Are you triggered?

By Nedra Chandler, 5 minute read and practice

Thanks to friends and colleagues sharing heartfelt expressions, here are a few sentiments that especially stand out in the past 24 hours, some triggered by the vote in the Judiciary Committee, some just about ‘what is’:

“I am struggling under waves of lifetimes of what women navigate — the violence and the silencing.”

“Just rage. Weeping now. That’s all.”

“When do we start burning it down? Is that today?”

“The future of leadership will have more yin in it. feminine and masculine together both/and. Yin and yang.”

“I am casting a net now for all the wild beauty I can find.”

A practice for coaching yourself

If you are feeling triggered or transported to personal or collective trauma, here is your invitation to use this practice called above and below the line as much as you have an appetite for right now. I got it from the author Jim Dethmer who adapted work of  Michael Bernard Beckwith. Please share the work as far and wide in the service of conscious leadership.

You know I’ve been geeking out practicing the ins and outs of conflict prevention and coaching moves since 1990. I’m telling you “4 ways of leading in the world” is gold. This is a significant resource I want you to have and I’m betting you’ll use. Jim Dethmer, the author of it (with Kaley Warner Klemp) told us he is glad to have us share it far and wide. This post is primarily for coach clients and other coaches in my network who are practicing with their own states of awareness on purpose. 

The context for using the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation was just a door through which I wanted to share this post, because I experienced the flow of so much emotion into my own community life (and my inbox) about it. It seems to me it’s excessively triggering me and so many of us at this moment that I abandoned my other post about Lumina Learning and decided to share this instead for the September post.

Back to the practice. Yesterday Dethmer led a group of us (professional coaches I’m happy to be studying with for the next 3 months) through his 1-page visual he calls “4 ways of leading in the world” and related 1-pager called “above and below the line.” Both visuals need very little explanation and can take less than a minute to practice once you grok it. At the very end of my post here, if you want a sample, I’ve offered you a step-by-step version of how to use them. Easy.

“Remember, through practice we grow in our awareness and that’s the point,” he said, “shifting in our states of consciousness.” Jim is a master coach, author and founder of The Conscious Leadership Group.

You’ll find the links to Dethmer’s source documents at the bottom of the post.

States of Being — or “ways of leading in the world”

Dethmer says probably most of us will spend our lifetimes moving between and among 2 or 3 of these states all the time. Period. He calls the states (only showing 1 to 3 here, of 4 total):

“To me” (life happens to me);

“By me” (I make life happen);

“Through me” (I cooperate with life happening);

Summary: to me, by me, through me. Three states of being.

You are probably like most of us: scared and triggered at times. “To me” might sound like: “Someone should fix this.” “Whose fault is this?” “Why me?” That comes and goes and comes and goes through life. So, it makes sense to practice with all the moves, but especially the one between “to me” and “by me.”

“By me” might sound like, “I’m so curious!” “What can I learn here?” “What do I want?” The point is to start noticing ‘where you are’ between these two states at any given moment. Why notice? Because then you have a choice to stay there or shift your state on purpose.

Have I lost you? If so, I predict you’ll see his 1-page visual and say, “I get it now. I can use this.”

Dethmer asked us to play with this reality that we move all the time between acceptance/trust “above the line” and resistance/threat “below the line.” And he even made a guess that probably about 95% of us spend about 95% of our time below the line. That’s the line: managing threats below the line, surrendering to trust above the line. Stick with me now, this is going to get real.

These are not “stages” of adult development, they are states of being. It’s not like we move through and ascend. We move around back and forth all the time between these states of states of being.

Dethmer points out that when we are in fear/defense mode it’s often about survival and flight, fight or freeze. In that state, we are “not available” to stabilize ourselves and make a different, conscious choice about what we are learning, what we can create, and what ‘wants to happen’ through us. As in neurobiologically: not much available.

That stuff above the line where we sort of come undone and can see “see unlimited possibility,” wonder and awe comes at a price of “surrender.”

Think of intense gateways of pain you’ve already come through where you could not fight, collaborate, withdraw, or win. That’s surrender.

About birthing babies as one example…

One personal experience I don’t mind mentioning in a business blog (ha!) is the opening and dilation of my cervix to a full 10 centimeters to allow for the birth of my 9-pound babies. At the end it was total surrender.

It seems to me that not all “intense gateways of pain” seem to yield such obvious benefits (e.g., babies), yet that’s where trust comes in, cooperation: “where acceptance meets fear.” Ah, there we are. Now we’re learning. Now we’re asking, what’s life showing us? What wants to happen here?

Those of you who are my coach clients and partners, “where are you now?” Just notice. Once you notice, your choices open up, don’t they? They sure do for me.

Optional look at how I assessed a few moments for me

I checked out the quick list of  sample “statements, behaviors and beliefs” above and below the line and was asked, what one or two things in each column feels or sounds like me?

Below the line, my own self talk included:

Statements: most similar to my talk track: “they don’t get it.”

Behaviors that stood out for me: “get overwhelmed.”

Beliefs included: “there is a threat to me occurring out there.”

Finish playing this with me now by looking at  the list of sample statements in what sounded true above the line:

My Statements: “I feel worried about this Supreme Court nomination.”

My Behaviors: “breathe” and “take responsibility” and “appreciate my friends and community” (as well as organizers, and ultimately leaders in the Senate who will vote “no.”)

