|Business Coach/ Mentor|
|Performance Guaranteed |
According to the Taoists everything has both masculine and feminine aspects. There is an innate nature to all things and, furthermore, how we view things affects our interpretation just like wearing sunglasses affects the clarity of what we are seeing. We view the world through our own filter of the world.
I need to make a distinction at the outset. Feminine energy is not the sole preserve of women. Both men and women to varying degrees access their feminine energy. If all things have both masculine and feminine aspects then this may relate to people, business enterprises, environments, work culture and everything else.
Let me contrast two perspectives of feminine (Yin) energy. At its core the feminine is a metaphor of the field of infinite potential. It has no boundaries, cannot be quantified, is latent, innate, unrealised. In colour terms the Taoists suggest Yin energy is dark. It is still, motionless, uniform, passive. It is a place of rest and retreat. If it were a direction it would be inward.
There are two perspectives, or filters through which we view this Yin energy and not surprisingly they are:
· How the masculine views the feminine, or White Yin, and
· How the feminine views the feminine, or Black Yin.
White represents the masculine (Yang) energy and black represents feminine (Yin) energy. The opposite also holds true, ie there is a white yang (how the feminine views the masculine) and black yang (how the masculine views the masculine).
In business parlance a white yin perspective might embrace more feminine energy, eg ask open questions, brainstorm ideas, invite contribution, adopt an open plan environment, etc for the purpose of creating a competitive advantage. The ends justifies the means. The masculine perspective is one of competition, advantage, victory.
On the other hand a black yin perspective in a business setting might ask questions, brainstorm ideas, invite contribution, etc simply out of respect for the individual. It is a show of empathy and genuine caring for the individual. The creation of authentic dialogue, trust and respect is integral to being in business, and being a leader. A transaction doesn’t have consummate the relationship. The relationship in and of itself is enough.
If we apply this black yin perspective, or how the feminine views the feminine, into a business context what might it create at the enterprise level? What sort of work environment or organisational culture may result?
Well, it would be a collaborative and creative environment based on real relationships and authentic dialogue where one might expect high rates of staff retention. Staff will feel personally empowered, work life balance would be something practiced and not just preached. Plans would be more flexible. The paradigm of leadership would be situational and adaptive rather than directive and based on positions of power and authority. The goal of the business would reflect sustainable growth and work practices and not be consumed by growth for growth’s sake. It may shift the very driver of the business from profit maximisation (for shareholders) to something more equitable and sustainable for all stakeholders.
The central theme of Taoist philosophy is that we have an innate nature and life is best served being in tune with our innate nature. Finding flow is another expression of the same theme. This is in contrast with the traditional model of business premised on the Protestant work ethic and that is you must work hard to be successful.
A business enterprise which adopts more of this Taoist perspective is embracing more feminine energy and in a rapidly changing economic landscape being fluid and in flow is essential to health, harmony and prosperity. Perhaps it is the road less travelled.
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Coaching for feminine (YIN) energy
Here are five examples of the feminine (Yin) aspect:
1. Centre – rather than standing apart, the feminine seeks a return to the centre. For a human being this centre is the heart. And the path to heart evokes stilling of the mind and the exploration of a deeper felt sense of being. Beyond the senses one can explore heart consciousness and this is the quest many feel compelled to explore now, more than ever.
2. Sustainability – the feminine (Yin) energy is not about the perpetual movement forward. It is about balance, restoration, rejuvenation, and “the pause between the notes”. Think of a rock climber. He climbs upward and pauses to secure his position by inserting a peg. Progress forward is only subjected to a falling back of one or two steps. The feminine balances advance with retreat.
3. Space – a quintessential aspect of the feminine is the creating and holding of space. Space may be represented in a business context by a think tank, blank canvas, open agenda, question time, silent pause to consider a motion, deliberation of the jury. None of these concepts are new, they are just not as widely considered as they might be. In the world of design space is often used to create context and depth. In a busy, cluttered world this respite enables us to recharge and refocus.
