January 28, 2009

What I do

I have been developing a FAQ sheet to follow up inquiries about coaching and I thought I would share the first page with you.
There is a second page with even more answers to more questions that get more practical as they go along. Contact me to continue....

What do you do?
I am an executive and personal coach, specializing in helping international professionals make a difference.

What do you mean by make a difference?
You make a difference when you are effective in the present and focused on the future. You perform at your best when you are empowered by a sense of purpose that is grounded in your values and driven forward by your natural strengths. (sounds like someone we know -- see the post below).

Am I an international professional?
Anyone who chooses to live and work among new, changing and even challenging cultural and multicultural environments is an international professional – this could be with an international or non-governmental organization, a government, multinational or as an independent consultant. You know how to adapt and seek to grow and thrive in ongoing change and complexity.

What kind of change are you talking about?

Change from a new cultural environments, new professional roles or functions, new ways of thinking, behaving, managing, making decisions, leading.

What is a professional coach?
A coach that is certified by an ICF accredited training program, in my case, by the International Coach Academy, www.icoachacademy.com

What is coaching?
Coaching is a methodology to help people achieve the positive change they want in their personal and professional lives – to be and do their best. With a coach, you create a partnership that has one objective -- helping you create what you want from your life and work. Together you seek possibilities, identify what works and design ways to do more of it. The relationship is always honest and sincere, with the client -- and their skills, creativity and recourses -- as the center of focus.

How does it work?
A coach creates a safe environment in which you can explore and take risks, provides support and guides your attention, helps you take action to move forward and maintains confidentiality at all times.

Who is your ideal client?
I work with people who are thoughtful and curious, high-performing, articulate and self-aware. They want to be and do their best to make a difference in the world and are open to change in their lives to get there. They are willing to engage in an adult learning process that inspires personal and professional progress.

January 22, 2009

A few special words

A few words struck me from President Obama's inaugural speech:
Unity of Purpose
Enduring spirit
Carry forward
Nobel idea
Action, Bold, Swift
Purpose, Courage
Move forward
Change, change, change
Fair play
Hope and virtue

Our inner conversations create a picture of who we are. The words we use to talk about ourselves, our past, our future, are important defining factors as we create our reality.

I like these words above. They are words that inspire and create a vision of something I would like to be as an American.

Actually they brought tears to my eyes as I listened the other evening, along with another 500 people at a gathering organized by the Democtrats Abroad. Some of us were a bit embarassed at how emotional we had become, but it has been a long hard eight years to be an American abroad.

a domani and a new beginning,

January 16, 2009

Home sweet home

I've just received an email from the SIETAR organization (Society of Intercultural Education, Training and Research) with downloads and lots of photos from the October conference in Granada (see to your right for my workshop presentation).

I downloaded and read one of the workshops I hadn't managed to attend, held by a British colleague up in Bologna who works in intercultural training. It was on "Culture and Change". Since he works with companies in Italy, there were some interesting comparative stats on Italian culture and change.

For today, I will share just a few revelations.

Along a spectrum for "uncertainty avoidance" that runs from low (1) to high (10), Italy was ranked at 7.5, while the UK at 3.5 and Sweden 2.9.
This means that Italians tend to feel more threatened by uncertain and ambiguous situations and try to avoid them than the Brits and the Swedes. We have seen this many times in my blog.

Along another spectrum for "power distance" Italy was ranked at 5.0, while the UK stood at 3.5 and Sweden at 3.1. This means that the less powerful members of Italian society better accept that power is distributed unequally compared to the UK and Sweden (for example). We have seen this too.

Another slide showed that Italian managers are much less willing to accept postings abroad than their counterparts in other countries: Italy, 42%, Germany 55.8%, UK 59%, USA 60.3% and Sweden 72.7%

As for the Swedes, I would guess that they are more than happy to leave their county if the proposition is made in January. As for the Italians, that daily plate of pasta is hard to give up.

a domani,

January 15, 2009

Optimism is good for you

Italians are optimistic, relatively, that is relative to the general pessimism surrounding us these days. This is what a survey by the London daily the Guardian discovered. Behind Italy (in order) lie: the US, Russia, Germany, France, Spain, the UK and Japan.

