Emotional Freedom Technique

I’ve avoided looking into EFT for years. It seemed so simplistic and facile to me. How could tapping on a series of points on the face and torso while uttering statements bring relief from intractable psychological pain? However, I tried it a couple of weekends ago and it worked wonders.

For the uninitiated, EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Technique. According to Gary Craig, the author of “The EFT Manual,” a clinical psychologist named Roger Callahan was working with a patient in the 1970’s who had a fear of water. Dr. Callahan had been unsuccessful at treating this patient’s phobia. Because he was interested in the energetic systems of the body, he decided to tap acupressure points under his patient’s eyes. To his amazement, she reported that her disturbing thoughts about water had completely vanished. Immediately they tested this out in the backyard swimming pool, and indeed she was free of her phobia. Dr. Callahan went on to develop a series of protocols for various psychological condition that required tapping on a specific series of points which he called algorithms.

Later, Gary Craig simplified tapping procedures so that one set of points could be applied to many conditions. And EFT was born.

In writing this post I consulted Wikipedia, which maintains that no research has ever proved tapping more effective than cognitive behavioral techniques or other methods. The Wikipedia article says tapping is no more effective than a placebo. Given that placebos are often amazingly effective with no side effects, I call that high praise.

Richard Bandler (co-developer of NLP) was so impressed with the placebo response he wanted to create a product simply called, “Placebo.” “Think of the vast array of experimentally proven results you could claim,” he said. He even planned to roll out a second product, Placebo Plus (with twice the number of inert ingredients). His idea turned out to be particularly prescient. A year ago I ran across research that said the placebo effect works even when people know they’re taking a placebo! But I digress.

What made my weekend encounter with EFT so successful was my devouring of Jack Canfield and Pamela Bruner’s new book, “Tapping into Ultimate Success.” The book contains a DVD with some masterful demonstrations of EFT, and it also leads readers through exercises that remove resistance to achieving their goals. By the end of the weekend, working on myself in the comfort of my own home, I felt light, clean, and clear. It was as though I’d attended the best seminar of my life – all for $17.84.

Whether my results were due to the placebo effect, I cannot say. But EFT seems to be a format for all manner of skillful therapeutic techniques. I recognized elements of NLP, psychodrama, gestalt, inner family systems, and more. If you are a skillful change agent, I believe you’ll be able to apply what you know to the EFT protocols and get amazing results. If you are a coach, it could be a remarkable resource.

I encourage you to explore EFT.

Here’s a link to Jack’s website and book. Click here.



CHAPTER 19 – Building Team Trust

The next day Dan and Michele sat side by side in the Thoreau room for their 8:00AM meeting. Dan drank coffee, and Michele sipped her Grandfather’s tea from a travel mug. On the table before them, lay the report.

Pointing to it, Michele said, “How does it seem to you today?”

“A little more reasonable. I can see where they get their opinions.”

“What are they telling you?” she said.

“My staff respects my knowledge, but they feel oppressed by me and the project. They think I work them too hard. One person used the words ‘slave driver.’ Two of my non-technical superiors are very concerned about the viability of the project, and a third feels out of the loop. Someone else said I was condescending and opaque. They also doubt that I understand how the project affects their business. And my peers don’t think I listen to them either. They think my teams don’t cooperate with theirs.”

“And what do you think?” said Michele.

“It still bothers me to read it, but I also think if I were in their shoes, I might feel the same way. Anyway, whether their opinions are justified or not, they feel the way they feel. I can’t really argue with that, can I?”

“No, it’s never worth arguing with them; better to just move things forward. But first, remember, you’re now at absolutely the most difficult point in this process. You’re sitting with some hard feedback. You still have many of your old emotional reactions to people and situations, and it’s still too early to form a complete vision of where you want to take your organization. Plus, you have little proof that anything I have to teach you will work.”

“Hey Michele, don’t hold back. Tell me the bad news.”

“This is the lowest point. It gets better from here.”

“How will that happen?”

“While you’re waiting for your vision to take shape, you build your capacity to inspire trust and lead your stakeholders forward. You build that trust through listening, partnering, and delivering what you promise. Your work with the ALIVE skills will give you the resilience, clarity, and courage to earn trust quickly. Even though there are no visible signs yet, we’ve already set the process of change in motion by interviewing people. As you begin to act differently, they’ll notice.

“Hey, that all sounds good, but I need practical next steps. I’m at a loss here. What am I supposed to do?”

“This report is the starting point for building trust. First, you meet with your stakeholders and acknowledge the messages they sent through the interviews. You thank them for the time and thought they put into the feedback. You share the main themes that emerged, and you let them know that you want to create, along with them, a collaborative working environment that will be productive and rewarding for everyone. Later, you may want to hold an offsite meeting for your entire team, but first you meet one on one with everyone who gave you feedback. You ask if they would be willing to tell you what it’s like from their side of the working relationship; and you listen. You don’t defend, debate, or rebut. You simply listen to what they say, without taking it personally.”

“Sounds like I’m going to hear a lot more complaints,” he said.

