirm that they use and evidence-based approach.
3. How committed and open is the person to being coached? Are they prepared to uncover blind spots and build new neural pathways in order to become more productive? Are they prepared to put effort into seeing things differently, changing and finding new solutions for themselves?
4. The big question: Even if this person would benefit through coaching, and the right kind of coaching is being offered, are you sure that the coach being considered is the right coach for this candidate at this time? There needs to be synergy, relationship and trust and the candidate needs to be eager to engage in a coaching programme with this coach at this time.
5. Professional coaches are bound by a Code of Ethics and this varies according to the coaching organisation to which they belong and through which they are accredited. The candidate needs to have had sight of this document and be comfortable regarding the coach adhering to this code and be prepared to work within this framework.
6. Would the format of the proposed coaching programme suit the needs of the organisation and candidate? There are many factors to consider. For example I offer only a six-month programme with one-hour sessions (at flexible times) two weeks apart. The organisation or client may not wish to engage in a programme of that length. These sessions may either be in-person or via Skype (or other electronic means). A person may prefer ‘in person’ sessions and this may not be possible if the client and coach are in different geographic regions. In addition, my programme includes 10-15 minute assignments each day and the potential client may not be prepared to commit to that. The price is also a factor under consideration.
Those first six points can more easily be considered after a ‘chemistry session’ has taken place. Most reputable coaches will offer a complimentary compatibility check session where potential coach and coachee meet for an hour to build relationship and explore possibilities. This ‘contracting’ between the coach and participant at the outset of a programme is vital to establish expectations and agree the way the coach and coachee will work together.
7. In addition, specific questions should be asked regarding the credibility, professional qualifications and experience of the coach. You might find this table useful although not all questions will be relevant on all occasions:
In explaining why these questions are relevant the following may be useful background information:
a. Their being credentialed either through the International Coach Federation (ICF) or Coaches, Mentors of South Africa (COMENSA) or other reputable coaching body is important because it is more likely to ensure professional standards.
b. There are various levels of credentialing, e.g. ACC, PCC, Master Coach. The more experienced a coach, the more likely they are to have a higher level of credentialing. (But this is not always a true reflection of the person’s capability.) And please ask them to provide proof. Often, although coaches might be members, they are not actually credentialed.
c. It is important that they have kept their credentialing current. This will mean that they have not become complacent and they continue to develop themselves and keep up to date in line with the requirements of that qualification.
d. There is an overabundance of organisations offering training to coaches. Knowing about the institute through which they trained does give an indication of the thoroughness of their training as some organisations promise unrealistic outcomes and do not breed quality coaches.
e. Even within one training organisation, more than one coach-training course is likely to be offered. Some of these courses are more intense than others or address different types or levels of coaching e.g. life coaching versus executive or leadership coaching.
f. These courses vary in duration, too and cover different models, tools and techniques.
g. Approaches to coaching change over time and good courses continuously improve. So it is a good idea to find out how long ago the coach completed their course. If they are credentialed, keeping up to date will be a requirement, but if not, ask what they are doing to keep abreast of changes.
h. Coaches may qualify in an approach using models and techniques underpinned by specific philosophies. In some courses, such as the University of Stellenbosch Business School M Phil (management coaching) course, students develop their own coaching models based on strong theoretical foundations. However, even these evolve over time. I know mine has! Coaches may branch out into a different realm, too. For example they may shift from life coaching to management coaching.
i. Even highly qualified coaches may not spend many hours a week gaining more coaching experience. Although they might have been coaching for years, many coaches do not engage for more than a few hours a week in individual coaching. International surveys show that most coaches are involved in other activities as well, for example training. How much experience does the coach really have?
j. Group coaching has gained in effectiveness and although not relevant if you are engaging a coach in one-on-one coaching, a coach’s understanding of and involvement in group coaching is an indication of their current active involvement in coaching.
k. Building up coaching hours is important as their total number of coaching hours is an indication of experience. Many coaches qualify and then do not consistently spend time coaching.
