Coaching Blog

6 Ideas That'll Change Your Coaching and Your Life

Posted by Julia Stewart

Positivity RatioI'm always looking for new ideas that'll upgrade, broaden, or deepen my coaching, so it's more effective. You too? Then you'll love this post.

It's a challenge to keep readers like you, well...challenged. You're a pretty sophisticated bunch.

But here goes: some of the best ideas I've encountered, which ultimately changed my life and the way I coach and may change your life and coaching too.


1. The Power of Negativity. This first one is possibly the most powerful idea to come out of positive psychology. It's the concept of the Positivity Ratio and the upper limit of positivity, which can be measured as both positive thoughts and feelings, as well as whether you're curious or defending your point of view, and/or focused on yourself or on those around you. To flourish, you, your relationship, your business, or your coaching, needs at least a three-to-one ratio of positivity to negativity. AND there's an upward limit around eleven-to-one, beyond which things go down fast. So, if you're a Law of Attraction Nazi, or if you focus only on the good stuff in coaching, stepping over the problematic stuff, or if you relentlessly reframe problems into opportunities, or (as one of my clients famously put it) FLO's (F*cking Learning Opportunities), you may hinder, rather than help your clients. (Read Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity.)

2. The Tyranny of Mild Praise. This one also comes from positive psychology and it's about relationships. Let's face it, the relationship between coach and client does much of the coaching for us. Therefore, the concept called, Active Constructive Responding (ACR), is critical. What is ACR? It's an over-the-top form of acknowledgment that includes positive tone of voice (genuine excitement, awe, wonder), positive body language (smiling, eye contact, touching), repeating the specifics of what the other has said, commenting on it's importance to the other, suggesting a celebration; all of which leads to flourishing within the relationship. NONE of the other types of responses, including Passive Constructive Responding (Flat tone of voice, general praise, "That's nice."), Passive Destructive Responding (ignoring, changing the subject, turning away), or Active Negative Responding (showing concern, pointing out problems); I repeat, none of these promote relationships. In fact they ALL have a negative impact on relationships, which obviously can negatively impact coaching. I've listened to thousands of coaching sessions over the years. Even "good" coaches tend to rely heavily on Passive Constructive Response, or a hybrid of ACR and PCR, which  clearly limits the value of their coaching. ACR can be a challenge to weave into coaching and for some of us, it's a challenge to make it truly genuine, but master coaches do it all the time. For others, over-using ACR (see above) damages our credibility. This is a tool that we can't afford not to master. (Read Martin Seligman's Flourish.)

3. Change Your Brain to Change Your Mind. This one comes from neuroscience and it has profound implications for positive psychology coaches, as well as every other type of coach. As members of my positive psychology course know, the Positivity Ratio can be used to measure and increase your current potential for flourishing and it'sa nifty coaching tool. There are also tools, founded in modern neuroscience, that can change the brain to sustainably increase peace, happiness, love and other elements of positivity. Literally, you can grow some areas of your brain so that they become more dominant, relatively permanently. And over-developed areas that may be problematic (such as the over-sized amygdala of those who suffer from anxiety) can shrink, again causing sustainable change. Change your brain; change your life for good. I just took a neuroscience seminar on this, but you can read more about it. (Read Rick Hanson's Buddha's Brain.)

4. Coaching's Not Complete If It's Not Integral. I'm taking a course from Integral Philospher, Ken Wilber. Some people say he's the most important philosopher since Plato, but that statement begs an argument, so I won't say it. Suffice it to say, if you don't know his work, your evolution may be stymied. And that of your clients, as well. As coaches, we say our clients are whole, complete and perfect. Trouble is, we may be blind to some of that perfection. And our clients almost certainly are. Blind spots make trouble (see #5, below). Wilber's Integral Model, known as AQAL, is an elegant map that streamlines how we know anything and how we evolve. It's closely aligned with Spiral Dynamics, which I'll be teaching next month. But AQAL goes even further. The AQAL Map is a beautiful tool to use when helping our clients design accountability structures, supportive systems, environments and strategic habitats (or whatever you prefer to call them). With AQAL, we can easily see if we're leaving anything out, or if the client is blind to some aspects of reality (almost everybody is). Plus, we have an evolutionary framework. It makes the complex simple, when you understand it. I'll be teaching an introductory course on integral coaching soon, but start reading books on Integral Theory now. (Read Wilber's simplest book, Integral Vision.)

5. All Coaching is Shadow Coaching - Or Should Be. My first lesson from Zen Master, Genpo Roshi, included a joke - on us. To paraphrase, he said (with a laugh), evolved people like to say they're whole, complete and perfect, except the parts they don't like about themselves. But you can't be complete without all of it! So what parts of yourself don't you like? The part that overeats? The part that's naive? The part that gets tongue-tied at parties? It's not those parts that keep you fragmented, it's the fact that you try to disown them. Then they become blind spots, which grow into shadows, which undermine and sabotage you. That's what fragmentation really is. For many people, the first step toward wholeness is integration of the parts they formerly disliked. That's the underlying cause of stuckness and it keeps coming back until all aspects of the self are integrated (or Integral). Some people are so fragmented that they lose the ability to choose wholeness. That's what is known as mental illness and I'm not suggesting that shadow coaching can cure that. But even healthy people have shadows and we can choose to integrate them with assistance from a skilled coach.  I use this approach in my Great Self Coaching. Genpo Roshi is incredibly masterful at it from a Zen perspective. (Read Genpo Roshi's Big Mind/Big Heart.)

