#MasteryIsNotWhite: An Open Letter to the Coaching Community

Banner with images of Essence of Mastery panelists.

 

 

Last week I withdrew from the Essence of Mastery Summit, a series of interviews with Master Certified Coaches designed to illuminate the path to achieving that credential from the International Coach Federation (ICF). Here’s the backstory.

I’m waking up to the depth, breadth, and ripples of the lack of diversity in the coaching world and to my own responsibility for maintaining or disrupting that status quo.

Last year, when links to the Essence of Mastery Summit filled  my social media timelines, I was simultaneously inspired and disheartened: I was inspired by the idea of making the path to and standards for coaching mastery less murky and mysterious, and I was disheartened to see that every single person on the panel was white. I shared my concern in comments calling for greater diversity in conversations about coaching mastery.

Fast forward one year.

This year, when Annie Gelfand invited me to be a speaker, I had no recollection of the lack of diversity in last year’s panel. I was touched by Annie’s vision of making mastery more accessible and understandable to coaches seeking an advanced credential. Caught up in my enthusiasm for the topic (and flattered to be invited to speak), I didn’t ask the right questions. I leapt at the chance to participate.

It wasn’t until promotional materials were released, including a banner featuring 14 white faces, that I had a “Holy sh*t, we’re all white!” moment. I contacted Annie to express my concern about the lack of diversity. She said she also was truly committed to diversity, had in fact set out to convene a diverse group for 2019, but that the persons of color she had attempted to invite either did not respond or were not comfortable speaking to the ICF Core Coaching Competencies.

I didn’t know what to do. I genuinely liked and respected Annie and valued her vision for the Summit.  Still, once I saw it, I could not ignore the fact that coaching mastery was being examined through an exclusively white, Eurocentric lens. Coaching is an international profession, yet there was not a single Filipino, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, or African coach among the presenters.

I made a deal with myself. I decided to use my place on the Summit as a means to bring awareness to the lack of diversity in the coach training and credentialing space. When I was tagged in a social media post about the Summit, I would comment that I was honored to be part of the discussion and concerned about the lack of diversity. In this way I hoped that I could support Annie while also advancing the cause of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Two things occurred that made it impossible for me to maintain this compromise.

First, on May 19th, I read that Trayvon Martin’s mother was running for a seat on the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. The next day I saw posts commemorating what would have been Michael Brown’s 23rd birthday. Suddenly, participating in an all-white Summit on coaching mastery looked like complicity in a system of white supremacy that was literally depriving people of color of their lives and liberty. Along with numerous other people of color, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown lost their lives because of the bias and oppression baked into our social order. As a beneficiary of that social order, I am responsible for redressing the evils it perpetuates.

Secondly, I learned that, in 2018, several people of color had called on Annie to address the lack of diversity on the Summit. At least one coach of color recommended two excellent courses, Hard Conversations: An Introduction to Racism and Diversity is an Asset. As far as I can tell, Annie did not take one of these courses, and lacking an education in the systemic nature of  bias and oppression and how to counteract it, Annie’s attempts to convene a diverse panel this year failed.

Having made the connection between an all-white panel on coaching mastery and the deaths of innocent young Black men and realizing that a friendly intervention last year had not been sufficient to effect change, I decided I needed to formally withdraw from the Essence of Mastery Summit.

To cultivate diversity, we need to actively examine and dismantle the system that prevents it. We must ask ourselves: What is it about coaching, coach training,  and mentoring, at least in the International Coach Federation (ICF) tradition, such that we see so little diversity in conversations about mastery?

I think there is a tendency to presume that the values, standards, and competencies we’ve developed in ICF are inherently right, complete, true. We’ve worked hard over the years to articulate them, and we are understandably protective of our work. But if you poke even a little around the edges of our in-group, you will find people of color who have been marginalized, overlooked, or excluded from the discourse about what coaching is, let alone what masterful coaching is. We created coaching and defined mastery in our own image, and now shake our heads sadly at the lack of diversity at the mastery level. We tell ourselves we would love to do better, but we just can’t because it’s too hard to find non-white master coaches.

I’ve heard from coaches of color who, surprise, surprise, have zero interest in jumping through hoops for a credential that (a) is not relevant to their clients and (b) was developed without their input and insight. Some would be up for it if there was any sense that the white majority was truly interested in what they (people of color) have to offer the profession. One of these coaches was quite advanced in the coach training and mentoring ranks before realizing that her employer (a coach training organization) did not think addressing the needs of people of color was relevant to their core mission. (This really happened. Wow.)

