I Got Skills!

keep-calm-i-got-skillsMad skills. Crazy good skills. Skills that help other people. Skills that I’ve really enjoyed developing over the course of my life so far. Am I a master at any one of them? I’m not sure I’d call myself a master of any of them; although there are a few that I so thoroughly enjoy, that maybe one day I’ll be referred to as an expert.

If I could choose to be a master of any skill in the world, and one I do so enjoy, it’s public speaking. I know that for most people having to get up in front of a group causes nausea, sweating, memory lapses, hyperventilation; all kinds of reactions! Regardless of the size of the group or whether or not the group members are known to the speaker, it is documented as one of the biggest fears of a human being.

After I make any sort of presentation I’m asked, “How do you do that?” “Were you nervous?” “You make it look so easy!”

I learned very early on, in fifth grade actually (thanks, Mrs. Fontana), that the key to speaking in public is to be prepared! That means, know your “lines” and practice, practice, practice. It helps too, if you’re somewhat passionate and excited about what you’re doing. There are any number of life hacks (tips for how to do something difficult, more easily) on-line for how to speak in public. Just Google and you’ll have pages of ideas and suggestions for overcoming your fear, some of them are quite good. But I’ll go back to the advice from my fifth grade teacher every time: know our lines and practice, practice, practice.

Today’s thanks goes out not only to Mrs. Fontana, but to everyone who has given me the opportunity to practice!

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

There’s been a that has come up for me consistently the last couple of days: Listen. Not “listen to a story ’bout a man named Jed” kind of listen, but “Listen, and gentle be present”–a Weston Priory hymn we used to sing in choir when I was young. The other listen rumbling in my head is a book I’m using to prep for a class I’m teaching at a local college: Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach. Both the book and the hymn have reminded me about how I’ve learned in my adult life to listen differently.

Back in 2006 I trained for certification as a Certified Empowerment Coach, a.k.a. life coach, with IPEC. The training was pretty intense hours and hours of practice over the phone with peer coaches, more hours with a master coach, three, 3-day weekends of course work, readings, writings, and teleconferences. One of the skills that was driven home throughout was the listening! You have to listen differently in order to be an effective life coach.

In my group there were about 7 people and we had to partner twice over the course of the months of training, to do peer coaching over the phone. When you coach over the phone you really have to listen differently–it was called Level 3 Listening or listening between the lines. On the phone there is no body language to read, no leaning in to encourage more, no head nodding to acknowledge what you’ve heard. Now, I’m typically one of those people who is very good at listening to other people but not always good at being listened to; in other words I’m more comfortable being the helper not the helpee.
Bonnie and Laurie, the two peer coaches who were assigned to listen to me during our training were amazing. They practiced all the appropriate skills that appeared in our training manual and that we had practiced on the long weekends of in-person training. They each got me to talk about particular challenges or issues I was wanting to improve or change in my life. They “acknowledged and validated” brilliantly; helped me to set SMART goals, and in their listening made me a better listener.
Although I’ve not made a big business of life coaching, I use those skills every day in my job. My coaching manual sits on the shelf in my office and I refer to it fairly often. I think about Bonnie and Laurie whenever I open that 4-inch, three-ring binder and smile. I’m grateful for their wisdom and skill as coaches and their compassion as human beings. Thanks, Bonnie and Laurie!