Dan Goleman's Coaching As a Force for Good Webinar Transcript

This is a member only resource

Become a Member » Log In »
Dan Goleman's Coaching As a Force for Good Webinar Transcript

On April 8, 2016, Dan Goleman delivered IOC's first public webinar -- titled "Coaching as a Force for Good" -- to more than 650 attendees.  The transcript of Dan's talk is now available below, along with the recording of this webinar.

The Dalai Lama’s message urging each of us to join a force for good synergizes with what coaches do every day. Coaching can be an active ingredient in building such a force in society. There are three ways.

One is how coaches can help their clients do more than manage their emotions -- I would say, cultivate emotional intelligence. Also, to help people to move toward empathy --and beyond empathy to compassion, which I see as acting on what you sense people’s needs are, as well as what the needs are in the world. Second, to move people towards more compassionate goals not just personally, but also in their organizations. And third, adding energy to what the Dalai Lama’s envisions – a force for a better world, as I detail in my book A Force for Good.

I think that coaches can play a powerful role because coaches influence influencers. The people who are the clientele of a coaching practice themselves ripple outward in their impact in the world. So by coaching one person, you touch many, many more people.

The book, A Force for Good, blindsided me. Out of the blue I got a call from a friend who is the Dalai Lama’s English language translator saying, “The Dalai Lama is going to be 80 next year and we want to put a book out that summarizes his vision for a world. And we think you’d be perfect to write it.”

I was able to meet with the Dalai Lama for several days and interview him in depth for the book. I also could draw on events over the years, because I’d known him for a long time. In the late 80s, for example, I was moderating a panel between the Dalai Lama and a group of counselors and psychotherapists. And that afternoon, when the panel ended, I brought a friend of mine over to have tea with him, which you could do back in those days. He spent about an hour with my friend, who was a filmmaker, talking about how he might use his medium to send positive messages.

But during that hour the Dalai Lama did not mention to us that that morning he had gotten a call saying he has just won the Nobel Prize for Peace. But that’s what the Dalai Lama is like. He’s extraordinarily humble, very, very present. That’s one reason I admire him so much. Another is that he is remarkably compassionate. He’s very simple in his own lifestyle. And he travels the globe continually with a very positive, visionary message.

So let me run that message through for you, and also show how I think coaches can play a key role in the unfolding of this global force for good. The first thing he says we need to do is practice what he calls “emotional hygiene,” which includes getting your destructive emotions under control. But it’s much more than that.

I see this as one of coaching’s primary jobs: helping people cultivate and maximize their emotional intelligence abilities. There are, as I see it, a dozen or so strengths that fall within the emotional intelligence domain. In my model, if you envision two boxes that have two boxes resting on them, the upper left is self-awareness.

Embedded in each are learned competencies that make people outstanding performers or leaders. So for self-awareness the competence means the ability to understand our emotions and how they’re affecting our performance, having a realistic sense of our strengths and weaknesses. I think this is part of the A, B, Cs of coaching. And then there’s the box below that is self-management.

And here I see four distinct abilities. One is keeping your disruptive emotions and impulses in check so you can stay effective under stress, even in hostile conditions. I think everyone needs that --particularly leaders in this stressful environment everyone is working in.

The second is the drive to achieve your goals, striving to beat or exceed your own personal standard of excellence but looking for ways continually to do things better; learning organizations would be part of this. Also, setting challenging goals and taking calculated risks.

The third is having a positive outlook, seeing the positive in people and situations, whatever happens to us. And persisting and pursuing your goals, despite obstacles and setbacks. Carol Dweck at Stanford calls this positive outlook ‘mindset’ -- it’s absolutely crucial to success today in the marketplace. Then there’s adaptability, flexibility and handling change, juggling multiple demands and adapting our ideas and our approaches. These are the competencies of the self-awareness and self-management parts of emotional intelligence.

But then there’s the other part, which was to do with our awareness and managing our relationships -- how we are able, for example, to empathize with other people, sensing their feelings, taking in their perspectives, being interested in their concerns, picking up cues for what they are feeling and thinking, and what they need. This is absolutely crucial when it comes to cultivating compassion.

If we’re self-absorbed, if we’re caught up in our to-do lists, and our plans, our concerns, we literally don’t see other people. We don’t notice them. The first step is to tune into the person in front of you, to empathize. And if you sense a need, to be there for that need. This is a basic act of compassion, of civility, of organizational citizenship and of leadership. But if we’re self-absorbed -- and lord knows with the tech distractions that we have today it’s very hard to free up attention -- if we are only focused on ourselves, then we have no chance for empathy, and so don’t have the possibility of compassion.