My Beliefs: “there are more than just one or two possibilities…” and “all people and circumstances are my allies.”

Go here to get the two 1-page visuals

  • Go to https://conscious.is/resources
  • Scroll down to “handouts”
  • Look at the one-pager “4 Ways of Leading” first
  • Now play with the one-pager “Locating yourself: Above or Below the Line”
  • Heightened awareness. Now what state do you choose? There is no “right” answer…really

Thank you Jim Dethmer and Conscious Leadership for your generous gift of this practice for us as we lead ourselves through yet another challenging moment, and the next, and the next.

A bit about me: I work with government clients and their partners as a professional coach and third-party facilitator in navigating conflict, change and learning opportunities of all kinds. Find me   at http://www.cadenceinc.us and more of my long-time work mates at http://www.triangleassociates.com. If you see something of value here for you or someone you know, I’ll appreciate it if you pass it along. 

By Liz Moore, on the Little Blackfoot by Avon

Power of Questions: Here are 7 from Stainier

by Nedra Chandler

Here’s the thing that says the most about the power of questions to transform crappy situations into better ones, maybe even MUCH better ones:

Questions elicit answers in their likeness“– Krista Tippet, in On Becoming Wise

Below are 7 great questions you can use with anybody you work or play with from Michael Bungay Stanier’s recent book on changing the way you lead forever.

This is my third decade of work in the conflict management and coaching field. I practice, practice and practice the art of asking better questions. Am I perfect at questions in the moment that help people magically discover where they are ready to go next and how they can show up? No way. But wow, does it ever pay back — more than any other single thing I practice.

This week’s post is short and sweet and immediately useable. It’s an excerpt from one of my National Park Service friends (thanks David) who shared these so-useful questions. Here the 7 questions from Stanier.

Hi Nedra,
I have enjoyed Michael Bungay Stanier’s 2016 book The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever. It is a quick read. The focus is on working to develop a practice to shift behavior from advice giving to curiosity. I personally struggle with the “advice giving monster,” I think this is a very practical resource, here are the cliff notes:

Coaching is simple. Coaching can be done in 10 minutes or less. Coaching is a daily, informal act. You can build a coaching habit, “but only if you understand and use the proven mechanics of building and embedding new habits.”

Question 1: “What’s on your mind?”

A good opening line can make all the difference (just ask Charles Dickens, the Star Wars franchise, or any guy in a bar). The Kickstart Question starts fast and gets to the heart of the matter quickly. It cuts to what’s important while side stepping stale agendas and small talk.

Question 2: “And what else?”

The AWE Question keeps the flame of curiosity burning. “And what else?” may seem like three small words, but it’s actually the best coaching question in the world. That’s because someone’s first answer is never the only answer — and rarely the best answer. There are always more answers to be found and possibilities to be uncovered. Equally as important, it slows down the question asker’s “advice monster” — that part of every manager that wants to leap in, take over, and give advice/be an expert/solve the problem.

Question 3: “What’s the real challenge here for you?”

This is the Focus Question. It gets to the essence of the issue at hand. This question defuses the rush to action, which has many people in organizations busily and cleverly solving the wrong problems. This is the question to get you focused on solving the real problem, not just the first problem.

The first three questions combine to form a powerful script for any coaching conversation, performance-review formal, or water-cooler casual. Start fast and strong, provide the opportunity for the conversation to deepen, and then bring things into focus with the next questions.

Question 4: “What do you want?”

This is the Foundation Question. It’s trickier than you think to answer, and many disagreements or dysfunctional relationships will untangle with this simple but difficult exchange: “Here’s what I want. What do you want?” It’s a basis for an adult relationship with those you work with, and a powerful way to understand what’s at the heart of things.

Question 5: “How can I help?”

It might come as a surprise that sometimes managers’ desire to be helpful can actually have a disempowering effect on the person being helped. This question counteracts that in two ways. First, it forces the other person to make a clear request, by pressing them to get clear on what it is they want or need help with. Second, the question works as a self-management tool to keep you curious and keep you lazy — it prevents you from leaping in and beginning things you think people want you to do.

Question 6: “If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?”

If you’re someone who feels compelled to say “yes” to every request or challenge, then this question is for you. Many of us feel overwhelmed and overcommitted; we’ve lost our focus and spread ourselves too thin. That’s why you need to ask this Strategic Question. A “yes” without an attendant “no” is an empty promise.

Question 7: “What was most useful for you?”

Your closer is the Learning Question. It helps finish the conversation strong, rather than just fading away. Asking “What was most useful for you?” helps to reinforce learning and development. They identify the value in the conversation — something they’re likely to miss otherwise, and you get the bonus of useful feedback for your next conversation. You’re also framing every conversation with you as a useful one, something that will build and strengthen your reputation.

Try these out and I will so enjoy hearing how it goes for you, using these or your variation of these…please do send me a note to cadence@montana.com.

A bit about me: writer, Montanan, mediator and development coach for government leaders & teams. Find me and my long-time work mates at Triangle Associates and please sign up to receive my monthly posts in your inbox by typing in your email address here.

We help people listen and talk with each other with purpose and clarity. We find out what people are ready for and design custom collaborative or other opportunities. We serve as guides on the side to help participants find common ground and take action where they choose.