Coaching in Medicine and Leadership” was the title of this year’s conference in Boston. I headed over – spurred on my memories of my last visit two years ago when I came away fired up with new ideas and learning. To be honest, I wasn’t sure that my last experience could be topped but I was about to be surprised.
After an informal catch up with the Wellcoaches fraternity I settled in for two days of intense listening and I wasn’t disappointed with the new insights the sessions gave me. Not only does the conference attract some of the best minds in the fields of both coaching and leadership, but also the interesting thing was the way each session seemed to link into the others.
You would think that by their very nature/definition, information on “leadership” might be somewhat different to information on “coaching.” There is a long held belief that leaders are in charge and play a different role form an empowering, collaborative coach. Yet it was clear that times are changing and leadership in today’s world is different from what it was ten years ago.
The main reason for this seems to be the degree of uncertainty surrounding us all – not only in the economic climate but in the speed with which things are changing and developing across all industries. “The rules of the game are changing while the game is still being played” was one memorable comment made.
So although I hope to draw on many of the wonderful sessions I attended and pass on some concepts – or my interpretation of them – in future newsletters, I will summarise what I feel were the main points presented at the conference.
The models for leadership have undergone major re-modeling to take into account the business world of today. The four keystones of sense making, visioning relating and inventing, as presented by Dr. Deborah Ancona were strongly aligned to coaching terminology and indeed, principles.
The importance of emotional intelligence in both coaching and in leadership were emphasized by Daniel Goleman (until now a name that I was familiar with from literature on EQ and whose ground-breaking ideas have long been respected by anyone working with people in coaching and counselling). He presented research that showed that EQ (emotional intelligence – put simply the ability to relate to people) rated far above “skills and knowledge” in making a good leader, an exceptional leader.
The need for, and growing body of, research in health and wellness coaching is central to its growth yet the outcome measures of reduced morbidity will come after a long process of measuring things like confidence level, new behaviours, attainment of individual goals and life satisfaction.
The frightening yet eloquent presentation by David Katz on just how bad the health of the US (and globe brought the room to silence and then to its feet. He brought it home to everyone that there was no such thing as “public”, just you and I and the other individuals affected by the lifestyle illnesses that abound. He gave us hope that we could “sandbag the flood” and eventually turn the tide but it would take enormous and collective effort in changing culture. His speech should have been given for a presidential election campaign. He would have won. The issue he spoke of was one of the biggest problems the USA (and Australia) face.
Neuroscience was a hot topic – not for its own sake but for the information it is giving us about the human brain. The fact that our thinking brain and our feeling brain are so closely intertwined came up time and again as did the notion that we are “wired for empathy” as our motor neurons fire in synch with the people we connect with. And again, those many reminders that the body and how we fuel it, are inextricably linked with better brain power.
The coaching “dance” is now being measured by comparing arousal of the sympathetic nervous system between coach and client as the session takes place. The clients that had the most parallel response to their coach, in physiological response, reported feelings of greater rapport.
So many other great topics and speakers. I came away, if not feeling wiser and more effective by my attendance, with a feeling that I am so very lucky to work in a field that is gradually infiltrating many of the key professional areas. Let’s face it, if the key people in Leadership and Medicine are listening, who else could be?
Attending this conference also concreted my belief and understanding of why the area of wellness coaching is suddenly getting greater attention from the corporate world. In today’s environment, you simply cannot be a good leader without a) learning to coach, and b) taking a long, hard look at your own personal wellness. Gone are the days when the top people managed to ignore growing stress levels and enlarging girth measures; where work ruled and relationships came second. We are all finally speaking the same language.