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Unearthing Hidden Patterns: How to Help Coaching Clients from Getting Stuck

November 14, 2021

“We can be blind to the obvious and we’re also blind to our blindness.”

-Daniel Kahneman

As coaches, our work often includes helping our clients when they get stuck. The client comes to us with big dreams or goals and just can’t seem to move forward  — something seems to be holding them back. As a result, we may spend significant amounts of time supporting our clients in getting unstuck and helping them to uncover what they can’t see.

So, how do we support our clients who find themselves unable to navigate forward, or caught in a particular narrative that holds them back? 

When it comes down to it, what gets us all stuck at one time or another is our hidden patterns. Hidden patterns are a key aspect of our internal experience, and often include: 

  1. What we choose to focus on. 
  2. The assumptions we make.
  3. The beliefs we hold that become the unseen filters of our entire life experience. 

While we can see the world, we don’t see the filters through which we see it. When our filters are hidden from our view, we have a hard time seeing how we are getting in the way of our results.

What if we could become more aware of our patterns and help our clients become more aware of theirs? A powerful place to look for hidden patterns is in relationships. Relationships provide a rich place to see how our assumptions, beliefs and patterns play out; they are a way of experiencing the world. 

Many clients come to coaching or leadership development with leadership challenges which are often actually relationship challenges in disguise. Daniel Kahneman, the author of Thinking Fast and Slow, says, “We can be blind to the obvious and we’re also blind to our blindness.” Oftentimes leaders can’t see that their leadership challenges are truly relationship challenges.  (more…)

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Posted in: Learning in Action

The Intersection of Emotional Intelligence and Narrative Coaching

September 13, 2021

What’s the relationship between emotional intelligence and narrative coaching? 

At Learning In Action, we see a distinct way that these two concepts come together. Merging emotional intelligence and narrative coaching supports us in seeing how the stories we created in our past keep us separate from our inner selves and from others, and have the power to ultimately hold us back from reaching our true potential. 

Emotional and Relational Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is commonly defined as a cluster of inner capacities that include empathy, self-reflection, and self-regulation. At Learning In Action, we agree with this definition, and when we look deeper, we see that what truly matters is examining what drives our ability to be empathetic, to be self-aware, and to self-regulate — and that is our recognition that we are all one. When we’re not able to be with each other and respond to each other in an emotionally and relationally intelligent way, for many of us it’s because we’ve built up barriers in our own hearts. We have created a separation between our own divinity and that in others.  


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Posted in: Learning in Action

Coaching the Client’s Self Rather Than Their Parts with Dr. Richard Schwartz, IFS Institute

August 13, 2021

“Self isn’t a psychological concept, it’s a much more of a spiritual essence that can be in us and can be a field around us. How we treat our body and how much we unburden ourselves allows more of it to be in us. My vision is that if we could bring enough Self to this planet, things would change very quickly.” ~ Dr. richard schwartz

Listen to this Podinar:

What if we had a roadmap for our clients to gain greater awareness of what their parts are and what might be influencing them? In this session, Alison Whitmire, President of Learning in Action, is joined by Dr. Richard Swartz to explore what the Internal Family Systems (IFS) model is and how coaches can work with their clients to develop a relationship with all of their parts and support their client’s development of Self-leadership.


Dr. Richard Swartz began his career as a systemic family therapist and an academic. Grounded in systems thinking, Dr. Schwartz developed Internal Family Systems (IFS) in response to clients’ descriptions of various parts within themselves. He focused on the relationship among these parts and noticed that there were systemic patterns to the way they were organized across clients. He also found that when the clients’ parts felt safe and were allowed to relax, the clients would experience spontaneously the qualities of confidence, openness, and compassion that Dr. Schwartz came to call the Self. He found that when in that state of Self, clients would know how to heal their parts. A featured speaker for national professional organizations, Dr. Schwartz has published over fifty articles about IFS and many books, including his most recent, No Bad Parts: Healing Trauma and Restoring Wholeness with the Internal Family Systems Model.


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Posted in: Heal The Divide|Podinar Series

Showing Your Clients How to Be Alert and Not Alarmed with James Flaherty

July 12, 2021


“Coaching is about integrating all the different parts of us. Because from our wholeness there are ways we can know ourselves and ways we can be in touch with our own resourcefulness and that also lets us be in touch with the whole part of other people.”