Then there’s managing our relationships. Here’s key competencies include influence and persuasion, having a positive impact on others, convincing them to get on board for a shared goal. This is basic leadership.

Then there’s being a coach or mentoring which is another act that leaders have to do, or should know they should do: fostering long-term learning or development in other people, giving feedback, giving support.

Then of course there’s managing conflict. Conflict is inevitable in any organization. But the competence shows up as being able to help people through tense situations, bringing disagreements into the open, finding solutions everyone can endorse. And then there’s inspiring people, guiding them to get the job done, bringing out the best in other people. And finally, teamwork, working with others towards a shared goal, sharing responsibility and contributing to everyone’s capabilities.

I see those as the 12 strengths of emotional intelligence. Some of you may recognize them. They’re assessed in my Emotional and Social Competence Inventory, ESCI, which is the 360 I helped to design with the people at HayGroup, and many coaches are already using that. Of course there are many such tools for helping people evaluate their strengths.

I think step one in coaching is helping someone get a good self-assessment to let them know, What are my strengths? Where could I grow? How can you, a coach, help them get there?

There’s another way to think about it. If you imagine an arc that looks like a rainbow, that shape tracks a well-known relationship in psychology: between performance and anxiety, where the best performance is at the top of that arc in the midrange. If your brain is overly reactive and your body is in the fight or flight response, you’re way at the right at the lower end.

If you’re too stressed and you are constantly unable to recover, you have no resilience, and you’ll eventually burn out. That’s what the lower right shows in that arc. The lower left is people who are disengaged, which is a huge problem in the workplace: people who aren’t interested at all and need to be motivated, need to feel some deadline pressure, need to get engaged.

Peak performance, which is where you as a coach want to help your clients be, is the best place in terms of brain function and in terms of what people can do in whatever job they have.

I described this in more detail in a book you may want to know about. It’s called What Makes a Leader? which is also the name of an article I did in the Harvard Business Review. I think it may still be the most requested reprint ever; it makes the case that emotional intelligence is the core of effective leadership. In the book, What Makes a Leader? I collect all of my Harvard Business Review articles and also my newest work, which has to do with the three levels of focus. A leader needs a self-focus, focus on others and then on a larger systemic understanding of the environment they work in. What Makes a Leader? is available at MoreThanSound.net if you’re interested.

The second point the Dalai Lama makes is that we should adopt a moral rudder of compassion. And as I said, compassion is the natural end point of full empathy, of understanding people’s needs, the needs of society, and global needs.

There are three kinds of empathy. The first is cognitive empathy, sensing how other people see things, understanding their mental models. It helps you be a very good communicator.

The second kind of empathy is emotional, where you feel with the other person. You have a felt sense in your body of what’s going on with them. This helps you be very effective in relationships and groups and so on.

And the third kind is called empathic concern. This means you not only sense how people think and how they feel, but you’re receptive to what their needs are. You’re inclined to support them, to give them what will help them in the moment, or in the long term. Another job of effective coaching is helping clients cultivate empathic concern.

The brain circuitry for each of these different kinds of empathy is quite distinct. Empathic concern stems from the same neural circuitry as a parent’s love for a child. It’s the mammalian caretaking circuit, where we quite naturally feel concern and compassion for our family, for our spouse, for our partners, for our good friends. But the challenge is to extend that circle beyond that natural affinity, which everyone genetically feels. At a work situation it would be toward everyone in your organization, as well as stakeholders like suppliers, clients, customers.

And then beyond that, to the larger world, the Dalai Lama is really encouraging that full widest circle, which is a big ask. To the extent we can enlarge our circle of caring beyond its natural boundary, I think we are doing very well. But part of coaching could involve that.

And by the way, when I wrote A Force for Good with the Dalai Lama he was very explicit in saying, “This is not a Buddhist book. I’m Buddhist,” he says, “this message is not. It’s for everybody.” He bases it on science. And one of the findings he was pleased to find out about, as a science buff himself, is that empathy and compassion seem to be built in us from birth.

I was with him in Vancouver when Kiley Hamlin, a scientist there who works with kids, shared her research findings. She shows three-month-old infants, six-month- olds, one year olds, a little cartoon where a circle struggles up a steep ramp and a triangle comes along and gives it a boost and the circle gets to the top. And then in the second half the circle is struggling up again and a mean square comes and pushes the triangle down. Then after that the infant is given a choice, do you want the helpful triangle or the mean square? 100% choose the helpful triangle.

