The Work

Failing Our Way into Possibility

Leadership and failure

In order to really explore and create something new, we need to step out of certainty, try something different, and take some risks.  If we already know exactly how it will all turn out and we can guarantee that, then chances are we are not stretching very far into new territory.


With the complexity and often urgency of the challenges we are facing, with systems changing and in many ways not working, we need to be exploring and building toward something new. As leaders, wherever we are in the system, it is part of our work to innovate, and to support innovation. Our creative ideas, work and willingness to take risks, and our willingness to fail, is needed now more than ever.

The depth of learning we need now comes from both success and failure. In complex systems we need to probe the system and learn, and we learn as much from what doesn't work as we do from what works. Most people are very averse to failure and as leaders in complexity, we need to build our comfort and capacity to fail and learn.

As a leadership coach I see over and over again how deeply our aversion to failing runs and how limiting it can be. In a recent leadership training on failure, participants were noticing how strong their physical and emotional reactions were as we started to really look at personal failure stories, some of which were decades old. It is not enough to just say we are "okay" with failure.

We give a lot of lip service to supporting failure. We refer to the value of  “trial and error” and we talk about 're-framing' our failures or putting a positive spin on them. But in a culture so heavily focused on success and getting things 'right', most of us experience judgement when we fail,  in addition to our own stressful responses. As a result we avoid situations where we might fail or hide our failures, which limits possibilities for the learning and innovation required to work effectively in complexity.


Failing in a failure averse world

As leaders, we are often tasked with 'solving' complex problems,  while also receiving the message directly or indirectly that failing is not okay.

This is not easy territory in our organizations that are highly geared toward controlling outcomes and guaranteeing success. Performance reviews, funding, approval and opportunities are all tightly tied to showing 'success' all the way up the ladder. It takes strong personal leadership and courage to truly support failure.

In a recent large scale change project, where we had anticipated and discussed both failures and successes with the high level leadership, there was significant slow down when the first failure happened. After much discussion we heard: “We understand the need for failure and it is okay... Just don't let it happen again.”   

As leaders (and as human beings in all areas of our lives) a crucial part of the change we are leading is at the level of changing the culture of certainty and success. This takes courage, support and personal practice to navigate.


Personal practice for failure

It is crucial to have a practice to process your own failures in a healthy way and to prepare yourself to fail in the future. What you believe about your failures will either cause you stress, shame and shut down, or it will free you up to learn and move forward. Unprocessed limiting beliefs about failure blocks learning and creative thinking, and eventually will cause us to be risk averse and unable to engage in innovation.

Common patterns that flow from unquestioned (and often unconscious) limiting beliefs about failure include blaming others (or ourselves, or both), withdrawing, giving up, excessive thinking to try to 'figure it out', avoidance of similar situations, numbing, and procrastination.

The chemistry of fear and/or shame impacts our brain function and can actually reduce our learning capacity, our capacity for big picture and creative thinking, and our ability to communicate effectively, all of which we need when we are wanting to innovate together, step up into something new or navigate uncertainty.

“The Work” (inquiry process for personal leadership) gives us a powerful, accessible and effective way to inquire into our own thinking about failure. It also helps us to gain the benefit of our failures, and be able to genuinely learn and move forward. We can use The Work to inquire into our own thinking about failure: our past failures, our reactions to other people's failures, and our underlying concepts about what failure is and what it means to fail.

What does it mean if something doesn't work out how you had hoped? What are your self-critical thoughts? What are your fears? Write them down and use the questions of The Work to inquire, gain awareness of and shift your own limiting patterns and free your thinking back up.


Supporting failure in others - Leading failure

As a leader in complexity, working for change, it is crucial to build your capacity to support others to fail, as much as you support them to succeed. Create a 'safe to fail' environment for your people, so they know they are supported to innovate. Sometimes known as 'top cover', leaders can provide a space for crucial innovative work to happen if they build trusting relationships and good communication with their teams, and clear areas for innovation, risk taking, safe to fail processes, probes and prototyping. It can also be valuable to support a process of harvesting learning from failures.

When things don't turn out the way we wanted them to, there is often a pattern of blame that shows up from leaders, and within systems. Everyone runs for cover. Good work gets stopped in early stages. As leaders of innovation and change, it is crucial to work with your patterns of judgement and fear about other people failing as well as building your own personal capacity for failure. How do you react when someone reporting to you fails?