-James Flaherty

Listen to the Podinar:

Being alert and not alarmed are the characteristics most needed in our time. When we are calm and present, we can contact our inner resources and be a helpful source in our world. In this session, Alison Whitmire, President of Learning In Action, is joined by James Flaherty to explore what it takes to generate this presence and how we can show our clients to be alert and not alarmed.

James Flaherty is the founder of New Ventures West and a co-founder of Integral Leadership LLC. He is also the author of Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others, a text widely recognized as seminal in the field of coach education and used internationally at universities and coach training institutions. James designed the Professional Coaching course and dozens of other programs over the past two decades, and has led coaching and leadership courses involving 1000s of people throughout North America, South Africa, Asia and Europe. He has also coached top executives at Fortune 500 companies, and is a highly sought-after speaker.

Discovering Our Client’s Essence

For many coaches, the first step in working with a new client is to uncover an essential positive quality in our client that we can reflect back to them — we may think of it as their essence or true nature. We all have a number of positive qualities and in this case, the idea is for the coach to tune into the one quality that’s most prominent in the moment and that is most deeply connected with the coaching issue our client has named. When we can accurately identify our client’s essence, just saying it out loud can be incredibly powerful. It has the potential to awaken something in them that feels deeper, more grounded, and more true than the personality they’ve constructed or the skill set they may identify with. For our clients, discovering their essence is a returning to something that is strong, rooted, and energizing — and it can become a powerful foundation for the rest of our coaching.

How do we help our clients to discover their essence? There is no specific method to point to for uncovering our client’s essential quality, much of it happens unconsciously. As coaches, it helps to calm ourselves, quiet our inner chatter, and intentionally cultivate our capacity for presence so we can listen for what’s most important to the client. And when we do land on our client’s essence, it’s a somatic experience — our bodies have a deep way of knowing it’s true.


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Posted in: Heal The Divide|Podinar Series

Navigating Polarities: Coaching Through Complexity with Kelly Lewis | Heal The Divide Podinar

June 7, 2021

“The missing link for me was the heart. When we’re taking polarities from a conceptual, mind space and integrating them the heart has to engage too.” -Kelly Lewis


Many of us have never heard of the concept of polarities and at the same time, are impacted by them on a day-to-day basis. In this podinar, Alison Whitmire, President Learning in Action, welcomes special guest, Kelly Lewis to explore what polarities are and how we can help our clients to navigate them to expand what’s possible in their lives and work.

Kelly Lewis, PCC is a principal and founder of Andiron, a leadership development firm committed to providing the space and tools for transformation. For more than 15 years, Kelly has been using polarities as a lens to help leaders and organizations navigate some of their most complex challenges. She is particularly curious about the roles identity and vulnerability play in helping people be successful in the midst of paradoxical tensions.

Kelly works from a principle that leadership is a way of being, not just something we do. She is known by her clients as a coach that “finds the just right place between support and challenge” as well as a “thought partner who leverages her mastery of polarities coupled with her experience as a Fortune 500 executive to understand the context”.


What Is a Polarity?

Polarities are interdependent, yet often seemingly contradictory states that need to coexist over time for success. They are foundational to the decisions we make and the actions we take. We experience polarities every day and in every facet of our lives and yet many of us are not aware they exist. Here are some examples of polarities that we may experience: “focus on the short term, focus on the long term”, “activity/rest”, or “take care of self, take care of other”. A polarity that the pandemic has brought up for many people is “pay attention to local, pay attention to global”. In a leadership context, we might come across polarities such as “lead with confidence, lead with humility” or “support/challenge”.

Polarities often feel like tensions and they invite us to practice “both/and” thinking. They show up within ourselves, in relationships, in teams, in organizations, and in societies — and they scale any level of the system. In isolation, each side of the polarity often seems logical, and then when they appear together, it may seem completely absurd to our minds that they coexist, yet they do. When we can help clients name and explore their polarities, it can help illuminate the “either/or” decisions they need to make leading to more informed and better decisions.


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Posted in: Heal The Divide|Podinar Series