Trust the Process of the Heart

All our fear is lodged in trying to control the future. We anticipate a recurrence or absence of an event  in the future. Even when in physical pain, we don’t fear the agony we are going through now. We suffer through it  and try and manage it. But what makes us anxious is that it may go on for ever – or a week. And then our thought is “I won’t be able to cope with that. Not another week of this. Not another moment.” What we forget is that we are coping. We are managing. Even if we are doing so with massive doses of painkillers or therapy, we are managing the present pain. The last thing we need is the additional burden of anxiety or fear that comes with trying to anticipate the future.

Yet we do it all the time. We try and manage the future of our bank accounts, our children, our businesses and even our souls. And by doing so we fail to clearly see the present. And what you don’t clearly see, you cannot manage.

“Trust the Process”

Eric Parsloe – the man who was my first Coaching Mentor – used to say, “Trust the process”. I thought he meant ‘trust the coaching process’. But I now think he meant, ‘trust the process of life.’ We know that life will bring us what life brings: encounters. Those encounters may harm or help us. They may add or subtract. Depending on how they interact with our view of the world, they may bring us joy, grief, pain or comfort. The word process comes from the Latin Procedere, ‘to go on, continue.’ It’s the fact of continuing life interacting with you.  It’s no good trying to jump ahead and anticipate how you will interact with it in the future. That depends on how you interact with it now. It’s like trying to build a house by constantly skipping the block in front of you.

Does that mean we shouldn’t take care at all? We should spend all our money now? Don’t lock the front door? Of course not. I will not spend all my money now because if I do so I am making myself broke now. If I don’t lock my front door, I am putting myself in a position now whereby I am vulnerable now. Never mind tomorrow or later in the evening, my vulnerability starts now. If that’s what I want to do, that’s fine. But my action now has consequences now.

The problem with anticipating and trying to control the future is that you simply fail to fully address the present. By trying to control the future, you create a personal model of that future that will, by definition, differ from reality.

“At least give yourselves a chance”

A company I know would, each year, build its annual forecast by deciding what income it thought it needed to achieve and then set its sales targets accordingly. When I asked the leaders whether they thought they had the products, market demand, distribution capacity and delivery to achieve that income, the reply was “We have no option. That’s what we need to achieve.” And year after year, their distribution system failed them, their production was late and they failed to change their customer research. And year after year I (and others) would plead, “At least give yourselves a chance. If you’re going to set a target, at least make sure that your assets are prepared today (and every day) to hit it.”  The company went into liquidation recently.

Filtering your view of life is dangerous. It’s what made that company go bust; it’s what fuelled the global financial crisis -and every one before that.

The toughest organ we have

But there is one filter I am learning we must have. It’s the Filter of the Heart. Very recently a Reiki therapist, a young woman called Susan Haberlandt, said to me, “Whatever you’re about to do, try putting your heart filter on it first”. So I did. I tried looking at the world through my heart. Sometimes it worked; sometimes I grew impatient and used my head; sometimes I grew impatient and just did it. But sometimes, something happened: I took a tough decision that I had been dreading; I saw just how vulnerable an aggressive man really was; I stopped feeling guilty; I started feeling concerned.

The heart is not a fluffy, pink cushion. It’s the toughest organ we have. It pumps blood to and from every tissue in your body. Symbolically or actually it ‘knows’ every particle in your brain, your gut and your left toe. It has helped fuel your thinking, your instinct, your immunity and your recovery from illness. So when you filter your actions with your heart, you equip that action with everything you have: everything you have been taught consciously, everything you have experienced and absorbed; and everything with which you came into this life. That’s not just powerful; that’s herculean.

We know how to filter our actions and reactions with the head: the logic of connections. “If the client wants me to extend the coaching programme, then I must think about what my code of ethics and my supervisor say about ‘dependency’.” Then there is the filter of instinct: the drive to survival. “Another year of coaching will bring me $x. I really need the money. I’ll do it. And anyway, if he wants more coaching, that means he needs it”.

What would the heart say? What would it tell you about what all that is you  thinks is right, and not just your association’s code of ethics. What would it tell you about what would be best for the client, without your fear for your own future?

The Lens of the Heart

The filter of the heart is not a filter at all. It’s a lens that pulls together all that we are, to deal – in the sharpest focus that we can muster – with the world we inhabit. It may be worth while learning how to use it. If you do try, you may find (as I did) 5 things:

  1. There’s nothing ‘magical’ about it. What you’re doing is mustering all your appropriate resources to focus on a decision
  2. The more you consciously think about it the less it works (you’re using your filter of logical connections)
  3. The more you worry about whether it will work, the less it works (you’re trying to control the future and not managing the present)
  4. The more you try it the more effective it becomes (you access more resources)
  5. The more you try it, the less time and effort you have left to worry about ‘the future’. You’re dealing with it now.
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leaders blinded by their own light

Did Icarus die because of his joy of flying or because of his triumphalism? Did the sun melt his wings because of his immersion in the exuberance of flight or because of his high fiving, fist bumping, “nothing can stop me now” exhilaration? If it had been purely the joy of flying, his senses would have been wide open and alert to everything around him, including any signs of danger. Whereas, if nothing ‘could stop him now’, then why be alert to anything?