4. Empowerment – the leadership model embraced by the feminine (Yin) energy is situational leadership rather than positional leadership. Positional leadership confers power, authority and control. Power and authority are delegated. In the feminine aspect we (the collective) are all empowered to lead. It is erroneous to believe you can empower someone. You can only empower yourself. You can, however, create an environment (read “the space”) or a culture that is conducive for people feeling empowered enough to step up into their masculine power. I use the term masculine power in the sense of being an individual not exerting their will.
5. Potential – the epitome of the feminine is the field of infinite potential. It goes further than the notion of maximising your potential. In the domain of energy there is no ceiling. And that it has no definition, measure or boundary is further reflection of the feminine essence. The nature of potential is that is inherently unrealised.
Here is a table of distinctions between masculine and feminine aspects. This will give you clues as to which coaching style may be appropriate for a given situation and also point to possible development areas a client may benefit from working on.
Coaching for masculine (YANG)
Coaching for feminine (YIN)
Delivery - outcome/ results focus
Action & Accountability
Differentiation / Finding your edge
Solar plexis chakra (Will/ ego)
Focus strengths – strength based
Outward growth – progress
Getting out / withdrawal
Focus, choose, decide
Discovery – opening possiblility
Reflection & Insight
Homogenisation (fit in) / Return to centre
Focus variances/ gaps
Inward/ upward growth
Staying in/ Reinvestment
Create & hold space
To be a balanced, holistic being you may require a mix of both masculine and feminine approaches. Choose 2-3 development areas from both lists. Your real opportunity for transformational growth is in working on your non-dominant polarity. Find a more balanced mix of both polarities within yourself and in your business environment. This return to equilibrium will evoke a diffusion of polarities and fusion into a more heart centric model of business, one which you may find is its own reward.
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I don’t know about you but I’ve been associated with over a dozen coaching and mentoring groups over the past ten years and they all have a different perspective and self-interest about the two modalities. What gets even more confusing is the fusion of different modalities from what I view as peripheral fields as they attempt to cash in on the hype that is coaching.
So, if I’m confused then I’m guessing it is not only confusing to you, the user, but also that this confusion may serve as a deterrent to you choosing the right coach or mentor for you.
Coaching, mentoring and consulting
Here is a quick distinction. A mentor is someone you learn FROM. A coach is someone you learn WITH, and a consultant well, for the most part a consultant’s gig is to deliver you the results that you might otherwise learn from either coach or mentor. The consultant is engaged to “do the do.”
“A mentor is someone you learn FROM.
A coach is someone you learn WITH.”
The mentor is often described as someone who has “been there, done that” whereas a coach’s main mission is to facilitate your own self-discovery. A coach will ask more than they answer.
The key to effective mentoring is the mentor’s ability to transfer his knowledge, wisdom and insight such that his lessons benefit the mentee. “I’ve been there, done that” is only useful to the extent that it relates to the mentee’s lesson of the day.
I’ll illustrate the differences in coaching, mentoring and consulting with a brief conversation/ case study.
Client asks “My sales are down, I’ve just lost a key account and the leads from my pipeline have slowed. What should I do?”
COACH answers: “What do you think you should do? What have you done previously in a similar situation?”
MENTOR answers: “Well, once my business took a hit when our industry was deregulated. What worked for me is that we compiled a database of past clients and began a campaign designed to reconnect with them offering an inducement to re-engage with us. Would something like that work for you?”
CONSULTANT answers: “Let’s do a quick diagnostic check of your current situation, identify where the gaps are and come up with a proposal to address your issues. If our proposal meets with your approval and your budget then we could start work within four weeks.”
There are basic three paths to implementing change:
· Do It Yourself (DIY),
· Done With You (DWY) like a coach or mentor, or
· Done For You (DFY) by a consultant.
