Leadership Blindness and Holacracy

Whenever people ask me what I’ve learned through the process of implementing Holacracy in my start-up organization over the past year, I like to begin by saying that it’s not possible to understand Holacracy solely by reading about it. There is a lot to learn in the practice itself. While the process seems stark and mechanical, and that can be one of the most uncomfortable things about it initially, it is surprising how emotionally involving it can be to use Holacratic processes at work. And the results are invaluable.

Let me share one example.

We were near the end of a Governance meeting where we make decisions together about how to organize ourselves, who does what etc. We were operating as a small circle of about eight people, with myself and my co-founder as the most senior, experienced and forthright people in the team. Just before the meeting closed, the most junior person in the team made a proposal that would completely re-organize the way we worked.
She proposed that we form a new sub-circle that would keep some of the key work we were doing to a smaller subset of people. In fact, we had been working that way earlier, and had decided to combine the circles into one larger one. Both the other senior founder and I had discussed these possibilities at length and decided to keep to one larger circle. So, when this proposal came up, we both explained clearly and precisely why we thought it was a bad idea.

But, we had no hard evidence that we were right, and no evidence that making the change would cause harm to the organization. If the change might cause harm to our egos, that was not relevant!

The change was approved. Because all of us co-founders are committed to using Holacracy, we chose to quickly reassess our rejection of the proposal and shift into the process of enacting it. And from that new perspective, it did have advantages that we had not seen in the same way before. That’s because those advantages were more visible from a different perspective which was the view of that most junior member.

On further reflection, I also realized that in a ‘normal’ organization, that change would never have happened. Even a very empowered and courageous junior staff member, like the one in our team, would have had huge difficulty convincing us to make the change. Under the normal conditions of a corporate enterprise, she would not have had an opportunity to bring her idea forward in a forum where everyone, including the most senior and experienced people, must hear, consider and give feedback on the idea. And additionally, she would have had to prove that the change would improve things. In a Holacracy, she only had to show how it would make an improvement to her role and would not harm to the organization, and that if it might cause harm, that it is safe enough to try.

I learned from this situation how insidious our leadership blindness can be. It is really difficult to fully and clearly value different opinions, especially when they come from diverse sources that we are not used to valuing evenly. I’m reminded of the research into women serving on Boards: that organizations are more profitable when they have women serving on their Boards, and that the best results come when there are at least three women because that’s what it takes for their voices to be heard against the habitual over-valuing of male leadership. And obviously the same goes for all our unconscious biases by nationality, race, age, religion, style, personal values etc.

The beauty of Holacracy is that it gives us a process that is blind to our biases and guarantees an opportunity for all views to have beneficial influence in an organization.

Would you like to learn more about how to reduce leadership blindness in your team or organization? Please ask me.

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Leading in a Decline

drain-1254056I’ve been working with a large global organization that has laid off 10,000 people in the past 12 months and is desperately trying not to repeat that number in the coming months. So I currently have an inside seat on the challenges and opportunities that go along with such disruption. With the huge changes that are inevitably coming in the global market –no, business as we know it is not sustainable– it makes sense to learn how to lead when old ways of doing business go down the drain. Here are some of the most important tips I have learned so far.

1) Remember that we need the change

Human beings, like all animals, are designed to resist change. Change is inefficient since it means we need to unlearn old habits and patterns and install new ones. This process inevitably takes more energy and increases the risk of mistakes. And our resistance is even stronger when the security of the old way of doing things is gone.

Recently, I’ve been working in a start-up team where I am required to start using an online calendar for all my appointments. This creates angst for me because as I make this change, I know I am much more likely to make mistakes with my appointments. My clients rightfully rely on me to show up on time for coaching sessions, so this change affects my ability to provide good quality service and represents a threat to my reputation for reliability. I get a sinking feeling as I contemplate this change and I feel an urge to resist. But even though the risks are true, logically this change is the right thing to do for the whole team.

We cannot change without risk, and we absolutely need to change, and quickly. No one can be sure which is the best route forward, but we know for sure that it is not the road we are on.

So I recommend investigating your current beliefs around change and installing some new ones that can encourage you to allow more mistakes, see the uncomfortable process as needed and important, and increase your willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things.