What the Dalai Lama says is that from a very beginning we are programmed to have empathy, to have concern for other people, to prefer compassion. And there’s a large body of science now showing that this is true. But during the school years it tends to be socialized out of us and our caring becomes contained within a narrow range of people. The challenge is to extend the range of compassion.

In coaching, it occurred to me that there are three reflective questions that might be useful to raise at some point. One you may be already asking, or asking people to reflect on, which is, what’s your purpose in life? What makes your life meaningful? This is a values question.

The second is what do you love doing? What are you passionate about? What engages you? This is a little different. This often helps people identify where they want to go over the next five years, ten years.

Then the third is what are you outstanding at? What are your strengths? What can you uniquely contribute as a value added? If you look at those three things, what your engaged by, what you feel is your ethics or your purpose or values in life, and your excellence, and you put them all together, you have what Howard Gardner at Harvard calls “good work”. Good work aligns excellence, ethics and engagement.

This reflection is very helpful for people to see, where do I want to go? What portion of what I do in my day is good work? How could I change that over the next year or next five years? And it also is a very good way to focus people in terms of what the Dalai Lama has to say about the five challenges he poses to humanity for a better future.

The first challenge is to get rid of corruption and collusion, which in the Third World, where he lives, is quite blatant. In the first world it’s more subtle. He says, “There’s dirty business, dirty politics, dirty religion, dirty science,” and we have to bring transparency, accountability and fairness to all those realms.

He, for example, admires Pope Francis, whose values are very congruent with his own. But very early on when Francis first became Pope, he did something the Dalai Lama really loved: He fired the “Bishop of Bling” -- a bishop in Germany who had built himself a 32 million euro palace. The Pope said, This church is of the poor and for the poor. When the Pope removed that bishop, the Dalai Lama wrote him an appreciative letter.

American firms by law have to conduct themselves ethically even in parts of the world where everything is done with bribes. But can we expand that, be more proactive in transparency and accountability?

For instance, Catherine Benoit [IDENT TK] has put together what she calls a social hotspot website. It looks at global supply chains and marks places where there’s likely to be slave labor or child labor or horrible working conditions so that companies can look at their own supply chains and see what they can do to make them less corrupt, so to speak. That’s the kind of thing that business people can be encouraged to do.

The next point the Dalai Lama makes is that we need a compassionate economics. He sees the growing gap between rich and poor worldwide as what he calls a “moral crime.” But he sees how business can be a force for good. I think this is where there may be the most traction for the folks that you work with as executive coaches.

I told him about the Greyston Bakery in a very impoverished New York City neighborhood. The idea was to start a business that would employ homeless people, people who had families but no job, no place to live. They trained people as bakers and they also gave them housing. The Greyston Bakery is a supplier of Ben and Jerry’s -- if you eat their Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream, those brownies came from the Greyston Bakery.

Now the Greyston Bakery’s slogan is one I love, and the Dalai Lama was very pleased to hear it: “We don’t hire people to bake brownies. We bake brownies to hire people.” This is a slightly different model of enterprise. It’s one that not only makes money but has a social good embedded in it. Sometimes this is called a “for-benefit” company. Patagonia was one of the first of those. It means that in the charter of the company or organization you not only are helping stockholders get more return, but you’re also performing a social or environmental good. And that’s part of your responsibility too.

Any corporation can become a force for good. Unilever, for instance, has a CEO, Paul Pohlman, who has proposed strong sustainability targets for the company. And beyond that he has the goal of bringing a half million small farms in the Third World into their supply chain. The World Bank says this strategy is the best way to help the health, education, and economy of poor rural regions.

This is just one example; there are many. I’m thinking Marc Benioff, the CEO of SalesForce,com, one of the first cloud computing companies. Benioff was the visionary who saw the future of cloud computing quite early, and as CEO from the get-go he started what he calls 1:1:1. That’s one percent of profit, one percent of people’s time, one percent of product to charity. And it’s something that the people at Salesforce pride themselves on.

I think this is another point that matters more and more, particularly for young people. Millennials, want to feel good about the company they work for. And if your company is doing good then that naturally makes you feel good. There are many terms for it, like corporate social responsibility or conscious capitalism, and there are many models. There’s a little bit of corporate self-interest there too: It’s a way to retain talent going into the future. But the abilities of companies to do good, I think, is actually greater than governments. They have more responsiveness an adaptability; they’re more creative. They don’t have so much red tape.

As a coach, if many of your clients may be executives, it gives you an opportunity to be a “trim tab,’ a small rudder on the big rudder of a big ship. And when that small rudder turns, it guides the big rudder which turns the whole ship. I see coaching as a pivotal job that can turn that small rudder that makes the bigger rudder turn long run.