There is a fourth option, of course, and that is the Do Nothing option. Don’t ring me for that one!
At the outset of any engagement be sure to ask, “Who will do the work?”
When should I choose a coach v mentor?
There are some urban myths about mentoring that need to be dispelled. The major one is “You need to have grey hair to be a mentor.” Bollocks! The key to being a successful mentor is your ability to impart your knowledge, wisdom and experience to the mentee. My lesson is not your lesson. My story is just a metaphor, and as the mentee, you will find your own truth in my story. This is more an art than science.
“My lesson is not your lesson.”
Here are five situations where I recommend you seek a MENTOR rather than a coach.
1. Starting a Business – are you searching for a map of territory trodden previously by another (Mentor) or is your journey into completely uncharted territory where a compass would serve you (Coach).
If your business/ leadership skills are lacking then by engaging a Mentor you can fast track your learning providing there are close parallels between your lesson and your Mentor’s knowledge, skills or experience.
80% of businesses fail in the first year. This is science. This is fact. There is a map of this territory and your Mentor may have it.
2. Economic recession – this is an economic cycle, and cycles do what cycles do, ie they repeat. A Mentor with past experience of economic cycles and how to ride them out, take corrective action, cut costs, lay off staff, down size, eliminate non-core activities, refinance your business, etc is invaluable.
There are two big caveats to these comments and they are China and the internet. These two powerhouse influences may mean that we need a compass not a map. Keep that in mind. If you experienced difficulties during the tech wreck, global financial crisis (GFC), or the stock market crash of the 1980’s, there are wise heads who have navigated their way out of similar cycles. Until recently many young Australian entrepreneurs had not seen heavy rain let alone an economic recession.
3. Crisis recovery – is the mantra “been there, done that” likely to give you comfort and afford you a solution to your challenge. If someone else’s lesson has parallels for you, and your lesson, then choose a Mentor. You may need to draw a long bow to find the parallels but it’s not the facts that are relevant but more the mental attitude, resilience, temperament or even simply an objective opinion. I used to love listening to my Grandfather’s stories of a bygone era. It tapped my creative mind, let lose my imagination and opened my heart to empathy.
4. Merger & Acquisition – there are two ways to grow a business, either organically or by acquisition. M&A is such a highly technical field that calling upon specialist help is highly desirable. There is a fair chance you will have a team of professional advisors working on the deal but a Mentor can offer you comfort in ways that professional advisors may not.
5. The After Life – when you exit a long term business, career or relationship your whole world gets turned upside down. Some of life events are best shared with someone that doesn’t just have empathy but shares that special bond, that kinship, you won’t find in other relationships. A Mentor is not a hard arse but will, where occasion warrants, both support and challenge you. The art is finding the delicate balance between the two roles and reading what you need at any given moment.
Here are five situations where I recommend you seek a COACH rather than a mentor.
1. Greenfields territory – The analogy of the map and the compass I used earlier is a great distinction. When you are entering completely unchartered territory the questions you ask may be more inductive than deductive. A Coach can facilitate your self-discovery, this exploration of the brave new world.
2. The deeper question of WHY? – Many people get stuck with HOW TO questions. Yet if you explore your raison d‘etre much of the detail becomes evident. A Coach may draw you into a deeper dialogue with self. Once you answer the question, “WHY do you do what you do?” you have a context to answer all other questions. You are no longer operating in a vacuum but in a larger hologram where everything is inter-connected. It is an extremely powerful to place from which to play life.
3. Use of diagnostic tools – Coaches have access to a wide range of diagnostic tools from personality profiles, leadership inventory, behavioural type indicators, entrepreneurial profiles, communication style and many Business Coaches have access to a wide array of business diagnostic tools and indicators also. Make sure you know the scope of your coach. Many coaches are trained from schools of psychology with little or no business acumen.