“You will, but I promise the conversations won’t be that painful – not if you have a clear idea of what you want to create in these meetings. But you’re the one who has to have them, and if you don’t want to have them, it will show. Remember, you’re not the only one who has faced the problem of building and rebuilding trust. Stephen M. R. Covey devoted an entire book to the subject called: The Speed of Trust. It would be an excellent resource for you right now.

“The most fundamental question is about your intent: Do you want to build an organization where people can exchange information and learn without fear? Do you want to build trust?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, OK,” he said. “I’ll be a good leader, Coach, honest I will.”

“I like your approach – kicking and screaming your way into mature leadership.”

“Hey,” Dan smiled. “We need to utilize my strengths.”

“Indeed we do. By the way, did you have a chance to try what I showed you yesterday about smiling with the breath and moving the joints?”

“I did some last night at bedtime. I slept better, and I woke up this morning with more energy. And I practiced it this morning in the car on the way to work, during a conference call. C As I listened to the latest litany of problems, I was less frustrated.”

“Good. Soon, I’ll explain how you can apply what you’ve learned in other practical ways,” she said.

“Can I use it to lose weight?” he said.

“As a matter of fact, you can.”

“Did your grandfather teach you all of this?”

“Not all of it, but I guarantee he would have a lot to say on the subject of listening without taking things personally. It’s an essential theme for him. “Why?”

“Because listening is one of the central elements of tai chi. I can’t really explain it. You’d have to see it to understand it.”

“I’d like to see that,” he said. “Is it possible?”

“You mean see my grandfather?

“Yeah. You sound surprised.”

“I am. Grandfather is an acquired taste. I’ve never taken a client to meet him before, but if you want to see him, he teaches a class every Saturday morning in Golden Gate Park – Master Wu’s tai chi class, as his students call it. Do you want to go?”

“Would you meet me there?” asked Dan.

“Sure, but I thought you worked weekends,” she said.

“I’ve been trying to cut my hours. How about this Saturday?”

“OK,” said Michele. “You’d probably enjoy it, but be warned. Though an encounter with my grandfather is always valuable, he is unpredictable. You’re sure you want to go?”


“We can meet at 8:30. I’ll e-mail you directions. Now, let’s dig into the report.”

Click here to read Chapter 20.


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Chapter 18 – Grandfather and the Art of Listening

Grandfather stood among the choir of native flowers, grasses and herbs in his garden. He took particular pleasure in hardy transplants, who like him, had taken root and thrived in foreign soil. He listened to them all, in solo and chorus. Did they need more food, sun, shade, water, root space, insect allies, worms? Since he could move and they could not, it fell to him to listen and serve. How peaceful and natural this was.

Sensing another presence, he turned to see Michele enter the garden, walk toward him and alight on the wooden bench, nestled among tall grasses.

“Hello, Grandfather,” said Michele.

“Ni hao,” he said. “And how is your client? Still yelling?”

“A little less, and now he’s learning how to be more still and energized. He’s calming down enough to listen. We’re just at the beginning.”

“Ah,” he said. “Listening is the finest art of all. It is the secret to all tai chi. To pay attention with no expectation, no desire, only an open heart and mind. How will you teach him that?”

“ I’ll show him how to relax and better take in what others say. Then we’ll see if he has what it takes to apply it,” she said. “I think he’s ready.”

“Yes, it is one thing to do a tai chi form by yourself, and quite another to use your skill in fighting. Dropping the self when something big is at stake – that is very difficult. Remember, Lao Tsu says…

If you can guide without claim or strife,
If you can stay in the lead of men,
Without their knowing,
You are at the core of life.

“That requires a light touch,” Grandfather said.

“My client is not known for his light touch,” said Michele.

“If you bring him to Golden Gate Park on Saturday, I will teach light touch that day.”

“Grandfather, this guy is an engineer. I don’t think he’s interested in tai chi.”

“What’s that joke you told me about the engineer looking at a glass of water?” he said. “Something about the glass being half empty?”

“Yes, other people argue whether the glass is half full or half empty, but the engineer just thinks the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.”

“And what of a leader who presses on others with twice the force needed?” he asked. “Would an engineer not appreciate efficiency?”

“I don’t know, Grandfather. It seems like kind of a stretch. Would you try it with Tony Soprano?”

“I would be honored,” he said.

Click here to read Chapter19.


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Tara Brach: The Monkey Mind

Dragons-at-work-Tara-Brach-Chapter 16 interview

Tara Brach

Tara Brach is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation. Tara is the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. A clinical psychologist, Tara is the author of Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha and the upcoming book, True Refuge-Three Gateways to a Fearless Heart (Bantam, 2012).

Tara is nationally known for her skill in weaving western psychological wisdom with a range of meditative practices. Her approach emphasizes compassion for oneself and others, mindful presence and the direct realization and embodiment of natural awareness.