2) Raise your moment-to-moment self-awareness

The key to making difficult changes with poise is present-moment self-awareness. In the example above, if I am present enough to notice my own visceral resistance to change, I’m immediately able to see that it is only a physical/emotional reaction and not ‘the truth’. I can distance myself from my reaction and step back enough to see the whole situation with my rational thinking mind. With that presence, I’m able to make a much better decision about how to respond to the perceived threat.

How aware are you of your current physical and emotional state? Many of us are able to feel our bodies and emotions in moments of quiet concentration such as when you’re reading this article. In challenging situations, we tend to shift our focus outside towards external threats, so it takes quite a bit of practice to be able to stay aware of what’s happening inside as well. This ability is a mature leadership strength that is a tremendous asset in challenging times as it corresponds to a steady capacity to make better decisions. You can read more about developing awareness for leaders in my article from 2011.

3) Reduce pressure

Declining business and the resulting changes inevitably bring tremendous pressure. My clients in the shrinking organization I mentioned above are rapidly re-organizing: working long hours to draw up very complex work plans while colleagues around them are suddenly moved to new roles or retrenched. Workloads increase while jobs are cut and everyone has to play new and unfamiliar roles. Personal financial worries and fears around loss of status occupy critical bandwidth in the team. It is virtually impossible to stand steady while the water swirls around your feet and down the drain.

And yet reducing pressure is one of the most important roles leaders can play in times like this. Big decisions require steady minds and clear thinking. Pressure narrows thinking and costs energy.

Of course everyone is already doing their best to fix the problems that would relieve the pressure on the business. To reduce pressure more quickly and sustainably requires strategies that are outside the current normal way of doing business. There are two modes: 1) look at the thoughts and beliefs inside your head that increase your pressure, 2) consider your personal operating system of sleep, nutrition and exercise and the affects they have on your ability to withstand pressure.

Leaders need to start by working on their own resilience and also support their teams to do the same. What are you doing to reduce the pressure on your team?

4) Find the blessing in the situation

One of the primary roles of leadership is to keep people moving towards results. When times are tough, it’s very easy to fall into dwelling on the problems, sinking into hopelessness and demotivating ourselves and others. To counteract this trend, leaders need to continually tell sincere, positive stories that light the way ahead.

Telling positive stories about the tough situations we face requires the honesty to reflect privately on our own negative thinking and the willingness to find and practice new versions on how to see reality. None of the stories, positive or negative, are actually true. And sincere positive stories help everyone keep moving forward towards what we want.

5) Gratitude, not entitlement

One of the best quick shifts in thinking I’ve found in these situations is to take a view of gratitude instead of entitlement. As we are forced to let go of the blessings and advantages we have had so far in life, rather than feeling hard-done-by, try feeling grateful. You may notice an immediate shift to a positive view. Perhaps our steady jobs, professional status, conveniences of modern living, luxuries of travel and education are not given to us for life but are the blessings we have enjoyed for a brief time only. As a leader and for yourself, turning your attention daily to the things you are grateful for is a welcome balm.

6) Discover what your heart desires

During the most intense times of change, leaders need to focus their time and energy on the immediate work and to get sufficient rest and relaxation to stay resilient. But before long there will be personal choices to make. What role do you want to play in your newly reformed organization? Is there even a place for you? When these questions come up, which they eventually will, I strongly recommend not following blindly where the organization would have you go, or even where your path thus far might predict for you, but instead take a closer look at what you most deeply want.

The changes happening in the world now give us the opportunity to shift towards a better way of doing things, not just a reformation of the same old thing. And real change comes from individual choices. In the midst of this change, we must find a way to step back into ourselves to make absolutely sure we are doing what is most important to us, in this one life.

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Spring 2016 Brings Changes, New Projects

It’s time for me to look up from my desktop to catch you up. Here are a few things that have been getting my attention lately.

Loving Your Work Website Relaunch

logo-squareWe relaunched the Loving Your Work website with a beautiful new mobile-friendly look, more clarity about who we serve and a new free quiz. We’re hoping to make it clear how we help mid-career and seasoned professionals to find clarity on their career journeys, overcome challenges and advance towards more fulfilling and joyful work or retirement. How did we do? Do you know anyone who needs this kind of help? Pretty well all of us get a little lost in our careers at some point.

