If Einstein was correct in his assertion that “insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results” then we are probably all a bit insane. In my experience, ontological coaching is transformative in its ability to help people find greater sanity by getting unstuck from their habitual patterns. We are stuck in these unproductive patterns because we don’t have access to other options and our options are limited primarily by the way we see the world. The transformative process in coaching is largely about learning how to learn. It involves learning to recognize how our filters limit our view of the world and learning the skills to expand the available options. My approach to coaching is very much based in a belief that everyone is doing his or her best and that everyone is capable of learning new ways of being and behaving that will allow greater flexibility, happiness and effectiveness.
Coaching comes in many forms with many different labels – life coaches, executive coaches, business coaches and so on (not to mention sports coaches). What all coaches seem to have in common is a focus on getting different results, on changing behavior. I consider myself to be a leadership coach and I consider everyone to be a leader or a potential leader. The world needs more leaders and needs for leaders to be more effective. This becomes the focus of coaching, whatever the scope of an individual’s leadership.
The ontological aspect to my coaching comes from an emphasis not upon behaviors but upon how a person’s perspectives on life limit his or her options. How we see the world is determined and reinforced in our language, in moods and emotions and in our bodies. Ontological coaching helps an individual to understand these filters and to learn to experience new possibilities. Implicit in this process is learning how to learn and discovering the ways in which we resist and sabotage learning.
This learning process is a very intimate and profound experience in which my role as a coach is to hold the space necessary for learning, to provide feedback and support, to ask the wicked question and to help design the practices necessary to support learning. My role is not to fix anything. In fact, it is my belief that there is nothing fixed that needs to be broken. Unlike therapy or counseling, the coaching process is not about fixing problems but, instead, is about learning new ways of being.
Coaching is appropriate for anyone who is ready to let go of old limiting patterns, perceptions and beliefs and interested in learning to intentionally design new patterns that can obtain different results.
Coaching can be done in person or by telephone or skype. I have coached with clients from at least six countries and three continents. The coaching process typically involves an intensive initial assessment and the development of a written coaching plan. This is usually followed by four to six months of bi-weekly coaching sessions of 60 to 90 minutes. Between each coaching session, there are suggested readings and practices that I develop with the coachee to support the learning and reinforce new skills. Each coaching client has access to a webpage at itineriscoaching.com where they can access supportive information, listen to recordings of the coaching sessions and review the coaching plan. I am also available by email between coaching sessions to deal with emergent issues.
I love coaching. I find that it to be a very special – dare I say sacred? – experience to be involved with someone willing to explore and expand his/her experience of the world and to courageously explore new ways of being. My own journey of learning as a coach has enriched my life as I have discovered and continue to discover the myriad ways in which my own patterns of thinking and my views of the world get in my way. In learning to be a coach, I have really learned so much about how to be a human being. Who I am as a coach and the ideas and resources that have inspired and informed me can be found throughout this website. I would like to express my gratitude to the following three sources of Ontological coaching training that have guided my learning; to Mary Shippy, my teacher and mentor in developing a coaching practice and also to each of my coaching client who have been my teachers in so many ways.
- Newfield Networks – I am a graduate of the Newfield basic training prgram and the Integral Pathways program that incorporated Ken Wilber’s integral perspective.
- New Ventures West -I have learned an incredible amount from graduates of the New Ventures West training program, from reading James Flaherty’s book and newsletters.
- Axialent – I am grateful for the rich and informative writings of Fred Kofman. The book, Conscious Business, and the resources on the Axialent website have been a very valuable resource in my learning.
As I describe above, my coaching is really all about leadership development. In addition, I also teach leadership development. I have twice been involved in teaching a graduate level leadership course to engineering students through the University of Colorado. Over the years I have also taught the Leadership Challenge (Kouses and Posner) to around two dozen groups. In both of these approaches to leadership training the emphasis is on the personal development of the leader.
Leadership development is a journey of self-awareness and skill development. In my experience, coaching provides the best context for individual leadership development while a leadership training experience is an excellent way for a group of individuals to support each other’s learning. The Leadership Challenge involves a self assessment of five basic leadership practices and the comparison of this self assessment with assessments from teammates or other colleagues. It provides very direct feedback on areas of strength and areas for improvement. My approach to leadership development is also more and more informed by my learning about neuroscience, mindfulness, the art of hosting conversations and other leadership practices.
I have twenty years of work experience as part of a learning organization that is committed to the belief that every employee is a leader and that leadership opportunities are abundant. Through this experience I have learned about participatory leadership, team leadership, servant leadership and about empowerment. I welcome the opportunity to mentor and consult with leaders who are on the journey toward more empowering and participatory forms of leadership.
Feedback is an important aspect of personal transformation. It is often a necessary prerequisite for seeking coaching or leadership development training. Until we see ourselves as others see us it can be difficult to change. Feedback is also important for recognizing the fruits of personal development work. Sometimes it is easier to see the journey ahead than to recognize and celebrate the progress that has been made.
360 Degree Assessments are a tool for obtaining and using feedback. The process is to design an instrument to assess specific behaviors, to anonymously get feedback from colleagues, to compile this feedback into themes and to present it to the individual in a setting that encourages receptivity. There are skills and processes that can increase the success of each step in the process.
I have training in the development of relevant 360 Degree Assessments, I have access to a software tool that administers the assessment and protects anonymity and I use my coaching and communication skills to develop and deliver the assessment report. A 360 Degree Assessment can be used for individual professional development, used as an intervention with a “problem employee” or used as a first step in a coaching process. A follow-up assessment can also be conducted during or at the end of a coaching or development process to assess progress. My approach is to begin with an understanding of the organizational and individual goals and then to develop a customized assessment to address these goals.
Sometimes a person can just feel stuck in anticipation of a life choice or approaching change. They are not interested in leadership coaching but just need some help discerning life direction or next steps. In addition to listening and holding space for a discernment process, I am also trained and certified to host The Flow Game. The Flow Game is a process designed as a board game that creates a space for individual and collective consciousness and intelligence to emerge through reflection, dialogue and interactive learning.
The Flow Game is played around a game board in groups of between 4-6 players and is hosted by a flow host. The game is often used in guiding a group in determining a direction or path but it is also useful for individual discernment.
As an individual discernment process, The Flow Game can be played by a person and a group of trusted friends with a focus on his/her question. In this process, the entire focus of the game would be on this individual’s question. It is also possible to use the flow game with a group of individuals who are each looking at their own question. In this case, the game allows everyone to provide input to each other as the group listens to the wisdom of the game.