SJ: We’re looking at Chapter 16 which opens with Michele returning home from work to find her Taoist Grandfather watching The Sopranos on TV. Their conversation moves from the Sopranos to how to trap a monkey: Simply place a peanut in the hole of a tree. The monkey will reach into the tree to seize the peanut, but holding onto it, his hand is now too big to remove from the hole. Refusing to release the prize, he is trapped.

Tara, what drew your attention as you read this chapter?

TB: I was immediately captivated that Grandfather watched The Sopranos on TV because I really enjoyed The Sopranos myself, and it’s a juicy parallel to Dragons at Work. Tony Soprano was absolutely addicted to anger and to control. It’s his modus operandi to get what he wants in the world: through violence, lashing out and trying to control other people’s lives. In a less criminal and more corporate context, that’s what’s going on for Dan. He’s trying to manage his project by controlling, grasping and lashing out.

SJ: Yes. Dan is caught, trapped by his own limitations and behavior. What else are you drawn to?

TB: Well, clearly this is creating suffering for Dan. We know that he’s had a health scare, but it’s also creating suffering for the people who work for him, for his family and for himself. His life has gotten really small. Dan, like the rest of us, is trying, in some way, to be happy or find gratification or feel better in his life, but his strategy to control people isn’t working. And neither is his the way he’s running his project.

For me, one of the high points is when Michele gives Dan a taste of how to relax. If he can learn how to relax, he might be able to break the pattern by interrupting it. The word interrupt is a really important word. Every one of us gets caught in a chain of reaction that causes trouble for us. We have it with our thoughts, our feelings and our behavior. And if we learn to pause in the midst of it, if we can interrupt it, then we have a possibility of contacting inner resources and we can change the reaction.

In my work with people, I call this the “sacred art of pausing.” If we can stop in the midst of the reaction, if we can pause even for a short amount of time (and there can be different signals to stop) then it’s possible to interrupt and make a change.

I have a favorite line from Viktor Frankl. He said, “Between the stimulus and the response is space, and in that space is our power and our freedom.”

SJ: That’s wonderful.

TB: Yes. I remember hearing it at one of my meditation classes. We have a lot of people involved with 12-Step programs. One of them has sponsored so many people that he’s practically famous as an AA sponsor. He told me that he’d first heard me talk about the pause a few years earlier and then said, “Learning to pause for five seconds is as helpful as a year of meetings.”

SJ: Earlier you mentioned the ability to recognize when you need to pause; that there are signs that you’re going off track. What do you see with Dan?

TB: Michele is drawing Dan’s attention to certain flags that will help him recognize he’s in trouble. He’s in a chain of reactivity and there’s so much confusion. He needs a simple way to bring himself back to a resourceful state. I use a process with the acronym RAIN.

First, you Recognize. You simply recognize Okay, this is what’s going on. That pause allows whatever you’re feeling to be there. You’re just stopping. You’re not trying to change anything because the space you need is not there. If you immediately try to change things without pausing and allowing, you bring the same energy to what’s next. So, it’s recognize and allow.

And then you need time to investigate what’s happening. That’s the “I” of RAIN. And I’ll add that one has to investigate with kindness, because if there’s not some quality of gentleness, you again won’t be able to really see what’s going on. My sense is that’s the process Dan is going into.

When you pause, recognize, allow and investigate with kindness, that brings you to “N”, which is non-identification. That’s what I love so much about Grandfather – he actually names it. He notes that you’re moving away from being identified with all the cravings and the wants – I want this, and I need it that way, and you have to do it my way. If you’re not identified with all the wanting, you’re freer to come from a larger sense of your being.

SJ: In my experience, the more I enter that space, the more familiar it becomes and the easier to access. And that affects my sense of identity, as well.

TB: That’s exactly it. For me identity is the best word. You become more familiar with that space where you’re just present and aware and relating to what’s going on. It gives us more of a sense of our real being – that we’re much more than that self that was lashing out or hanging on.

I sometimes share a story that really touched me about a man in the Army who had a really bad temper.

A soldier was sent to a mindfulness-based course for anger management. In the mindfulness training he learned to notice the flags that let him know when he’s about to go off. And how to recognize the feeling and then allow whatever it is it to be there. Just pause, find that space, investigate, and so on.

One day he was off duty. He went to the supermarket, piled up a whole cart of stuff, and got into the check- out line. In front of him was a woman with just one item, and she had a child in her arms and she’s taking her time. She and the clerk are oohing and aahing over the child, and this guy’s temper flared. He’s thinking I’m a busy guy. I’ve got things to do. This woman has only one item, and she and the clerk are just oohing and aahing over this little baby. He started feeling really angry.

And then he recognized the flag and he remembered his training. He paused, and he went inside and began RAIN. He began to notice what was going on, recognizing that underneath was that familiar anger, that agitation. I’m not going to get where I need to go and get everything done. He felt his breath. He calmed down.

When he opened his eyes, he noticed the child was kind of cute. When it was finally his turn, and the woman and her child had left, he said to the clerk, “That child was really cute.” The clerk beamed and said, “Oh, that’s my child. My husband was killed in Iraq last year. My mom brings the baby every day so I have a little chance to be with him.” He realized how much he was missing what was happening for other people, and for himself, when he was lost in that chain reaction of anger. The story perfectly illustrates the power of pausing and deepening our attention and coming home to a truer sense of who we are.