l. Although for reasons of confidentiality a coach may not be able to divulge the name of coaches or client organisations, they may nevertheless be able to provide a reference to attest to their coaching capability. Which areas do they concentrate on? For example, I am an executive coach and most of my clients are leaders. Many of these are in professions in fields such as law and accounting.
m. Academic experience alone does not necessarily convert to quality coaching. Experience in an organisational environment adds to the coach’s capability especially if being engaged as an executive coach.
n. I believe that coaches who are bound by Codes of Ethics such as ICF or COMENSA should provide the relevant Code of Ethics to the organisational representative and to the coachee before the start of the programme.
8. Initially be clear on the desired outcomes in order to address the issue facing the candidate. These outcomes may change or gain more substance during the coaching programme, particularly during a longer programme, thus remaining flexible is also important. For example, a risk and safety manager came to me for coaching with his main issue stated as ‘no one listens to me’. We restated this as ‘I can’t get people to listen to me’. In his position it was important that people took immediate action once he had given a message. As the coaching proceeded and he became more aware of his cognitive functioning, we realised that his issue was procrastination. He didn’t deliver his message timeously or confidently and the staff would wait for him to repeat the message. So we established his main issue as procrastination which permeated through his entire ‘way of being’ affecting work and personal domains. Working on procrastination, we were able to shift his fundamental approach and enable him to flourish.
9. An important issue is how the coach will deal with ‘duality of client’. Where an organisation is offering to sponsor a candidate in a coaching programme, the coach needs to consider what outcomes the organisation (or sponsor) anticipates and separately what the individual (from here onwards referred to as the coachee) considers their needs to be. Thus in a situation like this, the coach should take into account the needs of the two clients, the organisation/sponsor and the coachee. What are the organisation’s/sponsor’s expectations and what does the coachee need to gain through a coaching programme? We all have blind spots so the coach will need to assess what the coachee’s issues are, despite what they might verbalise their issues to be. And thus sometimes, the goal of the coaching may shift as the coachee and coach build stronger relationships and as the programme progresses.
10. Before the start of the coaching programme, a meeting between the organisational representative, coach and coachee should take place to agree areas such as reporting dates, format of what is to be covered in the reports, how they should take place (e.g. in person, via Skype) and to whom reports should be directed. This contracting prior to the start of the programme is essential. I have found that in addition to the organisational representative, coach and client, various other stakeholders are sometimes included. Last year I was coaching an executive where two report-back sessions were planned where five were present and they were based in four different countries. And that worked perfectly because it was planned in advance.
11. What reporting system will both the organisation’s representative and coachee be comfortable with in order for the coach to report progress? This again affects the element of ‘duality of client’. There has to be trust between all parties. I advocate that it is agreed ‘upfront’ that neither reporting nor discussion between coach and organisational representative will take place without the coachee being included. I also believe that it is best practice to confirm, in advance, that the coach will always advise the coachee what he or she intends saying at that meeting or in the report. Where reporting is in writing, it should be agreed that the coachee be copied on all communication at that time (and not afterwards).
In summary: would this person benefit through coaching, what kind of coaching would be most suitable and is the coach being considered sufficiently qualified and experienced and the right person to coach this individual? Does the programme being offered match the needs of the organisation and the individual? Has the contracting been adequately dealt with?
The above is my understanding of some of the issues which HR Directors, L&D Managers, individual clients, or others face when considering including coaching as a form of development.
I encourage you to ask the right questions in order to match the right coach with your requirements. If you need any help please let me know and I’ll gladly help to clarify issues with you.
This is the first of two articles regarding the engagement of a coach. Next we’ll explores levels of coaching which are perhaps most relevant to Integral Coaching but certainly provide insights for other types of coaching, too.