The third point the Dalai Lama wants to make (and this is no surprise, he says, “Help the needy.” But he adds, “The best help is helping them help themselves.”

I told him about a woman who really exemplified this. Her name is Mellody Hobson. She grew up poor and black in Chicago. Her mom had six kids she raised on her own -- there was no dad around. Sometimes they’d go to the local grocery and there was their bounced check posted by the cash register. But Mellody resolved as a child not to grow up poor. And she worked very, very hard in school, and somehow managed to get a scholarship to Princeton. Today she’s the president of a very large financial firm in Chicago. She’s on the board of companies like Starbucks. But she’s giving back.

She sees that what helped her was not just achieving goals, grit, making things happen for herself by sheer determination, but also she had an early understanding of finances. She has helped develop a financial literacy program for poor kids. And this is her unique contribution, her particular way to be a force for good.

And this also speaks to something that I think important for coaches to know about, called cognitive control. It’s the ability to ignore distractions and pay attention to what’s important. Everybody needs that in spades these days. But beyond controlling attention, it’s resilience. It’s resisting impulse. It’s managing your disturbing emotions so you can stay calm and clear under pressure. This is something that starts developing in childhood.

Cognitive control has been found in several studies now to be a better predictor of life success in terms of health and financial success than even your IQ as a child, or the wealth of the family you grew up in. It’s an independent, very important factor in life. I think people who are able to hire coaches have cognitive control, but the question is, Do their children have it, or will they have it? The other question is, can we spread it? This is another opportunity for helping the needy.

I was in a school in Spanish Harlem, a very poor Manhattan neighborhood. The kids in this class live in a housing project next to the school. I expected the classroom to be very chaotic, but it was quite calm. The kids were very focused. I said, Why is that? The teacher said, “Well here’s why.” They did this exercise called Belly Buddies where each child gets their favorite stuffed animal, finds a place to lie down on the rug, puts that animal on their belly and they watch it rise on the inbreath and fall on the outbreath, 1, 2, 3 in, 1, 2, 3 out.

That is a workout of your ability to concentrate, which is core of cognitive control. So these are teachable abilities. They were listening to a taped instruction -- and, by the way, the voice was mine. I did a tape called Focus for Kids (Focus for Teens too), which gives you five or six different ways to focus. If you have a client who needs it I also have Focus for Adults. But the point is that we could be teaching these skills for life to kids. And if you do have them, one way you can give back is by helping kids get this skill.

The fourth area is the environment. The Dalai Lama says, “The earth is our home and our home is on fire.” He’s not just talking about carbon. He’s talking about the eight global systems that sustain life on the planet. It turns out that all of our material goods are manufactured in ways that over the course of their life cycle harm the environment -- for instance with emissions into air, water and soil, or their water footprint, carbon footprint, you name it. And the Dalai Lama is very aware of that. He’s very happy that more and more companies are serious about sustainability.

But sustainability is not just in the use phase. For example, if you recycle the plastic carton that your yogurt came in, you remediate just 5% of the carbon costs of the yogurt. The rest of those costs occur on farms and in transportation and manufacturing. Companies would do well to look very hard through the lens of what’s called a life cycle assessment, which helps them see the key steps from the beginning of a product, to the end of its life cycle and what the damage done at each point is in these global systems.

There’s a project at the Harvard School of Public Health that helps companies do this. It’s not only manufacturer’s supply chain -- even if you’re a consultancy you have this kind of cost. Where does your electricity come from? If you get a new Tesla, all electric, what you’re doing is transferring the carbon cost from your car to the energy company and to the plant that makes your energy. So you need to have a different lens, a broader systemic understanding. And if you have that, and many companies are working hard to get this, you can rethink alternatives.

Owens Corning for example is now producing or are about to produce a net-positive insulation, which means that over the course of its lifetime it’s going to have a positive impact on the planet rather than a negative one.

This positive impact, by the way, is called a handprint. This is a new metric. The footprint is very depressing. If you calculate your footprint, you’d find it’s never good. And this can be depressing and demotivating. But if you track your handprint, it starts with your footprint but then the metric is you just track all the positive things you do that reduce your footprint. The handprint activates positive motivation circuitry and keeps you going.

There’s another point here for business: there will be a huge entrepreneurial opportunity over the next 50 years to reinvent everything. The materials that we use today were developed in a time when we didn’t know their impacts. Now that we have a way of assessing those impacts we can find better ways to do things.