SJ: How did your own meditative practice affect your ability to pause and connect with others?

TB: In this chapter Grandfather talks about the monkey trapped by refusing to let go of a peanut. In my own life, the peanut I was grasping was this need to prove myself worthy. I was racing around busily trying to convince everybody I was worthy and not finding, in that pause, that Hey, here we are together. The love is here.

In Chinese script, the word for “busy” is similar to the word for “heart killing.” I realized that in trying so hard to prove I was okay I was armoring over my heart. I now call that the “trance of unworthiness.” I’m not alone in this – so many people feel inadequate, and they spend so much time trying to prove themselves.

My process was sensing the flags of feeling the “not okayness,” or that something was wrong with me, or something was missing, and then letting that be a reminder to pause. Then I would use the mindfulness practice to just recognize and allow the feeling of “not good enough” however it arose, feeling the fear of failure, or whatever it was.

In this way, I deepened my connection with those feelings. I learned I could just be with the feelings in my body until I could hold those feelings compassionately. First I developed a sense of being present with the feelings. As I practiced more, that presence became very compassionate.

That way of attending became more familiar to me as a way of being – more real than the self that was trying to prove herself. And that is the end of RAIN. I was no longer identified with that unworthy self. I was resting more in a kind of presence. I went through thousands and thousands and thousands of rounds of that, of in some way catching the flags of “not okay” trying to prove whatever it was and pausing.

SJ: You write so eloquently about that in your books. What I love about your teaching is how you use your own experiences as examples. You’re willing to reveal yourself. Some teachers seem inaccessible because they seldom share anything about their own process of growth.

TB: Well, mine were so in my face, I couldn’t avoid them. I learned, and continue to learn from my own foibles. But I love this Lao Tzu piece you chose, Stephen. I find in the moments when we’re not so lost in the trance of “what do I need to do to be more successful?” or fear of failure… in those moments it becomes crystal clear that we’re in it together. We’re in this boat, and if there’s a leak on your side it’s the same boat so it’s my leaky boat, too. The less I’m focused on what’s wrong with me the clearer I am that we’re all connected. Then it becomes much more natural to spontaneously want to take care of us, not me.

I love this line: “one who recognizes all men to be members of his own body.” The world lives in our heart. There’s not really anything outside. It’s all part of us. So, for me, meditation has been very powerful in waking up that understanding.

SJ: Can you say a few words about your new book and how it’s a continuation or an elaboration of your first book, Radical Acceptance?

TB: Radical Acceptance primarily addresses what to me is one of the most pervasive kinds of suffering: that we’re often at war with ourselves. In my twenties it became clear to me that I wasn’t my own best friend. I was at war with myself a lot. Radical Acceptance is the inquiry of how do we befriend ourselves? How do we forgive ourselves and really embrace this life beyond our own small concerns?

Over the last few decades, along with almost everybody I know, I have faced huge changes. This body got older. I encountered sickness. I encountered the loss of beloved people. I’ve watched myself and other people lose our memories and deal with various major life losses.

The inquiry of my new book, True Refuge, is how, in the face of the greatest losses, we find a sense of peace and freedom and real happiness. That was my compelling inquiry when my health took a major nosedive. I lost a lot of my capacity to walk up hills and on sand and I couldn’t swim. I was very attached to being outside and moving easily, and I felt a huge amount of grief around that loss. I remember one particular day where that question arose. No matter how much loss there is, how do I find a sense of peace and happiness, no matter what?

That’s the inquiry of the book, and I use my own story and what I’ve discovered about true refuge. And I like the word “refuge,” because so often we take what we might call false refuge. We try to take care of ourselves in ways that in the short term might give us temporary relief, but don’t really give us a deep sense of peace. And so True Refuge looks at how we come home to the love and the awareness that can hold our lives.

SJ: Thank you, Tara. As always, it’s a pleasure to speak with you, and I look forward to reading your new book.

To find out more about Tara’s work, teaching, books, and CDs click here.

When have you been able to successfully pause and expand your compassionate awareness? Has this self-reflection helped you in your professional life? Tell us the story in the comment section.

CHAPTER 16 – Leaders: Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?

Leaders: Are You Caught in a Monkey Trap?“What are you watching, Grandfather?” said Michele.

With eyes fixed on the TV screen he said, “I’m improving my English.”

Tony Soprano, a mafia boss, was meeting with friends at his bar, Ba-Da-Bing. One of the members of his gang fretted over a complicated career decision, and Tony offered wise counsel about achieving happiness through the execution of familial obligations.

“Ah!” said Grandfather at the episode’s end. “Very Confucian. And how is Dr. Melfy?”

“Just so you know, Grandfather, Dr. Melfy is a psychiatrist on that show. I’m an executive coach.”

“Yes, I know. And how is Dr. Michele?”

