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Coaching to Flourish #097: The Aloha of Coaching - A Dive into Values and Grace

January 09, 2024 by Coach Training EDU

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Join host Raj Anderson and CTEDU founder John Andrew Williams as they discuss coaching insights around building grace, discovering values, and the profound philosophy of Aloha. Discover how clarifying values plays a pivotal role in coaching, and how we can build grace and trust for ourselves and our clients on the coaching journey. Tune in for this enlightening discussion of self-reflection and exploring coaching dynamics!

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Raj Anderson: Okay. We are live. Welcome everyone to the Coaching to Flourish podcast. And I am your host, Raj Anderson, executive life coach and coach assessor. And I'm here with John Andrew Williams, who is the founder of Coach Training EDU. And we've just been chatting about a few different things. And John, you look cold today, what's happening in your world? 

John Andrew Williams: I am super cold. We took the opportunity for - you know it was Thanksgiving - to get out of here and go to Hawaii, which was amazing.  We spent the week on Oahu, and I just felt just like amazing family time. And we got back late late last night, and I am now back in Hood River, Oregon. It's freezing here! It literally is freezing and I'm so cold. So I'm wearing a hat, multiple sweaters, and yeah, it's all good but it's just cold. And my office is, we don't have - it's a green building, so it has living roof, which is amazing, but to warm this thing up it takes more than a day. 

Raj Anderson: Well thank you, John, for joining us in the cold. And I know you only got back early in the morning, but what would you share was the best thing about Hawaii? 

John Andrew Williams: I mean, the thing that really struck me is the idea of Aloha. I saw a t-shirt, a teenager was wearing it, and it said, don't mistake aloha for weakness. And it was fascinating. The idea of aloha means hello, goodbye, but it means more like the spirit of me sees the spirit of you. And it's, it's love. And this idea of greeting people, very similar to namaste, the idea of, you know, I see you, I see the spirit you. My spirit you sees your spirit, that is such a powerful thing. And also seeing the culture of, just the culture of the people. Amoise has a relative who lives there, so we got to meet up with him and his wife. And yeah, it's that. 

And I think that a lot of times too, in the business world or corporate settings, people will confuse kindness with weakness. And what we're finding now is it's not, kindness doesn't mean you're weak. Kindness is a strength, it's a big strength. And coaching, what it does, the empathetic I see, it's built into their culture. And Honolulu has an amazing art history museum too, so we get to spend some time there. That was wild.  The curation of it was spot on, so I was super impressed. It was fun. But now we're here back in cold Hood River.  

Raj Anderson: What a beautiful message, the spirit of me sees the spirit of you. And I know you just, you made some connections for us there, even within coaching. But I'm curious, why is that such an important message for coaches to hear? 

John Andrew Williams: The number one myth of coaching, everyone - this is back even when I first got into life coaching - is that if you are a life coach, you're an expert in life. or you're an expert in knowing what someone else should do, and it comes up a lot. And I think the biggest revelation for new coaches is that coaching isn't about giving advice, or knowing the right answer, or even knowing what's best for the other person, but it's about asking those powerful questions, staying in empathetic curiosity. Active, empathetic curiosity is the foundation of coaching. It's listening to someone with the same passion that you want to be listened to. 

And from there, when you're in that space, people become - they naturally rise. People become oddly powerful and vulnerable at the same time.  And it's not that we're judging, or even, you know, giving a direction, as much as we're just asking really amazing questions that you want to answer. Questions that feel like, they have an opportunity to change your life if you really went deeply into it. And that's what I felt like was naturally there in some ways, this idea of, I'm giving you grace. I feel like aloha - if there's one word, love might be it. I think it goes even more active than that, I think it's grace. There was a lot of grace giving, and it felt amazing.  

Raj Anderson: So how as a coach do you - I'm thinking about how do you build grace? Because when we go into that coaching space, something magical happens, doesn't it? We talked about it even on our last session where I was saying something transforms, I release all judgment, I am just there in this magical space, being curious. And holding that space, listening to the individual. How does a coach kind of work on themselves to get into that place? 