Great leadership is personal. Leading failure, and failing at leading is very personal. We need to bring regular, compassionate and rigorous practice to our thinking, communication and response to failure if we are going to find our way forward together.

“The Work” is a core practice for personal leadership offered as part of Leadership 2020. For more information go to

Transforming Limiting Beliefs about Money

Money can feel like a taboo topic. We get so many stressful and confusing family and cultural messages in our lives that create underlying limiting beliefs and associated behaviours that cause even more stress or keep us stuck.  Often we are not even aware of the beliefs that form our hidden operating system that connects so deeply to our sense of worth, identity, safety and survival.  Without being aware of our own beliefs and thinking patterns, it is impossible to make lasting change and align our financial lives with our values and conscious choices.

I used to take months to do my taxes. It was a very stressful time and every day taxes were on my mind. I would think "I should be doing them", "they should be done by now", "it is too confusing", "something bad is going to happen".  One day,  I overheard my 8 year old daughter earnestly telling someone, “taxes are very important and very stressful for adults.  When it is tax time you can’t eat dinner at the table for a long time because that is where all the papers live, and it makes the adults very sad and grumpy.”  It was shocking for me to hear this from her perspective and see what a knot I had myself in and what it was costing me.

It was a good wake up call, and I turned to my practice of The Work to look at the limiting beliefs and fears that were running me. It was powerful, surprising, and profoundly helpful. When I look back now I can’t even figure out what I was doing all those hours, days and weeks. A stressful mind can sure drain time and energy, and block clear thinking.

As a coach working with hundreds of clients over many years, the issue of money often arises in my work with people from all walks of life - whether young or old, ‘rich’ or ‘poor’. 

Stress, suffering and negative patterns around having, managing, and talking about money can cause havoc in our lives and take a lot of time and energy, and limit our choices. It is good news that much of this comes from our thinking because it means you can build a better relationship with money, and yourself, in all of these areas by exploring those often buried beliefs.

Our stuck patterns around money are complex. They don’t usually shift by just deciding to do things differently. There is a lot of professional advice and resources out there to teach us to manage money, and many people have noticed that the best laid plans can be quickly overridden by the power of unquestioned fears and beliefs and the behaviours that come with them. The Work gives us a way to gain more awareness of our own beliefs, and tools to engage and shift what is stuck or limiting.

Free of our limiting and stressful patterns of reaction and avoidance, and more connected to our own wisdom and values, we can also make effective use of financial planners, systems for organizing our money and books that give practical advice.

If you would like to explore your limiting and stressful patterns around money - join me in this 6 week engaging web-class where you will learn the powerful tool of The Work and have the opportunity to illuminate and inquire into your own money stories.

Money Mind

I have inquired into many areas of thinking. Some who know me might even say I am an inquiry geek. I am so curious to learn about the stories and beliefs that unconsciously undermine our freedom, creativity, wisdom and connection to the joy of life. And I am moved by what is possible when we become more aware of our thinking and take the time to inquire.  

I continue to be amazed by the sneaky ways the narratives associated with money show up underneath other stressful or limiting thinking. By popular demand I have been hosting the Money Mind web-class for three years now and every time I host this class I learn something new about my money story and about myself, and I notice that I get more and more relaxed and peaceful about things to do with money. I find that I think about it less, and I seem to deal with it more effectively. Interesting.

I was recently on a week long holiday with my family and days after I got home I realized that I had not stressed about money once on the trip. Even with the US dollar apparently diminishing our budget, and teenagers with lots of money requests, I forgot to worry or react. I didn’t even notice that I wasn’t reacting in my regular niggling money stress pattern. I just made choices, bought some things and not others, ate food, read my book, went to the beach and enjoyed my family. What a relief. 

As I continue to inquire into my own thinking and work with my coaching clients of all income levels (some have millions of dollars; others have very little) I continue to see the trap of much of the thinking that can come with the stories of money in our world. 

Our stress, confusion, attachment and thinking about money can be the focus of a substantial amount of our time and life energy. It can also impact our lives unconsciously through stressful and often life limiting patterns, as we seek or avoid money, spend energy and focus tracking it and looking after it, worrying what will happen if we lose it and caught up in what our money or lack of money means about who we are and what is possible in our lives. 