Hubris, it appears, has one severe disadvantage: it makes you blind.

The word hubris  was first used, we think, by Aristotle who talked of it as being the abuse of power over others: where one who has been favoured by fortune then proceeds to abuse the less favoured. It went on to be seen as testing oneself against the gods – which they, in their jealousy, then stamped on very promptly indeed.

But what’s wrong with continuously testing the limits? We do it all the time. We’re just about to discover the ‘God particle’; the first trace of matter (first, that is, until we predict another elementary particle) and we now can capture images with shutter speeds equal to that of light. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. Nothing at all. Long may we continue to learn and re-discover our universe.

The danger comes when we think that we can do it all ourselves; that our achievements are solely our own; that nothing can stop us now. Because that’s when we stop looking around us. That’s when we’re blinded – by our own light.

Everything we do, everything we know, started before us and will continue after we have gone. The knowledge that Stephen Hawking,  Albert Einstein, Francis Crick and Plato had was built on the shoulders of those who came before them and served as the base for the knowledge that came afterwards. Yes, Archimedes put together all his learning and skill to come up with the measurement of mass – but he was helped by where he was: by the fact that he was getting into the bath. There’s nothing mystical or magical about it: he was getting into a bath, saw how his body displaced its equivalent in water, put two and two together and came up with 64,000. And what did he say? “Eureka”! Not “I found it”, as we tend to translate it nowadays but “I am in a state of having found it”.

So what produced the discovery? His being in a state to discover; his alertness to discovery. Yes, his unique skill played a great role but only in combination with the learning that had disciplined and enriched him; the experience that had shaped and given him confidence; and the context and circumstances within which he was now acting. An absence of any one of those factors (and a few hundred more) could have stopped him from jumping up stark naked and yelling his discovery to his neighbours.

Great ‘innovators’ all seem to have one thing in common: they all acknowledge their debt to those who came before them and their links with the world around them. Those who claim they are uniquely responsible for a discovery or even success are at best deceiving themselves and at worst lying.

Either way, they have made themselves blind and risk burning off their wings.

I used to think that the antidote to the hubris virus was balance: not too much joy at success; not too much misery at failure.  What my teachers would have called “good taste”. And then I noticed that I could still be  very smug  indeed while acting with extraordinary decorum.If hubris is a state of unsustainable triumphalism, then how do I keep myself open to the possibility of sustainable discovery and achievement?  I suspect, it does entail a sort of balance but it has less to do with control and more with awareness: awareness of the balance of all the contributors to ‘my’ success.

It is a balance between being totally aware of where I am and what I want to change. It is being in a state of awareness and discovery.

If Icarus had been in that state of awareness and discovery, he would have been able to find the ideal temperature  and altitude for the easiest, safest flight.

How does this apply to leadership?  Some years ago I started advocating a principle called “Leadership from the Centre”: the idea that leaders  are most effective when they are at the centre of a network  from which they are able to have clear access to a wide range of  stakeholders. Equally, they are accessible and visible to the challenges of  those stakeholders. It is, in essence a model for trying to maintain this balance of awareness and discovery. This is not a leader on a white charger who makes all the decisions himself or even with a small cabal of advisors. With this leadership model, decisions are made through intense awareness of the context: through scenario planning, testing or just listening. Each movement  is felt throughout the network as is each success or failure.

I first thought about it when  many of my clients fretted that they were missing some pretty important, if not vital, things going on in their organisations. These were mostly thought of as “strong” individuals who were seen to be leading from the front; a characteristic much treasured by television programmes and some corporations. My question was: if you are leading from the front, pulling the organisation along, how do you know what’s going on behind you?  Or  -as I said earlier in this reflection – you may be putting yourself in a state of discovery (of the future) but what about your state of awareness ( of the present)? How do you know- for example – whether your followers agree with what you’re doing – and that they are not sabotaging you? How do you know that what you’re doing for the organisation actually is good for it?  Are you flying too close to the sun because you’re dazzled by your own light?

It all boils down to one core question: “How, as a leader, do I make sure that I am continuously reminded to be in a state of awareness and discovery? What structures and processes do I need to set up? What relationships do I need to develop? What behaviour do I need to display so that my stakeholders  can not only  challenge me but see it as their duty to do so? And how do I make sure that I  and the organisation keep learning?  Finally, to return to the ancient Greeks, how do I, like the craftiest of all leaders Odysseus, make sure that when the sirens of hubris start singing their irresistible song, I am stopped from following them onto the rocks?

