Play, purpose, and potential. Ideally this is what we have in our work, and what we grow through our work.
That’s what I learned yesterday from Grace Keohohou Hao from the Coach Excellence School and Catherine Kort in their workshop at California Lutheran University's Center for Nonprofit Leadership.
As a nonprofit leader, I’ve experienced plenty of purpose in my jobs. But that didn’t always translate to play or potential.
When we’re at play, we look forward to going to work. Our meetings are full of laughter. We get back to our desk overflowing with appreciation for the great people we get to work with. We feel moved about the difference we are making. This is play in the deepest sense, when our whole being and heart are in tune. When that happens, we tap into an abundant source of energy.
As the poet and author David Whyte wrote, “The antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest. The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.”
Potential is when we see the path ahead, and are actively aligning ourselves and those around us to move forward. Potential is that spark that keeps us going through the times that aren’t so fun, that glimpse of the possible that keeps us growing.
According to Keohohou and Kort, at least one of these three elements needs to be present in our work. Ideally all three. If we at least see potential, we can build purpose and play. If we at least have play, we can build potential and purpose. And if we have purpose, we’re in the most powerful place of all to create what we want, where we’re working or elsewhere.
But it’s not always easy to have that perspective all by ourselves. That’s where coaching comes in.
I’ve been fortunate to have two gifted coaches in my career to help me to navigate my purpose so that my work is play, and my potential grows.
One is leadership guide, educator and author Kathleen Schafer. With years of experience teaching political leadership in Washington DC, Kathleen is brilliant at coaching her clients to find the essence of their purpose.
“The difference between leaders and others is that leaders understand their contribution and use it to guide their actions,” Kathleen says in her book, Choose to Lead. “If you are unaware of the contribution you are here to make, then your ability to do it well is diminished, and so is your potential for happiness and having the impact you wish to have in the world.” Yes, it’s that important.
But understanding our contribution, our purpose, is not so easy. “As it is with so much of our natural beauty,” she points out, “the flame of our contribution is hidden under layers of doubt, denial and self-sabotage.” Hence the need for coaching.
My other talented coach is Joan Tremblay of Tremblay & McLoughlin Seminars & Coaching, who uses techniques from Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) to align mind, language, body and behavior. Coaching from Joan is always wonderfully kinesthetic. Once she helps her clients get clearer on their goals and desires, she uses techniques that involve imagining, moving, breathing, and grounding in order to make these goals a reality. I use Joan’s methods for grounding myself before giving talks, for preparing for a challenging interview, and for envisioning what I want my life to look like.
We all need someone to help us clarify our purpose, to bounce ideas off of, to be a trusted mirror to see ourselves as others do, as well as a human Siri to help us stay on course. A coach can be all of that.
The coaching I offer through Caryn Bosson Consulting is focused on ongoing thought partnership with my nonprofit clients to help them move forward towards the vision, goals and purpose they have laid out. As those who work with me know, I am all about timeline, accountability, problem-solving, and adaptability. I’m a pretty good cheerleader, too.
Navigating as a nonprofit leader is hard and often lonely work. Having a trusted coach can help.
Caryn Bosson is the Principal at Caryn Bosson Consulting. She draws upon decades of transformational leadership experience to facilitate and guide nonprofit leaders, teams and organizations towards their greatest impact.