Changing this will require a fundamental re-examination of our claim in ICF to be arbiters of coaching excellence. To cultivate a truly diverse, inclusive, and equitable coaching community, we need to educate ourselves in the ways of systematic bias and actively work to dismantle it. It’s not enough to say, “Let’s open the doors so these other folks can be masterful coaches like us.” It’s patronizing AF to welcome people of color into coaching so that they can learn from us and not be at all curious about what they have to say that we need to hear.

Beyond diversity, equity, and inclusion to belonging. This linked post about belongingness resonated as I was reflecting on these issues. Here’s an excerpt from near the end: “The concept of belongingness goes beyond diversity and inclusion. Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance; and belongingness is being able to dance like no one is watching. Belongingness is an innate sense of psychological and emotional security that allows people to be their authentic selves and contribute in their own, unique way.”

What will it take to create a global coaching community in which every coach of every color, ability, tradition, or other dimension of human variability is challenged and supported to “coach like no one’s watching?” Because, much as I love the standards and distinctions we in the International Coach Federation (ICF) coaching community have developed over the past 25 years, to the extent that they are rooted in Whiteness rather than humanness, they do not and cannot define and contain the dance. #masteryisnotwhite

I’ll be saying more about this over the next few weeks. For now, thank you for reading. I welcome thoughtful, generative, forward looking comments and questions.

Beyond the door to coaching mastery

Beyond the door to coaching mastery

For the past several years I’ve been exploring, articulating, and deepening coaching mastery. While I’ve been coaching, training new coaches, and mentoring expert coaches on the path to greatness, I’ve reflected deeply on what makes coaching work (when it does), what makes it different from other modalities (when it is), and—most of all—what coaching reveals about being human and how we can more fully collaborate with the intelligence emergent in life to live wisely and well.

I’ve also been listening to other coaches. Some have become frustrated or jaded, even bored. Others are excited about coaching, but puzzled about how to integrate spiritual and psychological insights with what they’ve been taught they can and cannot do as coaches. In particular, coaches in the Three Principles community grapple with the “right” way to work in light of their new understanding. Do they “teach” (conventionally a no-no in ICF coaching circles) the Principles? Do they set the Principles aside at the risk of depriving clients of deeper engagement with their own wisdom? Can you be a “Three Principles Coach” and an “ICF coach” at the same time?

Rather than writing about these issues from the point of view of an expert, I’m going public with how I engage these questions in actual coaching sessions. You’re invited to join me for Without a Net, a series of three Zoom-based coaching demonstrations by yours truly followed by group reflection and discussion.

I approach these sessions as an explorer entering unknown territory, not an expert showing you what I discovered last week or last year. I’m interested in what we can see together at each fresh intersection of infinite formless possibility and finite choice. 

Dates and Times
#1: Wednesday, November 21, Noon-1:30PM PST
#2: Tuesday, November 27, Noon-1:30PM PST
#3: Wednesday, December 5, Noon-1:30PM PST

Click here to register for Without a Net. A limited number of half price tickets are available for those who cannot afford the $250 fee. Email me for a discount code.

Each Without a Net session will be 90 minutes long and will be recorded for the private use of participants. All participants are required to honor client confidentiality and to neither share nor discuss the coaching outside of the session. If you are interested in being a client for one of these sessions, email me at molly@shaboominc.com.

Love,

mollysig125

Where the heck have I been and what’s next?

Oh dear, I haven’t written a newsletter or blog post since June 3rd. That’s no way to stay connected, and I apologize if you have wondered what the heck was going on.

The simple truth is that, rather like a cat, I’ve been suiting myself, following my inclinations so long as they did not harm anyone (not that cats actually seem to worry about that), and for whatever reason, those inclinations didn’t include a newsletter or video.

It’s been a rich time filled with both work and play. I love coaching, teaching coaches, and developing coaches (aka mentoring) more than ever. I also love my life more than ever and have been blessed with deep appreciation of each moment most of the time.

How cool is that?
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I’m grateful to the readers who reached out recently to say, “what’s up? Where are you?” I feel incredibly fortunate that you are in my “reality web.” Please know that you are always welcome to reach out via email, Facebook, or any other channels that we have in common. I care about what you are up to and what you are up against. I welcome your questions, insights, and requests.

