Lighten Up and Let Go as Coach

Thoughts from a Mentor Coach

Coaching requires for me a deep shifting of gears which in turn means letting go on several levels. Letting go can have a positive impact for me, as well as the client.

  • Letting go of my language in favor of the client’s language
  • Letting go of what I know in favor of what the client knows and/or is learning
  • Letting go of my “expert of content” for my “expert in process”
  • Letting go of my left brain dominated preferences
  • Letting go of one of my favorite places to hang-out, my head, for being in my heart
  • Letting go of saying everything that comes to mind in favor of a succinct sliver that resonates with where the client is
  • Letting go of trying to get there – my perception of a problem to be solved or even my client’s agenda – in favor of sensing what is trying to be revealed.
  • Letting go of my “need” to be right

As coach, what would you add to this list?

How to Select Your Ideal Mentor Coach

Co-Authored by Sandra Jones, PCC, and Fran Fisher, MCC

Working with a mentor coach takes one part courage and two parts commitment.   When you are ready to make the investment in notching up your confidence, sharpening your edges, or improving on the art and science of your coaching skills, hire a mentor coach.

For the best possible outcome from your mentor relationship here are seven guidelines:

  1. Know your strengths. What aspects of your coaching do you feel confident about and  have consistently received positive feedback on? What skills do you want to strengthen?  This clarity will empower you and your mentor coach with a strong foundation for learning.
  2. Find a mentor with proven expertise. Mentors who regularly serve the ICF Community by assessing candidates for a certificate are likely to meet your expertise criteria. Look for coaches experienced in delivering feedback, such as a faculty member of an accredited school.  For ICF’s full qualifications for a mentor, go to
  3. Seek a good match. Pay attention to how a mentor coach describes their mentoring services. Look for testimonials. Interview the prospective mentor and, if possible, one or two of their clients. Share your list of criteria with a prospective mentor and ask how they see themselves helping you reach your goals. There is something to be said about hiring someone who matches your style. However, years ago, I hired a mentor coach who had a very different coaching style. My motivation was to expand my own depth and breadth of skills, and I did.
  4. Find a compatible feedback style. Let your prospective mentor know the style of feedback that works best for you. If after you are working with a mentor for a session or two and their feedback style isn’t working for you, ask to review the feedback process in terms of what’s working and what isn’t working for you.
  5. Would a one-on-one or a group experience work best for you? Sometimes we cannot see/hear things about our own coaching but when we hear the same behavior patterns in others, we can see the need to change and then have a safe laboratory to test our new approaches among colleagues.  As of 2012, ICF now allows for seven of your ten required hours to be in a group setting.
  6. Consider working with more than one mentor. Some people want to broaden their experience of different listening styles or different feedback styles.  Consider this: If you are fulfilling the ICF requirement for a minimum of ten hours of mentored coaching, consider hiring two mentor coaches for five hours each.
  7. Leverage your learning process. Ask your prospective mentor about any specific tools they may use.  Ideally your mentor coach will provide a variety of approaches: written feedback and oral feedback on your recorded or live coaching with your own clients, coaching you and debriefing your learning, or having you coach the mentor and receive feedback.  Most empowering is a mentor who asks you to reflect on your own strengths and opportunities for improvement, so you develop the habit of self-assessment.

Working with a mentor coach takes one part courage and two parts commitment. By reading this article you are well on your way to demonstrating the courage and commitment to have a successful and rewarding mentoring experience.

Shrink Your Saboteur, Strengthen Your Sage

Ever feel like you are missing the mark and not really sure why? Like most people on the planet you just might have a saboteur at work that undermines you. The Saboteur is a fear-based aspect of the mind that prevents us from reaching our goals. Saboteurs are tricky parts of us that are often hard to recognize. According to author and researcher Shirzad Chamine, Saboteurs show up as one of nine forms such as the Judge, Avoider, Pleaser, Victim, Controller, etc. Below are ways to break through the impact of your Saboteurs undermining chatter and realize more of your potential.

Saboteurs can be subtle, and I can testify that they often take over before you realize it. In fact, that is why you haven’t heard from me via this blog for a few weeks! One of my own personal versions of the Saboteur is the Avoider. If I avoid doing something, I won’t fail. I’ll be better off. Right?! Well, not quite, you missed a potentially wise and witty blog post thanks to the “Avoider tugging at my leg.

