Ginny Wilson-Peters' Blog
“A coach is someone who tells you what you don’t want to hear; so you can see what you don’t want to see; so you can be what you’ve always wanted to be.” (Tom Landry, former coach of Dallas Cowboys)
I’m learning more about coaching all over again. Last fall I began working with a personal trainer in order to improve my physical strength and to become healthier. In addition to the personal benefits gained, the process has solidified the value of the coaching process I use with my clients.
The training process with trainer Dave began with measuring weight, body fat and various body measurements. Yes, I was shocked to hear that while my overall weight wasn’t out of line, my body fat percentage was 31.5%, which put me in the 28th percentile for women my age. Wake up call—I’m ready for change!
The next step was to discuss my goals. Dave was great at helping me gain clarity about my goals—and where I wanted to be. For me, it wasn’t just about weight loss, but more about reducing body fat and also gaining muscle. My goal was to reduce my body fat percent to a very healthy 18%.
With the measurements and goals established, the hard work began. For me, that was three times a week training with Dave and three times a week of cardio and abs on my own. I also was diligent about my eating and kept a daily food diary.
This entire process has been a perfect reflection of the leadership development model I use. It begins with the realization that leadership is a measurable, teachable, and learnable set of skills. But just like weight loss, you don’t learn about it from reading a book—you learn—and make changes in your life by measuring, setting goals, and going out and practicing.
Step one in the leadership development process is to define your current reality (what are my strengths and weaknesses; how do others see me as a leader, etc). For many of my clients, we use a 360 leadership assessment to assist with this step. Results of the 360 assessment vary by client, but I will say that some clients receive the same type of wake-up call as I did with my body-fat percent. “You mean I’m NOT as good a leader as I thought I was?”
Step two in the process is to define our “ideal self”: how do we want to be seen as a leader? While step one requires a great deal of willingness to receive feedback from others; step two requires self-reflection, a willingness to dream, and to challenge ourselves to be our best.
And then the hard work begins. You know, I’m just like many other people. I was wondering why I couldn’t just get healthy without having to do all this hard work? Isn’t there a pill I can take and be done with it?
No pill for me—and no quick and easy pill for strengthening your leadership skills. Once you’ve defined your current reality and ideal self, it’s time to develop a plan and begin practicing new skills. Practice…practice…adjust as necessary…keep practicing. You won’t do everything perfect; that isn’t the goal. The goal is to continue on the path and to learn from your mistakes. (You mean I can’t have a large piece of chocolate cake and 2 glasses of wine for dinner and wonder why my energy level is so low??)
In my ten years of coaching others, I’ve witnessed other people create sustainable positive change in their lives and work. A short list of accomplishments includes:
- Improving listening skills (which helps both personally and at work)
- Gaining clarity on personal mission and vision and values
- Learning to better delegate
- Learning skills for leading change
- Exercising more self-regulation during challenging situations.
- Improving Emotional Intelligence skills
- Improving skills for visioning which in turn led to promotions to higher levels in the organization.
- And many more.
None of the above happened overnight. Leadership development is a journey. It requires an accurate assessment of current reality, defining your ideal self, establishing a plan of action, and then an ongoing commitment to practice and adjust as necessary.
Oh, and for me…I reached my goal. During my check-in last week, my body fat percent was 17.8%. Even though I’ve reached my goal, I’m continuing my commitment to my personal health, including healthy eating, exercise and continued work with my trainer. Thanks Dave!
I saw some women cringe; others gather their things and leave; many others sat up and became actively engaged in the conversation. Where was I? At just one of the many invigorating sessions at the Iowa Women’s Conference last week. The session I’m referring to was a joint session with Erica Jong and Naomi Wolf and the topic was political and personal power. It held controversy, political opinions, and outright challenges. Everything we needed for an energizing session!
Erica stated that the next stage of feminism is mentoring. She reminded us the problems women face are the same worldwide. “Once we stop fighting for the ideal,” she said, “it will go away.” She also suggested that any woman who wants to do something has to inure themselves against mockery.
I could immediately relate to those words. Ten years ago I left a six figure salary and role as President of a successful company to begin my own business from scratch. At the age of 38, I had many people who told me I was crazy. How could I leave such a successful position? One word: Passion. And I also had the support of my husband and close friends.
Naomi Wolf talked a great deal about the importance of women supporting one another. At their Woodhill Institute, they have a credo of “No Harmful gossip.” Erica added by saing: ”It has to be considered unethical behavior to gossip and be catty about other women.”
Passion and support were words that resonated throughout the entire conference. Anne Bancroft, the Polar Explorer, and first woman in history to cross the ice to both the North and South poles, talked about the important role of her mother in nurturing her dreams, even at a young age. “My mother was key in nurturing my dreams. Others were not so much. At a very early age, I learned to be quiet about my dreams.”
Anne later went on to say “Leadership is about deciding to lead–and then doing it. It is sometimes a lonely place.”