The stories we carry about money can be powerful and can override our clarity about what we actually value and enjoy and how we want to be with each other. It is hard to just un-think these storylines, because they are so grounded in our culture, our education, our values and our identity and often have fear and scarcity as an undercurrent.  

You might be surprised to know how many people with moderate to very high levels of financial wealth have fear movies running just under the surface: living out of a shopping cart or under a bridge, starving children, repo men coming to take everything away, or in some other terrifying financial disaster. No amount of wealth appears to protect against this kind of thinking that taps into our deepest fears of failure and threat to survival.

While there are some practical considerations about money in a culture that has money as its central means of trade, this kind of fear based money thinking can create stress and reactions way out of proportion to reality for many people and can actually undermine our ability to deal with  and communicate about money in a clear and healthy way.
What are your money stories?

Do they genuinely serve your life and values?

Or are they costing you too much?

It can be very interesting, and freeing to look at them and inquire using the powerful practice of The Work.

Join the 6 week Money Mind Web-class and inquire along with others starting April 11, 2016

Creative Mind Flowing

It can feel so great to have ideas or insights pop into our mind. To have that moment of seeing something in a new way, to feel that quiet calm that can come with clarity, or that rush of creative energy. A mind that is flowing and making connections, is a beautiful thing, and we all benefit from this kind of thinking in our own lives and in what comes from the creative thinking of others.
This state of mind is not something we can force or control. The more we try to make it happen, and think we know what it is supposed to do, the more we shift into the state of mind that is closing rather than opening.
Whatever these “Aha!” moments and creative flow moments are, I notice that I experience them much more often when I am regularly doing The Work on my own stressful and fear based thinking. By identifying and inquiring into the thoughts that hook me in stressful thinking loops, or that shut me down, space seems to open up for my mind to do its own creative thing - which appears to be much more intelligent and creative than what I can consciously make it do.
We are in week 5 of  The Work@work web-class series, and I am appreciating again how powerful it is to inquire into a pattern of thinking in a focused and regular way over a period of time, and the added depth of doing that inquiry together with others. We have spent the past 3 weeks diving into our patterns of fear thinking and untangling the stories our minds can get caught in around failure and success - both of which turn out to have the potential to tangle us up and hold us back.
In some non-linear perfect storm of my own inquiry, deepened by what I have been discovering alongside the rest of the participants, I woke up the day of our last class on fire with ideas for a new program I have had on the back burner of my mind for about two years.  It was amazing to feel the flow kick in and the connections and ideas happening.  I wrote about 10 pages of program planning in less than an hour in a flow that felt effortless. I got out of my own way (out of my own thinking about it), and my mind was able to open up and do its amazing creative thing. What fun.
While doing The Work is not about trying to make insights or flow happen, it is a beautiful and powerful way to cultivate space for whatever your mind is capable of offering to the situation at hand - whether it is new connections, ideas,  peaceful quiet, some curiosity or learning.
I am so grateful to have this practice in my life and work. And lucky to have this circle of fellow inquirers on the journey with me this month in The Work@work web group.
If you are curious about The Work, give it a try. It is something you can do with others, and also something you can do for yourself.  Get a little curious about what keeps your thinking caught up in thinking that closes it down, and see what happens when it is free to flow in its full creative potential.

Basic resources and instructions for The Work
Upcoming web-classes and workshops
I'll be sharing my new program in May.. stay tuned!

- Caitlin

FAILING our way to the possibility of something new

In order to really explore and create something new in our lives or work, we need to step out of certainty, try something different and take some risks sometimes. Not a lot of growth happens if we only do exactly what we have always done, or only step into things we can guarantee will 'succeed.' This is true in our work in the world, for innovation process (where I sometimes bring this Work), and also in many areas of life and relationship.

In recent leadership training sessions and in my web-class in The Work@work, we have been spending time noticing all the places our thinking about failure causes suffering, keeps us stuck and limits us in both our professional and personal context. The more we inquire into 'failure' the more I am stunned by how deeply it runs and how limiting it can be. In a recent session, participants were noticing strong physical reactions as we started to really look at our failure stories, some of which are decades old. Powerful stuff. And good to have a way to work with it effectively and compassionately because these stories can stay with us for a long time. They don't just go away, even if we bury them they continue to inform our choices, actions and feelings until we get them clear.

