Leadership Coaching Tip

March 2010 / Leadership Coaching Tips

“Mindful Recycling”
by Lain Kahlstrom

Have you ever noticed yourself becoming fond of a particular idea or practice or methodology, and applying it to virtually all of your clients? I have. I’ve gone on these little ‘jags’ where, miraculously, all of my clients needed to receive the same magic elixir from me. I poured it on everyone equally, in liberal dosages. Some of the memorable ‘idea hiccups’ of my past are: enneagram work, 360 feedback surveys, movement tags, U-theory presencing, developmental stage assessments, meditation for everyone, yoga for everyone, and of course, all things Integral. It was uncanny how it seemed that all of my clients fit into my current interests, needed to read the latest book I read, and they would benefit from my most recent learnings!

When I initially caught on to my patterns, I was embarrassed. I was thanking the greater sources in the universe that my clients don’t talk to each other and compare notes! I thought of the great teachers I’d witnessed—they didn’t seem to have just one magic elixir at a time, they seemed to pull from an endless pool of resources…do they ever recycle an idea?? How can they remember and keep accessible all of their learnings over the course of decades?

I sheepishly started asking my teachers and fellow practitioners for ideas. Almost all admitted their own experience with ‘idea hiccups’. Yes, they assured me, this is a common phenomenon, and it’s not just a newbie error. Even long-term coaches are not immune from attractive influences shading several conversations at once. Alright, but what can be done about it? This is certainly a pathology of some sort, right? I felt myself contracting even more. When I could hear again, the offered wisdom was plentiful.

First, some ideas are worth wide distribution and re-use. How many clients do we have who wouldn’t benefit from regular self-observation and meditation habits? Some of these ideas are the cornerstone of our coaching work; if it’s an integral part of what you offer, it probably should be offered widely.

Secondly, I was delighted to find come of my colleagues creating and maintaining inventories of resources. Some were technology-rich databases full of books, poems, songs, ideas, movies with short descriptions of the resource and when it might be appropriate to recommend. I saw one colleague’s inventory: a decidedly low-tech collection of sticky notes in a drawer. Some groups of colleagues shared resources amongst themselves; if one read a book or saw a movie that might be worthwhile, they wrote up synopses and shared it with peers. They also regularly share or re-teach what they’ve learned at conferences or classes to keep everyone’s coffers full, and they tap each other for case-and design- reviews.

Some of my colleagues discussed their habits of self-reflecting and writing after each coaching session. They ask and answer: what happened? What was I thinking, feeling? What went well? What might I do differently if similar circumstances came up again? How might the client debrief about this session in an unguarded moment? What was I drawn to offering this client, and what didn’t I offer? Not only does this habit enhance our learning as coaches in the moment, but also re-reading these entries at later intervals can keep ideas and resources close at hand.

Lastly, a message I heard repeatedly: Have a sense of humor about it. It *is* funny when we get enamored this way. We humans are an intriguing bunch, and the more we can stay in our levity about our foibles and fascinations, the more ease we will have with who we are and what we bring. And what we bring will be far richer.

Recycle away! Recycle mindfully! And recycle with humor.

About the Author

Lain Kahlstrom, PCC, is the founder of LK Leadership Development, a consulting company focused on developing transformative leadership skills through executive coaching and training programs. Using an Integral approach, LK designs and delivers comprehensive programs to develop leadership talent and produce positive changes in business behavior and results. Lain’s expertise is based on 19 years as a consultant, corporate trainer and technology manager, where she built her reputation training and consulting in a wide range of organizations, particularly in higher education. She is a recognized expert in the field of adult development, and is a Professionally Certified Coach (PCC) through New Ventures West.

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