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colluding with the client

The more I coach the more I realise how fragile the process can be; the more I realise how narrow the border is between, say,  intuitive enabling and dangerous intervention; between holding conflicting confidences and being ‘economical with the truth’; between creating a safe space and colluding.

Coaching may be require us to deal with the flux of change but woe betide us if we ever mistake that fluidity for laxness or sloppy thinking. Every time I have been tempted to think that I ‘don’t have to be entirely transparent on this occasion’ or  if I give myself the credit for a client’s success (even privately) Mistress Coaching delivers a smart kick in the teeth. So in the interests of minimising my dentist’s bills, I’m learning to listen out for  the warning signals.

There is only one reason we coach -and that is for the learning of the client.But “being there entirely for the development of the client” can so easily elide into thinking that we are there entirely to protect our  client.  And that’s where the collusion starts. If you client has agreed to take a particular action as part of her coaching objective – and she persists in not doing it, what do you do? At first, you may use that to examine what may be the underlying causes; the blockages and fears. When her inaction persists you then have a choice: you may tell her you can’t do any more and withdraw or you may tell him that this is a significant block that needs to be cleared before he can take another step towards his outcomes. Either way, he needs to make a decision: either he will commmit himself to working with you to take the next step or he won’t.

But do you report the matter to his sponsor? After all, if you don’t, you are signally failing to deliver on your contract: to enable the client to reach her outcomes. Or is your instinct not to say anything because you know that your client may well be viewed not too favourably by his employers? If you say something, you may be breaching confidence. If you say nothing you may be colluding; colluding with your client towards his not learning.

It is here, in my experience, that those dentist’s bills are in grave danger of rocketing unless I recognise exactly how rigorous coaching is in its transparent and ethical  pursuit of the learning of the client. If you were put that rigour inthe form of a dialogue, this is what it would sound like:

“What am I here for?”

“For the learning of my client”

“In what context?”

“Learning to achieve the outcomes he and his employer have agreed”

” Do you believe you can help him past his current block [in the time frame]?”


“Yes” (in which case he’s still learning, so back to the coaching)



(in which case…)

“Have you rigorously examined whether this block is the ideal opportunity to enable him to learn something far more profound (and important to him) about himself?”

“No” (so back to the coaching)


“Yes” (in which case….)

“What are your choices?”

“Tell him I can do no more -and withdraw”.

“What happens if you just keep going? After all you may enable his learning in other areas…”

“If I keep going, I am consciously not working towards his agreed outcomes and I am in fact breaching both my psychological and actual contract with both client and sponsor”.


“Unless I renegotiate the terms with both client and sponsor”.

“How would you do that?”

“By being transparent with both parties”.

“But how would you do that without breaking confidentiality?”

“By  either getting my client’s permssion or, even better, making sure that I have clearly prepared for this eventuality ( and it will come) in my initial contracting”.

“But you could be damaging your client’s career! If his employer discovers that he is not able/prepared to work towards his original outcomes then  he might fire him!”

“And I could be damaging my client’s career and certainly his learning if I insulated  him from the consequences of his actions or inactions. After all, what am I here for?”

“For the learning of your client.”

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Managing fear

Why do we treat this credit crunch as a disaster? Disaster? More like a massacre. A bloodbath with no survivors.

And anyone who even mentions a green shoot is taken away and summarily shot.

The trouble is that disasters are a threat to life. And we’re programmed to react to life threats  with fear: fight, flight or freeze. No thought, of course- because the neo-cortex is too slow to beat a rampaging dinosaur or tsunami.

Is that what we need to get through this Crisis?  A good dose of fear? Mind you, we’ve tried that already haven’t we? The banks and governments first fought off any criticism of those very clever CDO’s. Then, when that didn’t work, they grabbed their money -and refused to do business with anyone. That’s the ticket; that’ll keep our money safe – don’t lend it out at all. And finally, in sheer abject terror, we’ve come up with the brilliant idea of…. running away: cutting  people,jobs and the business: do nothing new.

What’s actually happened here? Why are we in this state? Because things (tools, processes, strategies) that did work, no longer do so.

What do we need to do to get out of this state? Find strategies and tools that do work.

What skill do we need to start looking for those strategies? Thought. Reasonable, innovative, strategic thought.

And what’s the greatest enemy of thought? Fear.

So, we are pumping ourselves full of the one thing that stops us from getting through this crisis.

If this is sounding too simplistic; if you feel that human emotion can not possibly be helping to strangle the world economy, let’s take a look at a few examples:

  • why are the banks not lending any money to businesses that need it?
  • why are the banks not looking at new ways to do business?
  • how many businesses that you know are exploring new products or services?

