Moving From Theory To Action: The Importance of Celebrating Progress

To support you in practicing celebrating successes, here are some reflection questions:

 1. Looking back on my most recent accomplishments, are there any that I or my work team haven’t celebrated yet? Is it possible to do so now from the perspective of “Better late than never?”

2. To what extent do I have clear, measurable, meaningful goals at work? (Research shows that we need clear goals and they need to be personally meaningful to us).

3. If there are big goals, what are some milestones along that way that I can mark my progress? (The Power of Small Wins by Harvard Business Review, 2011,goes into this more)

4. How might I celebrate these successes and milestones? With whom?

5. What can I do today to set a celebration in motion? (Identify a few possible ways to celebrate? Send an email to someone to have a conversation about this? Set some possible dates?)

Book Review: Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Freedom from Fear” Speech (1990)

Having just returned from the B Corp* Champions Retreat in Philadelphia, I’m going to deviate from my typical book review format and instead offer a speech that was discussed at the Retreat. Each year the conference organizers select a speech designed to invite us to pause, deeply reflect and be inspired by courageous leaders in the world, and then discuss it in small groups. This year’s selection was

Aung San Suu Kyi’s “Freedom from Fear” Speech (1990)

Aung San Suu Kyi led the National League for Democracy (NLD) to a majority win in Myanmar’s first open elections in 25 years in 2015. The win came five years to the day since she was released from 15 years of house arrest. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for or her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.. Suu Kyi asks us to look at at least one of the root causes of exclusion – fear, and invites us to consider what is required of each of us to rise about our most base emotions to live into our highest aspirations. The text is a short three pages and offers a different cultural lens with which to look at the human condition. I believe her message, written over 25 years ago from another context, is very relevant to understanding our current US political arena.

*My business, Watershed Coaching, LLC is a certified B Corp– a Benefit corporation committed to business being a force for good.

Moving From Theory to Action: Curious vs. Convinced

To support you in deepening your curiosity with those who hold different views from you, I offer some questions reprinted with permission by my friend and colleague, Howard Ross. These come from his company’s resource guide: Inclusive Responses in Times of Fear. See this and other resources on cookross.com.

 1. How do you feel about people who think differently than you about this?

2. What are you afraid of? What is more inspiring to you than fear?

3. How can you engage in these conversations authentically and whole-heartedly? What might get in the way?

4. What are you committed to? How do you see your role/contribution in any conversations or actions?

5. What is your desired outcome for these conversations?

Curious vs. Convinced

I’m going to go out on a limb and talk about politics. This presidential election season has been hard for me. The name calling, rudeness, and divisiveness of this campaign has me disheartened, and I know I’m not alone in this sentiment. I just can’t wait for it to be over. The major media outlets including The Huffington Post, The Atlantic and even Fox News are writing about how to manage election stress. It feels like the negative election energy is seeping into our pores, and to try to prevent that, we armor up and get rigid in our views and stay in our camps of righteousness in order to not feel the fear, and the pain of not understanding one another. Yet I don’t want to harden myself against half the population. That feels like a very high cost to us as a nation, and I’m in the inquiry of how to hold my dignity and the dignity of others through this election period.

“I’m right, they’re idiots” is what it boils down to in our political dialogue, not only with the candidates but also how we look at our neighbors, colleagues and family members who disagree with us. Recently I’ve been thinking, “Where do I go from here? How do I get out of this righteous mindset?” Rather than convince myself more that my side is right, how might I open the door to curiosity instead? Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind, Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (click to his fascinating 19-minute TED Talk) offers a path of understanding. He explains that reasoning with others doesn’t work because our beliefs are based more deeply than that. He asserts that there are six fundamental ideas that commonly undergird moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Republicans and Democrats vote based on these moral interests, and how they weight each in importance tends to define their vote.