One of the new products I love was invented by two college students. It’s a Styrofoam replacement. Ordinary Styrofoam is death to the planet. It’s a type of petrochemical product that will never disintegrate. It has only negatives from an environmental point of view. But their Styrofoam is made of mushroom roots and rice hulls. It’s just as good as the old kind. Shipping companies are looking into use it in packaging. Auto companies like General Motors are using it behind the dashboard of cars.

That’s an example of a product of the future. So this is a way for people who are a little entrepreneurial to think about, what will be the most sustainable alternative to something people use every day? And that’s doing good as you do well.

The fifth point the Dalai Lama makes is the urgent need to connect across divides. He envisions one day a world without war. I think that’s a very long term goal. He agrees. But, in the meantime, he says, “Let’s spread the skill of conflict resolution.”

I’m thinking now of Aaron Wolf, a hydrologist whose expertise is water systems. He goes around the world and works with countries or groups that might even be at war, but share a river system. But they all must depend on that river system and have to work together to keep it healthy. His skill is not just hydrology, it’s negotiation. And by doing this, he’s actually healing divides to some extent. But any way you can find to do this is a plus in the Dalai Lama’s view.

Finally, he says, “We need to rethink education.” A lot of the problems the world faces now are the result of the acts of very smart people, ‘smart’ in the academic sense. He says, “It’s not enough to educate the mind. We need an education of the heart too.”

And here as a model I think of Tim Shriver. I first met Tim when he was fresh out of Yale. He was working in the New Haven school system which was in a poverty-stricken neighborhood in New Haven, where the local heroes were drug dealers. It was not a great place to be a kid. But he worked in a new program called “social development,” which I wrote about in Emotional Intelligence. Social development was a pilot of what is now called “social-emotional learning”, or SEL.

These are programs that educate kids in emotional intelligence skills across the spectrum: self-awareness, self-management, empathy, relationship skills, good decision making. The best ones teach kids in each grade, K-12, in a developmentally appropriate way. And they teach the teachers and school staff, involve parents. Tim is now the chairman of the board of the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL. If you want to see what their doing, CASEL.org is their website. They have a national agenda to get this education into every classroom.

I remember one thing they had in New Haven -- this may be a coaching tool for some people. It’s a stop light a poster that was on the front of every classroom. It said, “Whenever you’re upset, remember the stop light. Red: Stop, calm down, and think before you act. Yellow light, think of a range of things you could do and what the consequences would be. And green light, pick the best one and try it out.

This is like a mindful moment, which is something more and more people are open to. I wrote a book called The Triple Focus with Peter Senge at MIT, who is best known as the main spokesman for the learning organization and teaching systems thinking K-12. We put SEL and systems learning together, and talk about this as a triple focus in education: the two parts of emotional intelligence, self-focus and other-focus, and then systems thinking. teaching to kids. We see this as the next generation for education.

But that kind of movement needs local champions. This is another area where people who want to help kids can be very instrumental because its local school boards who make the decision to bring in a program like SEL. So that’s yet another area that someone might be drawn to who wants to become a force for good.

Finally, the Dalai Lama says, “Let’s take the long view. This isn’t going to happen overnight.” He thinks in centuries. Be optimistic, he says. If you only look at the daily news, you’ll be pessimistic. But the news is unfairly weighted.

I was a journalist at the New York Times for many years. The front page stories by and large are downers, they’re tragedies, the crisis, the catastrophes, the things we need to know about but are glad they didn’t happen to us. And because they’re given such prominence, it looks like the world is full of such things.

But actually -- and this is the point the Dalai Lama makes -- if you had a scale, like the scale of justice and two plates for weights on either side, and you put all the acts of cruelty on a given day on one side and then all the acts of kindness, civility, every day goodness -- the good would far outweigh the bad.

So he says, things are actually getting better in the long run. He thinks in centuries. Centuries ago slavery was legal. Literacy rates 200 years ago were 1 in 5, they’re 4 in 5 today. Lifespan was 30 years, now 70 years. Slowly, slowly things are getting better. He says, each of us can help that trend, the arc of history is bending toward goodness. But he says, we have to act now even if we won’t live to see the fruits of our actions during our lifetime.

And finally he says, “We’re all leaders.” We each have a unique sphere of influence. Coaches certainly do. The question is, can you find yours? And I would advise people, if you can’t, then ask a coach.

Margaret: Thank you, Dan. That was a beautiful review. You talk about the handprint, which I think is a beautiful idea. I went hunting online and the resources seem to be focused on corporate goods and services. But I’m wondering about the individual.

So if one could calculate one’s footprint and know that if you planted 2,032 trees in the rain forest you would cancel out. But how do we find that? How do we do that? I think we could on a personal individual basis, not everyone is able to influence the corporate sphere. So are there any resources for that today?

