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Interview with Leni Wildflower PhD: It is our responsibility to help others grow

Posted By Tomas Misiukonis On March 12, 2012 @ 8:33 am In Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Coachingblog.lt presents Leni Wildflower PhD who has 20 years experience as an executive coach, author and educator, working in the US, UK, Europe, China and Latin America.  Her passion as a coach is to inspire clients to reach new levels of clarity and effectiveness. As an innovator and thoughtleader on coaching as a profession, a discipline and a craft, she developed the ground-breaking programme of evidence-based coach training at Fielding Graduate University in Santa Barbara, and co-edited the definitive The Handbook of Knowledge Based Coaching: From Theory to Practice. She is an expert on blended learning and online education.



Leni, what is your own definition of coaching?

Coaching is a process that helps healthy people become more aware of themselves and the people around them, It enables individuals to grow in their capacity to live a more meaningful life; to give to others; and to work more skillfully in their personal and professional lives.

 You have a huge experience in coaching, how coaching industry developed since it started to grow? 

I believe that coaching has grown considerably, particularly in the past five years.  Coaches are more sophisticated in their skills, and coach training increasingly incorporates theories from related disciplines which have built the theoretical foundation for coaching practice.

Coaching serves as a method to help people change, how coaching helps drealing with change?

Coaching changes people by shifting their way of understanding themselves and their lives.  It also gives them tools to better cope with whatever life brings them.

Why it is so hard for people to change?

Ah…..that is a great question!  I believe it is hard because we all have inside us very specific messages, many of which we were given as children.  These messages (assumptions you might call them) often make it difficult to change our attitudes or behavior.  Some examples:  “Work hard” “Don’t bother other people” “Always be polite” “You need to always be kind to be liked”. Change is slow.  There is always a lag time between our thinking “I want to change” and our actual ability to make a change.  Coaches need to be aware of this process.  There is no such thing as “instant transformation”.

Can you provide an example of two or three success stories of personal change from your client’s experience if I may ask? 

In the work I do, helping people change, one story stands out.  I worked with a woman who was very overweight.  She was the caretaker in the family.  What she discovered was that every time a family member phoned her or came to her with a problem, she would eat sweets after the encounter.  She saw eating sweets as a way to separate herself from her family’s problems.  Once she understood that she was using food for purposes other than nutrition, she was able to find alternative methods of separating herself from her family—such as taking a walk or writing down her feelings.

Sometimes change is simple:  I worked with a manager who was always going to her VP for reassurance and praise.  He never gave her praise.  In her coaching, I urged her to find people other than her boss who would praise her work.  Ideally, a boss should praise his employees, but when this doesn’t happen, people need to find ways of getting help and compliments from other sources.

Why it is better to use the help from professionals in order to change even if the person who wants to change is healthy physically and emotionally?

Change is not always clear cut.  Some people change without any help from teachers or psychotherapists or priests or coaches.  But from a coaching perspective, employing a professional coach to help you make personal or professional changes gives you tools and experienced guidance, and maybe most importantly, a person you can trust to listen to you and help you.

When a person plans personal change, what is a good strategy to follow?

There are many “change management” strategies.  I use the Kegan/Lahey Immunity to Change process.  Immunity to Change helps people see the assumptions they have made in their lives which make change difficult.  It is a compassionate, effective process that enables people to discover why they find it difficult to change, and how they can go about making significant life changes.

What could be other good methods except coaching to use in order to help oneself to change?

There are many effective self-help groups around the world which help people change self-destructive behaviors such as drinking, smoking, gambling, etc.  For many people, these have been highly effective.  Also, depending on the severity of the problem, sometimes psychotherapy is very effective.  Religious leaders and prayer can be very effective for some people.  Finally, there are people who can make significant changes simply by talking to a friend or partner, or even by personal resolution to change a behavior or attitude.

What psychological processes work when we involve ourselves into personal change?

I believe that we first have to uncover and examine assumptions and behaviors we are currently doing which make it difficult to change.  A new awareness is essential.  Then we need to develop strategies to slowly begin to modify our behavior or attitude.  This can be accomplished through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) techniques; using Bridges Transitions model; or any number of systems for shifting our behavior or attitude.

How would a universal recipe for change look like?

Unfortunately, I don’t believe there is a universal recipe for change.  What I think would help all of us, and help the planet, is for people to understand one another better.  The capacity to understand and have empathy for people of different cultures, religions, or ethnicities is lacking everywhere.  As coaches, we can help to change this.  We have been taught empathy as coaches.  It is our responsibility to help others grow in their capacity to empathize with the human race.

This post is also available in: Lithuanian [2]

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