4. Business Acumen – if you are looking for a Business Coach then know this - the quality of your/their questions will determine the quality of your (business) life. Assess the level of business acumen your coach/ mentor possesses regardless of whether they have “been there, done that.” Business is a game. It has its rules, language, success measures, strategies, formulas, structures and whether Coach or Mentor your guide must know the game, how it is played and how you can win.
5. Accountability – in a world of procrastinators the principal benefit of a Coach is accountability. You can have the best laid plans, greatest intent, all of the wisdom of Solomon but if you don’t implement then it amounts to nought.
There you have it. This is one man’s opinion and I am sure you will find many others. When you do get divergent opinion, do yourself a favour, and ask does the critic have a vested opinion, and if so, what is it?
I hope you enjoyed the article. Please check out other blogs/ articles I have written and feel free to post your comments and queries and if there is something I can help you with drop me a line.
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In “The Rise of the Feminine,” we explored how the masculine and feminine polarities, Yin Yang, play out in business and leadership. For hundreds of years business has been dominated by fiercely competitive, command and control, patriarchal models of leadership. Never before have we faced such complexity, rapid change or global challenges. The old patriarchal models of leadership no longer serve.
“The Rise of the Feminine” has gathered widespread acceptance in personal and spiritual growth circles but has not been popularised in a business context – until now.
The Rise of the Feminine” has transformed the game of business. And not where you might think. Like a veritable tsunami you won’t see its waves breaking on the shoreline. It is an under-current, such is the way of the feminine. It is covert. Yet powerful beyond measure.
Whilst many look within the corridors of power in board rooms, executive teams of publicly listed companies, and political office, “The Rise of the Feminine” has transformed the micro business landscape right before our very eyes. The take-up rate of home based business, internet marketing, solo-preneurs and freelance work has been phenomenal. These micro enterprises do not rely upon the power and authority structures endemic in large corporations. This is where the economic landscape is being rewritten.
Economic theory was founded on the Law of Scarcity. It underpins everything we know and believe in economics and commerce. In short, competitive market forces of demand and supply determine the equilibrium price where the exchange of goods and services take place.
It is inaccurate to say the old masculine patriarchal energy has been replaced by “The Rise of the Feminine” in micro business for it never existed in this space. This is how “The Rise of the Feminine” has changed, and is changing, forever the way we do business. The micro business landscape and the world wide web is a portal to a new way of BEING in business.
The Old Boys Club lives on in another guise
Critics of the ‘old boys club’ approach to doing business may well consider that since Adam was a boy we have gathered together in tribes to pursue common goals. I am not an advocate of the Old Boys Club. It is isolationist. There is a better, more inclusive way. Business and leadership are not the sole preserve of men and particularly the old masculine energy based on power and authority structures. Having said that I pose the question:
“Are women’s networks the modern version of The Old Boys Club?”
The key to long term sustainable change is in the integration of both masculine and feminine energy - “The Rise of the Feminine” coupled with The Rebirth of the Masculine. What we need is not a revolution from patriarch to matriarch but an evolution to new ways of business and leadership. A new model of heart based leadership which integrates BOTH masculine and feminine. This is the essence of Yin Yang – the masculine contains the feminine energy, and the feminine contains the masculine energy. They exist in unity not duality.
The biggest challenge facing women’s groups is how they engage, interact with, and emancipate the old masculine patriarchal energy. There is a wonderful opportunity to lead business into the new age from the heart.
This new age leadership, integrating both feminine and masculine, will come from outside the traditional power and authority structures and most likely will arise covertly from a minority voice. This is leadership. This is true celebration of diversity. The feminine influence on leadership in business will evolve. It will arise from evolution not revolution. This is the way of the feminine. It is not a power play. It is covert, subtle and unassuming.
The decree of quotas may serve to increase the representation of women in positions of power and influence. It’s a nice ideal and an incremental step towards parity. As effective as they might be, quotas aren’t transformative. There is an old adage in selling, “Power buys from power.