Mount Rainier seen from Sunrise

A few weeks ago The Charming Prince and I visited Sunrise Park on the slopes of Mount Rainier. This photo offers the merest glimpse of the majesty of that spectacular and holy place. I share it here as an image of the profound appreciation I feel these days for all of places in our lives and work. For whatever reason I find myself struck often by beauty and holiness, and not always in obvious places. One reason I’ve been silent these past months is that I’ve hesitated to in any way limit, constrain, or define this experience.
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Next week The Charming Prince and I are headed to Paris. I anticipate returning home with an even fuller heart and lots of energy for work. Perhaps that work will include expressing what has been unfolding in my heart through the summer and connecting it to the work we do as coaches and coach trainers. Stay tuned. ♥

The mystic’s paradox: if everything is okay, how come it looks so messed up?

Does the world need to be saved?

Julian of Norwich is fabled for saying, “All is well, and all manner of things be well.”

I’m sure she’d be delighted to know that I agree. On some cosmic level everything is magnificent, amazing, and just peachy keen.

And yet…

And yet the heart aches–and should–when children go hungry. The soul lurches and heaves and cries, “No! No! No!” when another person of color is killed in the name of law enforcement.

There is no shortage of injustice, damage, and suffering in this world of form.

Somehow we need to hold both: awareness of the perfect whole and a here-and-now response-ability to the problems around us.

Looking for leverage

I’ve sat with that paradox for many years. As my own sense of wellbeing has expanded and deepened, I’ve wondered about my responsibility (response-ability) for the wellbeing of my fellow beings.

I’ve been listening. Looking. Wondering. And I’ve been wondering about what this means for my work as well.

In a way, I think I’ve been looking for leverage, for the place where the kind of critter I am can make the greatest contribution.

And it’s looking to me like I can contribute by coaching men and women who are working on large scale world problems ranging from climate change to hunger to terrorism, helping them to tap into the creativity, resilience, courage, and wisdom they need to continue to innovate and to keep up the good work without burnout.

In the words of Mahatma Gandhi, I’m committed to helping us all be the change we want to see.

Being the change we want to see calls for a “new type of thinking”

You’ve doubtless seen variations on a statement attributed to Albert Einstein that we cannot solve a problem from the same level of consciousness that gave rise to it.

What he actually said was this:

“Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe. We scientists who released this immense power have an overwhelming responsibility in this world life-and-death struggle to harness the atom for the benefit of mankind and not for humanity’s destruction. We need two hundred thousand dollars at once for a nation-wide campaign to let people know that a new type of thinking is essential if mankind is to survive and move toward higher levels. ” (Source: New York Times – May 25 1946, p.13 – “Atomic Education Urged by Einstein”)

I believe that new type of thinking is already available, that it’s built in to the human operating system, and that learning to notice and access it is part of the creative evolutionary process.

I’m headed to Oslo to advance that process

From May 27-29 I’ll be at the One Solution Conference in Oslo Norway, at which speakers will boldly assert a single solution to the world’s challenges.

Our assertion is that the problems of humanity–-war, poverty, cultural and political conflict, terrorism, the environment, corruption, drug trafficking, gender inequality, to name just a few–derive from a single source.

What’s more, that single source can be successfully addressed with a single solution, a simple understanding of the mind.

You can get a taste of the conference at the free Wholeness Hangout on Friday

My guests for the May Wholeness Hangout, Friday, May 6, are Eirik Grunde-Olsen and Linda Pransky, two of the organizers of the One Solution Conference.

We will look at how what happens on a personal level also happens on a global level and what that implies for solving world problems. We will make the case for how insight into how the human experience is created moment to moment is the solution for producing true sustainable change.

I hope you will bring your questions and vision to the conversation.

Call and response

I don’t believe that the world needs saving so much as I sense that each of us is called to participate in the creative evolutionary process in a unique way. And this new type of thinking helps us notice how we are called and then respond in the ways that make sense for the kinds of critters we are.

I have a friend who is organizing a community based electrical power supply system. Who knew that such a thing was possible, let alone feasible? But she is doing it.

Another friend has founded a museum to foster and feature the work of regional artists.

A third friend is deeply involved in the presidential primaries, moving heaven and earth to get out the vote.

These friends are making bold, visible moves, but that’s not the only way we contribute to the unfolding process.

The most important conversation in the world

My friend Bill Cumming, founder of The Boothby Institute (another bold, visible move), is fond of saying that we can never know when the most important conversation in the world is taking place.

We may never know how the effects of a kind word, a helping hand, or even a harshly uttered course correction ripple through space and time. Small changes in initial conditions can have massive consequences.

In other words, if it moves you, do something about it. Don’t worry about how big or small it is.

I hope you can join us for Friday’s Hangout (details below). If you can’t, then I invite you to watch the replay, which will be on the same page by the following day.

Meanwhile, have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please let me know what’s in your heart by sharing it in the comments.

Love,

mollysig125

Watch where you point that thing!