Although building a website always seems to be much more work than we think it should be, this time I had truly excellent support and so the process was relatively seamless and the results are very satisfying. I’d like to say thank you to my designer Erin Ferree , my copy editor Lisa Canfield and my technical team at Bauhinia Solutions. I hope this site can help connect more people to the life-changing services of career coaching as delivered by my colleagues and I.

Leadership Development is an Imperative for Business Success

I have a sense that in 2016 there’s new clarity in the corporate world about the true value of leadership and corporate culture development. The voices of those leaders who understand the leadership imperative are resonating with the challenges we are facing.  Slowing growth, financial uncertainty and rapid societal change are forcing us to learn the lesson that it is people who create value in business, not money nor machines. In addition, the generation of millennials now entering the workforce refuse, bless them, to work the same way their parents did. They demand opportunities to learn and develop rapidly, to have autonomy in their actions and to create real value through their work. It means that for businesses to be competitive and successful now, they MUST have engaging and efficient working cultures led by inspiring leaders. 514Xbhlq35L

The new book Mastering Leadership, by Robert Anderson and Bill Adams is an example of cutting edge research that is confirming the leadership imperative. The book describes a universal model for leadership development and it includes in-depth analysis and case studies that authenticate the links between leadership, culture and business results. This book brings together the research that underpins The Leadership Circle Profile, which is one of the primary tools I use in leadership development.

As a result of these new levels of understanding and new clarity about the need for change, I’m seeing some large-scale, innovative leadership and culture development schemes emerging across Asia led by certain multi-national organizations that are serious about thriving. Our collective understanding of how to develop leaders has improved dramatically over the past decade, and now we are called to practice implementing this rapidly and on a large scale. It is a very exciting time to be a leadership coach.

If you are involved in developing leadership and culture in your organization, shall we meet up to compare notes? There’s a lot we can learn together.

Self-Organizing Operating Systems

Reinventing Org imageHave you read the book ‘Reinventing Organizations‘ by Frederic Laloux? Or have you heard of Holacracy, the new organization operating system that revolutionizes the way people work together? These works point to a new trend in organizations: self-management or distributed power. Self-organizing systems solve some of the key problems faced by most corporations these days, in particular 1) the lack of agility and bottlenecks created when decision-making is concentrated at the top of a hierarchy, or across a matrix and 2) the lack of engagement that results when workers have insufficient autonomy and weak connections to the value of the work they produce.

Frederic Laloux’s book explains how organizations evolve and it presents some convincing case studies on organizations using the world’s most mature and innovative operating systems. Holacracy is one such operating system designed to help all kinds of organizations adopt effective self-management systems.

I am very inspired and attracted to this idea of self-management. Having been self-employed for more than two decades, this is the ONLY way I can imagine wanting to work inside an organization, especially a diverse one. I am already working with a few clients to implement some of the organizational innovations into their current working systems. There are actually quite a few relatively small changes that can make a big difference in reducing managerial workloads and increasing engagement.

And, not to be overtaken, I am implementing a self-management experiment myself in a new entrepreneurial venture I am part of.  We are working on a project to provide Leadership Due Diligence services to investors who want to account fully for the leadership and cultural aspects of their potential investments. The rapid developments in our understanding of how people and organizations work best in the 21st century can help investors see beyond the surface of what creates business success and thereby make much better investment decisions which also add more real value to the world.

If you’d like to know more about how to implement self-organizing systems in your workplace, or if you are an investor who wants to support organizations that are adding true value in the world, please send me an email and let’s talk.

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Clarity and Confidence for 2016

Clarity is power! When you know clearly what you want, where you are headed and your next steps for getting there, you automatically feel much more confident. This type of confidence –grounded in your own desires– is one of the primary outcomes of coaching.

By turning your attention to what you want, and what you will do to get it, coaching moves you to develop increasing complexity of mind and capacity to create. Would you like to be more powerful in that way? You can have more of what you want –whether it is for you, your family, your company, your kind or for all beings.