In fact, who’s being the most innovative in seeking solutions?  Government or the private sector? Now, there’s a really frightening thought.

Human emotion got us into this; human emotion will have to get us out. If wishful thinking – in the form of greed – got us into taking excessive risk, then realistic, clear , values based thinking will be needed to get us out. So the best thing that we can all do is start to understand what is our optimum personal environment  where we can each produce that kind of thinking.

How do you do that? In my experience there are 5 pillars you need to build:

  • Understand and manage what is important in your life: Your Values
    • if you don’t know what’s important in your life, no wonder greed -that great ally of purposelessness – will fill the vacuum
  • Understand and manage what Fear does to you.
    • what fear you manufacture; what stories you tell yourself; how to quieten the brain
  • Understand the strength and resilience that has kept you going so far -and can push you further, if you let it.
    • you’ve persevered under pressure before. How did you do it? How can you do it on a much larger scale?
  • Work with allies: colleagues, friends, family, mentors and guides.
    • share, help, understand, be understood. It ‘s how you grow
  • Do.
    • try it out; experiment; make mistakes; learn; move on

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Fulfilment is a participation sport

My assistant, Gemma, said a few weeks ago, apropos I have no idea what, " I don’t buy this business of waiting for the ideal job. We should just get on and do the best with what we’ve got".

My first reaction was that she was wrong; it was too pessimistic a view of the world. After all my own experience had been that when I had ‘got on and did the best with what I had’ and didn’t pursue my own creativity it drifted further and further away from me.

Then it struck me that, in the past, I hadn’t done ‘the best I could with what I had’. Because if I had, as a creative person, I would have continued to seek my creativity in whatever job/life/marriage I had. And, as someone seeking after meaning- I would have continued to do so, wherever I was.

What had I done instead? I’d told myself that

"This job is not creative; is not meaningful – is not me. I’ll take what it can give me: an opportunity for my management skills; for making good money; for turning around companies. It’s a job for my skills – not my commitment.

You could summarise it in one sentence "This job is not me"

It’s part of a conversation I’ve been having all my life; first with myself, my parents and partners. And more recently listening to my clients – and my children. It starts off with the question "What do I want to be when I grow up?; moves on to "This is my ideal job/ love/ life…" and then inevitably to "There’s something missing. There’s no joy, creativity, love in it" And finally to: This job, this relationship, this life…is not me"

And what does that mean when we say that about ourselves? That we’re holding ourselves outside our own life.

If we say ‘this is not me’, what we’re doing is refusing to commit ourselves to the present. We’ve always got one foot outside the door. And the problem with standing on the threshold is that you never fully experience (or even know) what goes on in the room; you’re forever an observer.

And creativity, joy and love are participation sports. As is fulfilment

Joy is an experience; an emotion that results not just from doing but from participating. Fully -with both feet well past the threshold. With the door shut. And a commitment that you’ll give it the best you have.

That you’ll give it all you have.

And you can’t create something by just looking at it. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty.

And love? How can you find love when you’re forever hovering?

Commitment doesn’t imprison you. It doesn’t mean you can’t walk out the door if you want to go further. It simply means that while you’re in the room you’ll give all you have. And by committing yourself, you maximise your experience (your wisdom of skills, emotions, thoughts) that equips you to make the best of the future – in the same or in other rooms.

So next time you find your job is not ‘giving’ you enough authority/ creativity/ joy/ scope to use your real skills (and whatever else you feel is missing) ask yourself how much of those aspects of yourself are you giving it? And what would happen if, as Gemma said, you gave it the best of you?



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The space to fly, walk and crawl.

How do we lose ourselves?

How do we lose that which we hold most dear in ourselves – by which we identify ourselves?

Recently I was introduced to an intriguing coaching tool in which you’re asked to identify your ‘core quality’; that attribute by which you most closely identify yourself. I said ‘Integrity’ was mine. While it was true it was also a cop out because if I didn’t have integrity as a coach I may as well pack up and go home. As I started using the tool with colleagues and clients, I noticed how many said exactly the same thing: ‘Integrity’. And without any passion. Or, at least, with the same lack of passion that I had felt.

And then I thought: “When did I last feel really passionately about an attribute of mine”?

And I remembered: when I felt so passionately that I would sacrifice anything for it without a thought. When I couldn’t wait to wake up. And sleep was such a waste of time.

And the object of my passion? Making things. Creativity.In the theatre, in radio, television and film. I acted, directed, wrote, adapted, broadcast, presented, made programmes on poetry, noise, tea, music and anything else I could think of. Incessently. And without a single care about whether I was being judged successful or otherwise. Everything I did felt perfect for me. And that was enough.

And then I abandoned it.