The opposite of the Saboteur is the Sage. Ladies, don’t you love it! Most of us at this stage of life yearn to experience our Sage, and here are strategies to strengthen it. As you implement each strategy, you raise what Shirzad Chamine calls your Positive Intelligence. Here are the strategies.

Let’s start with Weakening the Saboteur.

You may already have an idea of what your key saboteurs are. If so, that’s a great start because each time you recognize a saboteur, you have a chance to diminish it. One way to do this is by connecting to your five senses. For example: Breathe, and then feel the weight of your feet on the ground. Or, listen to the sounds coming from outside your window. Each of these simple acts begins to shrivel the Saboteur and bring you back to a conscious state for making an effective decision.

A second strategy is to build the Sage. In his book* Shirzad provides five difference approaches you can use to build your Sage, and the one that helps me with my Avoider is The Empathizer. When I encounter conflict, my Avoider wants to run away. If I see that person as a five year old just trying to be heard, then I can empathize with that person. As I call on my Sage she appears and embraces both my perceived attacker and my Avoider. I come back to my center and can make more effective choices.

Both of these strategies use the muscle of the part of the brain that provides Positive Intelligence. You can build this muscle for shriveling the Saboteur and strengthening the Sage by shifting to your senses and using empathy.

So, this week:

– Check out your Saboteurs via the 5 minute assessment at then

-Begin to shrivel your
saboteur and realize MORE of your potential!

– Dive deeper into
Shirzad’s work in his book:
*Positive Intelligence: Why Only 20% of Teams
and Individuals Achieve Their True Potential and How YOU CAN ACHIEVE YOURS

More Good News on Aging and the Brain

About a month ago when I decided I wanted to know more about my memory and the brain, the lights started going on. Previously I was not really aware that aging doesn’t naturally mean decline in brain function. Genes do play a role, and there is scientific proof that we can improve brain function even as we age. Scientists now know that the aging brain continues to have a remarkable ability to grow, adapt, and change patterns of connection. We can improve our brain function with exercise, healthy eating, and learning new skills and information.

Another critical component of having a healthy brain is making sure that the nerve cells which send information through-out the brain are used and nurtured. Previously I had heard that it was all about doing cross-word puzzles, reading, and keeping good company so that my mind is engaged. Now, I am learning there is a whole new area of science to be considered called Neurobics*.

Neurobics is purposefully named to bring forth the association of aerobics physical exercise. Like swimming uses many different muscle groups to make the body more fit over all, Neurobics takes that approach with the brain. Neurobics makes the brain more agile and flexible overall so that it can take on any mental challenge, whether it be memory, task performance or creativity. Neurobics success is not just dependent on how we work the brain but takes advantage of the way the brain naturally works.

Try a neurobic exercise this week, step in and out of the shower with the opposite foot than the one you normally use. Let me know your experience through comments on this blog next week.

Stay tuned there will be more easy ways to stimulate your brain’s function.

Brain Fog, No Way!

During January I noticed serious brain fog — misplacing keys, my cell phone, even forgetting an appointment. A rather scary experience when I’m used to a brain that serves me well. Given the myths on aging, I thought I had perhaps hit some serious undertow of that process. What I decided was that I wasn’t willing to have the brain fog continue.

My intent was clear — good brain functioning. Health has always been a key priority, however, frankly, I had not thought specifically about brain health. Then synchronicity showed up. I got home from church one Sunday, and it was raining hard so instead of a brisk walk I began to prepare lunch.  Surprisingly for me midday, I turned to a PBS.  A wiry, animated fellow was on the screen. When I heard him listing depression, anxiety and injury as major contributors to poor brain health he had my attention.

An hour later, I knew much more about the brain . Today thanks to recent medical research including that of Dr. Daniel Amen, the man I had been watching, we know much more about the brain than we did even ten years ago . Three things stood out to me:

  1. Keeping one’s brain healthy can slow down the aging process.
  2. Brain health, like overall health, depends in part on healthy eating and exercise.
  3. Stress and depression can both significantly impair the brain’s function.