New Year Clarity and Confidence Coaching Offer

To celebrate the coming of 2016, I would like to help you increase your clarity and confidence and at the same time raise some money for Room to Read, one of my favorite charities. You will take the time to reflect and plan using the Loving Your Work Annual Planning Worksheet. Then choose either to share your written results by email, or in a one-hour telephone coaching session.

Option 1:  Get the Loving Your Work Annual Planning Worksheet, answer the questions and report your results to me by email. I will read and provide feedback and encouragement.
Free with a donation of your choice to Room to Read. Email me to get started.

Option 2:  Get the Loving Your Work Annual Planning Sheet and a one-hour telephone coaching session including my feedback, new insights and support.
Regular price: HK$2800, Special price: HK$2300 (Save $500)

Feel Good Bonus: Until December 31, I will donate all my income from this initiative to Room to Read, a charity that is empowering young people through literacy and gender equality.

Act now because the year cannot be stopped! The offer is available only until January 4, 2016 with coaching appointments until January 11th.

Please email me now to get your worksheet and set up your appointment.

Happy New Year!

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Insights from Paris

Peace-for-Paris-400x222The tragedies in Paris 2015 provoked in me a flurry of reading in my attempt to make some sense from the pain. This article is a guide to some of the best thought leadership I discovered on the topic of global terrorism.

As I take the view of a responsible global citizen (I’m not saying I always take that view), I want to know how I caused this conflict and how I can think and direct my attention in ways that support its resolution in the long run. I am so grateful for the time, freedom and connections that give me access to so many different perspectives on global issues. Here are my biggest insights.

Insight 1: There is even more pain.

There is even more pain and suffering in the world every day than we know. The organizations who spend the most time and money on directing our attention (businesses, and governments) do not want us to know about all this pain. It would distract us from the simpler more self-absorbed solutions they are directing us to. Even though it hurts to look at the truth of this suffering, if we want to grow up, we must broaden our view.

Selective Empathy: Terrorist Attacks Rock Paris, Public Response to Tragedy Is Typically Disproportionate
By Daniel DeLafe

Insight 2: The global economic system must change.

What are the sources of terrorism? One of them is the global spread of commercial marketing that creates emotional needs for consumer goods and romanticizes western lifestyles while disparaging all kinds of local, more sustainable lifestyles. To reverse this trend we need to evolve a new economic system based on sustainability rather than on endless growth at the expense of environmental and social values.

How Globalization Fuels Terrorism and Fundamentalism
By Helena Norberg-Hodge

Insight 3: We must start by moving together, not against.

The only way to reduce the pain is to do all we can to help those who are suffering. If we only move to protect ourselves, we will be making a historic mistake. It is a moral, economic and political imperative that we follow the example of history’s most inspiring leaders to help those in need.

Paris: Shifting the Heart of the Collective
By Otto Scharmer

Do you share these opinions? Are there crucial pieces missing from these views?

I believe millions of people worldwide share at least the opinion that we must move together, not against. And that brings me great hope and excitement as we enter a new stage of human civilization.

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How Effective is Your Leadership?

Leadership effectiveness means using our leadership behaviours to create the results we want efficiently. It’s relatively simple to measure our results, but how can we really know if our leadership communications and activities are adding value or if how-effective-leaderour teams and followers are succeeding despite our efforts?

We Cannot Know

It is reasonable to start with the assumption that we cannot possibly know the impact of our leadership if we use only our own perspective. I wrote the article “I Don’t Know What I’m Doing” about this phenomenon.

Of course, in the simplest leadership situations, such as leading a troop of marchers, we can turn around and assess our results easily and immediately. And we can experiment (shout louder, shout faster etc.) and have instant feedback on the impact of those choices. But most organizational leadership is not that simple.

The operating function of the human brain makes it inevitable that we are mostly unaware of what we are doing. That’s a good thing, because otherwise digesting lunch would take a lot more effort. But it means that we cannot accurately assess ourselves as leaders. My own observations show that I am particularly unaware of my leadership effectiveness when I am ineffective. When I’m under pressure, or when I’m emotionally triggered, my brain tends to greatly limit my awareness. For example in a conflict when I am upset, my mind will loudly remind me why I am right, and completely ignore any other points of view that might exist. With this blinkered awareness, it is unlikely that I will make the best possible decision for the highest common purposes. I will be protecting myself, and denying it as well.

