Brave Journey, a Reflection on 2016

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared tow hat lies within us. Ralph Waldo Emersson

In 2016, I had the privilege of being in coaching relationship with one brave soul after another. Together, we experienced the incredible freedom that comes only in the tailwind of a great act of personal courage. Similar to the aerial dancer who flies from one tethered safety line to the next, these acts of courage often contain a breathtaking “no hands!” moment.

Photo by Sonia Cirse

Photo by Sonia Cirse. Edited by De Yarrison.

Growing forward always involves that confronting moment when we know we can no longer hold onto what’s been. We must let go of “the way it is,” leave our comfort zone, and take an untethered step out in the direction of what will be now. The vulnerability of that moment gives life to strength and courage that we may not have known we possess. How exhilarating!

I am grateful and blessed to have supported leaders journeying into and through that bold moment this past year! I’ve summarized below accounts describing some of the terrain we’ve crossed together and the essential shifts that resulted. I hope you will be as inspired as I am to get a glimpse of what’s possible!

We bravely faced our fears of failure and admitted our over-controlling behaviors.

Situation: A client was stuck in unproductive thought patterns and behavior patterns towards co-workers and direct reports.
Shift: recognizing and releasing self-judgments and unrealistic self-expectations. Learning to relate with compassion and acceptance towards oneself, which naturally led to relating more compassionately towards others. This has fostered more positivity, trust, and openness in relationships (both at work and at home).

We bravely faced self-imposed conditions and limits on one’s worthiness, i.e.: “I’m not valuable unless…” “If I don’t do _____, then _____ will happen.”

Situation: A client and small business owner was overwhelmed with busyness and exhaustion, which was taking a toll in important relationships.
Shift: Recognizing the fears that were driving behavior (fear of disapproval, of not getting things done, of failing). Shifting the inner conversation from one that placed conditions on self-worth, to one that is self-supportive and self-accepting. This is leading to the ability to honor one’s own needs and take better care of oneself physically and emotionally.

We bravely faced the uncomfortable truth that how we are regarding ourselves and our performance is not the way others’ may perceive us.

Situation: a leader was unknowingly perceived by peers as territorial, defensive, and lacking confidence.
Shift: Took responsibility to be intentional about one’s presence and one’s impact on others. Began asking the question: how do I want to BE in this meeting / conversation / relationship? And then self-managed thoughts, words and actions to make that so.

We bravely faced the incredible dichotomy of letting go of control in order to experience peace-of-mind.

Situation: a client was faced with life-changing circumstances that were neither desirable nor within her control.
Shift: Discovered deep inner strength, enabling a rich journey through frustration, fear, anger, and sadness into acceptance and hope in new possibilities.

Wow, huh!? Do you see yourself in any of the situations described above? There are typically common themes surrounding our individual stories.

Onward! 2017 with Intention

At the end of every day, we have a story to tell. We write that story moment-to-moment, through every decision made, each word uttered into our relationships, and how we choose to see or regard the people in our lives. In the situations above, change happened because individuals were ready to honestly look at the current story they were existing within. And upon realization that the story was not one they wished to continue, they tore off a fresh sheet of paper and began drafting the next chapter by reflecting on questions such as these:

What comfort zone am I hanging out in that is no longer serving me?
What unhelpful or unproductive thoughts am I giving my mental energy to?
What have I been tolerating that it is time to say no to?
What positive qualities am I ready to own and to express freely?
What must this next chapter of my story include? What are my non-negotiables? (i.e.: higher priority on my physical health, more authenticity or speaking what is true for me, invest more of myself into my relationships, practices that enhance my peace-of-mind, etc.)
When I look back on my work and life in 3-months, 6-months, etc. what do I want to see? How do I want to feel?

How about you? What are you ready to invite more of in your life this year? What is the untethered step awaiting you? I would be honored to support you as you ready yourself for that bold moment! Here’s to a courageous 2017 together!

All best wishes,

Click here to find out more about coaching with De.

The WHATs and HOWs of Leadership

leadership is an art
With regard to leadership development, I’ve become fond of telling my clients that all the low-hanging fruit has been picked by now. The world is full of 3-step processes, leadership style assessments, how-to books, and nothing else new under the sun. And the search continues for that leadership “magic bullet.”

I believe there are two undeniable aspects to becoming a truly great leader. And neither is easy, quick, or discovered by looking to external resources (i.e.: there is no magic bullet). Which is precisely what makes truly great leadership so elusive. It’s 100% dependent on you. And on me.

“If we really want to understand what leadership looks like, we need to look in the mirror.” – Richard Dillard

The Undeniable

Humanity. Leaders are human beings who are in a position to influence, guide, and inspire other human beings. We will never become a truly great leader until we become truly comfortable with this notion of humanity. Human beings come with free will, independent minds, emotions, personal desires, and a set of fundamental needs including acceptance, validation, and understanding.
As leaders will find out, human beings resist being controlled. Human beings are naturally creative beings. Resourceful beings, who thrive when asked to participate, to share their perspective, and when listened to. This does not bode well for ‘leadership’ that simply seeks employee obedience and adherence.

