I’m writing this about an hour before the start of an oral exam on December 9 representing the final step to calling myself a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach. There was a time this would have been all about the piece of paper I will receive in the mail once I’ve passed. However, something very different is present for me today as I wait for the start of this event.

I am offline right now and refusing to look at the normal distractions of a busy life. I can hear my oldest son Scott down stairs making some food. I am listening to my favourite jazz group, Top Pocket playing and I feel totally relaxed and alive. I am writing as it’s a way for me to collect my thoughts and get clear on what’s important.

This morning I was feeling a little anxious so I went for a walk with my dog Bree. On our walk we were passing a large wetland full of geese. We stopped for a few minutes to watch the geese playing, eating and just being their natural selves.

It was in that moment I knew what I needed to do and left my saboteurs seated there on a rock just watching the geese for a few hours. I know the quiet will do them good for once! Despite wishing I could leave them there forever I’m sure they’ll find their way home eventually. I actually have a small smile on my face even though I’m sitting here alone writing. I know I am enough and I just have to be me over the next few hours.

Why bother

In February I will be 50 years old. It would have been easy to just ride out the rest of my career going through the motions. In other words, go to some big building every day, collect a pay cheque and contribute to the a big company meeting it’s objectives.

I’ve come to see there is a reason I’ve been put here on earth. I’m a part of something much bigger than myself. I won’t try to define that bigger thing as I haven’t figured it out yet. I do know I need to be most authentic self if I’m to contribute in the way I’m meant to.

Going through the CTI certification program was never about the piece of paper I will receive. In fact, the piece of paper will likely suffer the same fate as my other certifications collecting dust on a shelf in my office. Going through certification has always been about stepping into something bigger, being an even better coach and me. Therefore I want to be the best I can be at coaching so the rest comes more naturally.

What is spirituality

I work to understand my spirituality some days however I’m not sure I’m really meant to figure it out. It’s difficult to describe what spirituality means to me. I’m not talking about formal religion although I do attend church on a regular basis. It’s not something I can touch and feel. Rather it’s a way of being and when I embrace my spirituality I have little concern about whether I’m being or doing the right thing as it’s the only that could possibly be.

The things I notice when I’m allowing my fullest and spiritual self forward:

  • I’m free, powerful and at choice; with little question I’m doing the right thing in this moment
  • I have little internal conflict; what it is I’m doing or the way I’m being in this moment just feels like the right thing. No judgement, no worry, no fears of failing … it just is the right thing
  • I smile more; I’ve come to notice regardless of what I’m doing my smile seems to be associated with the degree of spirituality I allow in that moment
  • I slow it down; I take the time to connect with the person in front of me, and there is nothing else to worry about at this time
  • I have courage; more accurately I’m not listening to my saboteurs stories in this moment as the power of what feels right just out weighs the power of those things I told myself for so long
  • My heart is stronger than my mind; there’s plenty of neuroscience showing up talking about the thinking our heart does. I’ve come to trust what I’m hearing my heart say. When I do listen I hear beautiful things
  • I care; I care about the world around me, the people who are on this journey with me and more than anything myself

When I deny some part of my spirituality 

When I deny some part of myself I have to work much harder to maintain movement. This is why I believe we talk about how hard Mondays are as we drag ourselves into work. This is why I struggled to motivate myself to carry on in my last Agile Coaching engagement. This is also why I have never kept a job for more than 5 years throughout my career.

When we deny our complete self we create friction. This friction is difficult to push against, so instead we give in. We just suppress our true self and go with the flow. To ride the gravy train until retirement. To live in a relationship without true meaning or connection. It’s as if we are just existing and compromising to be accepted.

I have strong values around autonomy, authenticity and vulnerability. Recently some of these have been attacked and for a moment there I was retreating. For a moment I found myself heading back to being the conforming Mike who will compromise just to fit in. When these attacks on my values happened, I found myself stepping away from something very important to me.

In becoming a Co-Active Coach I strive to live in the Co-Active model at all times (not just when I’m coaching). A key part of this model is a cornerstone of People are Naturally Creative Resourceful and Whole. This means everyone has their perspective, they already have everything they need and there’s nothing to be fixed. When my values were attacked this week and I retreated for a brief period I found myself no longer holding the other as whole. This means I started having thoughts around how wrong the other person is, how they need some serious help and more. It wasn’t a great feeling to be sitting with given everything I’ve become.

Leading for ChangeTM

I’ve seen and been a part of too many organizations who look to improve results through process. Process gives them something to examine and touch, where they can measure the productivity of the people and quality of the outcomes. I get that part and how it would be more comfortable. Unfortunately this is also the birthplace of the alleged resistance to the changes management is trying to install.

Imagine how you’d feel if you valued autonomy and you were suddenly thrust into an open concept office and were told you were to work openly and collaboratively as a team. Imagine how you’d feel if you valued recognition and your manager never showed up at your office for any reason. Imagine how you would feel if you struggled with vulnerability, and suddenly all your work was made visible for anyone walking by to see. All of these images are real situations and examples of why we believe people are resisting change. The truth is they’re not resisting change, they’re resisting having to put aside a personal value.

Leading others means to start by leading yourself first. What are your values and how do you honour them in your leadership? Which of your values are you denying and trying to put aside for the sake of conforming. You are a part of something much bigger, and you will get much better leadership results by modelling the outcome you want.

When we acknowledge and honour each of us has our own values it makes it safe for those around us to be authentic. When people are authentic they’re far more likely to help with change, and the mythical change resistance fades away to nothing. This means making it safe for people to be trailing further behind in becoming fully on board. With time they will, or they will make decisions about change for themselves which is OK too.

What about spirituality

It’s been almost two weeks since I did the oral exam. It was a wonderful experience and I felt free, powerful and at choice as it started. The whole experience was fun which is very different than any other exam I’ve ever taken. This doesn’t mean it’s easy as I don’t believe you could pass this exam if you didn’t go through the whole program.

For me touching our spirituality, and allowing ourselves to be authentic can make the difference between hard work and freedom. It can make the difference between stress and just having fun. It can make the difference in the results teams produce!

More to come on spirituality. I’m only beginning to understand it and accept it. However, I know it will continue to be something I explore.


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