For more information on leadership development or executive coaching, please contact Brenda personally: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311
In my second published book, ‘ABCs of Effective Networking’, I urge people to engage in quality conversation while travelling. Through recognising and optimising opportunities I have met some wonderful people. Of course, you need to be cognisant of people’s need for privacy and I do consider it a privilege if I sense that they are happy to engage in conversation.
Let me give you an example: Last week on the 13 ½ hour flight from Sydney to Johannesburg I discovered that I had a great travelling companion. As we settled down I looked at the guy sitting next to me and said; ‘you look familiar…are you a cricketer?’ I know nothing about cricket but I knew my granddaughter would never forgive me if I’d sat next to a famous cricketer and didn’t bother to ask his name. He adamantly replied, ‘no, I have never played cricket. I am a surfer.’ The conversation could have ended at that point but I was intrigued and persisted further. Practising what I preach I continued. ‘Oh, that is interesting. Where do you surf?’ (You’ll notice that I’m giving an example of using my ‘listen-comment-question’ technique of building quality conversations.)
I was then able to lead the conversation towards our work-lives. When he mentioned that he is a professional speaker, the ‘penny dropped’. He was Travis Bell, the Bucket List Guy. He and I belonged to the same organisation of Professional Speakers in Australia. That is why he looked so familiar. Of course then the conversation flowed. As we chatted we discovered that there were so many people whom we both knew and we had attended the same conferences.
I discovered that the reason he was taking the flight to South Africa was because he was on a work assignment. He was on his way to Monte Casino to present at a coaching organisation’s conference. Thus our conversation turned towards coaching, a topic of great interest to both of us. So we had so many areas of common interest. You might like to have a look at one of his videos:
When next you travel by air, make a conscious effort to build quality conversation with the person sitting next to you. Use the ‘Listen – comment – question’ technique. And ask open questions. Yet, respect the person’s privacy. Not only are you likely to have a far more interesting journey, you’ll discover the person sitting next to you and enrich your own life.
My questions for you:
- How often do you connect with the person sitting next to you, whether it be during a journey or seated at a conference?
- What are you doing to improve your conversation skills?
- Once initiated, if the relationship is of value to you, what action can you take to sustain that relationship?
- Click here.
- Scroll down on the table of contents and click on Brenda Eckstein.
- Click on the download button in the top right hand corner of your screen or right click on the download button to either do a direct download or to save to your dropbox.
- Punctuate your Life with Purpose – page 30 - 31
- Which articles are most relevant to the work you do?
- How can you use specific ideas in other areas of your life – for example in community work?
- Who are the writers whose work most appeals to you?
- In which ways could you follow Rob and Monika’s example – or connect with them?
- What could you to do to connect with the writers of these articles?
- How are you going to build relationships through reading these stories?
What is a co-incidence and how would we describe it? How should we reflect and make meaning of a co-incidence? What do we mean by our ‘legacy’? And how might there be a connection between legacy and co-incidence? What examples are there? Which are the questions we should be asking ourselves?
What is a co-incidence and how would you describe it?
A wise man, Mike Imber left a legacy in many of the things he said. I can clearly remember his saying: ‘A co-incidence is a miracle where G_d wishes to remain anonymous’. Mike was Jewish and in honour of his memory I have written G_d in the way he most probably would have written the word. His message can be significant and lead to reflection regardless of our religious beliefs and how we might interpret the notion of a god or Universal higher power or connectedness.
How should we reflect and make meaning of a co-incidence?
Often, after experiencing a ‘co-incidence’ I have reflected and been in awe of the meaning I have derived. Planning positive action flowing from the meaning, implementing and sustaining that behaviour are often the difficult parts. These are the hurdles that often trip us. So being conscious of Kolb’s Experiential Learning Cycle helps us to realise the importance of following through in order to maximise our learning.
So what are some of the learnings through reflecting on the co-incidences in my life? To me, each has been a miracle and I need to recognise and optimise the opportunities stemming from each.
What do we mean by our ‘legacy’?
This beautiful poem by Phepelani Zondi who describes himself as a Personal Development Speaker and Inspirational Poet gives thought for reflection:
Will the Universe cry?