Attend to our HOW. Any leadership process involves 2 key components. There’s the task. The WHAT. A focus on the tactical: What are we doing? When are we doing it? Who is taking what step; who is performing which task.

And there’s the relationship. The HOW. How I am relating with you while we’re working on the task? How am I BEing? How is the quality of my presence? Of my listening? How am I inviting your opinions, concerns, questions and how am I addressing them?

Becoming a truly great leader means realizing that our HOW makes or breaks our WHAT. You may have experienced a scenario like this…the leadership team spent much time and energy creating a thoroughly planned out WHAT (a process re-design, a new marketing campaign, a change in a role or responsibilities, etc). Leadership communicates the new WHAT to team members through email. Individuals interpret what they’re reading in numerous and various ways, based on their individual filters and priorities. Rather than fostering a sense of curiosity and engagement about the new WHAT, we are now facing a sense of resistance and skepticism.

A poor HOW will undermine the best WHAT every time.

What comprises a poor HOW?

  • Poor quality of presence; that is: being in a hurry, being overly task-focused and inattentive towards people (glossing over or avoiding their concerns), coming off as inauthentic, having a judgmental or close-minded presence, feeling frustrated, etc.
  • Communication that tells, explains, justifies and does not inquire into others’ concerns, interpretations, needs.
  • Poor quality of listening. As Stephen Covey said “Most of us listen with the intent to reply, not with the intent to understand.”
  • Little or no attention on HOW people are feeling about the WHAT that’s been communicated.

So, what do we do? Or, perhaps a better question and in keeping with the theme of this post – How do we BE? I’d like to offer a few practical ideas or remedies for each of the “pitfalls” above.

  1. Pay attention to your presence FIRST. Our doing always flows from our being. Meaning if I am feeling rushed or frustrated, it will be nearly impossible for others to believe that I am open to their concerns or willing to take time for their needs. I wrote this post, which delves deeper into how to attend to our Leadership Presence.The post concludes with an exercise and an audio download for you.
  2. Ensure your communication involves plenty of listening. It’s been said that we have 2 ears and 1 mouth because we are meant to listen twice as much as we speak. I encourage my coachees to develop a habit of asking a question after each statement they make. For example:
    I’d like to talk with you about revising our process of _____ / adjusting the way we handle _____. When would be a good time for you?
  3. If the WHAT involves a change to something existing, be sure to share the reasoning behind the change and any back-story from your own personal perspective. Rather than saying, “Leadership has decided…” try “Joe, Sue, Sally, and I got together to look at the way we’ve been handling ______. We’ve had some concerns because the current process does / doesn’t _______. We thought if we could come up with a way to ______ that it might have a big impact on ______. Here’s what we’ve been bouncing around… OR Here’s what we’d like to try…”
  4. After sharing details around the WHAT, be prepared to spend time listening! Take the time right then and there to listen to how your communication was interpreted and to clarify any misunderstandings. Remember, the other human beings involved are hearing your words through their very individual filters. A misunderstanding or disparate interpretation does not mean someone is WRONG. It simply means someone is HUMAN and has a different brain/mind than you do.
  5. Conclude the conversation by placing your attention on the person him or herself.
    • What are you sensing in their facial expressions? Their body language? Let them know what you sense. “I’m sensing some hesitancy. Would you like to tell me about your concerns?”
    • Ask a question to get a sense of how they are feeling and where they are in that moment: “I realize this is a lot to consider. How is this landing for you?
    • Just listen and acknowledge how they feel. Don’t try to explain anything or talk them out of their feelings. Your sincere presence and authentic caring here go a very long way in building trust as well as commitment.
    • Ask a question that leads to a plan and mutual understanding for how you will both move forward: How can I support you as we take the next steps to move this forward?

Grab our download with a few sample questions to get you started:
effective questions download button
In closing, I’d like to suggest two resources that are helping others to humanize their leadership:

      1. Leadership and Self Deception by the Arbinger Group. Required reading for all of our clients. Click the book icon below to go to Arbinger’s website where you can learn more about this important topic,  read their white papers, and/or purchase their publications.
        Leadership and Self-Deception
      2. Take a look into our Essential Leadership Coaching Groups. Ten group coaching sessions, two one-on-one coaching sessions, curriculum designed to deepen self-awareness, excavate unhelpful thought patterns, develop greater interest in and keen awareness of others’ needs, and to provide instruction in areas including: emotional intelligence, listening fully for increased trust and engagement, question-asking to eliminate misunderstandings, mis-alignments, and wasted time, and taking action from a responsive – rather than reactive – mindset.
        Groups begin February 22, 2016. Each group is limited to 5 members. Click the graphic below to learn more…
        essential leadership button for homepage

With best wishes,

The Truth of Sufficiency

beauty of sufficiency smaller

In one of my women’s coaching groups last week, we opened up the topic of “I am not enough.”  “I am not enough” is a message of “The Lie of Scarcity.” The lie of scarcity tells us we are not enough: not pretty enough, fast enough, productive enough, don’t have enough money, don’t have enough time, didn’t get enough sleep, on and on and on. And, let’s remember, this is a LIE. Author, speaker, and activist, Lynne Twist writes about 3 myths of scarcity in her book, The Soul of Money. The three myths are:

Scarcity Myth #1: There’s not enough. Not enough to go around. Not everyone can make it. Someone will be left out. What’s one of the first games we learn as children? Musical chairs. Someone will be left out – there’s not enough chairs for everyone. We’ve defined our world, and ourselves, as deficient, as lacking.