6. Your Business Model May Be Too Infantile to Last. I've also been studying Adizes Management Methodology of late. Ichak Adizes is a legendary management consultant who deftly identified several different stages of a business life cycle. His theory explains, among other things, why the US Government is floundering these days (no, it has nothing to do with Republicans vs. Democrats). One thing that strikes me about it is that most coaches base their businesses on one of three early-stage levels and expect their businesses to continue at that stage forever. It won't happen. I'm happy to say, I saw this even before I studied Adizes and I'm ready for it. I'll write more at length on how you can design your business to last in a future post. But this issue could explain why our industry is so successful, but some coaches never enjoy that success. (Read Ichak Adizes' Corporate life cycles)

We all have access to too much information these days. But there really is no substitution for knowing the right stuff.

Topics: coaching business, Coaching, Coaches, Law of Attraction, master coach, Great Self Coaching, Spiral Dynamics, Ken Wilber, Genpo Roshi, Big Mind Big Heart, Integral Philosophy, acknowledgment, coaching tool, Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman

Do You Coach with a Big Mind and Big Heart?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Genpo Roshi Big Mind Big Hear

I spent last weekend in Denver at the Vast Sky Conference with Zen Master Genpo Roshi, Ken Wilber, Bill Harris and Bernie Glassman Roshi.

Mind blowing doesn't begin to describe it. For me, the two highlights were:

1. Reconnecting with my former coach, Anna Dargitz, née Hodge, who took me out for a wonderful dinner and introduced me to her husband, Les. They have built a beautiful life together. So inspiring!
2. Participating live in a Big Mind/Big Heart workshop with Genpo Roshi. I had done it via DVD, so I thought I knew what to expect, and it was all that, but live is soooooo much more powerful!
Nothing has ever resonated with me more than Big Mind/Big Heart. I came home wondering if I should just move to the Big Mind Zen Center in Salt Lake City for a year. And I'm not even a Buddhist!
All the other presenters were also amazing. In fact, I went because Ken Wilber was there. He has been suffering from a chronic illness and doesn't travel for speaking engagements these days, so I felt now was the time to see him. He is the genius behind Integral Philosophy, who can speak as an expert (often THE expert) on a thousand subjects. Looking frail, thin and a bit older, he did not disappoint. (I award the prize for coolest entourage to Ken's gaggle of 30-ish men, all dressed in dark glasses, shaved heads and elegant suits with cool graphic T's peeking out - exactly Ken's own look.)
Genpo, on the other hand (or Roshi, as his followers call him), was totally down to earth, beaming with unconditional love and erupting with an irreverent sense of mirth, a total revelation. He has perhaps the cleanest energy I've ever experienced.
Big Mind/Big Heart is a raucous and fast path to enlightenment, especially when experienced live in Roshi's  presence. He bids many of your 10,000 "voices" to come forth and speak, including your disowned "shadow" voices, sometimes for the very first time. I discovered, among others, that I have a disowned fundamentalist (no real surprise) and a disowned narcissist (who knew?).
Ultimately, the purpose of Big Mind/Big Heart is to lead you deep down the path of Buddhist enlightenment in far less time than the monks of old have attained it. He combines a Western Process called, Voice Dialog, with the Eastern philosophy of Zen. It is revolutionary and it is fast. Although deepening it will likely require discipline and practice for a life time. But who wouldn't want to become enlightened when it's this much fun?
Roshi's mission is to enlighten many more souls, because as he says in the book, Big Mind/Big Heart, 
"We're at a point in our evolution where we all have to become conscious."
Naturally, as a coach, I appreciated all the ways that Roshi shows up as a masterful coach: Curiosity, Acknowledgment, Challenge, Humor, Unconditional Love, and all the other skills of coaching, but with a group of 70 people who all get coached simultaneously.  Wow.
Obviously, I recommend that you dive into all the tools that Roshi and his team have created, so you too, can become enlightened in a hurry: DVD's, CD's, Books, streaming video and of course, live events. He'll be in NYC and Houston with Centerpointe's Bill Harris this Fall. BE there, if you can. Visit for more info.
[UPDATE: On February 3rd, 2011, Genpo Merzel announced that he would disrobe as a Buddhist monk, after admitting to improper relationships with some students. He plans to continue teaching Big Mind on a secular basis and will no longer teach at Kanzeon Zen Center.]

Topics: Coaching, coach, Ken Wilber, Genpo Roshi, Big Mind Big Heart, Integral Philosophy, IAC, Anna Dargitz

Are You Stuck in the Green Meme?

Posted by Julia Stewart

Spiral Dynamics CoachingI've been fascinated by Spiral Dynamics, lately. It's a theory of human development that helps to explain people's paradigms, both individually and culturally. (You can read a brief synopsis of it in Ken Wilber's A Theory of Everything, or the whole enchilada in Spiral Dynamics by Don Edward Beck and Christopher C. Cowan.) 