I was living in South Africa at the time- Apartheid South Africa. And I began to suspect that my own creativity wasn’t ‘doing enough to change things’. Writing and directing plays and making programmes may offer relief – or even show people how things could be – but it wasn’t going to feed people or stop them from being imprisoned and killed. So, quite swiftly, I abandoned what I had done best and started reporting for foreign networks -as well as working with the then nascent black trade unions. Good, solid, serious work. Where I felt creativity had no place. Where, ironically, although we were working for ‘what could be’, I felt that only tackling the grinding reality – of what was in front of our noses – had any place at all.

Thoroughness was the byword. Do things carefully. Start at the beginning and get to the end.

And that pattern continued when I arrived in Britain. Yes, I went back to radio and television (not the theatre) but not as a programme maker or writer. As a manager. And, eventually as a turnaround specialist: diagnose, change, move on.

That lasted until, many years later, I decided that wasn’t good enough either . And I went back to school to learn about coaching. Because I was beginning to understand the lesson of joy. Or, rather, the lack of it.

Intutition, creativity and the cross hairs of intelligence

When I was being ‘creative’ I was literally firing on all cylinders. In order to direct a play, I needed to use my intuition to grasp the essence (or perhaps ‘my’ essense) of the story. I also needed to have a view of the overall production as well as to focus on an incredible amount of detail to ensure that those two hours (on stage or on air) ‘fitted together’. I had to make sure I could manage a complex project against tight and very precise deadlines. And I needed to make sure that all involved (cast, crew and management) were kept motivated, sharp and passionate for the performance or recording. (Because even if you’re playing Lazarus before the miracle you still need to do it with conviction, wouldn’t you say?)

So, in order to be creative, I needed to use all my multiple intelligences: mental, physiological, emotional and spiritual/intuitive.

And what do I mean by creativity? In my experience it’s very close to intuition. Intuition comes from the Latin ‘intueor’, meaning to contemplate, to look into. And, the OED tells us intuition is “the ability to understand something immediately without the need for conscious reasoning”. Does that mean it’s guesssing? No, it’s the drawing together of all your intelligences in one sudden insight.It’s the apex of those multiple intelligences – mental, physical and emotional as, literally, an ‘insight’. It’s not a leap into the void but a flight within.

And creativity is a milli-step beyond intuition: it’s that which moves the insight into growth, into a way forward, into something new. Intuition grasps how things are; creativity grasps how they could be; creation makes them real.

Your intuition grasps that this search engine does amazing things; your creativity shows you how you can turn it into a huge business; your creation actually shapes that business.

And where do both intuition and creativity spark? In the cross hairs of your intelligences. And without exercising all those intelligences in a balanced way it’s going to very difficult for that convergence to happen. If your mental (logical) ‘intelligence’ is over ‘flexed’ and your physical (feelings) is neglected, your insight may end up being nothing more than a linear, academic idea with little or no joy or passion to drive you into doing something about it – and staying with it.

If I overuse one of my intelligences (be it emotional, intellectual or physical) I will see the world only in a particular way: as logical detail, as chaos, as pain or as ‘big picture’. And the world is all of those things -at different times. So, we need to remember to look at it in different ways, using our different intelligences.We need to, sometimes, start at the end before we find a beginning. We need sometimes to fly above before crawling into its microscopic detail. Each view gives us a different insight. And in each view we’re exercising a different intelligence.

Insight, Outsight and Passion killers

I abandoned creativity because I confused it with the’arts’. I thought: the theatre = arts = creativity =soft emotions = no place in ‘real life’. Now, there are a lot of flaws in that entire logic but the most important one for this discussion is the last one: that creativity is all messy and soft and “has no place in ‘real life’”.

The result of that was that, instead of bringing with me the balance that had made me successfu, strong and happy before (being detailed one moment, big picture, pragmatic, intuitive or visionary in others, as I had as a director and writer) I focused almost entirely on my mental intelligence: that faculty that sees the world in a linear, logical and – allegedly – objective fashion.

The trouble with walking along the ground in a “linear and logical” way is that your view of the world -and therefore your ideas for the world – stay at ground level as well. And, of course, equally, being up in the air all the time, with a big picture view, tends to make your ideas ‘up in the air’ as well.

As for my intuition – the grasping of what is- was replaced by that killer of all passion: what should be. Understanding the reality of what is, comes from your own insight; from the converged experience of all your intelligences. Seeing reality as what should be is second guessing someone else’s reality: your outsight, if you like.

Check calls

If we accept that creativity is a ‘good thing’ and it’s best chance of emerging is from that coming together of our multiple intelligences, then we clearly need to make sure that we’re exercising those intelligences – and in a balanced way.

And something that may help is periodically making a few check calls into how we’re living your life – at work or at home.

Core quality check:
Which core attribute of yours do you hold most dear?
With which quality do you emotionally identify yourself?
How are you using that attribute to bring value – to renew – your work?
If you’re not, how can you do so? If you don’t want to, where can you do so?
If you’re changing jobs or career, are you taking with you that core quality and self identity which brought you most success and satisfaction?
If not,why not?