In addition to our own limited awareness, there’s the problem that our followers don’t tend to give us accurate information on our leadership effectiveness. First of all, many of them do not have the skills and experience to communicate accurately about our leadership effectiveness. It’s not easy to express the subtle aspects of communications and influencing skills. They have their own self-protective blind spots. And most frequently, business relationships are not deep enough to withstand the risks of honest feedback. Sub-ordinates prefer to keep nice, easy relations with their leaders, even though they may suffer from the leadership missteps.

Many organizational cultures undervalue upward feedback in the hierarchy. Formal mid-year and annual reviews keep feedback flowing from leader to team member, but the upward feedback questions often don’t even get asked, as if they are somehow less important or less valid.

We Can Know

By embracing the need for feedback, and using the most effective tools and methods for gathering it, we can know how effective we are as leaders, and we can use that knowledge to improve our results.

Simply asking our followers for feedback is a good start, but the more advanced you are as a leader, the less likely it is that this method will show you how to improve. Because relatively bad leaders are quite common, team members are frequently just very grateful for moderately good leaders and they have not put much thought into how they could improve.

The Leadership Circle Profile solves this problem by integrating advanced research and technology to provide a very clear picture of leadership which works for a very wide range of leaders while providing a great deal of subtly in the results. The information is presented in a user-friendly format that allows for meaningful interpretation. The model deepens the meaning of the feedback by shining a light not only on leadership competencies –what the leader does, but also on reactive tendencies –the unconscious patterns of thinking that are behind our most intractable ineffectiveness.

 We Can Improve

Improving our leadership requires even more feedback to guide us through the change process. We need to measure leadership results in terms of the perceptions, feelings and impacts on our followers, and that can only be measured with their close involvement. The trick is to keep it very simple and to measure only a small number of criteria at a time.

The deepening relationships that result from this kind of leadership development work are good for the soul. We can build our respect for other human beings: those who we rely on to tell us how we are doing, and those who courageously aim for self-improvement in order to achieve the most difficult and important results that only excellent (and constantly developing) leaders can create.

If you are ready to learn what makes your leadership effective and ineffective, please drop me a line to set up a phone call with me, and we’ll talk about what tools would best serve you.

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I Don’t Know What I Am Doing

How often do you stop to notice what you’re doing? Once a day? Once an hour? Are you always or never actually aware of what you’re doing?


Your brain is exposed through your senses to 11 million bits of information in every moment, and you can focus consciously on only around 7 bits. So obviously you are not very aware. I am not very aware. We are very selective in what we notice.

The limits to my awareness have been very relevant to me lately as I have been both busy and stressed. I am challenging myself with an entrepreneurial project, and it is putting me frequently quite outside my comfort zone. The more my mind is caught up with figuring out the puzzles of this challenge, the less I can see, and the more time I need for processing both the analytical and emotional aspects of the work.

Have you ever stopped to notice that when you are rushing through life you are missing what is actually happening?

I noticed the effects of this pressure on my decision-making process when I caught myself adding additional pressure unconsciously. I had used a standard assumption (A therefore B) which resulted in a very tight time line for my team and I. It was logical that I would have to work over the weekend to meet this schedule, and my team would have to drop everything to make it happen on time. Luckily I did insert some space for myself to reflect, I had a relaxing evening, a good sleep, and when I woke up in the morning I realized that A did not require B. A could be C instead and that would give us an extra week in the schedule.

What specifically allowed me to make that better decision? Definitely the space to reflect is one element, and by that space I don’t mean reading or watching TV. I mean the kind of mental space you experience when the mind can wander in a relaxed fashion: a bath, a walk without purpose, eating without talking or listening, staring at the moon.

Another element that allows me to make decisions that make my life easier, even under stress, is the firm belief that I can. It IS possible to be flourishing while working. We can be both successful and healthy. I am careful to surround myself with examples of people who do this so that it can seem normal to me, even living in a city like Hong Kong which abounds with examples of people who are out of touch with themselves.