We know sayings like “trial and error” is a way to learn, and many of us know about 're-framing' our failures or putting a positive spin on them. But in a culture so heavily focused on success and getting things 'right', most of us experience stressful responses to failing, carry painful stories of failure that can drag us down and can even be immobilizing. We also often find ourselves trying to avoid situations where we might fail, which can have a very limiting effect on our lives and work. It turns out the category of places we could fail can encompass just about everything.

The beliefs and stories we hold about 'failure' when it happens (the meaning we add) has a powerful impact on our experience of our own failures, and also how we are able to respond when others 'fail' – whether they are our children, our partners, our team members, our employees or our leaders.

Common patterns that flow from unquestioned (and often unconscious) limiting beliefs about failure include blaming others (or ourselves, or back and forth between both), withdrawing, giving up, excessive thinking to try to 'figure it out', avoidance of similar situations, numbing, procrastination, depression, addictions, fear of loss.. and many more stressful responses.

When these patterns of fearful thinking and stress kick in it also effects the chemistry in our body and our brain function as we shift to the a physiological fear based response. This can reduce our learning capacity and big picture and creative thinking, which is usually just what we need when we are wanting to step up into something new.

If we want to gain the benefit of our failures – and be able to genuinely process them, learn and move forward, it is helpful to use The Work to inquire into our own thinking about failure: our past failures, other people's failures, and our underlying concepts about what failure is and what it means to fail.

The Work gives us a way to directly engage the thinking that gets us stuck in the stressful response to failing or anticipating failure. To open our mind back up in the face of trying something new, and to open our mind up to learning and growth (and possibly also the less visible successes) when things do go the way we wanted them to or thought that they should.

How do you react? What happens when you believe that something you did was a failure?  When you are afraid you will fail? Or when you believe someone else failed? You can identify your thoughts and take them through the 4 questions and turnarounds of The Work, access the learning, shift your own patters, take whatever responsibility you need to, and find freedom from this life limiting concept of both “failure” and “success”.  

Trial and error comes with error, and the depth of learning we need now comes from both success and failure, from building our capacity for each, and also our ability to think outside of of the limiting duality of both. Doing The Work isn't just re-framing the thought, it is a way deeply shift your thinking patterns and open your mind to new ways of thinking and being.

Working directly with our own FEAR

fearless image papaya art.jpg

Life is full of opportunities and challenges. Fear can limit us in both. We can learn to work skillfully and compassionately with our own fear through directly engaging our fearful thinking with inquiry. From a place of more clear relationship to our own fear, we can act more clearly and wisely, and can also access more learning, growth and connection right in the thick of what scares us.

What do we do with our fear?

People say “Be Fearless!” and I have noticed that is much easier said than done. It is also not always helpful to repress our fears, or to hold our breath, close our eyes and push through it (the “Just DO IT” approach) which sometimes works to get us over an initial hesitation, and other times lands us in stressful territory without our full capacity available because we are still struggling with our fear and stressful thoughts. A fearful mind is not very open and creative and adrenaline only gets us so far.

I have found the practice of The Work to be profoundly helpful in working with the fears that hold me back in all areas of my life. Both in my personal relationships and also it has enabled me to step in to offer myself and my professional work in places I would formerly not even imagined stepping into. It has been very powerful also in my coaching work with leaders, performers, parents... we all experience it, and the patterns of how it can limit us are far reaching. We fear conflict, uncertainty, disconnection, blame, our own competence, judgement from others, pain, disaster, failure (and success..) and even fear our own fear a lot of the time.

The fear of fear often stops us from really engaging with our own fear, learning from it, untangling it... The process of The Work - identifying what we are believing (and are triggered by) and then using the powerful questions to really inquire allows us to have a much more clear and intimate relationship with our own fearful thinking. To know it, but not be ruled by it. When I “Work” my fears, I find it makes me smarter, more compassionate, more agile in my thinking, and helps me deal with what is in front of me clearly and with the appropriate amount of energy. If what I am afraid of happens then I am available to deal with it in a clear way if and when it happens, rather than scaring myself and wearing myself out imagining all the possible terrible outcomes.

Many of us have a deep underlying belief that we need to be afraid. That it keeps us safe. That rehearsing the worst possible outcomes in our minds ahead of time (over and over...) will somehow prepare us, will make it easier, that we will suffer less.


Can you absolutely know it is true you NEED to be afraid? That it actually helps you?
What if that is not true? What if we don’t need fear in order to be alert and intelligent? In my own many years of inquiry around fear - from swimming with sharks to raising teenagers to facilitating challenging meetings with high conflict - I have found it turns out not to be true.