This theory neatly explains why people think what they do and why there is so much disagreement about values in today's world - and it's weirdly color coded. 

Spiral Dynamics & Ken Wilber use the word, "meme", differently than we do as coaches. In SD, the word, "meme", closely resembles the word, "paradigm". It's a come-from more than an idea. Another term for this is, "meme complex" or value system. 

So, SD organizes paradigms, or memes, into levels that are color coded. The dominant memes of Western Society are the Red Meme, which is war-like and features a "might makes right" ethic; the Blue Meme, which is based on absolute truths and is dominant in our major religions; the Orange meme, which is evidence- and material-based and is seen in science and corporate ethics; and the Green Meme, which is socially conscious, multi-cultural, and teaches that truths are relative and dominates in the social sciences and academia. SD arranges these memes in ascending order, with Red on the bottom and Green on top. There are other memes, as well, but these are currently the dominant ones.

One thing that all the above memes have in common, is that they tend to view each other as wrong. The reality is that individuals and cultures all need to pass through every stage in order to progress. But because they see each other as wrong, the world is suffering from a kind of global auto-immune meme disease.

Here's an example of that: in the US, we're currently divided between the "red" conservatives and the "blue" liberals. Those colors have nothing to do with Spiral Dynamics, but conservatives are basically of the Red warlike and Blue religious memes. Whereas liberals are of the Orange scientific and Green socially conscious memes. And each side thinks the other is nuts.

Ken Wilber says Cultural Creatives are primarily of the Green Meme and also that this meme rose to ascendancy with the Baby Boomer generation. I'm thinking that the Green Meme is pretty common amongst coaches. Do you agree?
Here's the hitch: There are levels above the Green Meme. In fact, there's a whole Second Tier of memes in SD that begins with the level above Green. And between Green and the next one up, the Yellow Meme, which is about "Flex & Flow", there is a huge leap in consciousness. This leap goes from thinking that everyone who doesn't subscribe your meme is wrong, to thinking that all the memes have value and must exist. In other words, it's all perfect.

I believe coaching, itself, belongs in the second tier. That you might see the value of coaching if you're in the Green Meme, but you won't really get it, until you're in the Yellow Meme. This may explain, at least in part, why there are frustrated coaches out there, because only a tiny fraction of society has reached the Second Tier. (They have research to back this up.)

[UPDATE 5-9-13: In a live teleclass, yesterday, Ken Wilber mentioned that research shows that 5% of the world's population has reached the 2nd Tier and that if current growth continues, it will be 10% within 10 years. Historically, when a new meme system takes hold in 10% of the population, a tipping point is reached, which results in immense cultural change. This may be good news, since today's global problems require an unprecedented degree of cooperation from the global population.]

[UPDATE 9-12-2016: In a private conversation, Paul Ray, the sociologist who conducted the original research that was shared in his popular book, Cultural Creatives, told me Ken Wilber was wrong about SD and Cultural Creatives. He said Cultural Creatives fit more fully with the so-called, 2nd Tier Turquoise Meme, which is often confused with Green. People thinking at Green are much more political and often become activists. Turquoise is more spiritual and has a deep connection and sense of Oneness with Earth. Instead of marching, they are more likely to be redesigning culture and redefining what it means to be human. Both levels are highly concerned about Climate Change, but respond differently to it.]

The problem with a coach who thinks on the level of the Green Meme is that they are not going to understand some important ideas at the heart level and that can get in the way of their success. They may get it cognitively, but not at the all-important Being level.

So, how do you know if you're stuck in the Green Meme? Well, I haven't done research on this, yet, but here are some possibilities:

  • Do you have trouble understanding some coaching concepts? (Like recognizing perfection in every situation or knowing that people are doing their very best, even when they're not. I don't mean intellectually, I mean really get it. That definitely requires Yellow or Turquoise Meme thinking)
  • Do you feel uncomfortable with business and marketing, or with making money? (that's Orange Meme territory - Remember, Yellow and Turquoise Memes appreciate all levels of thinking.)
  • Do you have a problem with competition? (you need to make peace with Orange Meme thinking)
  • Do you believe there can be no hierarchies and no absolutes? (Except the absolute that there are no absolutes? If so, you are definitely at Green and will have a big problem with Blue and Orange thinking)
  • Do your biases get in the way of your coaching many clients and do you get annoyed with people, because you know they are wrong? (then you are stuck somewhere in the first tier)

How do you make the shift to Second Tier thinking? Ah, that's where coaches come in! That's what many of us are in the business of: Helping people shift up to the Second Tier!

My prediction is that Green Meme coaches will have more difficulties with their career than will coaches thinking at the Yellow or Turquoise Memes. And it's a BIG shift. No wonder becoming a coach is such a huge transition!

Learn About "Spiral Dynamics Integral" Coaching


Copyright, Julia Stewart, 2005 - 2021



Topics: Coaching, Spiral Dynamics, Ken Wilber, Don Beck, Second Tier, Cultural Creatives

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