Multiple intelligences check:

What (and how) do you think about this job? How do you feel about it,emotionally?
What about physically? Does it give your body strength and energy – or does it drain it ?
And bringing them all together, what does your intuition say?
What do all your intelligences and experiences say?

View check

And if you can’t see clearly or you’re anxious that you can’t do the job.Or -like me so many years ago -you think it’s not enough to change the world. Then try changing your view:
What will this job look like if you’re not here? What will you look like if you’re not here?
What would it look like (and how would you feel) if you were an observer?
How about looking back from a distance of ten years?
In doing the job, are you using all your intelligences?

Oh – and one which is my personal favourite: what do you feel about your work first thing in the morning?

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Identifying Self Value

It’s all very well saying that we should value ourselves. But what is self value? And how do we measure it -and therefore safeguard and increase it?

John Berger recently wrote a wonderful defence of the German Nobel Prize winning writer Gunter Grass (The Guardian: August 21,2006). Grass had been pilloried for not revealng that he had joined the Waffen SS at the age of 17. Berger’s response describes very closely what I believe to be the essence of ‘self value’.

"That he was naive when he was 17 means only that he was 17. Inside a story there are no mistakes, only the living through of mistakes. And he has lived through his, better than most of us would have done".

Grass, says Berger, ‘lived through his mistakes" by devoting himself "to grasping, narrating and explaining, with extensive fellow-feeling, the contradictions, cruelties, abysmal losses, wisdom, ignorance, cowardice and grace of people (person by person) under extreme historical stress. Very few other writers of our time have such a wide knowledge of articulate and inarticulate experience. Grass never shut his eyes. He became a writer of honour".

He lived though his mistake by ensuring that it became part of his life; by working with the grain to transform it into the pearl of his life’s work. He understood that the value of his life lay in living through his mistakes and successes – as experience – with his eyes open.

What would have happened if he had ‘confessed his sins’? Would his eyes have been opened wider? Would he have awakened himself more to the experience of his own life; to the value of his life? Or would he have been forced to devalue his life to the actions of the seventeen year old boy?

The word ‘redemption’ comes from the Latin verb ‘redemptio’. And one of the oldest meanings of ‘redemptio’ is to ‘to farm revenues’ – to cultivate one’s assets. And that is what I believe Self Value entails. The cultivating of the most precious asset we have: our Self.

Redemption does not start with the premise that we are a liability unless we do good; but that we can do good because we are an asset.

And how do we farm our revenues? How do we maximise our asset? How do we ‘make the most of our selves’?


By making ourselves as aware as we possibly can be of our selves: by probing how we think, feel, emote and behave in situations; by exploring the impact we have on our fellow beings and our world – and then reflecting on the chain of mutual reactions we create with one another. And by applying our selves in the world and the world in our selves.

By learning.

And how do we learn? By observng, enquiring, reflecting, feeling, applying and integrating.And observing again.

And, as you can see, we can not make the most of ourselves, or increase awareness of our selves, unless we recognise and value our fellow beings. If I think you have no value then we have no impact on one another. But I know that is not true: all beings and I do have some impact on one another. So, I must be closing down my own awareness in order to believe that you have no value.

By reducing my awareness of your value I reduce my awareness of mine.

That is why choice is such a precious gift. When we remove it from others, we remove it from ourselves. When we trespass against others we trespass against ourselves.

So, to summarise:

What is Self Value?

It is the recognition that the Self is the Asset; that it "can do good because it is an asset"; that the Self is the stone from which the scultpure is continuously shaped. Without the stone there is no sculpture.

How is Self Value maintained and maximised?

By taking responsibility for that Self and making ourselves as aware as possible of how we think, feel, emote and behave in our mutual relationship with the world.

How is Self Value diminished?

When we diminish the awareness of both our own selves and that of our fellow beings; when we impose and abuse; when we prevent ourselves or others from discovering our Self Value

So, can Self Value be developed?

Self Value is. We do thing of value because we ‘are value’. The asset is there, whatever we do. It’s our awareness and management of it that impacts our actions. The more aware we are of the asset, the better we are able to use it.


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Self Value: doing or being?

That’s the trouble with words: we use them in so many different ways that they lose…value.

We talk about the value of a house; of a painting; of a job – even of a relationship. Just take the ‘value of a house’ as an example. That could be what we can sell it at; what we like about it; what experiences we’ve had in it as a family or how the designers/artists/viewers/critics rate it. Different things all reduced to one word: value.
Every second coach will probably tell you how vital it is to value yourself. But what does self value mean? Are you supposed to value yourself for what you do? Or for how you look? Or, perhaps, for how kind and compassionate you are?