“I’m OK,” she said. “I’ve been doing interviews for a client and he’s getting some pretty harsh messages from the people around him. I wonder how he’s going to react when he reads the report.”

“What kind of messages?”

“The picture that’s coming back is that he’s very bright, very driven to achieve, and that he pushes people too hard. He pushes himself way too hard.”

“Why does he push?” asked Grandfather.

“He prides himself on having all the answers, and now he’s got a big unmanageable project that’s more complex than anything he’s dealt with in the past. It’s like he’s grabbed the tail of a large animal that he can’t tame and he can’t let go.”

“That reminds me of the story about monkeys and how to trap them. I know I’ve told you the story before,” he said.

“Yes,” she said. “I’d like to hear it again.”

“Why don’t you tell me? How do you trap a monkey, Dr. Michele?”

“You find a tree with a hole in it, a hole just big enough for the monkey to get his hand into. And then you put a peanut in the hole. The monkey reaches in, grabs the peanut, but now his clenched fist is too big to pull out of the hole. So, he’s trapped, because he can’t let go of his prize,” said Michele.

“Yes. There is a wonderful, spacious forest all around him, and he is trapped in a tiny prison of his wants. There are birds, lizards, flowers, magnificent trees, and he can enjoy none of it,” said Grandfather. “What peanut does your client grasp?”

“He wants so badly to succeed, and he insists on doing it his way,” said Michele.

“And what will you do for him?”

“Because his mind is so strong and because he is scared now that he might have heart problems, I’m showing him things to relax his body-mind. Maybe, if he can interrupt his angry responses, he can make wiser choices.”

“Good to start there. It will make him feel better and he will make some progress that way, but it won’t cure the disease,” said Grandfather.

“What would you do?”

“He needs to dissolve his small self and live in the awareness of his true Self. Until this is done, hope and fear will continue to disturb his mind, and even success will not bring peace. As Lao Tsu says, (Grandfather recited in Chinese. This is a translation).

How can success and failure be called equal ailments?
Because a man thinks of the personal body as self.
When he no longer thinks of the personal body as self,
Neither failure nor success can ail him.
One who knows his lot to be the lot of all other men
Is a safe man to guide them,
One who recognizes all men to be members of his own body
Is a sound man to guard them.

“That’s how we need our leaders to be,” he said. He sat back in his chair, and looked at his granddaughter. His eyes softened.

“That’s pretty advanced, Grandfather,” she said. “I’m just trying to get him to stop yelling at people.”


“If stupidity got us into this mess, why can’t it get us out?” — Will Rogers.

Please comment.

Click here to read Chapter 17.

Click here to read the Interview with Tara Brach on the Monkey Mind.


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Stephen Comments On The Relaxed Coach – The Relaxed Client

Dragons-At-Work-Author-Stephen-JosephsChapter 7 covers a lot of territory. Michele and Dan design their coaching relationship, select the important goals, and begin working to improve Dan’s health and vitality.

Michele and Dan agree that 1) the goals of coaching will be his goals, 2) Dan will be open to try new things if they seem promising, 3) he will speak up if he doesn’t like how the coaching is going.

Guided by a series of questions from Michele, Dan chooses to take advantage of Michele’s expertise in Qigong.

It may seem odd to some readers that Michele begins working with Dan’s body so early in the coaching relationship. For that matter, it may seem strange that she includes any attention to Dan’s physical experience at all. Many approach leadership as if it were an entirely cerebral activity, but as a martial arts master, Michele is aware of what a superbly functioning mind-body contributes to excellent performance. She is experienced enough to be surefooted in guiding Dan’s learning process.

She gives Dan a quick and compelling experience of relaxation that he can use at work. He’s interested in pursuing that skill, perhaps because his fear of dying has opened him to trying new things. There is nothing more bracing than an encounter with death. In his 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, Steve Jobs said,

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” [Stanford commencement speech, June 2005]

For those of you who are drawn to experience some of what Dan learns, I have provided an audio that guides you through a brief exercise in breathing and attention. I use this in the morning to smooth out and gather my energy and set my intention for the day. It’s best done lying on your back in bed.

Listen to audio: Introduction to Energizing the Lower Center

Listen to audio: Practice Energizing the Lower Center

For coaches who are drawn to use this A-L-I-V-E system in your work, I suggest you begin learning it by yourself. When you are experienced and confident enough, you’ll find it easy to incorporate it into your coaching. I will keep adding A-L-I-V-E instructions to the Dragons at Work website, so you can learn it along with Dan.

In his interview on this chapter, Bill Ryan gives us background on the method of opening and closing the joints that Michele uses. It comes from an ancient Chinese system of healing and martial arts that I began studying with Bill and his teacher, Bruce Frantzis, in 1992. Bruce’s system is vast, and I realized I needed private instruction to guide me. Bill did a great job of filling in the details. If you’re interested in private Skype sessions with him, I recommend you give it a try. Bruce Frantzis’s recent DVD home study courses are excellent, and I recommend them, as well.

