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Kim Krisco on Coaching as a way to gain awareness

Kim Krisco

An interview with Kim Krisco

With over 18 years of professional coaching experience, Kim Krisco is a pioneer in the field. His book, Leadership and the Art of Conversation: Conversation as a Management Tool, is used as a textbook in many coaching programs and schools.

He has expertise in developing and launching employee sabbatical programs, which he creates and deploys in ways that enable them to be used as an organizational transformation tool.

He is currently developing a "Bridges" program for adults over 50 years old who are wanting to explore ways to spend their "longevity bonus" -- the next phase of their lives.

Dr. Frank: Kim Krisco, your book, Leadership & The Art of Conversation is an excellent introduction to a linguistic frame of reference for personal and organizational effectiveness. Through our website, we offer our readers a new paradigm of aging based on renewal, revitalization, rebirth and regeneration. We'd like to ask you some questions on your work as it relates to this new paradigm.
What made you write "Leadership and the Art of Conversation?"

My initial response is that I am a writer, first and foremost. Writer’s write. The book helped me to bring together a number of related pragmatic principles and tools I had been using with my coaching clients. In some ways, I combined and repackaged concepts that go back for almost three thousand years. I have been repackaging ancient wisdom most of my life. My career rests on the shoulders of many, many people.

Dr. Frank: Your book is highly regarded in the coaching field. One of the schools of thought is ontological coaching combined with an integral lens. What philosophy and methodology has informed your work?

I am impressed with the work of people like John Searle, J.L. Austin, Julio Olalla, Humerto Maturana, Abraham Maslow, Terry Winograd, Martin Hiedegger, etc. They offer deep insights into ontological dynamics — how we human beings tend to operate. I knew that if we can intervene at an ontological level (as opposed to an cognitive or behavior level) we give people access to changing and evolving as human beings.

The focus on language is critical because language and conversation is what connects us with the world around us. Language lies at the heart of what it is to be human. Only human beings, as far as we know, can create a future that is not a logical extension of the past. We do this through language. Therefore, we can not only change and grow, but actually accelerate our own evolution if we become more aware of how we are speaking and listening.

I simply offered a way for people to become more aware of themselves — particularly in conversations where the act of creation is taking place.

Dr. Frank: As far as I can tell, the current thrust of your work integrates the work of William Bridges, who is a respected author in the areas of personal and organizational transition. Much of what we offer our readers has to do with debunking the myth of "midlife crisis" and relating to midlife as a transition. In your view, how can "distinguishing" transition contribute to the well-being of midlifers? First, you may want to share with our readers what you mean by a "distinction."

A distinction is a deep understanding of something so that, when you have it, your perceptual frame shifts and your behavior automatically changes. We don’t have to change our behavior per se, we simply have to borrow or create distinctions that make us more aware and give us a more accurate perspective on ourselves and the world around us.

From what I can gather, you are creating a new distinction for what people call the mid-life crisis — and empowering one. Once we view the mid-life transition as something that SHOULD BE HAPPENING rather than SHOULD NOT BE HAPPENING we are off to a good start. What tends to cloud this more powerful view, I suspect, are the associated negative emotions that come up with any change, and with the mid-life transition in particular.

For example, the mid-life transition can include feelings of regret, disappointment, fear, etc. This is where your work and support systems like coaching can play such an important role. I am a believer in dealing with the emotions we hold in our body and not denying them. However, they should not be our focus. The focus is on what we are becoming and what is now possible for us.

Dr. Frank: In working with midagers and beyond, what do you consider to be the key factors stopping them from being effective and fulfilled?

For me, being effective and fulfilled are two different things. Some of the most effective and “successful” people I know are unfulfilled. One of the biggest barriers to happiness and fulfillment is our consumer culture. So many of us create our lives around extrinsic values and goals.

In the end, we learn that intrinsic goals and values contribute most to happiness and fulfillment. All extrinsic values and goals are deficiency motivated — that is, they spring from a sense of lack. That is why, for example, most people usually want more money and wealth. We may get a raise in pay, but the sense of accomplishment is short lived because the quest for wealth comes from a sense of lack. So, to answer your question. Align your new life around intrinsic values and goals.

Dr. Frank: In your work, you talk about different "speech acts," such as making requests, promises, declarations, assertions and assessments. How can midlifers make best use of this notion in their commitment to being happy and peaceful?

As I said earlier, awareness is critical to growth, happiness and fulfillment. And in particular, awareness of how we speak is critical because everything human beings create begins with a conversation. J.L. Austin showed that speaking is not just just some form of description or opinion. He said that there are over 1,000 illocutionary acts — speech acts, speaking that generates action and change. He offered the astonishing notion that many forms of speaking ARE AN ACTION.

So, when we are in our mid-life transition and seeking to create some new possibilities for ourselves, we need to pay attention to how we speak and, as we emerge from what I call the “limbo” part of our transition, we need to reach out to other human beings to share our thoughts, ideas, possibilities, etc. For a simple act of sharing is actually a powerful act of creation. We are recreating ourselves.

Dr. Frank: Third Agers, those of us between 45-75, have an opportunity to take on new leadership roles, especially in community development and non-profit organizations. We can use our wisdom to contribute to the growth and development of others. How can your work impact leadership and organizational development in this age group?

Third Agers, as you call them, tend to move toward service. Service to other human beings, helping to improve their lives. (This is a powerful intrinsic value and goal.) When we make this shift we not only focus on something that can make us truly happy and fulfilled, but we also begin to shed our ego shell. We human beings tend to be of service to our own egos most of our lives.

Indeed, we are slaves to our ego. It is truly liberating to give yourself to others — to be of service. This is eldership, and it is sorely missing in our culture. I am so pleased that your work is creating and honoring elders. So, when we engage in not-for-profit activities we can bring all the skills and experience we have gained in the for-profit world to bear, but leave our egos behind (mostly so anyway). I cannot think of a better way to live.

Dr. Frank: What new projects are you working on?

My coaching, training and consulting work is slow now, so I am mostly focused on writing and contributing to my small local community in a variety of capacities. I am offering pro bono workshops in Trinidad Colorado, facilitating team building and strategic planning with many local non-profits and I am working on several writing projects.

I am working a book for coaches tentatively entitled Becoming Human. It is built upon letters and journal entries that document the 12-year project I took on — the hand building of a 5,000 square foot straw-bale coaching and retreat center. I share some funny and scary letters I wrote to friends and tie insights within these letters to coaching principles, tools and techniques I have developed and use in my coaching practice. The premise is that our effectiveness as a coach is directly tied to our own growth and evolution as human beings. It’s in the first draft stage and I’m looking for a publisher. The book is part of how I am bringing closure to a project and process that tore me down to my essential self.

From the beginning I said that I was in it for the process and, while I love what my wife Sara and I have created, we are selling it before we get too attached. Check it out on www.southwestmountainhome.com.

I am also working a historical novel about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the Piltdown Man hoax.

And, my newest work is a collaboration with a good friend on a series of booklets for disadvantaged, at-risk pre-teens (ages 9 to 13) that will give them insights and tools for taking charge of their lives and putting them on a path that offers greater possibility and happiness. I feel this project could really take off.

Dr. Frank: What message would you like to leave with midlifers and beyond who value midlife development and who wish to design a fulfilling life?

I think I may have answered this question in earlier responses, so let me simply reiterate:

- Build your life around intrinsic values and goals.
- Remember that speaking is an act of creation, so be careful what you are creating.
- It cannot be said enough — AWARENESS, AWARENESS, AWARENESS (without judgment) is the pathway to happiness.

Dr. Frank & Dr. Fred on Midlife Goal-Setting

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