Scarcity Myth #2: More is better. More of anything is better than what we have. Wherever we are, it’s not enough because more is always better. More Is Better drives competition, accumulation, acquisition, greed, heightens fears and quickens the pace. And none of it makes life more valuable.

More Is Better distracts us from living more mindfully & richly with what we have. We miss or overlook our immeasurable inner gifts. All the great spiritual teachings tell us to look inside to find the wholeness, the fulfillment we crave.

Scarcity Myth #3: That’s just the way it is. And there is no way out: There’s not enough, more is definitely better, and the people who have more are always people other than us. That’s just the way it is can leave us feeling helpless, hopeless, and cynical.

We must let go of “that’s just the way it is,” even if just for a moment to consider there is no “way it is” or “way it isn’t. There is only the way we choose to think & act and relate with our circumstances.

It’s important for us to understand and be able to separate these myths from what’s REAL FOR US. From what is internal, authentic, and aligned – the Truth of Who We Are. Our Truth lies in Sufficiency. Sufficiency – what a beautiful word! Enough. You are enough. I am enough. I have enough. God is always enough.

Sufficiency resides inside each one of us. It is not a measure of more than enough. Sufficiency is not a quantity or an amount at all. Sufficiency is a consciousness, an intentional choosing of how we will relate with the circumstances of our life. Sufficiency is engaging in life from a sense of our own wholeness. Lynne Twist writes, “I suggest there is enough in nature, in human nature, and in the relationships we share with one another to have a prosperous, fulfilling life, no matter who you are or where you are in the spectrum of resources.”

I created a 2 ½ day women’s retreat which looks in depth at the topics of Shame*, Scarcity, and most importantly, Sufficiency.

More to come about my retreats, along with the Fall/Winter retreat schedule.  For now, please know that your Truth resides in Sufficiency, not in Scarcity. Spend time each day noticing where you are/when you are indeed enough – because I am 100% certain that you are.


* Scarcity – I’m not enough – is at the root of a deep emotion called Shame. Shame goes deeper than a feeling of failing at what I do. Shame is a nagging sense of failing at who I am. And shame seems to be the universal companion of women.  A great book on the topic of shame, scarcity, and sufficiency is by Brene Brown, “I thought it was just me, but it isn’t. Making the journey from “what will people think” to “I am enough.” That title says it all, huh!?)



Change starts with confusion

One constant we can always count on is that life will not remain constant for long. Here are a few of the transitions happening in my world at the moment:

  • My kids’ school year has ended
  • My church Pastor is retiring at the end of June (yay for him, sad for me)
  • My husband just started a new job
  • My little sister turned 40 yesterday! (Yikes, I feel old).
  • My niece is having a baby.

I’m sure you have a list of changes or transitions occurring in your world too. Life is not a static event, is it?

Change is inevitable. Change is also often associated with words like: hard, difficult, stressful. Have you noticed this? Our human brains like predictability and familiarity. And when we encounter the inevitable uncertainty and unpredictability of change, our mind works to make sense of the new feelings, new faces, new structure.

I watched this process unfold within my 8-year-old son recently. Several days in a row, in the midst of any random activity (dinner, homework, playing with his sister), he started crying. When I asked him what happened or what was wrong he said, “I don’t know. I just feel so sad.”  So I cuddled him up and sat with him through his sadness and tears.

It took me a few days of this to realize that his tears and sadness were a reaction to the impending end of the school year. And while, of course, he could not wait for summer vacation and for school to be over, this presented him with a lot of uncertainty. For the past 180 days (not counting weekends and holidays) his daily doings were structured for him. Full of predictable patterns, events, & people.

Here’s the “so what.” Even when the change is something we’re looking forward to (summer vacation), our organism still has a reaction to “different.” Our reactions might include discomfort, concern, worry, fear, as well as excitement and anticipation. That’s a lot of energy and emotion moving!

How about you? What is your default thinking or default reaction to ‘different’? How are you at balancing your desire for certainty with your ability to be ok in uncertainty?

As with most everything, the process begins in our own minds. Here an exercise to leave you with:

  1. Uncertainty and change = something will be different. Different is neutral. Different only becomes something other than neutral when we attach thoughts of good, bad, worry, negative, positive, etc.
  2. Tune into your inner conversation around change. What is your inner dialogue like when something unpredictable happens in your day (i.e.: something gets canceled, someone needs something that you were not planning on providing today, someone in your life has their own plan for the day that seems in conflict with your plan, etc.). Write down the words or phrases you hear yourself thinking when you are presented with change or “different”.
  3. Look at what you wrote. What impact do these words/thoughts have on your emotions, attitude, behavior? Is that impact ok with you? If it’s not, what new thoughts or words would serve you better?

With all good wishes,
De Yarrison, CPCC