John Andrew Williams: Yeah. I mean, well, you take coach training. You sign up and you pay the money, and you show up and you do the things. I mean, I think that a lot of times people think they can do it on their own, that you can be a coach without a training program. It's not best practice, and it's not really doing yourself, the practitioner, it's really not doing yourself service. It really does make sense to get the training, because there are blind spots.

Even when I was getting my MCC training and went through, you know, applying for the master certified coach for the ICF, and getting my mentor coaching. And this is me, after thousands of hours of coaching, I was training people to be coaches. There were even blind spots in my coaching that I realized that I was really happy to see, because I know I could improve. I mean, it's just constant. 

We saw a dolphin show and I asked the trainer, so how many, what's the training like? How long is it? It's continuous. Training happens every day. If you want to be the best at something, why not? If you want to be a professional, yeah, do it every day. 

Raj Anderson: Training happens every day. The learning happens every day as well, doesn't it? As you said. Everyone knows this year I was excited, I got my MCC, yet it just doesn't stop there at all. I'm continuously asking myself questions. I was in a coaching session yesterday, and because I wear a number of different hats, I had to be very intentional before I went in. And there was a moment in there, I was like, Stay in coach mode, stay in coach mode, be curious. Because you've got to continuously use that muscle,  haven't you? That coaching curiosity muscle.  

John Andrew Williams: Totally, totally. And yeah, coach mode is lovely. Because once you're in it you realize, it's flowy. It feels natural. It feels like humans are meant to be in this space with another human. 

Raj Anderson: And one of the things I wanted to explore with you today was on values. So we've talked a little bit about, if you want to be the best you've got to continue to learn and train, and go get your coach training, come and join us. But I know there's some great things in the curriculum. One of the things that you do look at is around clarifying values, for example. So why is that such an important part of training? 

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, values. Even just the term values, there's, in my mind there are a couple of different even categories of values. So I think the most useful way of looking at a value is something that you give worth to. It comes from a Latin word, ‘valore’, which literally means to weigh. You know, if you put something on a scale, like how heavy is it, like how much worth does this have? 

There are a couple of different types of values that we make a distinction with. One is a topic value. So topic value would be family, for instance, a career might be a value. Yeah, so that's topic values. And then you have experience values. And experience values might be more like flow or laughter, or you know, pushing yourself to an edge. Even pushing to fatigue might be a value that you have. It's more something that you can apply in a few different areas of your life. 

Even making that distinction between a topic value and an experience value gives a little bit of, it helps clarify a little bit of that internal geography. So you can ask yourself, okay, so what really does have worth in my life? And you can get extremely precise and the definition of the things in your life that you value over others. And when you clarify them, you just - I'm working with a developer and I love it when he asks me the question, like if I'm just rambling or something, he'll ask, okay John, define the problem. Define it. In the same idea of like, Define the value. What's the value? What are you really after? What do you really, truly give worth to?  

And when you start doing that, defining that, that clarification naturally leads you to take action steps, which increases fulfillment, which is the bread and butter of coaching.  So this is where coaching, this is the mechanics of why coaching works. Even just asking people, so what are your top 10 values? They'll mostly go for the topic value. But then when you start asking them, get really into coaching sessions and you can start defining experience values, that's when things really start to take off for people in their fulfillment levels. 

Raj Anderson: I love how you're explaining that as well, John. It reminds me often when I'm working with leaders, and we're looking at their own values before we look at organizational values or team values. One of the things we stumble across as well is their kind of actual values versus aspirational values. Because sometimes we pick values that we want to have, or sound great, but our day-to-day life is not demonstrating that that's a value, because it's not showing up in our behaviors or actions. What are your thoughts on that?  