Questions for Reflection:

Which brings more to you, you or your renown?
Which brings more to you, you or what you own?
And which would cost you more if it were gone?

Lao Tzu Witter Bynner translation


For Executives: When you coach direct reports to develop them…

  1. Remember that you are their boss as well as someone who occasionally coaches them. Because of these overlapping roles, it is important that you are clear about the boundaries and scope of what’s included in coaching.
  2. Get agreements about the purpose and focus of the coaching.
  3. Agree on how you will both know when progress is achieved.
  4. Collaboratively define how you can both address and get the coaching back on track, if it deviates from what you’ve agreed to.

For Human Resource Executives: When you coach employees at any level of the organization…

  1. Same as above. Considering the many ways you support your organization, your overlapping role relationships can be quite complex. Clarity of boundaries, purpose, and process are essential.
  2. The clearer you are on the point above, the safer your employee/client will feel and the more successful your coaching will be.

For Coaches: In your coaching…

  1. Are there areas that may be specialties of yours or even natural gifts?
  2. Are you comfortable about offering these to clients where appropriate?
  3. Would you like these areas to be part of your brand (what you are known for)?
  4. If so, have you designed your marketing materials and interview processes to let clients know how you may uniquely serve their needs?

In the next week’s chapters Michele observes Dan at a meeting with his team. He gets irritated at a direct report and a pall falls over the meeting. We’ll see how Michele debriefs the meeting and coaches Dan.

Stay tuned.

PS – We’ll cover the 7 Powers Profile as the story unfolds.

CHAPTER 7 – A Helping Hand

Drangons-At-Work-Chapter-7-A-Helping-HandArriving on time for their first meeting, he dived right in and told her the whole story – the love seat showdown, his trembling hands, shortness of breath, the emergency room, and the doctor’s warnings.

“Sounds like you had a bit of a scare,” said Michele.

“I did.”

“And that’s why you agreed to coaching?”

“Yes. Who said fear isn’t a great motivator?” he said.

“I can’t deny that it moves people,” Michele laughed.

“So, are you going to ask me to surrender my secret weapon – fear?”

Michele leaned forward, looked side to side and whispered, “I don’t think it’s that much of a secret, Dan.”

“True enough,” he said, “but it works.”

“It certainly got you here. So, let’s talk about what you want to get from coaching. If our coaching were successful,” she continued, “what would be different for you at the end?”

“Everything would magically get done by itself; I’d be a senior vice president, and spend a lot of time by the ocean under palm trees, sipping drinks with little umbrellas in them.”

“Excellent,” she said. “What else?”

“I’d be fully in control of this project. I’d be healthier. And I’d have a life.”

“All worthwhile goals,” she said. “Choose one to work on first.”

“I’ll take health for $400.”

“Good choice. First, let’s talk about how we’ll approach any goal. Whatever you decide to work on must be your choice; it can’t be my prescription. If it starts to feel like I’m directing you, tell me immediately. I’ll help you brainstorm ideas and clarify your thinking. I will not withhold my opinions, but the goals have to be yours. Otherwise, coaching won’t work. Does that make sense?”

“It does,” he said.

“What are your health goals?” she asked.

“I’m overweight and my blood pressure and cholesterol are too high. My doctor says I’m a heart attack or a stroke waiting to happen…or diabetes. None of these are pleasant prospects. My doctor referred me to a nutritionist and a personal trainer. He thinks I can turn it around that way, and I’m willing to give it a go.”

“If you can do it, that’s the best way” said Michele. “You and I are meeting in a week, what do you want to have done by then?”

“I will have made appointments and seen them both. We’ll see how that goes. There’s a reason why I don’t look like a tri-athlete.”

“I think I can help you with your health goals,” she said. “More on that later. Next topic: Having a life, or control of your project?”

“Well,” said Dan, “I can’t really have a life until I get the project under control.”

“Why is that?”

“Because I’m totally committed to it. If it fails, I fail. And failure has never been an option for me. I will not let this project fail.”

“And you’ll do whatever it takes to make it succeed,” said Michele.


“Good. I assume that includes experimenting with new ways of operating, if they seem worthwhile to you.”

“Provided they work,” he said.

“Often, you won’t know if they work until you put them into action. You don’t have to believe what I say at the outset. But I do need you to be empirical about our work. Otherwise, you won’t learn anything new and you won’t progress. Can I count on you to keep an open mind? Will you actively experiment?”

“Yeah, if the experiments seem reasonable,” said Dan.

“You sound skeptical.”

“Just wary.”

“You should be. You have a lot at stake. Will you tell me when you have misgivings, and that you’ll only try things you believe have a chance of working?”


“That’s all we need. Another thing: I read a lot about business, health, and psychology. Given your demanding project, I imagine you have little time to read.”

“You got that right,” said Dan.

“What I can do is give you brief summaries of current books and articles that I think pertain to you. New ideas may stimulate our thinking or offer direction for a course of action. But if you feel lectured at, let me know. I’m here to serve your needs, not to hold forth.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll let you know.”

