Aligning mind, body and spirit on the path to success
When business coaching emerged some twenty years ago, only a handful of (mostly senior) executives enlisted the help of coaches to guide them to greater success in both their professional and personal lives.
In the world of business, coaching has more to do with listening and asking questions, providing a relevant sounding board and a safe environment in which to reflect, plan and commit to goals
The coach brings value to this relationship by creating the supportive environment for the client so that he or she can develop an action plan and prepare for future success.
Coaching in the sporting world is a hands-on activity involving giving feedback, suggestions and direction on maximizing talent through regular, ongoing physical and mental training. Athletes have long known the importance of a positive mental attitude in great physical accomplishments.
In my experience, business people are far less aware of the importance of their physical being in both their own success and in the way they are perceived by their peers and colleagues.
Jana - a Story of Transformation
Not long ago I coached a successful young professional named Jana, whose impressive list of accomplishments had recently seen her promoted to a management-level position, in charge of a team of ten.
Jana owed her promotion as much to her intelligence and analytical skills as her own personal ambition and hard work. Moreover, having been identified as one of the company’s rising stars, Jana’s drive and determination were bolstered by the full support of her director.
Based on what the manager told me about Jana, I was expecting to see a confident and poised young woman when we met for the first time. But the person who sat across me didn’t convey any of the qualities her boss and HR manager had described to me. She slouched, her breathing was shallow and her eyes were hard at work trying to avoid mine!
While Jana’s technical and analytical skills were acknowledged and praised throughout the company, her weak interpersonal skills and an uninspiring physical presence were actively undermining her role as a future leader.
The Power of Body Language
It is well know that our body is our main vehicle for communication and that 55% of our communication comes from our body language. Yet it is amazing how few people pay attention to what their bodies are telling others.
Jana, for example, would find it very difficult to inspire confidence in her team when her body language showed a clear reluctance to communicate and an even clearer lack of self-confidence.
I asked Jana a few questions in a bid to discover the reason for the difference between what she was telling me verbally and what she was communicating to me physically. Her body seemed to be physically burdened when she described her current professional situation. When she talked about her past achievements, her body eased slightly and her breathing became more relaxed, but an underlying impression of anxiety was clearly visible.
When I eventually shared my impressions with her, she looked me in the eyes and with a surprised tone of voice and said, “What do you mean my body tells you about my stress and emotional turmoil?”
While Jana did not need much help in clarifying her goals and establishing an action plan to achieve them, she needed a lot of coaching to realize the great importance that one’s physical presence has in producing an impression of confidence and competence. Learning to control oneself physically to create such an impression under times of stress and uncertainty is almost as important as mental control in such situations.
I recommended that Jana try to find balance both physically and mentally through sport and physical activity. Sport provides an excellent physical outlet for stress, helps improve mental focus, increases energy and can even make you more open and receptive.
As part of her coaching program, I strongly suggested that Jana attend a weekly yoga class. After a few short weeks, Jana and her co-workers noticed a remarkable difference both in the way she carried herself and in her more relaxed mental attitude. Her posture quickly improved and she learned breathing techniques that kept her aligned both physically and mentally.
A common thread shared by coaching and yoga is the emphasis on the process of fostering inner awareness. As a result, yoga is often an excellent complement to professional coaching.
Both activities place great value on the path of self-discovery and share the belief that the inner journey begins by shifting our external focus to our inner focus. Like coaching, yoga encourages its devotees to pay more attention to external events and circumstance in life while at the same time focusing on internal factors.
Yoga offers concrete benefits including:
- Increased strength and flexibility
- Reduced stress and fatigue
- Greater relaxation
- A more tolerant, understanding attitude
- Physical and mental balance
By aligning both the body and the mind you become centered in the present moment. Whether by consciously taking a single breath at a time or by identifying action steps for the day, the emphasis is on being open to a process of manifestation. Like coaching, regular yoga practice directs a person to look both inside and outside of himself to find happiness and fulfilment.
I strongly believe that both yoga and coaching can offer a valuable contribution to one’s professional success and physical & mental well-being.