My challenge to all of you who attended the conference, as well as all who are reading this blog is to be inspired by the accomplishments of our phenomenal speakers AND not to be intimated by them. The time is now to take their messages to heart and take action within yourself.
To those who attended the conference, talk to others about what you learned, how you were inspired and most importantly, what action you plan to take as a result of what you learned.
If you didn’t attend, you too can begin a conversation. And, if you’re interested, email me and I’ll send you my notes.
Following are some specific questions to create and keep the conversation going. Please have the conversation offline and also share your thoughts and questions with me and others in this blog space.
* Who has–and still does–support you and your dreams? How do you support the dreams of others?
* Where is your power and how do you use it? What is holding you back? What do you need to step out of in order to step into your power?
* How will you work to strengthen your network?
Quotes from the speakers and others:
“I learned to wander. I learned what every dreaming child needs to know–that no horizon is so far that you cannot get above it or beyond it.” Beryl Markham (as shared by Anne Bancroft)
“Women hold up more than half the sky.” (Old Chinese saying, shared by Adrian Wing)
“If women want their rights, then we have to stand up and take them for ourselves.” (Sojourner Truth, shared by Marian Wright Edelman, founder of the Children’s Defense Fund)
“It’s so much easier to build strong children than to repair wounded men.” (Frederick Douglas)
“We don’t have a money problem in this country; we have a values problem.” (Marian Wright Edelman)
“We have to be careful about hero worship. This is about taking back your own power.” (Naomi Wolf)
“My purpose is to level the playing field so that every person can achieve his or her full potential. The key for me is having a vision.” (Dr Rohini Anand, Global Chief Diversity Officer and Sr VP, Sodexho, Inc)
“If Mom’s couldn’t work, American business would shut down.” (Carol Evans, President and CEO, Working Mother Media). When someone said to Carol that her children needed her at home, she responded, “Yes, and they NEED a home!”
Take action–step into your leadership–and keep the conversation going! (Ginny Wilson Peters challenge to all of us)
Okay, end of the first day at the Iowa Women’s Conference in Coralville. The theme is “Choosing to Lead”: Leveraging your Personal Power”
“Do not wait for leaders. Do it alone, person to person.” (Mother Theresa) As shared with the group by Sally Mason, President, University of Iowa.
Sally Mason offered words of wisdom at the Wednesday evening dinner. Some of the highlights that spoke to me were:
* She said her career path–like that of many of women leaders, was full of unexpected tasks.
* “Opportunities for leadership are often unexpected and women should be ready to take advantage of them. The choice itself is an act of leadership…The fortitute to lead must come from within.”
* “Find your own way to tap into your personal power and lead.”
Our keynote dinner speaker was Marjorie Scardino, CEO of Pearson (www.pearson.com) Before sharing a few of her highlights, let me share the following story as an example of this company’s commitment to their values and their people. In the summer of 2008, when the floods devasted much of the Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Iowa cooridor, the Pearson Foundation not only contributed a $50,000 employee match for flood relief efforts. They also provided 3 months of living for 50 employees displaced during the floods. And they asked if there was more that needed to be done.
Marjorie’s message had much wisdom and she carried a wonderful sense of humor. The bulk of her message was about the need to create a new definition of business–of the role of business in this current economic crisis we’re experiencing.
In order to “sustain energy and motivate others” Marjorie said companies must do the following:
1. Be financially successful
2. Have a long-term horizon
3. Benefit society and understand that its job is to move civilization along. Part of this is helping their employees be part of something larger than themselves.
4. Have to be doing brand new things
I loved it when she was talking about the idea of legislating CEO pay, and she said that she looks at the kinds of things she does everyday and asks herself “What kind of things would NOT have happened in this company if I wasn’t there?” If you keep track of those things, she said, you’ll get a sense of what your value truly is to the organization.
Final bite from today. I heard from Kara at Principal Financial Group that Barry Griswold, Chairman of Principal has a newly released book called The Adversity Paradox. The opening sentence is “Business Savvy is not something you’re born with, nor is it something you inherit.” I’m anxious to get the book and read more. Has anyone read it yet??
“What caused the shift?” I asked.
“We took time to pause,” he said.
I was talking with a friend who is leading a multi-national team in launching a new product. One year into the project he noticed that key relationships had not really been forming as he had hoped among members of the team. And so, he did the only thing that seemed natural in the midst of a time-sensitive project: he created an opportunity for the team to pause.
Well, not exactly I guess, but what they did was commit an entire afternoon of their 3 days together to having in-depth and cross-cultural disucssions about themselves–not about the product–and not about their roles in the project. No, the time was spent in getting to know one another on a more personal basis.
His experiment was hugely successful as the team built stronger relationships, which in turn is helping to move the project forward on schedule.
In his Peace Prize acceptance speech, “A Call for Universal Responsibility”, the Dalai Lama says, “Because we all share this small planet, we have to learn to live in harmony and peace with each other and with nature. That is not just a dream, but a necessity. We are dependent upon each other in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolate communities and ignore what is happening outside.”