When you take a break (at last) do you remember things? Sometimes very important things?

The busier I am, the more crucial it becomes to have regular breaks. Because my brain is taken up with so much information, if I expect to be effective, I need to process information before I can input more. And yet the flood of information is so enticing. It is our training to ‘be productive’, ‘always be learning’, ‘don’t miss anything’ that actually leads us to overwhelm ourselves with information and become increasingly ineffective: rushing in the wrong direction when we would be better off sitting still.

What do you need in order to make the smartest decisions? More information? Or more time to process what you already know?

Perspective is needed. Perspective comes from standing further away from your day-to-day thinking to get a different view of it. You don’t know what you don’t know. You don’t even know what you know! But when you pause and free the mind from the tyranny of trying to find answers, or trying to get things done, you can tap into a much more complete awareness. Perspective brings clarity.

Perspective is also gained through reflecting your thoughts with someone else. That person (perhaps a Coach) must have enough experience to relate to your situation while being open enough to allow your perspective to be heard and not simply compared or subjugated to their perspective. When you need perspective to work out an issue, being heard is very satisfying.

And if there’s no one available to hear you, reflecting on paper is also very effective, either by journalling or mind-mapping. It’s important to stay relaxed as you write, or draw. Your own self-judgment can easily act as another block. Perspective occurs when you let the thoughts out as they are, and then you can see them from outside your own head for a new perspective.

I don’t know what I am doing. Does it matter?

It’s not possible to know what we’re doing, in reality. It is too complicated. On the level of biology alone, we have no idea what our bodies are doing at any given time. The vast majority of our thinking is completely invisible to us.

And it’s also not possible to predict the future, although we imply that it is possible by the way we hesitate to make decisions, as if we could somehow know what will happen as a result of what we do.

But by paying attention more fully and more frequently to my present moment experience, I can make much more conscious (smarter) decisions and take more conscious (effective) actions. And paying attention to what I’m doing can be extremely satisfying. Present moment awareness, mindfulness, is the root of true happiness. What is life for anyway, if not for at least experiencing it in every moment?

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Angela’s New Business Initiatives

One of the great things about owning your own business is that it never has to stay the same. Having established my coaching business 14 years ago, I have been through several different phases and I sense myself emerging into yet a new one now.

The way I explain this next phase (to myself) is that I want to lead a sustainable commercial organization that adds value to society while providing fulfilling and rewarding work for me and my colleagues. My reason is as usual, personal improvement. It’s funny to recall that the first time I started working for myself, back in 1993, the goal of my work was #1 to support me financially and #2 to give me opportunities to learn. So, in a sense, nothing has changed.


Loving Your Work Coaches, May 2014

Through my years of leading in non-profit organizations, I have proven, at least to myself, my ability to lead groups that rely mostly on volunteer labour. Now I want to prove that I can also lead in a commercial organization where people work for money, as well as for love! Afterall, when we are paid for our work, it supports us more fully and we can commit fully to it. Some of my executive clients have remarked that leading volunteers is much harder than leading paid staff, but for me it is the opposite.  I’m not absolutely sure why it feels like a bigger challenge for me. It could be some kind of moral issue, some internal resistance to using money to influence others (my Canadian socialist background?) or maybe there are some other hidden blocks that I will have to go through in order to be successful (by my definition) at this. I’m aware that whatever my reasons for doing anything, in reality I have no idea why I do anything. (Sam Harris explains more.)

So, in 2015 I’ll be taking steps to serve more clients through more coaches and offering new kinds of services, still along the lines of helping people develop themselves to be freer, wiser and more compassionate. And I am confident because I am well supported. My favorite book of the year, gives many specific examples of the most advanced ways of leading organizations for me to learn from. And I am continually inspired and supported by my business coaching group.

And there is another internal drive affecting me. It saddens me when I meet people who are suffering in their working lives. There are so many examples of this. People work too hard and face too much pressure and stress in ways that compromise their lives and values. People are treated badly at work, they allow themselves to be treated badly and they treat others badly! People compromise in their family lives and hold back from expressing their creative talents and their highest skills. And worst of all, many people think this is normal, acceptable and unchangeable.

