Appreciate who we are becoming

I’ve been experiencing and learning about human development both personally and professionally as I approach six months of my new professional life as a consultant and coach.  As readers of this blog know I like to quote Dr. Fred Newman who created a methodology and practice (social therapy) that has given thousands of people around the world the opportunity to develop and create their lives.

Fred used to have a call-in radio show called, Let’s Develop!. I’d take time and carefully design questions for Fred and call into the show almost every week; Fred was always very appreciative of calls from “Marian from Manhattan”. One week he responded to a question I asked by sharing that development is the interplay of who you were, who you are, and who you are becoming.

These words have come to me several times during coaching sessions with MBA students. I’m helping them develop confidence and skills as they go through their interviews for internships and post-graduate positions. Combining my experience as an executive search consultant, actress/director, and improvisational expert I give students the support and direction they need to play and pretend, practice and develop a performance of who they are becoming.

In a HBR post this week Joshua Erlich wrote a piece Developing Executive Presence that summed up the basic work that executive coaches do to help with this issue —

This quote jumped out at me:

Practice with support. Letting a colleague or mentor know you are working on presence can boost your skills and confidence.

People need support.  Maybe that sounds obvious but I think we underestimate how much support we all need to grow in our overly individualistic culture.  In order to move in and around who we were, who we are and who we are becoming we need to build relationships that support this kind of growth — that support development. Since it’s football season I’ve been looking at the coaches on the sidelines; so much of what they do is push their players to go beyond themselves.  Off the field and in the boardroom or other settings where we find ourselves it is not always so easy to find a coach, a mentor, or a friend who will and can give the kind of support needed to grow.

Growing is emotional — going beyond ourselves, becoming who we are not, is frightening.  All too often we leave out the emotional component, which requires those of us who are coaching to create an environment and relationship which allows soneone to go beyond “boosting skills and confidence” to a place where they can pretend** (see article below).  As a coach I see my role as a director and as a developmentalist — I’m there to help people experience that interplay Fred was talking about.

A big part of how we can give support is both teaching and engaging in the activity of appreciation. Here’s an excerpt from a paper by Drs. Fred Newman and Lenora Fulani called Let’s Pretend** 

“Appreciation” is a sophisticated developmental skill. It is highly subjective, in that we might all have varied objects that we appreciate. Yet, appreciation itself takes a common form in the culture. And here’s what’s important. Appreciation is fundamentally performatory.

The value of coaching as I see it is to create a space for development and help people become less alienated about our human capacity to create our lives. Let’s develop!

Interesting . . .

Transformation, creativity, learning, development and emotionality. All of these words come to mind in thinking about the impact of having recreated my career at the age of fifty-five.

Yesterday I found myself sitting in a conference room on the 30th Floor looking over Central Park in a meeting at a financial services firm where I am a currently on retainer as a consultant.

I sat at the meeting having a wonderful experience enjoying the activity of learning, and learning things that I never ever thought I’d be interested in. It was joyous and at times a bit disconcerting. The image I once had about “who I am” is fading.  I’ve transformed!

I’m always grateful for the many giving and smart developmentalists that I have the good fortune to live my life with.  The late — but always very present in so many peoples’ lives — Dr. Fred Newman once gave me some advice on his radio call-in program “Let’s Develop”. I couldn’t help but think of Fred while I sat at the meeting yesterday.

About a dozen years ago or more I was first having to learn about the value of executive compensation packages — options and restricted stock. Coming to a job in “corporate America” by way of community organizing, theatre and not-for-profit work I was having a tough time learning.  I called in and told Fred, “I’m not interested in learning about Wall Street!”.  He responded by saying, “Get interested and then you’ll be interested”.  A simple-sounding philosophical and performance direction. He was right, I started to perform as though I was interested and well, the rest is history.

I thought of Fred as I experienced new emotions, emotions that we create when we learn new things and learn in a new way, and when, most importantly we let others impact us.

There I was, so very interested in hearing about the young analysts who are so creative in what they are able to do (I’m interested in creativity!), the challenges of investing in emerging markets, and other matters that once upon a time I would have had no interest in.

Today the person I work for asked me how I’d like to develop and how he can support my development at the firm.  I don’t know the answer to his question – but I’m interested to find out!

Thank you, Fred!

Improvisation, Giving, and Career/Self Reinvention

Today is my first day of work as a freelance recruiting professional.  I am thrilled to have two projects to sink my teeth into.  It’s been a wonderful process to get to today.

This past week my mentor, friend and colleague, Dr. Fred Newman, passed away.  Fred taught me many, many things but one of the most important things he taught me is to give, give again, give some more, and give in the particular way that he expresses in his practical guide to continuous development, Let’s Develop:

Be unexpectedly giving for “no reason at all” to someone who is unlikely to give you anything in return.

It’s been a hard road to learn how to give in this way, after all we live in a culture that is all about getting. Learning this from Fred and other colleagues has changed my life.  How did I get here?  I gave everything to my friends — the fear, the insecurities, the doubt that I could leave a job after 15 years and go out on my own.  And then I accepted the offers that my friends gave to me, I built with them (giving to my friends in this way), even if I thought they were asking me to do the impossible.

Accepting all the offers people give us, saying yes, and building with everything we have is the essence of improvisation.  As human beings we have the opportunity to create and recreate/reinvent our lives.

As one friend put it, “Let’s soak up all the offers the world has to give us” — yes and let’s develop by giving.

Thank you, Fred.

I am quite pleased that a wonderful article written by Jude Trader-Wolff was just published online; it features an interview she conducted with me about improvisation and career/self-reinvention.