I am not against fear, and I do still experience it. I just find I don’t actually need it, and that the cost of running from it and staying caught in it is very high, in my effectiveness and my well being. And I find that when I work with it using the powerful inquiry practice of The Work, rather than react to it or repress it, I am a happier, more effective person with more options.
What are the fears that are causing you stress, using up your valuable resources and just might be limiting you?

Check it out for yourself with The Work by writing them down and inquiring.

Loving the questions

Sometimes in this Work and in the path of inquiry to find peace in ourselves in can feel overwhelming. Every inquiry brings more stressful thoughts and beliefs in to awareness and it can seem endless. If I believe that I will never be free until I resolve it all – it can close me down to so much of the journey, which turns out to be my life – the parts that are opening and the parts that still feel confusing and closed. When I try to force the unfolding – I am out of my own business and into the business of life. I create violence in my attempts at peace. I notice that when I ask myself the questions – and then open and just wait – I get what I need.

After a powerful walk in the Work today – a client of mine sent me this beautiful quote that holds a lot of truth for me.

Rainer Marie Rilke wrote:

“Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, for they could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps, then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”

Leadership and work with an open mind and heart

Self-Inquiry and the Work of Byron Katie
Caitlin Frost, Certified Facilitator and Trainer in the Work of Byron Katie

(first posted at:

"Your most effective leadership tool is an open mind"
- Byron Katie

In the world of leadership and organizational work where we are aspiring to access new paradigms of and possibility, it is crucial to have personal practice for opening our minds and hearts in the places we get stuck. Fear, assumptions, judgements, limiting beliefs and stressful thinking can close us down – particularly in the face of change and challenging situations. 

Whether we are aware of them or not, our own limiting beliefs and thinking impact our actions, what we pay attention to, the choices we make, who we can work effectively with, and what we are able to see (or not see) as possible. Our own thinking can also have a strong effect on how much satisfaction and enjoyment we get from our work, and our ability to learn and grow.

The Work of Byron Katie is a simple yet powerful process of self-inquiry. It is a skillful process for working with your own thinking to open space where you find your mind and heart closing or closed. 

The effects of working with yourself in this way can be profound – allowing you to access your own intelligence, experience possibility that was unseen from the stuck place and experience authentic connection to yourself and others.

In my work as a leadership coach, facilitator and trainer in participatory processes – including Open Space Technology – I have found this Work to be profoundly powerful for myself as well as with my clients and colleagues. For me The Work is ‘family’ to all the other participatory and connecting group and leadership processes – and doing this work alongside them supports my ability to host that work at a deeper level. 

As leaders, facilitators and change agents, we want to step fearlessly into the challenges of change, conflict, and the unknown as we look for new ways to be in work and to ‘solve’ the problems of the world. We want to connect with each other deeply, listen and collaborate and be able work with a wide diversity of people – ‘whomever shows up’ – and to reach beyond that with a genuinely open mind and heart. We want to bring the very best of ourselves to our work and life and to hold truly open space for ourselves and others to do good work. 

And sometimes we hit a place where we close – where we are afraid, confused, overwhelmed, stressed, hurt, angry, or stuck. Where we are firmly attached to outcome. Where we are not ok with ‘whomever shows up’, or ‘when it is over..’. Where we are afraid and not feeling at all ‘prepared to be surprised’. When we are caught up in needing the approval of our client, or our boss, or our colleagues or we find a particular person or group difficult (or impossible) to work with and we are unable to listen and act wisely and compassionately. 

“It’s not our differences that divide us.
It’s our judgements about each other that do.”
Margaret Wheatley, Author: Leadership and the New Science; Turning to One Another

The Work of Byron Katie, offers a skillful and effective way to engage directly and compassionately with your own thinking in these places of closing. Through a process of self-inquiry, based on simple and powerful questions and your own honest answers – you have the opportunity to reconnect with your own clear mind and heart. From that place there is more opportunity to experience possibility, learning and authentic connection with ourselves, other people, our wisdom and life – and lead, collaborate and create from that place. 