Will the stars say of you; “One of us has fallen”?
Will the ground you touched be proud of the mark you made?
Will your legacy continue to echo in the hearts of men?
Will your deeds be louder than the words spoken of you?
How many minds would you have fed?
How many candles would you have lit?
How may knots would you have untied?
How many miracles would you have performed?
How many smiles would you have created?
When you die!
When you die, will you continue to live forever?
When I invited Phephelani to provide the background to this poem he responded:
‘One day I was jogging in the morning when I passed by a school. They had just cemented their driveway. In that half-dry cemented driveway were the words, "Nosipho was here - 2013". I then asked myself what inspired this Nosipho pupil to inscribe her name on the cement. I realized that Nosipho wanted to make a mark, to leave a legacy, to leave behind something that she can be remembered with. She wanted people to know that "she was here".
Don't we all want to make a mark in this world? Don't we all as humans have a desire, a yearning to outlive ourselves and leave behind a legacy for generations to come? Don't we all want people to know that "we were here?" Don't we all want to make a name for ourselves?
Brenda, that was what inspired my poem called "Legacy". I began to ask myself how I can continue to live, even long after I am gone. I began to ask myself on how I can make people know that "I was here"’.
How might there be a connection between legacy and co-incidence?
Many of the clients who come to me for coaching are concerned about the legacy they may or may not leave. This sometimes relates to their death and in other cases to a transition in their lives. For example, they may be retiring as CEO and be concerned as to the legacy they are leaving in the firms they have helped to develop and grow during the time in which they were formally engaged in business, firms or organisations. What mark might they leave in the cement?
Some of us are not sure what that legacy should be. And this becomes even more difficult if we are not sure what our purpose is. We have a purpose, mission, vision, values etc. for our businesses, but often neglect to do the same for ourselves. So if we are not sure what our purpose is (and how many people are sure?), it could be difficult to work on our legacy. I believe purpose and legacy should be aligned in some way.
So where does co-incidence come into all of this? By reflecting on these ‘miracles’ we can help ourselves to become unstuck. We’d go through the normal cycle of making sure we are as clear as possible as to what happened. We then go into reflection and consider what meaning we can create out of the experience. Next we look at what action we can plan that will build on to the experience.
Example of what building on co-incidences can do
I believe that part of my purpose is helping others to achieve potential. An element is in networking, connecting people with people, people with information and people with opportunities. Let’s use the above poem as an example of the co-incidences that followed each other enabling me to arrive at the point where I was able to share Phephelani’s poem with you, thus connecting you, the reader with Phephelani and his message. (This story is quite long, so you may wish to stop reading here and skip to the questions at the end.)
I’m always fascinated when the Universe connects like-minded people and meeting with Phephelani was one of these co-incidences. When I notice this happening, I like to trace the golden thread backwards to gain greater appreciation of how the tapestry of life is being woven. This example gives evidence of how leaving ourselves open to recognise and optimise opportunities can have exciting consequences. Here is part of my tapestry relevant to meeting Phephelani through Carol:
In 2010 I started a mystery journey when I decided that I needed a ‘proper qualification’ in coaching. I was accredited in various fields and felt competent for my speaking career, training, assessing and PR. Yet, often I was asked to ‘coach’ individuals and although I knew that I was mentoring more than coaching (because skills transfer was involved), I felt as though I needed some formal qualification and accreditation in this field.
While considering that, circumstances changed and we had an unscheduled stay at a B&B in the Stellenbosch area. There I was introduced to Lenford Gerber who had recently gained a coaching qualification. On reading my books, he encouraged me to consider becoming a coach. I was intrigued and followed up on the course he had done. That led me to explore further and because Shaney, the person I spoke to on the phone was so encouraging, I enrolled for the Coaching to Excellence (CTE) short course at the Centre for Coaching, Graduate School of Business, University of Cape Town. I thought doing that introductory course would be enough. But it wasn’t. While I had considered that a piece of paper, a minor qualification would quench my thirst for knowledge, it didn’t. That course served to show me how little I knew and how an Integral style of coaching suited me.