“Also, I’d like you to take an assessment called the ‘7 Powers Profile.’ It will give us a comprehensive and detailed view into which of your capacities support your long term success and which ones need developing. You take it online. I’ll send you the link.”

“Finally,” she said, “I’ve studied the interconnection between the mind and the body. Because of your health concerns and because smoothing out your emotional responses could make you a much more effective leader, you would benefit from learning some simple mind-body techniques. Are you interested in exploring that, too?”

“Will I be chanting OM and sitting in strange, uncomfortable postures?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Because that’s what my brother does, and I tease him mercilessly. The irony of doing it myself is a bit much.”

“All right. No chanting, no postures,” said Michele. “I’ll make a note of that.”

“I’m serious. I’m not into that stuff.”

“We don’t have to do any of it. You and I can stick to the business issues, and you can address your health concerns with the nutritionist and the personal trainer. Would you prefer that?”

Dan sat silently. “Michele, before I reject your offer, maybe I ought to know what I’m rejecting. What do you have in mind?”

“Just some things I learned from my grandfather. They’re ancient methods of relaxing.”

“Do they help with hypertension?”

“They do,” she said.

“As evidenced by what studies?”

“I could show you a stack of convincing published studies, but you don’t have time to read them. Besides, even if the studies conclude that these techniques work for 95% of its practitioners, we have no idea whether it will work for you, or whether you’d like it.”

“How can we test that?” Dan said.

“We experiment. You try it. If it works, you do more. If you don’t like it, we drop it. Given your initial objections, why don’t we save that for another time?”

“Actually, Michele, I’m curious now. What is this mysterious method your grandfather taught you?”

Michele looked at Dan. He seemed earnest enough, but she felt hesitant. Her breathing was shallow and her belly felt tight. Why should I have to prove to this ignorant skeptic what my grandfather and generations before him knew as invaluable truth? In China, students would beg for such teachings. She smiled at herself – at her own haughtiness and the cultural chasm between her and Dan. With an exhale, she dropped her resentment, relaxed her breathing, and refocused on Dan. Why not teach him? If he rejects it, I won’t have to mention it again. But if he takes to it, it would make our work together go much faster.

“The method comes from Chinese qigong (“chee gong”). It’s an exercise system which promotes health and vitality. It wakes up the body and makes you feel fully alive. In fact, the word “A-L-I-V-E” serves as an acronym to help remember the five building blocks of the system. I’d teach them to you, one at a time. As you master each skill, we add the next one. Eventually they become second nature, and you have access to optimal performance states whenever you need them. Do you want to try the first skill?”

“Strangely enough, I do. I’m still curious.”

“Our first experiment entails helping you feel at ease in your body – the “E” in “ALIVE.” What’s the opposite of ease for you?


“Right. Our aim is to reverse your hyper-tension, your dis-ease. Ever watched a baby learn to walk? They fall hundreds of times, often in awkward positions that would send an adult to the hospital. Part of the reason babies fall without getting hurt is their relaxed state and their flexible joints. As we age, the elasticity of our joints diminishes. We’ll start by working with the joints of your hands to restore their ease of motion. Let me demonstrate something,” she said, standing up.

“This is the opening move of a tai chi form.”

Michele stood still and erect for a moment, arms at her sides. Then, her entire body sank in an unbroken motion as she bent at the knees, raising her arms in front of her, and extending her palms facing out.

“When I extend my hand like this,” she said, “I open it slightly; the fingers spread a bit. But it’s not just the fingers that open. My wrist opens, too, as do my elbow, shoulder, spine, hips, knees, and ankles – all the way down to my feet. When my hand opens, my feet open. When I draw my hand back, like this, simultaneously all the joints begin to close in one fluid motion. Then I open them again.”

She repeated the movement, and while Dan couldn’t perceive the motion of individual joints, he did see her body expand in one posture and smoothly draw inward in the next.

“There’s a saying in the Tai Chi Classics,” she said, continuing her tai chi. “‘One part moves, all parts move. One part stops, all parts stop.’ I realize you don’t have time to learn tai chi, but you can bring some of that same ease into your body, by simply sitting in a chair and working with the joints of your hands.”

“Ready to try the armchair version?”

“O.K, but remember, no chanting.”

“No chanting,” she said.

Michele sat down facing him and instructed, “Hold up both of your hands like this.” She raised both hands to shoulder level, palms facing toward Dan, and opened and closed her fingers. Dan mirrored her movement.

“Is there one hand that feels stiffer than the other?” she said.

“This one,” he said, motioning with his right hand.

“Fine. We’ll work with your right hand.”

She removed her jacket, folded it, and set it on the table between them.

“Are you comfortable resting your right hand here on my jacket and letting me work with the joints of your fingers?” she asked.

“If not, there’s another way to do it.”

“Go ahead,” he said, extending his hand.

She placed his hand, palm up on her jacket.

“Just relax, and as I begin to work with your hand, see if you can feel the sensations of movement in the joints of your fingers.”

