This post is an ad, of sorts, for Lisa’s Coach to Thrive program, a two-day leadership coaching workshop being offered this month and next:
We created this workshop for leaders who are tired of spending their days in the weeds and fixing all their team’s problems. We invite you— leaders, managers and professionals—to join us in our cozy downtown Charlottetown space for a playful and profound two-day course. You will expand your leadership toolkit, and become more coach-like, in the company of other growth-minded leaders.
It’s an ad, but it’s a heartfelt one. Bear with me.
The circumstances that led me to Lisa Chandler were, as many things are these days, coloured by COVID. We “met” in early December, but our relationship was entirely textual until we met face-to-face two weeks later. As it happened, I had a counselling appointment three days before that first face-to-face meeting and my counsellor, upon hearing the news that I’d met Lisa, and that Lisa works as a leadership coach, smiled a Cheshire cat smile.
What she suspected then, and what I know now, is that Lisa’s belief in and professional practice of coaching is built atop uncommonly deep skills in communication, openness, vulnerability, self-awareness; the components of ”the inner game.”
My counsellor may have grinned; on my side of the conversation I remained daunted by the prospect of dating someone with inner-game-juju: what if, using her “magic leadership radar,” she could see things I couldn’t, resulting in a lopsided coupling where I was the emotional dullard and she the emotional savant.
I need not have feared.
What I have learned in the last year could fill a book: Lisa and I, together, and not lopsidedly, have crafted—are crafting—a relationship that’s built on these “inner game” foundations. We talk. A lot. About our relationship. About how we’re feeling. About how we’re feeling about how we’re feeling. We chart and conspire and conjure. I have, along the way, learned the vocabulary of coaching, of conscious leadership, and that has helped me evolve, as a leader and as a parent and as a partner.
Lisa, for example, often talks of the notion of being “below the line” — at the effect of circumstances, defensive, blaming — vs. being “above the line” — curious, open, learning, taking responsibility — and how life is a dance above and below and above and below, and how it’s not such much that we’re one or the other that’s the most important thing as it is knowing where we sit.
I woke up in a good mood yesterday, on top of the world, relatively speaking.
And then I encountered Olivia: “I’m cold and I’m tired,” she complained.
In real time I could feel myself sinking below the line, feeling at the effect of her mood and her protest.
“Fuck, not this again,” I told myself.
I stayed there for awhile, feeling like the day was going to be a write-off: Olivia would stay home for the day, I’d feel trapped by my parenting circumstances, and things, yet again, would be off the rails.
But I didn’t stay there.
I got curious.
I gave Olivia space, and then teased out of her that it wasn’t so much that she wasn’t feeling well, but that she was worried about what would happen if she wasn’t feeling well. She was worried about going to her day program, lapsing into the illness she’s just kicked, and being paralyzed by her inability to communicate this to her support workers. Knowing that, we texted her workers to let them know about this fear, and that she might need to rest and take breaks through the day.
Olivia calmed down. I calmed down. The morning proceeded smoothly for both of us.
I could have stayed below the line, railed against my circumstances, stayed in a funk, fought with Olivia. But I didn’t, and it was only by following my curiosity that I was able to get there.
It turns out that coupling with someone with a strong inner game is a good starting point for strengthening my own inner game, an inner game that circumstances have asked a lot of in recent years, an inner game that’s been pummelled from many sides and that needed some new colours.
I come from a school of Generation X upper-middle-class white men who were raised to think rather than feel, to play the hand we were dealt, to power through adversity, to confront difficult situations by simply saying “well, he’s an idiot, so there’s no point in dealing with him.” The notion that there was a thing called “personal development,” that we could grow our game, get better at things by looking inside, that was tantamount to woo woo sorcery. I’m fortunate that adversity has loaned me the capability to see beyond those limitations: I’ve learned to seek help, from counsellors, coaches, friends, neighbours, strangers. I’ve learned that thing that Lisa calls the “inner game” is malleable, capable of evolving.
So, Coach to Thrive.
I’ve been privileged to watch Lisa and her coaching partner Julie Ann develop this new program from the ground up, distilling what they’ve learned about taking a “coach-like” approach to leadership into a compact, focused two-day workshop for leaders in business, government, and non-profits.
It feels weird to write “hey, you should go to my girlfriend’s leadership workshop,” as I am anything but an unbiased actor. But, if you’re in a leadership role, and you want to get better at it, I can think of no better investment of your time and money than taking two days in November or December to step away from your desk and focus on your inner game with the help of Lisa and Julie Ann.