Enabling growth in the lives of others has been my passion and profession for nearly thirty years now. My field of expertise is personal leadership development. As a coach and trainer I focus on raising and growing your (self-)awareness. This experience provides insight into the origin of your behavior, your patterns, your feelings. Only after you see why you do what you do, it becomes possible to make (other) choices. Below I explain my view on enabling growth.
In the world of training and coaching, Personal Leadership is quite the buzzword. I prefer to speak of self-leadership because it says more clearly what it is about: leading your own self through your life. Self-leadership is the step that precedes and is required for the leading of others. After all, if you cannot lead yourself, how can you lead others - your colleagues, your team, your family, your organisation? I see self-leadership mainly as purposefully choosing the path that leads to a life in freedom, love and growth.
Within this context the statement of Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, psychiatrist and neurologist, is particularly beautiful. He said: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
Frankl’s message is not only beautiful but also difficult. It takes awareness, courage and the ability to accept the consequences of our choices. Living by this wisdom is inseparable from paying attention to the things you do automatically. Without attention it is impossible to grasp what is happening in and around you. Without attention it is impossible to take a step back and look at yourself from a distance. Without attention it is impossible to hold off judgments about yourself, others, and your situation.
As humans, we are filled with memories, experiences, thoughts, feelings, and beliefs that shape the way we see things. This prevents us from looking at ourselves and others with an open mind. This often follows certain patterns, largely determining our behaviour. Most of the time this happens unintentionally. Learning to pay attention to these unintentional patterns offers more freedom of choice. The more you manage to hold off your judgment, the better you can learn to observe and listen to the stubborn patterns that stand between you and others.
For this to happen it is necessary to relax, consciously reflect on yourself, and to stop all activities that distract from this consciousness. Being coached in my practice, in the woods of Huis ter Heide, is an invitation to do exactly this. You leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life behind and as soon as you walk through the door, you are immersed in attention, silence and tranquillity.
As a trainer and coach, my aim is to find out what holds you back from living your life to the fullest. Together we convert this barrier into a coaching question also called a development question. The word develop comes from the old French to unveil or unfold, which I take very literally; together we remove the layers around your consciousness. Until we get to the level where we can find the answer to your development question. We go as far as possible yet no further than necessary. Moreover, I don’t waste time trying to instil something in your mind or soul; we work with what is already there.
To figure out what I can do for you, I start by determining the level of your development question. For this I use the model of Gregory Bateson and Robert Dilts which distinguishes six levels on which people think, learn and change. In the literature, this model is usually represented with a pyramid. I use the metaphor of a block tower with these six blocks:
Where do I work? When and with whom? What am I responding to?
What am I doing? How do I fill my days / weeks?
What are my strengths? What am I really good at?
4. values, beliefs
What do I value in life? What do I need to (continue to) feel good?
Who or what am I? Who or what do I aspire to be?
6. mission, legacy
Why do I do what I do? Why am I on Earth? What do I want to leave behind?
When someone is looking for a trainer or coach, it is often because this tower and its blocks are unstable or even at risk of collapsing. This lack of alignment is often a sign that there is something wrong with the way the blocks are stacked on top of each other. When I know the level of your question - which block is positioned incorrectly - I also know that I have to look for a solution at least one and sometimes several blocks below. As soon as answers come to that layer, it becomes possible to transfer them to the blocks above it (behaviour and environment) and restore the balance. All levels are back in line and support each other in your chosen environment. You found what you were looking for. This is often freedom, clarity, confidence, energy, balance or peace.
Examples of Coaching Questions
I don’t remember anyone ever approaching me with the question, "How do I develop my personal leadership?" That is mainly HR-language. People do tell me that they’re stuck, what is bothering them, what they long for. They want to know how things can go effectively. That is the level of behaviour and skills. After some further questioning, the answer usually turns out to lie on one of the deeper levels.
For example, a coachee has difficulty speaking in front of larger groups, nerves take over. They trip over their words, stammer and sometimes even block completely. I have seen such cases where people are sent to Public Speaking Training (3. ability level). Sometimes that is also the solution. However, we often have to look further. For example, this coachee may not sufficiently recognise their own needs - for example in terms of clarity, confirmation, structure, focus - so that their negative emotions take over (4. level of values, beliefs). Or that a voice from their past says they don’t deserve to be heard or seen (5. level of identity). It may also be that they are in a position or a role that does not reflect why they are on Earth (6. mission level).
I have specialised in working on the three deepest levels because in my experience this is where sustainable answers to many development questions can be found. Answers that help you understand who you are and what the origin of your behaviour is. The more clearly you see that, the more freedom and growth you will experience in your personal and professional life.
Below you can read examples of questions that participants and coachees have asked me.
"How do I prevent fear freezing my brain in front of a large group?"
“I have been in the High Potential Programme of a Dutch multinational for nearly two years now and everything is going according to plan. I am learning an awful lot and make huge strides forward. Yet, there is one thing I kept crashing into again and again. Whenever I need to make an unprepared speech to people in larger meetings, my brain freezes. For a moment I am completely terrified and feel like breaking out into a cold sweat. People tell me they don’t notice anything, but I don’t like it and want it to stop. At the career level I am aiming for, public speaking really shouldn’t be an issue.”
Result: I can see why I freeze and that is exactly why it doesn't happen anymore.