“The Rise of the Feminine” is far more than the pursuit of parity. It is far more than an incremental approach. It is of far more benefit than filling 10%-20% of executive positions. The real transformation of leadership is not a power game. There is a fundamental distinction between authority and leadership – everyone can lead and they don’t need to be in positions of power and authority to do so. Moreover, many people in positions of authority don’t lead. Leadership is a verb not a noun.
Micro business is leading the change
I wrote earlier that larger corporations need an authority structure to function. Micro business does not. Because of their small size they provide a perfect opportunity for a more feminine model of leadership.
Talk with any home based business owner and learn how innovative, flexible, collaborative, street smart they are to survive, let alone thrive.
Most micro businesses have a different raison d’etre. They are created more for lifestyle reasons rather than wealth creation. You won’t find them raising private equity, floating on the stock exchange and trading share parcels. These wealth creation strategies of the capital markets shift the game of business.
Micro business has a different agenda. They are more nimble, agile, quicker. If you look at how they operate, why they operate and for whom they operate – it is obvious why there are parallels with the feminine.
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Dennis Roberts is a leading strategist, executive coach and business mentor. He helps entrepreneurs and executives realise the full potential of their businesses and themselves, think outside the square and perform at their optimum. To learn how you can reach your true potential email me.
“… spiritually the female will now have her turn to lead mankind into the New Light. And eventually, this female spiritual light will permeate the entire range of human experience from female leaders in business and religion to female leaders of state ... this female light will become so strong as to become obvious to all who live on this dear planet and will continue to grow for thousands of years.”
“The Serpent of Light” by Drunvalo Melchizedek
Is this uprising, women as a gender, or femininity as energy? If the former, then those women who have won positions of power by amplifying their masculine will continue the masculine archetypal game. If, on the other hand, the essence of this is the rise of the feminine energy then that has the potential to change how the game of business is played, and to change the very game itself. And that is what I am exploring.
The ancient Chinese viewed things in relationship with nature and the environment, everything studied formed part of a holistic perspective. No single element existed in isolation. There was perfect symmetry in the dualistic nature of night and day, water and fire, active and passive, masculine and feminine.
Taoist theory of yin and yang helped explain all things and their inter-relationships. All things had yin and yang properties. Yang is associated with outward movement, active, projection, brightness, excitement. Yin is associated with inward, rest, darkness, passive, nourishment.
How is business played under the masculine archetype of leadership?
Masculine (Yang) energy plays out in business as a bias for action, making things happen, setting goals, measuring results, hitting targets. Metaphors of war abound in both business and sport. Competition is fierce, targets are hit, takeovers are hostile, companies are taken over, market share is won/lost, customers are targeted, plans are executed, patches are carved up, products are launched, staff are boned, people are fired.
Sun Tzu’s classic, “The Art of War”, widely linked competitive theory with ancient Chinese military strategy. Some suggest such military, authoritarian styles of leadership have a time and a place, especially during times of crisis and war. Perhaps so.
The natural state of play is for masculine and feminine energies to co-exist in equilibrium. What Drunvalo was alluding to was the rising up of feminine energy to restore the equilibrium from hundreds of years of dominant masculine energy.
Leading business mind, Warren Bennis writes, “We are facing unprecedented times of growing complexity, globalisation and rapid change, the likes of which we have not seen before ... what is needed is not a map, but a compass for this is unchartered territory.”
Furthermore, Heifetz suggests that amid such flux and uncertainty one of the qualities needed in leadership is an ability to “live in the disequilibrium.” If masculine (Yang) energy is about DOing then feminine (Yin) energy is about BEing. Our leaders need to embrace more of this Yin energy, remaining present in the disequilibrium, and seeking out and listening intently to the diverse opinion in our ranks. The key is to resist trying to solve the problem and allow creative tension to bring resolution of its own accord. It may appear counter intuitive but as Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it” and most definitely we need different ways of operating to deal with these new challenges.