"Inquiry helps the suffering mind move out of its arguments with reality. It helps us move into alignment with constant change. After all – the change is happening anyway, whether we like it or not. But when we’re attached to our thoughts about how that change should look, being out of control feels very uncomfortable"
- Byron Katie

The Four Questions and Turnarounds of “The Work”

Doing the Work consists of two parts. Identifying what you are thinking or believing when you are stressed or closing; and then taking your stressful thought or belief through a process of inquiry using the 4 questions and ‘turnarounds’ of The Work as your guide. Anyone willing to answer honestly can do this work, and it can be done with a facilitator asking you the questions, or as a journaling exercise where you write down your own answers.

(This Work is best understood by experiencing it for yourself. I invite you to give it a try with something that has you stressed or stuck.)

Working with one belief/thought at at time – you answer each of the 4 questions. This work is a meditation – and you are invited to open your mind and see what answers arise. Prepare to be surprised!

Question 1. “Is it True?”
It seems like an obvious question, but we often don’t stop long enough to really consider it. Especially when we are stressed. Take your time to contemplate it – and then land on a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’. There is no ‘right’ answer – the power is in inviting the question in and opening your mind to find your own honest answer – not what you have been told by others or assume, but what is true for you when you get still and access your own deeper wisdom about it.

Question 2. “Can you absolutely know that it is true?”
Similar to question one – this gives you another chance to contemplate if your answer was yes to the first question. Again a simple yes or no is invited – and either is fine. Again the gift is taking the time to drop a little deeper and consider the possibility of both yes and no – invite some balance – and see what shows up.

“The CEO needs to be at the meeting”. Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it is true that we need her to be there?

“We need more money”. Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it is true – that we can’t do this without more money?

“They don’t listen to me”…. Is it true? Can I absolutely know that it is true that they are not listening – can I know that for sure?

Question 3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
This question invites you to notice the effect of attaching to the thought/belief. How do I feel? How do I act? How do I treat myself and other people? What am I not able to do? Again it is a meditation – not a judgment – just watching and learning.
For example How do I react and show up when I believe that they don’t listen to me? What does that feel like? What happens?

Question 4. Who would you be without that thought?
This question invites you to see – just for a moment – , who you would be in that same situation if you were not believing that thought. Again just open your mind and see what you experience.
For example: Who would I be in that same situation without attaching to the thought “they don’t listen to me.” What would that feel and look like?

The Turnarounds:
And then there is a playful part of the Work called the ‘turnarounds’ where you take the initial stressful or stuck thought/belief and ‘turn it around’ in different ways to explore where the opposites or other perspectives could be equally or more true. Another very specific to the situation way to open your mind. To open space for balance in perspective.

For example: If I am working with the thought: “They don’t listen to me”

Turned around to the opposite - They do listen to me (and then I really consider where this could have truth and find examples.)

Turned around to the ‘other’ – I don’t listen to them (and then I get to see where this could also be true – where am I not listening?)

Turned around to myself – I don’t listen to myself (where do I not even listen to myself in this situation? possibly because I am so worried about what they will say or do I am not really listening to me either.)

And then I allow some silence to sit with myself in what I have answered and found.

There is no specific advice or ‘to do’ as an ‘outcome’ of doing this work. I just find that I am more open on the other side of it, and from that place I am often able to connect where I couldn’t, or see options where I didn’t, and experience more peace. Sometimes the effect is immediately profound, other times it is subtle. Sometimes I don’t realize what it has shifted until later and then I notice somewhere I was stuck and I am not anymore, or someone who triggered me just doesn’t anymore. This Work invites me out of my “I know mind” and into a place of presence and connection with what is really happening and what else is possible. 

The questions are simple – and I have found they can take me to very deep places of learning and transformation in work and life. I have been doing this Work for more than 10 years – myself and with others – and it still amazes and moves me on a regular basis. 

If you are curious and want to know yourself more deeply in the places you are stuck, give it a try.

The Work @ work - what's holding YOU back in your professional life?

A weekend in the Work focussed on professional life and leadership.