Dan: Yes, there’s a website called handprinter.org which was founded by Gregory Norris at the Harvard School of Public Health. It’s helping companies now, but he’s also interested in bringing that concept to schools and to individuals.

Margaret: Right, and it would be a wonderful intervention in local community wherever we live.

Dan: Norris’ idea is that towns can compete against each other to raise their handprint. He needs some help to go the next step. What he’d like to do is develop the very thing you’re saying we all need. I feel the same need. I know that there are some websites that have ways to compute, for example, the carbon consequences of plane trips, which are enormous. And then give you immediately ways to remediate it by, for example, helping people in the third world switch from cooking with wood and coal to cooking with solar, and many, many others.

For instance, it turns out that another thing you can do which is very good is help people who have very old boilers for heating water or heating buildings, switch to newer generation heating. It lowers carbon footprint right away. So there’s a range of ways we can lower our footprint by paying someone to do something good. I think handprinter.org is one place to start.

Carol: One quick point about that small rudder of a ship that makes the big one move,the trim tab.

What’s beautiful is it only takes a small amount of water to turn an ocean liner. People think it’s huge but that trim tab just takes a small force to move things in a new direction. I think so much of that is so exciting and how can we all be trim tabs? So one little story a lot of people don’t know is how is it that Paul Pohlman really embraced sustainability.

It turned out that when he first came to Unilever there were a number of people on the board who were trying to push him in different directions. And one of the people was unhappy because his communication with Paul wasn’t getting through. And this man had a coach who talked about how can you understand what’s important to Paul, speak in a language he can understand? This guy was able to do that and his point was to go for sustainability. So it was in part because of a coach who was the trim tab to turn the ocean liner of Unilever in a new direction.

Dan: Thank you for that --it shows the power of one person acting, which can be immense.

Carol: Exactly. And I’ve been at Unilever for about 5 years doing coach training for leaders there. That takes me to the question I have for you as you think of these companies as kingdoms and countries. I’d love to hear your thoughts on how to work with these leaders. The question is what do you have to share with people about training leaders in coaching skills?

Dan: Reflect on how you became a coach and what you needed to learn and what you do every day. Then think about that leader’s position in regard to their direct reports, because one of the fundamental acts of leadership is coaching, is helping people get better at what they do, cultivating further strengths. Leaders who don’t do that really miss, not just a key opportunity, but I think they can even alienate people. For example, if they criticize a person as they are, rather than seeing the potential for what they might be and helping them to get there.

So it’s a question of what is your skill set? What’s in your tool box? And what can you offer a particular leader for working with the people that in effect, they are coaching, whether they know it or not.

Jeff: Before I jump to questions, I just want to point to a number of really beautiful acknowledgments that are coming in Dan. A lot of folks are really, I think, just sort of sitting with what you’re sharing and connecting it to how they do their work in the world. So I’m getting a number of comments from folks that are just finding this extremely meaningful and they’re very appreciative, and also, kind of a reminder that what we do every day is not just a drop in the water. It really could make a very big difference. There’s a lot of appreciation.

Dan: Thank you, Jeff. And if people want to get more deeply into this you can see the website Joinaforce4good.org. When I was asked to write a book about the Dalai Lama’s vision for our world, my wife made the astute point that fewer and fewer people actually read books these days. The web is where you want to be. And so she spearheaded this website, which reflects the whole message of the book, and you can see the Dalai Lama’s points unpacked there in more detail. It also tells inspiring stories of people already putting this vision into action. So this is another resource for coaches and the people they are coaching.

Jeff: One question coming in from a number of folks in varying permutations is, any suggestions you could make for coaches to help clients broaden the horizon of their thinking?

A number of folks are saying things like, “My clients are well intentioned but they tend to focus on the minutia. They tend to focus on the things that are right in front of them, their team, their organizational issues, their leadership decisions. What can I do as a coach to broaden the horizons of my clients to see the broader impact that they could have?”

Dan: There’s a lot of data now showing that the larger your time horizon and the larger your perspective, generally, the bigger the problems you can tackle. So all of us are dealing with the crisis of the day, the immediate goal, the short term, quarterlies and so on. That’s standard operating procedure.

Outstanding leaders are looking ahead. They’re looking further abroad. They’re seeing the whole system. And I think one way to do this is to encourage some systems thinking because an organization is a system, the sector that company is in represents another system. The economy is a system. Technology is a system. All of these are impacting your ability to do whatever you’re trying to do, in the short term. But it also is offering you huge opportunity for what you do in the future.