It is very rewarding to be able to help people thrive in their working lives in ways that support their whole lives. But our one-on-one services are quite expensive and certainly beyond the resources of many people who could benefit. So I am quite committed to finding new, more cost-effective ways to support more people with career coaching.

This next phase in my business is well on the way. I already have 6 coaches who work with me on a freelance basis. Their presence encourages me to find more coaching clients who we can help! And I am currently exploring new ways to reach more people, particularly through online group coaching and community building.  Here are our two newest initiatives:

Loving Your Work Website in Traditional Chinese

because tCH



The Loving Your Work career coaching website is now available in traditional Chinese. This addition is an experiment to see if we can reach out to Chinese-speaking clients in Hong Kong.  And here it is! We have three Cantonese-speaking career coaches in our team who are eager to help people create more rewarding working lives. Do you know anyone who could benefit from career coaching in their native tongue of Cantonese?

Career Freedom Incubator

This is my working title for a large group coaching program that I want to develop. I am modelling this program after other group coaching programs in the US and Canada which are able to support up to 80 people at a time with a small team of coaches, using online forums, teleconferencing systems and occasional group meetings. My goal is to be able to provide cost-effective longer term coaching support for people who are making big career change transitions, particularly moving towards free-lancing, part time work or solo-preneurship. At the moment, the best ways to find out more are to join the mailing list on this page, or become my friend on Facebook where I let the details come out bit by bit as soon as I know myself.

Career Freedom Incubator (1)Additional instructions: Once you have completed the short form, you will be sent an email that contains a confirm link. In order to activate your subscription, check your email and click on the link in that email. You will not receive your subscription until you click that link to activate it.

*If you don’t see that email in your inbox shortly, fill out the form again to have another copy of it sent to you.



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Choosing Our Words for the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong

In Hong Kong today our passions are running high. The Umbrella Movement has captured our attention, whether by enraging us at the challenges to our way of life or by inspiring us to higher ideals of freedom and peace. Law and order, peace, prosperity and freedom: we want all that. And yet we disagree, fiercely at times, about how to achieve it. I see people who are calling for negotiations being themselves unwilling to give an inch in their position. I see people calling for a return to law and order condoning violence as a means.


Police and demonstrators face off in Hong Kong, October 15, 2014

I’ve been moved over the past few weeks to call forward our best thinking and communication skills for the sake of Hong Kong people’s future.  On my Facebook page I said:

What is our role as coaches in Hong Kong during the demonstrations for democracy? I say it is:

  1. to keep ourselves healthy, positive and uplifted,
  2. to practice an attitude of openness with non-judgmental listening,
  3. to support others to express their views clearly and completely,
  4. to express our own views in ways that provoke new insights and elicit creative and courageous actions.

We have a huge opportunity now to broaden our thinking, open our hearts to who we disagree with, accept the existence and validity of other perspectives, and thereby increase our ability to be a healthy democratic society.

Today I want to add something else to this call. I want to ask us to choose our words carefully. As I wrote in 2009, our words are not innocent; they are very powerful. Our words affect our perception of the world; what we see, hear, feel and experience. We can use our words to create the world we want, or just as easily to encourage the scenarios we most fear.

It’s time to speak up in support of what we INTEND for our future. The more I bring my attention to what I want, the more it appears before me. It’s not real magic, just the trick of how attention works.

I’ll start with an easy one: I like blue. And I see it all over the place.

Now a harder one: Hong Kong has some of the smartest, most experienced, highest integrity leaders in the world.

The words you say or write or think are like seeds that sow your ideas. So when you start thinking about the colour blue, it appears before you in places you didn’t notice before. It’s the same with something like kindness. When you start looking for it, you will see it all over the place, and that feels good. Try it!

The major disruptions and passionate calls we are experiencing now have evoked all kinds of emotions, including anger and fear. Reacting from those emotions we may express frustration and cynicism, and we tend to exaggerate the negative. It’s natural and good to feel emotions as a result of such turmoil and passion. But when we express them thoughtlessly, we can easily make the situation worse.

What we desperately need now is more trust between the demonstrators and the government. We can support the process of building trust by being accurate with our words without deleting the positive aspects that are there. They may be quite hidden, and that is all the more reason to seek them out and highlight them now.