When a brain scan is used aging can be detected. People who have been addicted to a toxic substance, for example, have much older looking brains. Do you remember seeing the fried egg ads that were meant to scare teens from drugs? Turns out they were not far frrom the truth.*

The good news is that we have much more power to affect good brain health and add to the quality and length of our lives. Over the next three weeks I will explore how to keep your brain healthy.

In the meantime, tune into how your brain is functioning. What contributes to clear thinking and what scrambles it, and share your discoveries as comments to this blog.

* If you are curious what toxic substances, be they drugs or excessive exposure to lead paint, can do to the brain, check-out Dr. Amen’s website.

What Can I Count on You For?

How many times a day do you extend your hand to greet someone? What if each time you extended your hand you were also reminding yourself of your Dependable Strengths.

Strengths Shared

Strengths that if you choose, you could put to work for a new friend, an employer, your family?  For years as a coach I have looked for and helped others find their strengths, but not until this weekend did I see the full power of that information.

Most of the time, we look for our strengths when we are eager to get clear on, What can I count on myself for?—What can an employer count on me for? Five of us came together to do the Bernard Haldane, Dependable Strengths course this last weekend. I came because I wanted to know how to more confidently market myself and describe what I am good at. Others came because they wanted to get a new job in a new field or to be able to compete more efffectively in a tough job market. Several of us walked away with increased self-confidence and clarity on what we’re good at “in our bones.”

Bernard Haldane founded the Dependable Strengths program shortly after the end of World War II when thousands were returning home and needed jobs. What Haldane discovered was a series of steps that when taken would put participants back in touch with skills that might have gotten covered over with job titles or being pigeon holed into job that one is good at but really doesn’t like. Job titles and experiences are something external. Dependable Strengths, by contrast, are internal they are an inseparable part of you like the fingers of your hand. They all have these uniting characteristics:

  • It’s inner motivated
  • In the past you used it often
  • You have to have it in your ideal future
  • You enjoy it
  • It shows up in your top Good Experiences

The older we get, the more jobs we’ve had, doesn’t mean we get clearer about our Dependable Strengths. Some of the things we are really good at may not be a dependable strength because they don’t meet that above criteria.

So, if you are curious and/or unsure about your Dependable Strengths, here are two colleagues who currently are trained to offer these workshops: Irene Myers and Fran Fisher.

In the meantime, you can begin to journal about times when you have had a good experience regardless of the time in your life or whether you were formally on a job or not. Use the above criteria, and notice how enjoyable recalling those times can be. With some effort, you can indeed discover what you can be counted on for, and more importantly what you can count on yourself for!

Lenten Tools for Success III

As a young adult, I never liked being called a sinner, I really didn’t think it was true. My perspective has changed over the years. I have come to realize that there are definitely times when I’ve made choices that were out of alignment with my higher self and with God. Forgiveness is a way for me to get into better alignment. Lent can be a time to remember the power of forgiveness.

Several faiths focus on the importance of forgiveness. In the case of Judisam the faithful are asked to address where they are out of alignment, to get back into alignment and to forgive themselves and others in the process.  When a Jewish person is asking for forgiveness from another, they are to do so in person whenever possible. 

Forgiveness may involve dealing with a “hot fire,” requiring a truce flag!


One of the places I was out-of-alignment was with a relative who was a close childhood friend. I deserted her emotionally at a time when she needed support from all her loved ones.  I have owned up to my part of the falling out, and I have asked forgiveness. She has not responded.

What I have learned about forgiveness is:

  •   I can ask for it and I can grant it. I do have a part, an important part.
  •   I cannot control the outcome. No matter how much I may want to be forgiven, my desires are only part of the equation.
  • Grace provides the healing salve. Grace opens hearts and minds that I cannot reach.

Doreen Virtue, Ph.D, suggests, “Forgiveness does not mean, ‘What you did is okay to me.’ It simply means, ‘I am no longer willing to carry around pain in response to your actions.’ When we withhold forgiveness in our hearts, we only punish ourselves, after all.” What this means for me is that when I give forgiveness, I am freed up.

So, what can you let go of or forgive today?

Who or what will support you in taking that action?