The Rise of the Feminine – what it means for business and leadership
If “The Art of War” was the masculine archetypal guide to strategy then “Blue Ocean Strategy” now illustrates how The Rise of the Feminine has permeated business schools. Rather than using metaphors of war, the discussion centres around charting fresh territory, creating uncluttered niche markets, inventing and reinventing brands, strategies and ideas, collaborating rather than competing, seeking synergies, delivering superior customer value, and engaging and empowering employees in meaningful work in which their creative minds find stimulation.
The liberation of creative right brain thinking is much needed, even in a legal and regulatory environment where compliance is more the order of the day than creativity. Compliance activities are prime fodder for automation and/or outsourcing. The real value add of a professional services firm is around creative thinking.
Technological advances and the increased globalisation it facilitates means that decisions need to be made in real time. Heifetz draws a distinction between authority and leadership stating that leadership is an improvisational art. It is a verb, not a noun. Warren Bennis chimes in to suggest “many CEO’s are bosses not leaders.” The act of leadership can and does occur at grass roots levels.
A major challenge in the professional services environment is how effectively you encourage risk taking and mistake making. Is it something you discourage, merely tolerate or actively encourage. Businesses are de-risked but employees must take calculated risks and have supporting organisational frameworks that encourage then to do so.
Traditional patriarchal models of leadership serve to reinforce the power base of the authority figures that created them. Leadership is not something that can be delegated. Authority is delegated but leadership is demonstrated by anyone with a heartfelt conviction in a cause. What the model needs is less authority and more people empowered to lead. It is not about delegation, it is about empowerment.
The game is changing, how to get with the program?
Here’s a quick snapshot of how you can change your firm to embrace The Rise of the Feminine:
What got you here, won’t get you there – Marshall Goldsmith suggests that the higher up the corporate ladder you rise the more performance issues and developmental opportunities are behavioural. And for the ever busy professional it’s not simply a question of choosing what to do but moreso a question of what to STOP doing. The Rise of Feminine evokes a different more expansive way of thinking creatively. It is less about efficiency and more about effectiveness. It requires a different level of thinking to flourish in the new game. Stop, pause and reflect about behaviours such as winning too much, replaying past victories (over and over), not listening, seeing the glass half empty, finding the objection first, withholding information or opinion.
Permission to fail – in a professional services environment we are not used to failure, and certainly not used to it being encouraged let alone condoned. Like them or not, issues around approval seeking are common within professionals services. There is no stigma, we are all human and we all feel pain. It is just that our business and leaders seldom acknowledge our humaness. Create little risk taking experiments where staff can take managed risks. It is common in the creative powerhouses of Apple and Google but rare in professional services. If you operate with a compliance mindset then technology and outsourcing will pass you by.
Resistance to change – people don’t resist change per se, they resist loss. When change involves real or perceived loss, people will hold onto what they have and resist change. The key to leadership is to assess what kinds of loss are at stake from life and loved ones to jobs, wealth, status, relevance, community, loyalty, identity and competence. Assess, manage and provide a context for any loss and help move your people through the losses to a new place.
I have briefly touched on some of the ways The Rise of the Feminine affects business and leadership today. This feminine energy is pulling people together, being comfortable not having all the answers, not rushing to closure, listening empathetically to many and varied diverse opinions, generating creative ideas, and nurturing the capacity to take collective responsibility to solve problems and not operate in silos.
In this article we explored how The Rise of the Feminine has changed how business is being led. In our next instalment we take a quantum leap forward and explore how The Rise of the Feminine is changing the very game of business itself in The Legacy of the Feminine.
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Dennis Roberts is a leading strategist, executive coach and business mentor. He helps entrepreneurs and executives realise the full potential of their businesses and themselves, think outside the square and perform at their optimum. To learn how you can reach your true potential email me.