And the problem with doing the same thing you’ve been doing, and trying to do it better and better is that someone may come along and broadside you with some entirely new approach. Ideally, you want to be that person.

So this may be another way to help executives who are overly focused on the short-term step back, pause and reflect on what’s important. One way is to build into your schedule some reflective time, some time to step away from the to-do list, from the urgency of the moment, and to think more widely. Put it into your daily calendar, like a walk with the dog, or whatever it may be -- but an open time where you just let your mind wander. That’s when you’re more likely to come up with the creative idea. And then once you get a good idea, then you have to focus so you can execute.

Give yourself time to be creative -- to be the person that comes up with that new disruptive technology, the new idea, the new way of doing things -- you have to go beyond just getting better at what you do in an ordinary way.

There are two kinds of strategic thinking. In “exploitation” an organization simply finds way to tweak what’s working, getting better and better at what they already do. Think R.I.M. in its glory days of the Blackberry. In “exploration” they look for innovations, new paths to take. Think Steve Jobs at Apple.

Jeff: I love the way you mentioned strategic thinking and Steve Jobs because I think one of the areas that executive coaches leadership coaches are asked to support clients in is having a bigger picture frame of reference. It’s a wonderful point to get people out of their box, whatever their box happens to be.

Another set of questions are about empathy. Folks are asking for a little bit more clarity around the levels of empathy and if you could speak to the distinction between sharing empathy or showing empathy toward a client versus endorsing a behavior. There’s a couple of folks that are asking about difficult situations they’ve been in as coaches, where we have empathy for our clients but we don’t always want to be the endorser or coaching them around particular behaviors that may or may not support their values or the organization’s. So clarity around that would be really helpful.

Dan: Well there’s a couple of questions embedded in that question. Let me start with a little more clarity about the varieties of empathy. The first kind I mentioned is cognitive empathy, understanding how that person thinks, taking their perspective. This helps you be very good at persuasion for example, because you can communicate better. Managers who have good cognitive empathy are able to get better than expected performance out of people because they can put things in a way that will mobilize a person, that they’ll understand.

A second kind of empathy is feeling what the other person feels. This is nonverbal, a felt sense. And that helps you for example, have rapport or chemistry. That’s where you have magic moments in coaching -- or with anyone in your life.

The third is, concern, caring. Not just sensing how people think and feel, but caring about them. The best leaders have this kind of empathy, so their people feel protected, supported, guided – and so they can take smart risks rather than hunkering down in fear. In terms of your question of how can you empathize but not endorse, making it clear that you sense how a person is thinking and feeling lets them know that they’re empathized with, that they’re feeling felt. That’s a very rich experience for people. Someone gets me. That’s wonderful. That’s probably one of the gratifying things about being a client of a coach. But if you can also introduce the concern, the caring variety of empathy, that means asking, what are the consequences for the people you work with of what you’re doing?

Behaviors you don’t want to endorse very often have a down side of how they impact other people. And if that’s the case, then surfacing that, in a gentle way, not in an accusing or judgmental way, helps focus them: have you thought what that means to the people you work with? Have you thought what that means for morale, for loyalty, for invisible factors that in the long run make you a better leader. That might be a way to have people consider what’s going on from a different point of view. So you empathize but you don’t endorse.

Jeff: Thank you, that was really great clarity. Margaret?

Margaret: Yes, so I’d like to ask a question about the Dalai Lama’s embracing of science and the call for science. Given that this audience is particularly interested in understanding coaching science and using it well, to upgrade our coaching mastery, I wonder, what would your takeaway be at this point around the Dalai Lama’s interest in science going further, where are the next big questions we should be asking about and looking for answers that would help this cause?

Dan: There are two things here. Let me first share with you why the Dalai Lama is such a science buff. He actually has said that he sometimes wishes he were an engineer. The Dalai Lama, was in Lhasa as a teenager, before he had to flee in ’59 from Chinese Communists. There were no roads in Lhasa, but someone had brought in two cars. He just had a knack for engineering, wanting to understand how things worked. He took those cars apart entirely then put them back together so they worked, if you can imagine that?

Margaret: Wow.

Dan: If someone had a watch that was broken, they’d bring it to him to fix. He has that kind of mind. One of the first things he did when he got out of Tibet (which was a medieval reality and had no science) and came to India was to say I want to meet scientists. He started meeting with very high level scientists from the get-go. like Nobel Prize winners, experts on physics and cosmology. His interests are very wide. He’s self-taught. He feels that science is a global language: If he puts his message in terms of science then anyone can listen. It doesn’t matter what your faith may be. He doesn’t want to be preaching just to Tibetans or just to Buddhists. He really has a vision for the world.