Why are the Italians more optimistic? The Italian journalist Enrico Franceschini suggests the following:
1. Italians know something about the real prospects of the Italian economy that no one else knows.
2. The Italian character tends to stress more hope and trust in the stars.
3. The Italians are being fed unrealistically positive information that hides the real situation and assures, instead, that "tutto va bene" and we should let HIM take care of it. (that is, Berlusconi).

Even if the last hypothesis is true, still, optimism is a good thing and, in an economy based on trust, can even make good things happen.

Positive psychology has developed a classification system of 24 strengths called the "values in action strengths survey". The questionnaire measures human strengths in a consistent, reliable and valid manner, divided into six primary categories of strengths (or core virtues). Coaches informed by positive psychology approaches can use the results of this survey to help clients focus on their "signature" strengths to improve performance and well-being.

Along the way, they also identified the five key strengths that most strongly correlate to happiness: gratitude, curiosity, vitality, hope/optimism and capacity to love and be loved.

So, even if the economy is not going to actually bounce back as well or as quickly as the Italians genuinely hope it will, being optimistic at least makes you a bit happier as you go about your daily life.

a domani,

you can take the "VIA strengths questionnaire" by registering on the site: www.authentichappiness.com and clicking on the above questionnaire. It takes about 20 mintues to complete and is free (donated by the Mayerson Foundation to the public domain). Are you curious to know if curiosity is one of your "signature" (top five) strengths? It's number two on my list (after creativity) -- but I guess you would know that by following my blog.

Would you like to know more about how to put your strengths to work for better performance and personal satisfaction? contact me to schedule a free trial coaching session. leave a note on the site, email (abbot.elizabeth@gmail.com) or call: 328 087 8207.

January 14, 2009

The edge of chaos

I love complexity. Strange, but true. Ask my friend Gillian and she will roll her eyes in desperation. Even the personality and strengths assessments I have been doing say so: "emphasizing complexity can be a motivating force" (Management Drives test), "focuses on developing complex ideas" (Enneagram profile -- "The Investigator"), "analyzes the world in depth" (Myers-Briggs personality type -- "The Architect"), creativity, ingenuity and originality (top strength with the Via Signature Strength Assessment used in positive psychology).

So, keeping this in mind, you can understand how excited I was to get to the last chapter of the book on my nightstand, "Evidence-Based Coaching Handbook: Putting Best Practices to Work for Your Clients" called Coaching from a Systemic Perspective: A Complex Adaptive Conversation. I nearly drooled in anticipation and I was not disappointed.

The article's author, Michael Cavanagh, starts with a definition of coaching as, "a journey in search of patterns". Love it (like the complex circular vector above). Then he gets into a branch of systems theory called complex adaptive systems, or complexity theory.

Don't worry, I won't explain it to you, just share a connection that came to mind as I read -- cultures are actually complex adaptive systems in that (like a human body) each part of the system is a system in its own right and they all interact in a way that makes the whole greater than the parts. It also explains why it is so hard for cultures to change, the parts keep adapting to maintain the integrity of the whole, and why it is so hard for our personal cultural systems to change as we adapt to new environments.

But I digress, what really struck me was the idea of living (and actually thriving) in a place called the "edge of chaos" -- the border between chaos and sameness in which just enough "openness" gives us just enough energy to push us out of sameness and the risk of entropy (disintegration), while not pushing us too far into receiving too much new information and diversity and finding ourselves in chaos (ie culture shock).

This made me reflect that the idea of life/work balance as an achievable perfect equilibrium is a myth. Complexity theorists would argue that steady-state functioning doesn't actually function very well. We live better in a state of "sustainable instability" or a kind of "dynamic equilibrium". Living on the edge of chaos is a "paradoxical state of unresolvable contradictory forces" and the tension between these forces "elicits creativity and innovation".

So, who wants to just live in balance when you can thrive on the edge of chaos.

Welcome to the wonderful world of complexity, and now that I think about it, the wonderful world of living and working in a new cultural environment -- certainly feels like the edge of chaos, especially in Rome traffic on a rainy day.

a domani,

* the image is of a complex circular vector. In physics, this process seeks pattern recognition at the boundary of a closed figure when there are no distinct landmarks (and speaks to my coaching model).