The trick is to be both true to your perspective, and positively constructive. Here are some questions to start exercising your positive thinking.

  • Who are your favourite Hong Kong legislators? What do they do that makes you respect them?
  • What is one positive thing that has already come about due to the demonstrations?
  • What do you respect about the Hong Kong government?
  • What do you respect about the Chinese government?
  • What do you respect about the student protesters?
  • What do you respect about the Occupy Central leaders?
  • What do you respect about the Hong Kong police?

Take notice of how you feel as you are answering these questions. If it hurts, it simply means you are adjusting some deeply held beliefs, and you are broadening your worldview to let in a more satisfying world. Congratulate yourself, because what you’re doing is critical to our success. If this process is easy for you, make up some harder questions by considering where your thinking is most negative.

I’ve heard it said that Hong Kong will never be the same again after these demonstrations and I concur. Let’s make it better by stretching our abilities to see clearly and accept the complexity of life in a democratic society.

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. Mahatma Gandhi

Posted in Angela's Interests, Leader as Coach, Living and Working in Hong Kong, News & Events | 1 Comment

Are You Upgrading Your Beliefs?

carhoodWhen I coach someone through any kind of change, whether changing leadership style, changing careers or anything else, I start by looking under the hood. In coaching this means to look at the system of beliefs that is creating the current environment and can therefore be adjusted in order to create a new environment.

Robert Dilts‘ model of the Logical Levels describes how everything we experience can be viewed from a number of different levels. Changes made at higher levels in the model have an impact on the levels below. But higher levels are also harder to change. Most frequently, we change our world at the lower levels, by changing our environment directly,  by changing our behaviours and by building our capabilities and skills in order to do so.

Logical Levels of Change (from Elizabeth Goodman’s Blog)

If we can change our beliefs, we can overhaul any aspect of our lives.

Our beliefs define us, and they define our view of the world to such an extent that they are inseparable from the world we live in. Our beliefs are the sum total of all the words we use to describe our world, both consciously and unconsciously. And we also have beliefs that have never been put into words.

As an example, in an NLP Timeline Therapy session, I once discovered that I had a belief that working alone in the kitchen is dangerous, in certain circumstances. This was a very naive and exaggerated belief that I had made up when I was a very young girl based on just one quite ordinary incident of a family conflict in the kitchen. The belief had remained completely unconscious well into my adult life, and made me irrationally irritable about kitchen chores. It has been a great relief to change this belief and give myself back the freedom to work calmly and happily in the kitchen whenever I like!

Changing beliefs gives us a powerful new capacity to manage ourselves through change and challenge. And there are two main steps to changing beliefs: identifying and replacing.

Simply identifying hidden beliefs can be hugely powerful. If you can bring your attention to the stream of thoughts that runs in the background of your mind, probably almost unceasingly, then you can dip into the flow of beliefs that are driving you. Coaching can help in identifying unwanted beliefs by shining a light on thinking patterns that you had not noticed before and by acting as a mirror to reflect the beliefs that are expressed in the way you speak and the way you think.

And coaching can also help in replacing unhelpful beliefs with more effective ones. Metaphors and images can help with this process. As an example, a client of mine used the symbol of a backpack to help him create new ways of thinking about his career. He was heading for retirement and eager to take a step-by-step process to release work to his successor gradually while retaining the aspects of his work that most suited him in the later stages of his working life. He needed to replace his very disciplined thinking about getting work done, with a more flexible approach. He selected the specific things he wanted to keep and put them in his imaginary backpack, while leaving certain old ways of working behind.

As the award-winning cell biologist Dr. Bruce Lipton has explained, the vast majority of our beliefs are unconscious and they cannot be changed only within the conscious mind. We need to practice new beliefs, repeating them until they become habitual. This takes effort, but the good news is that it is possible. And we are only just beginning to understand the impact we can have on our abilities and lives through deliberate efforts to change our beliefs.

Are you upgrading your beliefs? If you’re considering overhauling your leadership style or career path, I would love to help you open the hood.

Posted in Leadership, News & Events, Self-Improvement and Success tips | Leave a comment