By Sascha Proudlove (MC11)
October 21-22, 2011 Boston MA
Wow. Coming to this conference felt like a visit to the epicenter of the coaching world. For me, it was a kind of stimulating vacation as the past 6+ months have been spent moving our family and two little ones (3 and 1) from the UK to the US (plus unexpected earthquakes, hurricaines, and snowstorms!). I left Daddy in charge for a few days in NJ and headed up solo to Boston, which is also where I grew up.
Unlike the warm, familiar surroundings of the Royal College of Physicians in Regent’s Park or the Sainsbury Room at Portland Place, the conference had 500+ participants from every continent and an age range of mid-30′s to 60′s. About 30% were physicians or from the heath care field. I found a table for the welcome speeches and sat next to two terrific doctors, both of whom were looking to transition out of medicine and into coaching physicians. I hadn’t really thought about or been exposed to coaches outside of the business world. People were buzzing about the recent New Yorker article on coaching from October 3 by surgeon Atul Gawande, which I dug up and read when I got back to my parents’ house. I was a bit surprised that I did not recognize any other participants. There were some lovely folks from the UK, mostly with medical backgrounds. I did of course recognize Carol Kauffman and Robert Biswas-Diener (who has a new book on Happiness). I ran up to Carol to say hello and in the midst of running and participating in this huge event it was amazing that she remembered me and my name!
The first speaker was Jim Loehr, co-founder of the Human Performance Institute (www.corporateathlete.com). I had heard about him as my college squash coach gave me one of his sports psychology books. I had never thought of him as relevant to executive coaching. His theme was ENERGY and bringing together the two worlds of health care and executive coaching. After all my years of working in financial services and feeling guilty for trying to get out of the office to get a bit of exercise, this guy was amazing with his message to corporate leaders.
- Must get leaders to understand the critical role health is to leadership
- Not only give permission but compel leaders to take better care of themselves
- What ignites human capital? Energy. How do you get it? Exercise, sleep, taking care of yourself.
- We are facing a human energy crisis (plus obesity, etc., etc.)
He is a science guy and everything backed up by data. His institute was bought by Johnson and Johnson and he has a 9 acre campus in Orlando where they train corporate athletes and professional athletes. He is working with a NY company called Nextjump where you get a bonus if you take your vacation and work out during the day (so you don’t come home with an empty tank to your family, etc.). How to combat the human need to rest at around 2pm based on our circadian patterns.
My strategy for the conference was to follow around the speakers I was most interested in. I had to tear myself away from Carol, as I love her work, but thought it was a good opportunity to check out some people in the field I had not yet been exposed to in person. I tailed Jim Loehr on day one and Manfred Kets De Vries on day two. I had of course heard about Manfred and actually own some of his books, which I have not had a chance to read yet. Just hearing about all of his accomplishments made me think that he would be a very serious psychoanalyst-type. I was absolutely delighted to be completely wrong. He is truly warm, funny, self-depreciating and engaged. It was really special to also meet his wife, Elisabet with whom he works at INSEAD. In the small world department, one of Manfred’s close colleagues and friends at INSEAD turns out to be a very old friend of my step-father’s (who has no connection to coaching at all)! Other speakers included Margaret Moore, Richard Boyatzis, Robert Brooks, Diane Coutu, Michael Pantalon, and many more.
Manfred’s session was on the group executive coaching his team does at INSEAD. They showed a video simulation of an intervention. Very deep work and experience/psychoanalytic training comes in – not for amateurs and quite profound stuff. They start the sessions by giving each participant markers and paper and asking them to draw a self portrait.
I got to eat lunch at Legal Seafoods, a Boston institution, both days – a real treat. We were right on the waterfront in the newly regenerated part of Boston with great views of the harbor and the skyline. It was also Head of the Charles weekend, bringing back lots of memories.
On Saturday, the grand finale was a presentation by Eric Whitacre and a choir from the New England Conservatory of Music (another neat connection as I used to sing and study there when I was quite young). Eric is a 41-year old very good looking composer and conductor of choir music. He is American but now lives in London with his family. He is making “choir geeks” cool. As someone who has never much appreciated modern classical music, I thought his pieces were beautiful. He used the choir to demonstrate coaching skills (less is more) and they performed two of his ethereal pieces – Lux and Sleep. These pieces were also sung in his virtual choirs 1 and 2 – if you haven’t already seen them, go to You Tube and type in Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir 1 and 2. Hundreds of people around the world recorded themselves singing his work and the voices are combined into a global choir, literally. It was one of the best examples I have seen of our shared humanity and changing the world for good…a high note to conclude the event. I will definitely make every effort to attend in future years.