John Andrew Williams: You know, if you go back to this idea of grace, I think one of the biggest things that it shows is self grace. Where you give yourself grace for past decisions, or things that may not have worked out as great as you wanted them to. There is a distinction between, we'll call it self grace, and self deception, where you're saying, no, no, it's really okay if I do this thing, when you really do need to be more disciplined. Roll your sleeves up and do the work, or avoid the thing. I mean, these are all decisions, internal decisions, that we all face on a daily basis.  

When people start making decisions based on their most deeply held values, for me, as a coach, it starts to show up in people - they usually let stuff go. It's more around, okay, I'm no longer doing this action that I feel like is time wasting, or doesn't align with what I really truly want in my life. And so a lot of the aspirational or actual values, they show up in behavior. Value work, in my mind, is as much of what are you letting go of, as much as what are you bringing into your life?  Most people most of the time look at, what else can I add to my life? What else can I bring into my life? That's not bad. But you know you're really getting to it when you start cutting things out. 

Raj Anderson: Letting go, talking about self grace. I'm hearing that then, self grace can also, for me, would lead to self acceptance. Because it's also being able to love ourselves through self deception, or when we might think that we're not doing enough. Or for me it's being able to love myself through my shadow side as well as when I'm in the light. Because not always getting it right, my behavior, sometimes I have to work on them. I know, it's hard to believe, right? Most of the time I'm self aware, but there are times when I don't say things in the way that I would want to, or I'm a bit short tempered, or I think about experiences that I've had with loved ones. Or that inner critic shows up and I'm thinking, Oh, did I really do enough? Have I achieved enough this year? This is normally a time of year where people start to criticize themselves or question. So there is that self grace bit, but for me, it's going deeper and also moving towards self acceptance. 

John Andrew Williams: Totally. It shows up. Even this morning. We get in late last night - the flight gets delayed, even a little bit more, and so we finally get to Hood River at 2am. Which is not recommended with little ones. It's just, that's a lot. There is a workout class that I recently subscribed to, the winter months. It meets at 6am in the mornings, on Tuesday, Thursday. Is that going to happen? So the aspirational value says, yeah. The topic value says, yes. I now know enough to know myself - not gonna happen. It's not going to happen. But in the past, I think there would have been a pressure to, okay, yeah, let's just be the iron person and say, let's do it anyway, you know, four hours of sleep, who cares? Let's rock this. Nope. 

If you're looking at the neuroscience of us, of humans, the limbic system, lizard brain, the more primal system needs to be honored. It needs to be attended to, it needs to be  respected. And a lot of times when people in coaching sessions are being coached, that naturally happens. They realize, okay, my primal self has needs, wants, desires, and dreams. When the primal self feels respected, then the frontal cortex has way less work to do, way less heavy lifting. Motivation is easier to find. Your self grace is there because your primal self isn't screaming. 

And the same thing in executive coaching. You know, when executives feel like, you know, they’re doing their life's work and other aspects of their life are in alignment, getting that frontal cortex to do its job - which is to be, to enjoy those more complex ideas - it's just a lot easier to make that happen, as opposed to using the frontal cortex to punish the primal self. That internal battle is brutal. But yeah, no. Maximize sleep. I know it. My primal self, yes, you need the hours. I'm going to give you those hours. And then now the frontal cortex self is - surfing, surfing the day. 

Raj Anderson: Often when I'm listening to new coaches in, say if they were coaching somebody in that instance, I often hear that they might go to then ‘doing’, or, okay, well, how would you make up for that missed session this week? Or, you know, what would you do differently? Or what else will you do? This is the holding grace space. Which might be something like, well, you know, what's okay about missing the session? Or being in more curiosity with the grace, type of question. So how would you have coached in that instance, or where would you go with somebody who might be beating themselves up because they missed that 6am session? 