I was very excited to finally offer this full weekend in Edmonton with the focus on professional ‘work’, as the application of The Work to this important part of life is a real passion for me. It has, and continues to be, a core practice for me in supporting learning and stepping forward in my own professional life. I regularly witness profound and powerful shifts for my professional coaching clients when we apply this Work to places they are stuck – where they are having difficulty working with a particular person, or particularly where they are in patterns that are causing stress and overwhelm, or fear is holding them back from that next level of their own work in the world (whatever that is – a promotion, a new or bigger project, a larger stage, a new job or a new way of doing things…)

It is very powerful for me to witness what unfolds for people (and myself) when we move out of our own way (that would be the ‘way’ of our limited thinking and fears) and allow our strength and gifts to really flow. Bold projects get launched and led with confidence; new ways of doing things become visible and are manifested; books get written and published; films get finished; jobs interviews flow with clarity and authenticity; ‘disasters’ get survived and can flow into valuable learning and ‘what is next..’; teams work together with more clarity; and sometimes whole systems can shift because someone in leadership deeply questioned their own fears and is able to move and lead with grace and clarity.

"Getting out of your own way" is a great idea in theory – but without a specific practice to open space and access our talents and intelligence in those stuck areas of limiting beliefs and fear – it often doesn’t happen, and work life becomes a chore, or place to burn out, or wait for retirement, or is that thing that we always wanted to do that never quite happened. 

I remember sitting in an Art of Hosting Intergenerational Conversations that Matter Module at the Authentic Leadership in Action residential in Halifax – and a colleague Thomas Arthur spoke powerfully to this group of emerging leaders – “If you have a gift, offer it now! There is no time to lose. The world needs your work.” That heartfelt appeal has stuck with me, and been a source of inspiration to me to do the Work I need to do to clear the space to offer what I can to the world. And it has been a sweet motivation to me to offer this powerful inquiry tool that helps people actually do that with more clarity and courage.

I have offered this work for many years as one part of leadership retreats and Art of Hosting workshops, as well as in my private coaching practice, and it was powerful and exciting to have a whole weekend to focus in this area.

What seemed particularly valuable about having the full weekend was having the time to really dive into some of those stuck places, and to approach them from the different angles of the exercises and inquiry. Participants commented that they were able to more clearly see into patterns that had them stuck, sometimes for decades, and experience shift and see a path forward into new possibility. 

We had the time to look at interpersonal stuck places (working with those ‘difficult’ people); to dive into places of fear holding us back from our next level of work in the world, and to revisit past challenges. We looked at our patterns of approval seeking that can throw us out of our integrity in our work, and keep us small, and the many core beliefs that attached to and unquestioned, can stifle creativity and good, enjoyable and collaborative work.

Thanks much to Mary Johnson of Bridgeworks Consulting in Edmonton who invited me, and organized this event. That ground work is such an important part of making things happen. And to the amazing group of people that attended and participated so fully. 

I am very much looking forward to offering this workshop again, perhaps in Vancouver in the spring of 2013 and elsewhere as invited. If you are interested to have this offering in your community, contact me and we can explore possibility together.

I will also be offering a Telecourse in “The Work @ work – Getting out of your own way” with the professional/work life focus in the fall on WebEX. More info on that on my website soon, and if you would like to be on the wait list for that class feel free to email me. I am currently looking at Tuesday afternoons Pacific Time (evenings Central, Eastern and Atlantic Time) and will consider adding an additional class at another time if there is interest.

Looking forward to the adventure.


Working with fear

In my deep immersion of this Work for more than 14 years now it continues to amaze me and humble me how powerful fear thinking can be in over riding our clear thinking and ability to act from a wise, integrated space. How it can so profoundly block connection, seeing and hearing – and creative thinking.

There is so often what we “know” we value, and all the wisdom we have learned along the way – and then when we are in the grip of a fearful belief, that wisdom is nowhere to be found and we find ourself acting out of the fear movie in some habitual way or shutting down or fleeing the scene. Missing the support or other valuable information reality might have to offer in that moment.

We ‘know’ that wise stuff. And then in another moment, we don’t. We have capacity to think creatively one moment, and then in the grip of a fearful belief – we lose access to it.

I have been talking about it lately as the fearful mind ‘override’. Noticing with compassion how it can happen to all of us. Fear thinking is powerful, and the responses it triggers make it even harder to simply think or problem solve our way out of it.  Without a way to directly engage with the fears that set our reaction off, those patterns stay in place, even if our best intentions are to act from a more grounded place.

Our minds have a powerful ability to project a reality, figure things out (make a story) – and I believe a core function of survival – and those things together with fear can create a lot of confusion in how we process what is happening and how we see the immediate or distant future.  Our minds also have an amazing capacity for curiosity and learning, when the right conditions are in place. I have noticed that fear thinking closes that space down, and inquiry and some pause for contemplation wakes the inquiring mind back up.