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The problem of weaponized insight

A participant in the Come Alive and Do the Thing! Mastermind has a brilliant term for the use of a supposedly wise observation to critique or diminish another person: weaponized insight.

Don’t you love it?

At first it was thrilling to me just to have a term for this phenomenon, but as I sat with it, I started to see some important implications.

A weaponized insight is a weapon, not an insight

The moment an insight becomes weaponized, it stops being an insight and becomes a weapon.

This goes a long way to explaining what’s going on when we use our own insights against ourselves.

Insights and weapons are inherently different

An insight produces a shift in awareness. It tends to expand awareness, deepen connection, and elevate consciousness.

A weapon has the opposite effect. It shrinks awareness as the person against whom it is being used goes into fight or flight.

It breaks the connection between the one who wields the weapon and the one against whom it is wielded.

And it tends to lower one’s level of consciousness to the realms of competition and survival.

When we use insight to assess, judge, and berate ourselves, it stops being insight

Weaponized insights aren’t always wielded by others. Some of the most pernicious are the ones we wield against ourselves.

How often have you argued with yourself about why you aren’t using your hard-won insights or following your wisdom in some area of your life?

I don’t know about you, but that has confused the hell out of me. How can I be so incredibly smart (just saying) and so incredibly stuck at the same time?

It’s because I’m confusing self flagellation with insight.

There is nothing insightful about any attack on your inherent okayness

Any so-called insight that calls into question your inherent okayness has been weaponized.

Since there is nothing wrong with you, any insight wrapped in the message that there is, is false.

Something that points at how you are (presumably) broken takes you in the wrong direction–but only entirely.

Put down the weapon first

I used to try to pry the insight apart from the weapon. My logic went something like this.

If I could only get the message of the insight, the weaponized message would not longer apply or hurt.

That didn’t work.

The weapon didn’t stop being a weapon until I simply put it down, even at the risk of dropping a seemingly good insight.

I began to see that wholeness is key

As I dropped my weaponized insights, I began to see the vital importance of beginning with the premise that every human being is created whole and deserving.

I saw how our relentless compulsions to judge, evaluate, and improve ourselves actually block access to deeper impulses toward goodness and creativity.

And I saw how authentic insight points us toward our underlying wholeness and connects us to those deeper impulses.

Here’s to freedom

Weaponized insights wound and diminish.

Authentic insight heals and expands. It can sting, but the sting is bracing and enlivening.

That distinction is liberating. Play with it. Take it for a test drive. And let me know what you discover.

Have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please share your thoughts and questions in the comments on my blog.

Love,

mollysig125

Images by Pixabay.com

When Reality Hits, It Isn’t “Reality”

When Reality Hits, It Isn’t “Reality”

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A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was a heavy smoker. Heavy as in two packs a day.

One day I decided to quit. It was the last day of a hunting trip in eastern Washington. (Yes, in that other galaxy in that other millennium I hunted ducks and other birds. We had two wonderful Labrador Retrievers, Tide and Yoyo, and I was a hella good shot.)

We hunted in the morning and early afternoon, then piled into the Chevy Suburban three decades before SUVs became the car we love to hate. As we drove over the mountains, I sucked on a bottle of scotch to steady my nicotine-deprived nerves. I was probably eating pretzels, too. I like pretzels on road trips even now, in this different galaxy, this new millennium, decades after leaving nicotine and scotch behind.

I was probably smoking pot, too. I can’t imagine that I wouldn’t have been.

But I digress.

Watch out for the dog!

As we pulled into the driveway after dark at the end of a long day, I said rather irritably to Miles (who in that alternate universe was not yet The Charming Prince), “Watch out for the dog!”

He said, “What dog?”

I said, “The big dog! Dammit. The dog right there in front of the car.”

I’ll never forget the look on his face, one part tired, two parts disgust, and seven parts WTF?

I looked again.

For a moment there was a dog, and at the same time there wasn’t a dog. I did and I did not see a dog until my perception settled down, and I decided that there was no dog.

I know. Confusing.

Reality is like that

The reality we perceive, whether the external reality of dogs and doormats or the internal reality of possibilities and preferences, is always in flux and always mediated by perception.

Granted, on that occasion my nervous system was particularly scrambled, but the variables governing reality are still operating, even when they are not so exaggerated.

Our vast capacity to perceive is organized by social and cultural norms,  our beliefs and assumptions, life history, language, and our nervous systems, among other things.

Most of the time for most people these variables vary within fairly narrow parameters, with the result that we tend to experience what we call reality as  fairly stable.