He’s a big advocate of evidence-based interventions. When he talks about education of the heart, he wants scientists to do evaluation research on these programs. He wants to show it works. In fact, take social emotional learning -- there was a meta-analysis done that looked at 270,000 students;half had had social emotional intimacy and half had not. What they found was that if you’re school had a high level of anti-social acts, violence, bullying, so on, they went down an average 10% -- actually, more in schools that need it the most. Pro social acts went up; liking school, not cutting class, behaving, feeling good about going to school. And academic achievement scores went up by 11%. So that’s a very strong argument for bringing this into any school.

Parents are their child’s first coaches in emotional intelligence. But even if your family is very good at imparting it, your child has to go through life with all these other kids. You want to be sure that everyone in that cohort is going to be able to manage their destructive emotions, empathize, get along.

The Dalai Lama says, you know it’s not enough to say this makes sense, you have to use science to show it works. And I think the same applies in coaching. My training was in clinical psychology and there are a good portion of coaches who are retreads from psychotherapy.

When I was being trained in psychotherapy the field had no evidence-based methods. Now things have been upgraded so that there are very good outcome studies – for instance, mindfulness based cognitive therapy that’s been shown to be very effective in depression and a range of disorders in very well designed tests.

And I’d have to ask you, is there a program like that for coaching? I’m not sure there is. I know there could be. But does that go on at all?

Margaret: Well there is a literature base. It’s very much like comparing apples and oranges and bananas and pears, because there are so many different models of coaching and so many different protocols and so many different populations. If you just take the healthcare side, where I sit, the field is moving towards standards. And so it will get better. But we do have a literature base of probably 600-700 papers now, in peer review journals.

Dan: That’s wonderful.

Margaret: So even though it’s very difficult to draw universal conclusions, there’s lots to dive into.

Dan: Well I think that coaches should be free to deploy whatever methods they do best and think will work. On the other hand, you might do what was done in SEL, Social Emotional Learning, which was to look at the research base and generate best practices. These are general guidelines that are evidence based. If coaches have that set of guidelines, that may be enough. It’s not like you want to compare this style of coaching with that style of coaching, but rather a basic principal might be that the coach be warm, non-judgmental, connected, and empathic. These are kinds of guidelines for therapists too, that probably translate very well to the coaching arena. But I leave that to you.

Margaret: All right good. Carol do you want to ask the last question? I think we’ve got time for one more?

Carol: Dan, what is next for you? What’s the most exciting for you in terms of your own writing, research and your own personal as well as professional development?

Dan: Two things. One is I’m undertaking a series of videos and probably a book around those 12 strengths that I reviewed right at the outset. These are the strengths of the high functioning emotional intelligence leaders – high performer in any position. There’s a lot more research since I started writing about emotional intelligence about each of these. I want to pull all that together to make the case that these are crucial abilities for success, for flourishing in mind.

And the second thing is I’m writing a book with a very old friend of mine, someone I knew in graduate school. He’s a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin, Richard Davidson. We’re pulling together the findings on meditation, which has been a lifelong interest of mine and of his. And we now have data from very high level practitioners as well as lots of data from beginners showing what the benefits are, when they show up and what the arc of progression and altering your own basic abilities really is from meditation. There’s a lot of hype in the field but there’s a lot of good too. So I’m taking my skill set to another area.

Carol: Well that is wonderful. Dan, as always, I wish we had another award we could give you just for today. I just have to say as I was listening to you, I was writing secret notes to the other presenters and they said things like, “Wow, he’s incredible!” Really, it’s just delightful. I think what you said isn’t just good for our heads and for our hearts, but I think you’ve also given us things we can take in almost through our skin to inform how we think and what we can do. And I do hope we can all be creating the kind of ripple affects you talk about. And you definitely, definitely are a boulder in the water yourself. It would be wonderful if sometime for those of you who are here to write us what are the ripple effects for you from what Dan has shared with us today? So thank you Dan, Margaret, Jeff, and everyone who has joined us. Dan we’re going to have to try and get you back sometime.

Dan: I’d love to. And I want to thank you for giving me this opportunity. It’s been a pleasure.

Carol: Bless you Dan. Thank you everybody. Bye-bye.

Margaret: Thank you Dan. Thank you all.


Become a Member

The IOC is a global community of coaches.


Contact Us

  • Institute of Coaching
  • McLean Hospital
  • 115 Mill Street, Mail Stop 314
  • Belmont, MA 02478
  • Phone: 617-767-2670
  • [email protected]