For me, this premise helps me to be a bit more curious and less judgmental. Fundamentally, I believe that fear is a prominent driver in our life, as our brains are hardwired to sense danger and to protect. And if we fear that our moral values are at stake we will fight to protect them. In this case, fighting is the rhetoric we hear in the election arena. But instead of fighting the Other, if I can understand the fear behind others’ view I can then find a place where I can connect with them– what do they fear losing? What are the values they hold dear? It doesn’t mean I’m negating my views, but for a few moments, it allows me to pause and connect with their humanity and mine. Haidt’s research helps make it more concrete for me.

This topic feels risky for me to put out here, and as I reread it, I know that I risk being misunderstood, or considered preachy, naïve or something else. But ultimately I want to share the value in upholding the dignity of all, which is sometimes lost in the Red versus Blue war. If it serves as one small drop in the well toward understanding and healing, then it will have been worth it.

Book Review: Everyday Bias

By: Howard Ross

Howard is a dear friend and colleague, and I am glad to have the opportunity to share this book with you as it delves into the neuroscience of our own bias and how to work with it in a work environment and our personal lives. This book is filled with powerful examples and research on unconscious bias that draws you in and gets you more curious about how our mind operates.

From sports, to healthcare, music, and power in our society, Howard navigates us through these charged topics without shaming anyone, and offers ways that we can individually and organizationally begin to explore and work with our bias. It’s an eye-opening book that leaves me hopeful in times when we need it. Sending a prayer for the victims of Orlando and the countless numbers of those before them. May we each contribute in some small way today toward creating a more caring and kind world.

Moving From Theory To Action: Our Actions Matter, And Then There’s Forgiveness

To support you in “Our Actions Matter, And Then There’s Forgiveness”. This is a big topic, but here are some questions to prompt some reflection.

1. In what ways to do I act with kindness and care toward others in a way that is in alignment with my values? (Taking a strengths-based approach by recognizing what we already do right is helpful to making change).

2. With whom would I like to be more conscious with in my actions?

3. Is there anyone that to whom I can extend some forgiveness? Am I holding a negative bias with anyone based on some individual incident?

4. Where in my life can I forgive myself for my own shortcomings with others?

Our Actions Matter, And Then There’s Forgiveness

It’s graduation and reunion time, and I just returned from my 25th at Villanova University. Although I was really active there as an undergrad, over the years I lost touch with most people, and so coming back was really a blast from the past. What I found most interesting about the weekend was my memory and brain through it all. Here were people I haven’t seen in 25 years, and I would often have an automatic response of moving toward or moving away from someone in a flash. There was one guy in particular who when I saw him, I knew that we hung out together as buddies in some way, but I couldn’t put my finger on the specific memories. I was compelled to come up to him and say, “Hi! I know I know you and I like you, I just can’t remember why.” He couldn’t remember either, but he said it was the best compliment of the day. There was something in my memory that said, “Here’s a good guy, reconnect with him.” I also had a moment, in all honesty, when I saw someone else and immediately thought to myself, “He’s an [jerk]” (Language adapted for all audiences). Twenty-five years later there were these visceral reactions to people after just a moment of seeing their faces. It’s got me reflecting on lasting impressions we have of others, and those we make.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou.

This quote represents much of the reunion weekend for me. I had an immediate move toward or move away from people based on past memories. One of my questions of the weekend was to ask if they could anchor a memory- remind me how we knew each other or a specific incident- because then I found the memories came flooding back. In one instance, a guy Scott reminded me that I brought him balloons on his birthday freshman year. It all then came back that we had just met during orientation, and I thought that it’d be tough to have a birthday when you didn’t yet have friends, so I brought him balloons. It was an action that mattered to him, and it created a good connection between us even 25 years later.