I then enrolled for the 6-month Associate Coaching Course (ACC) at the Centre for Coaching. By the end of that intense course, I was ‘hooked’. I had gone through enormous personal growth, the methods worked, my clients were making remarkable progress and there was no turning back. I applied for the one-year Professional Coaching Course (PCC) and was accepted. My involvement there brought major positive changes in my life. And although I found the course extremely difficult, my whole ‘way of being’ had shifted and I was able to work at a deeper level with clients and they too were enjoying major shifts in their lives. For the next two years I really enjoyed mentoring the ACC coaching students for the Centre for Coaching and right now am still giving feedback on the last group, an Australian group that I mentored during 2014.
However while mentoring that group, I realised that I, Brenda from Pietermaritzburg, was mentoring these awesome Australians most of whom already had coaching qualifications – for example, a Master’s degrees in coaching from Sydney University! Although I seemed to be doing a good job, I felt ill-equipped and decided that I really needed to study further. While enrolling for a different course at the Stellenbosch Business School I interacted with wonderful people who persuaded me to apply for their Master's degree centered around coaching.
A distance course would not have inspired me and I was delighted to find that the Stellenbosch University M Phil in Management Coaching had a strong leadership component. Until a few days before the course started this year, I hadn’t been accepted because the course was full. I spoke to Dr Salome van Coller-Peter and she too was encouraging. Another co-incidence gained me a place 6 days before the course started in February 2015 and I am currently engaged in that course at present.
My first assignment in March involved Evidence Based Coaching. Another ‘miracle’ occurred when I was in Sydney and happened to mention my topic to a wonderful, supportive friend, Joe Fischer who by chance knew Professor Anthony Grant at Sydney University who had coined the term ‘Evidence Based Coaching’. Through Joe, I was so grateful to be invited to meet with Anthony Grant, a leader in his field and inspiring person. We had an enjoyable meeting at his office and his recommendations and writings have continued to inspire me and lead me to explore further.
So at this point in this long story (I apologise) the coaching thread and different co-incidences have already connected me with three universities – UCT, Stellenbosch and now Sydney University. And this is where the fourth University enters the scene.
Socially I have been an acquaintance of Carol Mitchell in Pietermaritzburg for many years, but in May after she co-ordinated a magnificent concert for a mutual friend, I obtained her cell-phone number and phoned to tell her what a wonderful job she had done. As I spoke to her, I remembered that she was a lecturer in the Psychology department at the UKZN’s Pietermaritzburg University. I asked her if she knew of anyone who could perhaps coach me as we needed to be coached 20 hours as part of our Stellenbosch course.
She offered to help me cope with my academic challenges and has inspired and supported me in so many ways. Knowing of my interest in Positive Psychology, a topic I’d been introduced to in our first Module at Stellenbosch, she invited me to a Positive Psychology workshop for the Masters Students at the Pietermaritzburg University whom she supervises. I was delighted to be able to participate. And that is how I met Phepelani Zondi, the facilitator.
I know this has been a long story but we have travelled a circle. The purpose was to show how series of co-incidences (also known as miracles) have been identified in this particular case as playing a part in the evolving tapestry of my life. There are so many facets so thank you to all of those who have added texture, colour, shapes and depth connecting in some way to the ‘golden thread’ running through this magnificent creation. You may remain silent, anonymous in orchestrating the symphony of my life, yet your voice is heard. Your legacy is there.
Which are the questions we should be asking ourselves?
My questions for you are:
- What co-incidences have occurred in your life recently?
- How have you reflected on them?
- What insights have you had?
- In which ways have you created meaning from those insights?
- How can you experiment with new behaviours resulting from these insights?
- How have you implemented these new behaviours?
- What are you doing to recognise ways in which you can work towards the legacy you wish to leave?