So what happens when you do something ‘badly’? When you deliver a shoddy piece of work?

What about when you ‘lose’ your looks?

As for ‘kind and compassionate’: what happens when you’re not kind? Do you stop valuing your self?

Or are you only supposed to value yourself when you’re doing ‘good’ things; when you’re looking good; or when you’re clever and capable and successful?

The trouble with valuing ourselves for how we present ourselves to the world (in other words, for how we perform or look)is that our presentations can not be totally consistent. The result is that our ‘value’ then goes up and down like a yo-yo. As a publicly quoted company we’d be a disaster.
And if you’re valuing yourself on your performance, you even start undervaluing your successes because you know that next time you may ‘fail’. "I did ok, today, but tomorrow I could mess up. So how much value do I really have?"

You start to value yourself by your failures rather than your successes.
And here’s the clincher, for me: if we value ourselves according to our performance to the world – then we’re not only valuing ourselves according to what we (inconsistently) do but according to how the world judges our performances. We surrender our own value – our sense of self – to others.

Our ‘value’ becomes pleasing the world/audience/lover/church/boss/ market.
But do you know what? It’s not always in the interests of ‘the world’ to give us accurate feedback on ‘how we’re doing’. The boss, for example, may worry that if she tells you how great you are, you might ask for a raise, or look for another job or want hers.
And how do you react? Somewhere in the range of: accept it or not. If you accept it, then you’ll value yourself lowly and strive to meet (what you think are )the boss’s expectations. If you don’t then you’ll try and rationalise it away: "She’s a manipulative tyrant and she has no idea what quality means". Either way, you reduce your value of yourself. In the first instance by accepting someone else’s perception. In the second, by feeling humiliated that the boss’s opinion did not match yours and your hopes.

Value based on how you present youself to the world is a disaster.

So, what value should we place on ourselves?

The Value of Being.

It is the fact that you are that enables you to do.

Not the other way round.
Your starting point, surely,has to be your sense of self in the world; how you see your self in the world.

How can you do something of value unless there is value in you, the doer? And if you only value yourself for what you do, what message are you sending to your colleagues, friends, partners and children? That you’re only as valuable as your last action?

Valuing ourselves and others according to our performance – or ‘presentation to the world’ as I put it earlier – means ignoring a fundamental reality: beings are much more than their actions. Their value is in their ability to be; to project; to conceptualise; to create; to make mistakes; to learn; to walk into a room and listen; to be another to you.

And those of us who value themselves in their doing -their performance for the world – rather than in their being, reduce themselves to the limits and distortions of the judgments of others. Limited because others (never mind how close they may be to us) can not climb inside our skins and view the world as we view it; distorted because they will always judge some part of our actions by the way it affects them.

The more we submit to the judgement of others the more we lose our sense of self; the less value we place on our being-in-the-world, the less we’re able to achieve the integrity of self-valued being and self-valued doing.

If we have a strong sense of self, if we value our sense of being in the world, then it follows that we will do things that have integrity with that value.


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Beware of coaches bearing assumptions

Coaching is about change. You get coached (whether in sport, work or elsewhere) to change performance, perception, or relationships. And, in my experience, the most effective change occurs as a result of the client’s self discovery; self-discovering her need for change, identifying her goals and developing the strengths and skills to achieve those goals.

And what is the greatest danger to self discovered change? Judgements. Assumptions. First you’ll get the judgements of the client about himself and about the coaching process. This could vary from ‘I’m just not a good manager’ to ‘I’m being coached as punishment; they’re telling me I’m not good enough’.

Then you’ll get the judgements and assumptions of the coach. These could range from: ‘ this guy’s not a good manager’ to ‘ my psychology training tells me that he’s depressed; until I know better I’m going to have to assume that’s the case’.

And the trouble with assumptions and judgements is that they are a mechanism to stop change – not enable it. We make assumptions as a short cut. An assumption is a tool which says ‘as a result of my experience, I am concluding (without further enquiry) that this person is Label A or is acting according to Label B’. We conclude that this person is a snap shot of our past experience.

In assuming judgement we are saying(at best) " you’re likely to behave in this way" or (more likely) "you should behave in a way that I think you should".
When we judge in this way we’re actually making the following statements: "a) I know what you should be doing, you do not; b) I therefore know you better than you know yourself; c) Until you do what I ‘suggest’ you will be ‘in deficit’; d) Because I know what to do and you do not, and because I know you better than you know yourself, we should also assume that I have a better idea of how to do it than you do".
And, until the client does what the coach thinks, they will be in conflict; consciously or not. If, on the other hand, the client does follow the coach’s ‘advice’ she may be acting entirely at odds with the way she sees the world and therefore with the way she manages the world.