So on one hand, our actions do matter. If we’re kind to people we’ll likely have friends. Karma in action. And yet there is danger in letting past actions dictate our future. Memories are our past- so how do we check our bias? The guy I had a reaction to as a jerk- I need to remind myself that whatever data I had at the time to draw that conclusion is 25 years old, when he was 21, and maybe he’s changed over time. Maybe I saw him at a bad moment when I made that conclusion. Maybe I didn’t see him when he brought balloons to someone else. Maybe I can forgive and drop the bias and allow him to just be a person at a reunion, trying his best to go through this life just as I am. And to what extent can I extend that same forgiveness to myself for my less than honorable moments, those bad days when I didn’t have patience and I snapped at people? How can I reach toward living a life from my higher self, and forgiving myself and others when we don’t? It’s a lifelong practice, and I’m grateful for the reminder.

Book Review: The Art of Somatic Coaching

By: Richard Strozzi-Heckler

Since I’ve been sharing about my involvement with the Strozzi Institute, I offer Richard Strozzi-Heckler’s most recent book, The Art of Somatic Coaching. This book gives a concrete overview to the field of somatic coaching and a practical framework for working with the body to create long-lasting change. The book is oriented toward practitioners but is useful for anyone interested in personal and professional development. It is sure to broaden your perspective on how we need to go beyond thinking in order to change, but to fundamentally also include our physical body, as well.

Moving From Theory To Action: On Learning Communities

To support you in identifying and strengthening your own learning communities.

 Reflect on a time when you had a learning community. What contributed to its effectivness?

What are your current communities where there may be a possibility of creating more of an intention around learning together and supporting one another? (This could be a work team you’re on, a particular group of friends, a volunteer group you participate on).

Are there already existing learning groups you might be interested in joining? (These could include spiritual groups, leadership programs such as the WLC, book study clubs, formal classes, etc.)

What is one action you will take based on this reflection?

Community vs Individual Learning

The crocuses and daffodils peeking out of the brown earth remind me how I love spring, as it seems to burst with possibility and new opportunities. I was just invited to the teacher track for the Strozzi Institute, an internationally-recognized center for somatic coaching whose mission is “to produce leaders who embody pragmatic wisdom, skillful action and grounded compassion.” I will be traveling there four times this year to be with my cohort, and I am reminded of how impactful it is to be in a community of learners. The support, energy and learning is so much greater than going it alone, and I am grateful to be embarking on this journey with this amazing group of people who come from not only the United States, but also from Chile, Belize, Italy, the UK and Ethiopia. It is truly a gift, and I invite you into this reflection on your own learning communities.

There are a multitude of articles about the importance of professional learning communities. One of the biggest proponents is Peter Senge, who popularized the theory of the learning organization. In his book, The Fifth Discipline, he speaks about the importance of team learning and that this learning is done through dialogue, which allows one to go beyond any one individual’s understanding. This is the real benefit of learning with others; we get out of our own head and can question our own assumptions, and process and internalize the learning is a more powerful way than doing it on our own. As social beings, we learn through the interaction with others. When I was at Strozzi, I was curious and energized by others’ questions in the room. I found I could move my own understanding of a concept and better internalize it. When I was “stuck’ with a personal issue in my own development, having others witness me and offer perspective from the outside allowed me a way out of my automatic thinking to create a new way of seeing things. Finally, the support I feel is invaluable, knowing there is a group of people all on the same path of learning, holding one another accountable to our commitments to become great teachers of this work.

This is a key reason for me founding the Women’s Leadership Circles program—to provide others with the opportunity to learn leadership in a close community of peers. Being a leader can be isolating, and we need someone to learn from. A colleague and I have been conducting research on the impact of these Circles over time. In fact, all of the Circles have continued on their own after the initial six-month program, the first Circle now in it’s fifth year. Here are a few comments on the importance of the Circles both as a place of learning as well as strength through connection: “Meeting with them has offered me a way to consider, create, act and reflect on various experiences and learnings in my life in a way different than one-on-one friendships.” “ I feel calmer in the face of challenges knowing there are others there who care and support me.” What about you, where can you leverage the power of community in your learning?

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