That saves a lot of time and trouble. We don’t have to figure out if the sound that awakens us in the morning is an alarm clock or a white rabbit.

And sometimes it helps to question reality

There are times when it behooves us to shake things up, especially when it comes to what we assume about ourselves and what is possible in life and business.

One morning in 1984 I awoke from an alcohol and cocaine haze to the brief vision of myself as a window, a window that was closing. I got out of bed, made a few phone calls, and through the kindness of both friends and strangers, found myself in rehab within 24 hours.

I promise you that the woman who had gone to bed a few hours before that vision did not have the resources (moral, financial, physical) to make that happen. In a very real sense (ha ha, no pun intended, but I hate to pass one up when it offers itself) reality shifted.

In one universe I was a hopeless alcoholic slut (sorry, there’s just no nice way to say it), and in the next I was a courageous soul embarking on the sacred project of creating a life.

You can explain it in various ways

There are many things you could point to by way of explaining that reality shift. One is grace, and I made a brief video about that. youtu.be/7lbCZs-9Mws

You could also point to choice, and the first and last videos in this month’s video round-up speak to that.

In this post I invite you to consider the facticity of reality’s plasticity.

It ain’t solid, folks

What you think is possible for you in this moment is a function of inputs and filters, not of a permanent and pervasive structure imposed on you from outside.

One more story.

Somewhere around 1999 I got the idea that it would be incredibly cool to take my niece, Amy, to Europe when she graduated from high school. She was 15 at the time.

I was still a relatively new coach, and I did not have the kind of money one would need for that kind of adventure. But that seemed to me to be a detail, and I had time to sort it out.

I started a savings account for the trip and added a hundred dollars here, fifty dollars there.

I went about my business, assuming that we were going to do this thing and looking for ways that it could be done.

And then the miracles happened

Along the way, some unexpected things happened. I received a totally unexpected legacy from a friend. I got my first $10,000 contract when a person in the first Authentic Promotion class asked if I would bring it to NASA. (Um, that would be a “Hell, yes!”

Needless to say, those things helped, and in 2003, Amy and I went on an amazing 29 day odyssey to Paris, Rome, Florence, London, New York City, and Washington, DC. (Sometimes I overdo things. Oh well.)

But even miracles have filters

Something to notice: all those lovely unexpected things that happened would NOT have helped if I had set up my reality filters a little differently.

For one thing, I have a whole heap of nieces and nephews. If I had set up my filters based on some notion of fairness, I doubt the trip would have gotten off the ground.

September, 11, 2001, shook up a lot of realities, and if Amy, I, or her parents had responded to that differently, we might never have followed through on such bold travel plans.

I’m not saying that fairness or caution are bad filters; I’m just pointing out that installing them would have made a difference in whether or not the miracles that happened made a difference.

Now, at last, this is about YOU

The purpose of all my storytelling today is to awaken your curiosity about the reality you’re living in.

I hope that it is one that amazes, delights, and nourishes you and the ones you love.

And if it is not, please know that there are other possibilities.

You have more choices than you may realize.

You have hidden allies.

You are every bit as miraculous as the fragment of a woman that I was on that lonely morning in 1984, and grace not only can happen, it WANTS to happen for you.

Reality testing

As I arrive at the finish line of this strange post, which has meandered like the race course in “Alice in Wonderland,” I feel quite wonderful.

In this moment my filters are set to miracle, and true to form, that is what I see and feel.

I don’t always experience life this way. I do not control my thoughts, and sometimes my thoughts are bleak, limited, and unpleasant to live with.

But they are only thoughts.

And I have come to see thought as the raw material of our magic making. Just because a thought appears doesn’t mean you have to use it to cook up your life.

When reality hits, it isn’t reality

While planning to take Amy to Europe, I often had the thought that it wasn’t fair to other nieces and nephews.

I could be writing the story of how going to Europe seemed like a great idea until the “reality” that it wouldn’t have been fair hit.

But that wouldn’t have been reality, would it?

Shortly after getting sober, I moved back in with Miles, who, over the next few years, morphed into the man I now call, without a shred of irony, The Charming Prince.

I was plagued with guilt until one day I saw that I could have guilt or a happy marriage, but not both.

I chose to give up guilt.

I could be telling the story of how how we tried to get back together after addiction destroyed our marriage, but the reality of my misdeeds got in the way.

But that wouldn’t have been reality either, would it?

You get to look and look again (and again)

Reality is a bit like a kaleidoscope.

You get to look, roll the barrel, and look again.

Have a wonderful, wonder-filled week, and please let me know what you’re discovering by sharing it in the comments.

Love,


Photo by Pixabay.com

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