- How deeply have you thought about your purpose?
It is my belief that there is a golden thread running through the rich tapestry of our lives. This connects us with people, information and opportunities. We need to be ‘open’ to the miracles around us. That can help us become clearer about our purpose. And thus it is easier for us to work towards a legacy.
For more information on leadership development and coaching please contact Brenda at email@example.com or +27 33 342 5432.
Networking is not a transaction. It is a process. For example many years ago I joined the Sydney Chapter of National Speakers Association of Australia (NSAA).
Every year I have purposely attended the National Convention and taken part in as many activities as possible. These included going for informal walks with the great Winston Marsh and staying in contact over the years.
When he became president again he invited me to present a workshop on coaching at the next national convention and I gladly accepted. And I’m delighted that this workshop, ‘Have You Got What It Takes to be a Coach’ will take place at the NSAA Canberra Convention in March 2015. Please follow this link for more details.
So the benefits of building and sustaining positive relationships are enormous. But you also have to recognise and optimise opportunities for mutual advantage.
For more information on Executive Coaching, networking workshops or any of the other services offered by Brenda Eckstein International please see www.strategy-leadership.com or contact Brenda on brenda@ strategy-leadership.com or +27 82 4993311.
Sometimes by shifting the angle with which we view the world, we broaden our horizons and discover exciting possibilities. As an Executive Coach I have often found that using a camera lens as a metaphor amplifies a person’s perception and helps them have insights on how stuck (in the present) they could be. So, I might show my client the picture below:
When I asked my grand-daughter to tell me about this first picture she spoke about the ship towards the top of the picture. And that is how she saw it. And most of us most probably would have done the same, linking the fact that when I took this photo I appeared to be on a boat, looking out across the water. Our impression might have been that of ship in the distance. Then I showed her how different the picture looked when, remaining standing in the same position, I lifted the angle of the camera slightly.
Seeing this second photo, she was amazed at how, although she was so familiar with the Sydney Opera House, she hadn’t recognised the building in the first photo and had thought it was a ship. Having this slightly different angle changed her view of the world. Now seeing the first picture again she more easily recognises the object in context and knows it is a building, a very special building! Just for fun, I showed her the third picture where I had again lifted my lens a fraction higher.
This was far more easily recognisable. And possibly if I had shown her this photo first, she would more easily have recognised the object in Photo 1 because she would have been seeing my views in context.
This opens a whole range of quality questions from a coaching perspective. Examples could be:
- If you were seeing the world according to photo 1 only, what opportunities might you be missing?
- In photo 2 we have sky, shore, water and part of the Manly Ferry from where I took the photo. What does the balance look like? And how different is the balance to the proportions in the other two pictures?
- Using these views as a metaphor, what could each element link to in our lives? For example:
- Sky could be our rest and sleep
- Shore and buildings could be our work
- Water could be our time for family and friends
- Ferry could be ‘me time’ – the time we spend on sport, study, self-development etc.
- What happens when those proportions change? For example, in photo 3, the sky is absolutely beautiful, and often we need that in our lives. But on an ongoing basis, if the sky represents rest and sleep those proportions may not be advantageous.
- Seeing a recognisable feature in photo 3, without seeing photos 1 and 2, how might you be imagining how a broader or deeper picture might look?
You don’t have to be a coach to have fun reflecting on the angles of your camera and the questions that can cascade from the different views – or even from a single view. These can lead to great insights and reflection. However, as integral coaches appropriate distinctions that ‘land’ with our clients play an important part in amplifying the journey from current narrative to future narrative. Metaphors bring our coaching programmes to life. So, use them to broaden your horizons and help your clients to shift from where they are now to a brighter future.
For more information on Executive Coaching or Keynote Speaking please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +27 82 4993311.
Have you read ‘Lean In: women, work, and the will to lead’ by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook? It has stirred up some challenging responses from both men and women. One of my clients gave me a copy and reading it has inspired me to observe certain leadership behaviour patterns in others and in me.