Structures for Success – Part II

Just two days after writing last week’s post, a prayer was answered. Nothing like a little success with a structure to reaffirm your commitment to use it! My suggestion last week was to use Lenten structures such as prayer, fasting and forgiveness as powerful practices to deepen our connection with Spirit/God and successfully make changes.

Here is the second Lenten practice that can strengthen your chances of success.

Fasting– Are you saying “no, not me?!!” If so, I can relate. However last November, I was feeling stuffed like a turkey so I decided to do something about it. I came away with a renewed appreciation for the impact this practice can have on one’s well-being.

Making Healthy Choices

I took four days to fast, used only water, lemon juice and honey. Sure during the first day there was minor protesting of my mind and body.  However, by the end of the fourth day all I was left with was a sence of pride and feeling great. With prayerful support I had cleansed my body and dramatically improved my taste buds.

What could fasting do for you?

Check here next week to learn about the third practice.

Structures for Successful Change

Structures like a checklist can help us do what we say we want to do. Both with clients and personally I use forms to track progress and improve performance. Another powerful structure that I have used personally is Lent. Lent is the season prior to Easter in which Christians take time to prepare for the miracle and celebration of Easter.

Like any structure, Lent is there to help you do things differently. Lent, for me, is to deepen my faith and change unwanted habits and ways of thinking.  By taking consistent action, my intention is not only to change but to enhance my chances of transforming. I remember one year when at the beginning of Lent I was having difficulty in letting go of an unhealthy relationship with a man. Through using prayer/affirmation, forgiveness and therapeutic dance I did change. At the end of the traditional 46 days of Lent, I was freed up, more self loving and no longer obsessing over “the man.”

One additional powerful aspect of Lent is you join millions of others who are similarly committed to enhancing their relationship with the Divine.

Typically three practices that are used in the Christian Lent are: prayer, fasting and forgiveness.  Over this week and next, I will share thoughts on what the benefits of each might be for you.

Prayer – I pray regularly, day and night. Others may use affirmations. I increase the chances of powerful change by adopting formal prayers during this season. An effective resource that I have found is “Daily Meditations and Practices, A Season for Nonviolence.”

Renew your prayer life over the next 44* days. Regardless of your faith, creating consciousness around your prayer and meditation can heighten your chances of manifesting the results you desire.

*Lent began on Wednesday, 2-22-12.


A glow filled the room as a procession of women dressed in shimmering orange, pink and white garments entered. The first carried a glittering miniature tree; others followed with pink laterns. These women were part of the opening ceremony of the 20th Annual Women of Wisdom Conference. As the procession entered the room the large group that surrounded them chanted “It is our time to be heard.”

Jean Shinoda Bolen well-known and respected author, Jungian Analyst and activist is one of the keynoters of the conference.  Jean consistently writes and speaks boldly on what gives us life and meaning.


Do what you love

“Activism and individuation

(to find a meaningful, inner directed, chosen life-path) come together when the choices we make express who we are. There is a soul purpose to life. Be centered, and archetypes, dreams and synchronicities provide depth and direction. As one phase of life shifts into the next, energy becomes free to take on something that is personally meaningful, fun, creative and motivated by love—my definition of “assignment.”

From Jean’s experience and that of her clients she reflects that it takes courage and boldness to step out of our productivity driven culture to give oneself permission to follow one’s heart.

Synchronicity showed up as I found myself challenged to be bold by a fellow member of our church’s Social Justice Group. She had spoken several times in our group about the Seattle Police using excessive force particularly with minorities. She felt strongly that our group should be speaking out publically about it.  We encouraged her to take the lead in developing a letter. She decided to do it, and two weeks later she brought the letter to our group.

As she read the letter I was a little concerned about its tone and what impact it might have on its readers. I volunteered to help with editing if I could have some support of other colleagues more abreast of the issues. As we worked on the letter I began to think, “Have I gone over my head on this one??” I wavered with one of my predictable self-doubting voices. Then, as I remembered the women chanting, “This is our time to be heard.” I resolved to see that the letter was refined in a way that demonstrates how we would like to be treated by our police force.

Boldness won over timidity, and I am feeling an inner glow that I haven’t experienced for a while.

Who is your heart calling you to be? Or do?

What small, bold step can you take in that direction?