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, that's a good question. I think part of what makes coaching amazing is, there are a dozen different ways to go. And one of my favorite ways to go with almost every coaching session is to go with whatever it is. So what's the usefulness of beating yourself up over - what's the usefulness of that frontal cortex screaming, and then what does the primal self need? And then facilitating a conversation between those two. I'm not making up that session. I don't really care. I do not care one bit. I have zero guilt, it does not matter in the long run. 

A lot of it is just trying to figure out, what do you need to be an instrument so you can fulfill the larger purpose you feel called to in this life? And when you're looking at yourself as an instrument, as a vessel for something larger than yourself, it takes away a lot of the internal angst that I think is pretty common. Because people have not, as a general guideline, people don't have that clear. Most people don't have that clearly defined. You know, what are you really trying to accomplish in your life? Like, what do you feel called to do? And when you tap into that, decisions become extremely clear.  

And there's an element that I've been really leaning into lately of, you know, I could have made different decisions back then, what if I had done this or done that, like the what-ifs, if I had taken different directions at different times. And that can get really brutal. Maybe you mentioned it earlier. And I was talking to a friend and they were saying, that kind of thinking leads to a deeper message that I do not trust the path, or I do not trust what has happened. And that's a pretty thorny, you know, place to be. You're going to get pricked over and over again. Yeah, I've been sitting with that. Like, how much do you really trust your path? Do you really trust your spirit self? Regrets, what-ifs, all that sends a message that I don't trust. 

Raj Anderson: And it's that grace, the holding the space, the being curious, the trust that we build in ourselves as coaches as well - you know, trust yourself, trust the process, trust the client. Because you're saying very clearly - we weren't in a coaching session, but you were like, I don't have any regrets. It's absolutely fine. So that's where as coaches, you know, some tips for you to think about, we have to release our own assumptions as well. You know, really listen to what the person's saying, really connect with them. Which also goes right back to Aloha, doesn't it? In terms of, I see you. 

John Andrew Williams: It's amazing. I feel like my regrets are more focus around career, which is really funny to me sometimes too, like when things are going well. It's a more of a barometer, like, how are things going in the last, you know, three months? It's more of a barometer. Everyone has them. Even executives I've worked with. I mean, you've coached people and they have, it's just part of the deal. 

There was, was it Steve Jobs, or somebody,  was talking about the minimum regret theorem. It might have been Godin, Seth Godin talking about, what is the formula for minimum regret? And part of it is, part of what I see is, coaching people is, what do you need to stop doing? A big part of it is the stop doing list. And then there's usually, in my life included, a few aspirational goals - usually involving creativity, producing something. And those aspirational goals, not achieving those, I think leads to some pretty serious regret. If we're going to diagram regret, like those are the two main categories where I see - what you needed to have stopped doing and what you needed to have started doing. And if you had done this 10 years ago, where would you be now?  

These are not very fun questions to go to solo, I don't recommend going to them solo. But when you're working with a coach, yes absolutely, these are amazing questions to explore in the safe boundaries of a coaching session. 

Raj Anderson: Thank you, John. So what I really am taking away from today is that, working with your coach, perhaps explore those questions around what can I stop doing? What can I start doing? But I'm also hearing, what do I want to let go of?  I'm going to ask myself, how can I have more grace with myself today? I know we're on time, John, but what other words of wisdom would you leave us with today?  

John Andrew Williams: A lot of gratitude for you, Raj, and it's your birthday tomorrow! 

Raj Anderson: It is. I love my birthday.  

John Andrew Williams: Big happy birthday. And you know, I just really appreciate you, the space you bring. Yeah, everything you bring. There's such, I mean, birthdays are so fun. You know, it's an opportunity to really look at yourself and celebrate your life. I hope you have an amazing one tomorrow.  

Raj Anderson: Thank you, John. I appreciate that. And I'm grateful to you for, on the little sleep that you've had, you've still bought such great energy and such words of wisdom for us. And of course, grateful for this whole community. So thank you to everyone. 

John Andrew Williams: Yeah, thanks. See you next week. 

Raj Anderson: See you. Bye.

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