My only role as coach is to help you to a) understand your relationship with your world; b) find out how you want to manage or change that relationship and c) uncover and hone your own skills and strengths to achieve that change. If I do anything to inhibit you, as my client, from achieving those ends, I’m not doing my job. And making assumptions about you is a sure fire way to do just that; because it’s my relationship with my world that I’m ‘helping you understand’ – not yours.
Does that mean that coaches should not take any (moral, ethical) position? Of course we should. But we should be taking an ethical stand when we decide whether or not we work with(or continue to work with) a particular client. The job of a coach is to enable not convert. If it’s morally abhorrent to you as a coach to enable a client’s self discovery, then it’s time to end that relationship.
Now, so far, you’ll probably find most coaches agreeing with me in a "so what" kind of way. The problem is that we’re not always aware that we’re working according to an assumption.

I was a CEO for a decade before I became a coach. The other day I found myself saying to a client "Your experience may be different to mine, but I found -when I was a CEO – it was a good idea to act in this way…"

Despite the caveat, the message my client may have received was: "This guy was a CEO for a long time – I haven’t even got there yet – if he says it’s a good idea, then odds are, it is". What did I do that made him think that?After all I used all the right language, didn’t I? I assumed that my experience was’ superior’ to his; that he was less capable than I of finding a solution – and, like it or not, I told him so. In short: with the best will in the world, I judged that my way of seeing the world was ‘better’ than his.

It gets even more insidious than that. A coach can make assumptions and judgements based on her values. And I don’t mean only ‘moral values’ but values in the sense of priorities and world view. That means that if that coach was trained as a psychotherapist, unless she is very, very aware she could well approach each coaching session with the assumption that she is there to enable therapy: a cure; a restoration to health. That, then presupposes another assumption: that there is something wrong with the client; that the coach/therapist is there to cure with her superior knowledge. Can there be anything more inhibiting to your growth and development than an assumption that you’re ill?

Similarly, my training and experience as a professional manager came from directive, hierarchical media organisations steeped in the newsroom/production floor ethos that the editor’s word is final. Sure, there may be discussion before hand but the final vision is held by the boss. So, with that ethos in mind, I need to guard against falling back into the old rhythm of gathering all the ideas and thoughts and packaging them into an action plan for the client. But what’s wrong with that if I do it ‘with the client’s permission’? It’s a pretty democratic and even creative way of managing, isn’t it? It may be a creative way of managing but it isn’t a creative way of coaching. Instead of enabling my client to make the linkages to her own experience (so that she can learn and carry on learning), I’ve – once again – imposed my experience.

Are there any prompts that can help alert both coach and client to the danger of an assumption lurking in the room?
The most obvious one is: ‘What’s your assumption here?’ Otherwise known as ‘Where did that question come from?"

Both coach and client’s antennae could start quivering when the coach uses words like ‘I suggest’, ‘in my experience’, ‘why don’t you?’ ‘you need to’or even ‘did you not think it would be better if you…?" Statements like ‘in my experience’ are not necessarily loaded with assumption, although ‘In my experience, when I was a CEO" are.
Intuitively (as coach or client) if you sense this relationship is simply not feeling equal , then the chances are one person is imposing an assumption on the other; somebody is being inhibited or shut down. And if you feel that, say so clearly. And keep on saying it until all the assumptions are crystal clear.

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is seeing believing, or believing seeing?

We’re taught – so often – that something must be real because ‘we saw it with our own eyes’ . So called empirical evidence beats belief or theory any day. But what influence does what we believe at the time have on what we see – or what we think we see?

For example, today (20th of July) BBC News 24 announced that street crime in Britain had gone up by 8%. And they hauled in a police spokesman to talk about that.Just about that. During the interview the interviewer tolled out another figure of gloom: 23% increase in drug offences. At least, i think it was drug offences. I was too busy trying to find the sackcloth and ashes. 8%?!! 23%?! what is the matter with this country?

Then I remembered. I’d read an article in the Guardian earlier on which said that:

  • Total recorded crime had dropped
  • murder rate for england and wales had shown a sustained drop for the first time since the 60’s
  • sexual offences had stayed static; as had violence against the person.

No mention of all that on the Beeb. In fact, there was even the (usual) question: ‘do you think we should have longer sentences – and pack in even more people into already overcrowded jails?’ God help us. Not only are we being overun by bad people, we’ve got no place to put them either.

So back to my first question? What would I have seen if I had believed the Beeb? A place that is getting more dangerous, perhaps. Certainly a place with no good news on the home front. How would that have influenced the way I felt about/saw/regarded hoodies/ white people/black people/ immigrants/ locals; to say nothing of the Police, the Home Office and the government?

What I believe – or what I allow others to persuade me to believe – affects how I see. And how I see, affects what I see. Which, of course, affects, how I feel and relate to the world. So,in my experience, we each create our own world: it’s as big or small, petty or generous according to what we choose to see.

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