This topic was the inspiration behind conversation at a recent lunch at my favourite coffee shop, Aubergine to which I had invited seven of my women friends. It is amazing what happens when you gather around a table eight intelligent, diverse women who don’t know each other, nor who have any agenda (either hidden or declared!). Thank you to Cheryne, Des, Hannah, May, Pam, Pranitha and Rosie for sharing their responses and for their quality input into our conversations.
First, I asked them to write their ‘gut’ response in defining or describing ‘success’. The answers were fascinating and included:
- Independence, guidance and the ability to make a difference in other’s lives; happiness at work and at home but continuously involved in the learning process.
- Happiness in the ‘in-between’ moments; loving the sound of the alarm in the mornings; striving for excellence; satisfaction with a job well done; making a difference; mentoring; confident in own abilities I matter: what I do matters.
- Balance implying appropriateness for individuals in time management, which will differ from person to person, under different conditions.
- Love what you do; see others growing through you and the ability to seeing and live the outcomes to your actions; and to be able to let go and let others go.
- Enjoy and find your passion.
- Learn from failure and be able to move on.
Characteristics of a successful woman
Next they were asked to list ten characteristics of a successful woman. I have divided their responses into four groups or domains:
- Honesty and integrity – ethics and values.
- High standards – aim at excellence.
- Kind, empathetic, loving.
- Positive attitudes - enjoy hard work – don’t see it as ‘work’.
- Sense of humour.
- Inner strength.
- Passion for ‘work’.
- Authenticity and not having to prove oneself by being a ‘superwoman’.
- Confident and prepared to take a chance.
- Flexible, adaptive.
- Have an opinion and be able to share and convince others.
- Develop and grow people to see the change and make them happy.
- Listening openly to others for interest – not just for networking.
- Learning always – from family, peers, workers and network.
- Stable, grounded and rock-like.
- Curiosity – ask questions – and then really listen to the answers.
- Open minded – and also know when to close it!
- Fit - physically and emotionally.
- Articulate for accurate communication.
- Have the ability to ‘go against the flow’.
- Emotionally intelligent.
- Tolerance but with clear boundaries.
- Non- discriminative – research and know before taking a decision.
- Quick to praise and do this publicly.
- Slow to criticise and do this privately.
- Community spirit.
- Determination in achieving goals.
- Attention to career development and success.
- Chosen balance between work and family.
- Faith in something more powerful than you.
- Balance – whatever that means to each individual.
- Ability to separate life roles.
As South African women, how can we ‘lean in’ more?
This was the third and final question.
We need to:
- Develop the competence to know what to do;
- Stop seeing each other as competition;
- Engage with women from all communities, particularly in business;
- Mentor, encourage, inspire and work with everyone;
- Support each other – males and females;
- Be sensitive to the process of withdrawing when necessary, and then returning if necessary;
- Share in forums and groups for quality conversations;
- Participate and not just observe;
- Lose the fear;
- Be aware – have a finger on the pulse of situations;
- Be postmodern – well-informed;
- Be in the present;
- Use the voice we have;
- Support and motivate.
This exercise is not intended as an academic survey but simply the spontaneous answers written individually by a group of eight diverse women; the exercise took less than ten minutes. Quality conversation and the sharing of ideas, the purpose of the meeting was achieved. A greater understanding of each other and of the way different people view the world was the outcome. Great insights were gained and the conversations continued naturally and informally after the event. This is a great way to build relationships and to network.
Two years ago, under similar circumstances, I asked a group of women to list the characteristics of a successful woman. Their answers are outlines in an article entitled, ‘Success is…’. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all show these characteristics and feel successful? Through Executive Coaching, whether you are a woman or a man, you can shift towards a better ‘way of being’. This will enhance all aspects of your life.
For more information on Executive Coaching, training in networking and communication skills or the other services offered by Brenda Eckstein International, please contact email@example.com or phone +27 82 4993311.