This is the message I received this morning on my mobile that inspired this blog:
“Sorry Manu for the lastminute call, I have to cancel our coaching session. Last months have been crazy. I spend most of my time in meetings either to work on our new model or to handle the resistance against the current transformation. I am running like hell and I’m exhausted. I know I should challenge my work as it impacts my performance. But for the moment I can’t. It’s too difficult. I call you back.” (1)
Being a leader can be easy when all the indicators are green. But when the warning lights are flashing red, leading is anything but easy. And it requires strong commitment to challenge who you are when your body is telling you ”it’s too difficult”.
It reminds me of a conversation two years ago with a coaching client named Peter, the local general manager of a successful company active in financial services. He struggled to find time for personal development and finally decided to move forward with Embodied Leadership Coaching.
Each time we meet, I’m struck by his growth. He has become a peaceful leader whose internal way of being inspires implicit trust and invites others to share the journey. His leadership abilities stem from his presence, openness and connection. Peter can make difficult decisions and act skilfully, but above all he has some inner quality that draws you.
Peter is what I call an embodied leader.
He has a deep sense of the future he wants to create, and he has an internal congruence with this future. In other words, there is an alignment of body, heart, thoughts, and actions that is always coherent and consistent.
The result: Despite the chaos and the uncertainty, Peter is a powerful source of motivation and endurance for his teams.
Yet, leadership presence has never been a given for Peter. It’s a “warrior journey of committed practices” (2) as we like to call it. How does he do it?
Once a month, Peter gives himself permission to spend a Friday in silence and self-exploration. This decision has been one of the most difficult he took in 2017. But he knows that this practice is a powerful way to cultivate clarity and deep listening.
Each morning, after breakfast, Peter takes a few minutes to practise centring and declares the future he wants. He repeats the same practice two to three times a day. With this, he cultivates his ability to be present and congruent, the two qualities that make him such an inspiring leader.
Finally, to develop his leadership skills, Peter cultivates his capacity to feel, or in other words, to increase conscious awareness of physical sensation and emotion. This is because feeling helps leaders become more responsive and less reactive, and to take actions aligned with their values.
To increase performance, it is vital to combine daily personal practices with practices “in the workplace”. Peter committed to practice being present and listening deeply each time he is in conversation with a member of his team. This put his practice in real time, directly with the people he needs to connect to.
It is sad to see that most leadership development approaches deal with people only from the neck up. They connect performance with knowing and doing, and they forget the strong relationship between “embodied intelligence” and high performance.
Executive somatic coaching starts with pausing and asking yourself what you truly care about. Then it is about sensing and embodying this direction through consistent and focussed practices. It has worked for many leaders around the world. It will work for you, if you commit to the practice.
Contact me if you are curious about how you can strengthen your leadership abilities using somatic techniques. I like to meet my clients for an introductory session before we commit to the coaching programme.
(1) The client kindly agreed that I use this message as an opportunity to share this story with you.
(2) Reference to the way Richard Strozzi Heckler, founder of Strozzi Institute for Embodied Leadership, talks about Embodied Leadership.