She held his ring finger at the nail between her thumb and index finger and began to slowly, gently pull the finger outward; then she guided it back to its original relaxed position.

“I could extend your joints farther, but I’m staying within 70% of their range of movement. That way, we’re not creating stress by overextending the joints.”

She worked each finger in turn, instructing him to simply relax and let her initiate the movement. “In that way,” she said, “you’ll experience what it’s like to move with minimum effort.”

It took five minutes to work all the fingers of his right hand.

“Now pick up both hands,” she said. “Open and close them. What do you notice?”

“Now the left hand is the stiff one,” he said, his eyes widening. “The right hand feels as if someone oiled every joint; the fingers are swimming in hydraulic fluid.”

“Excellent,” she said, gesturing for his left hand.

As she finished working with his left hand, she said, “That’s part of the first skill. It’s the ‘E’ in ALIVE which stands for ‘ease.’ Your entire body-mind will feel that kind of ease when you finish learning these skills.

“That sounds good,” he said.

“To start spreading the ease in your hands into your entire body, you coordinate the movement of your joints with the breath. Now, as I lengthen the joints of your fingers, expand your belly with each inhalation. When you exhale, relax your belly as I return your finger to a resting position. I’ve noticed that when you’re relaxed, you naturally breathe into your belly. Keep doing that.”

After a few breaths, Dan found it easier to synchronize his inhalations and exhalations with the movement of his fingers.

Letting go of his hand, Michele said, “Rest your hands on your thighs. Keep breathing while you gently open and close the joints of your fingers. Let the movement of your belly and hands feel easy. Now, rest for a few moments. How do you feel?”

“Good, actually.”

“You’re getting it, Dan, and you’re ready for the next skill, the “V” in ALIVE. It stands for the ‘Vitality’ that comes from engaging the entire torso as you breathe. Sit near the edge of your chair, with your spine straight. By the way,” she said,

“I can record the next instructions, so you can listen to them later.”

“Great, I’ll put them on my iPod.”

“Again, rest your hands on your thighs, and as you breathe, transfer the ease you feel in your hands to your belly. With each breath, let your hands and belly relax. It’s as though both the belly and hands yield to the incoming breath…” she said as he inhaled, “and relax and become still as you exhale. Continue like this, yielding on the inhale…and relaxing on the exhale.”

Dan settled into the cadence of Michele’s instructions as she guided him for another few minutes. Then she began teaching him the technique of breathing into the back.

“Place one hand on your belly and the other on your lower back. As you inhale, feel your belly expand into the front hand. On the next inhale, also breathe into your lower back. Both front and back expand on the inhale, although the movement in the back is smaller.”

After a few breaths she said, “Can you feel your lower back expand into your hand?


“In the beginning, the motion is slight; later, it will increase. The key is to strengthen the motion through relaxation, not by forcing breath into the body. It’s the ‘ease,’ the yielding to the breath that increases your capacity.”

“When someone breathes fully,” she explained, “with each inhalation the whole torso feels like an inflating cylinder that expands to the front, back and sides. You feel bigger and taller on the inhale, and return to stillness on the exhale. It takes time and practice to build this capacity, and it looks like you’ve done enough for today. How do you feel?”

“Relaxed, but a little sleepy.”

“That’s because you’ve become aware enough of your body to realize you need rest.”

“I thought you weren’t going to ruin me,” he said.

“When you run as close to the edge as you do, you’re vulnerable to breakdown. And if you break down, no deadlines will get met,” she said.

“Except maybe the ultimate deadline,” said Dan.

“When you reach it, what will they write on your tombstone?”

“He died on time and under budget,” Dan said.

Michele laughed.

“And what’s the benefit of a life lived like that?” she asked.

“I actually live for more than that. I have a life with Janice, my wife and with Maggie, our daughter. But, I see precious little of them these days.”

“How are they with that?” she said.

“They don’t like it, but they’ve adapted.”

Lao Tsu, the ancient Taoist master, wrote a little about this,” she said.

Which means more to you,
You or your renown?
Which brings more to you,
You or what you own?
And which would cost you more
If it were gone?

Click here to listen to the poem:

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“Very cool. When did he live?” he said.

“2,500 years ago,” she said.

“Did he have a mortgage?”

Michele laughed.

“Then, how could he possibly understand?” said Dan.

“Lao Tzu was the keeper of the royal archives at a time when scholars were executed if they were found wanting in the performance of their duties. It’s not as though we invented stress.”

Dan held up his hands and opened and closed his fingers. He asked Michele how long they would feel so relaxed.

“They’ll still feel that way tonight,” she said, “maybe longer.”

“Amazing,” he said.

She promised to send an audio file of the breathing instructions, and advised that progress can be achieved more quickly with relaxed short sessions – nothing longer than five or ten minutes.

“I think I can restrain myself,” said Dan.

 Click here to read Chapter 8.

Click here to read Bill Ryan’s Interview on Chapter 7.

Readers: Leave comments! Can you find Vitality and Ease when you need to? How do you do it?

Dragons at Work
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