Interview with Linda Ferguson, PhD, Executive Coach

1) Linda, please share your thoughts on Leadership with us. How important is the understanding of human psychology to a leader.
I view leadership development in a holistic way, to refine and utilize their capabilities in these four areas- mental, emotional, physical, spiritual. Leaders need to know and understand how they lead using all four areas to be maximally effective. Mental area includes wisdom, clarity, insights. Emotional is using and recognizing emotions within themselves and their followers. Physical is the concrete activities and daily things a leader does in the material world. Spiritual is the energy, inspiration, consciousness of the leader. All four of these areas are important to support (or hinder) a leaders' effectiveness. Therefore, leadership development needs to address all four areas.
Related to this holistic approach, understanding other people (human psychology) is essential for leadership and teamwork. Recognizing and understanding what people are feeling and needing, their motivations, inspirations, and personality traits are essential for working well with others. The better people are able to understand others, the more effective they will be in communicating, resolving conflicts, coordinating activities etc.
When you think of good bosses or good leaders that you've worked with or known, the ones that stand out all had a way of working well with people. They took other people's feelings and needs into account, they were able to motivate and inspire people, the believed in the capabilities of others.

2) Tell us about your book "Path for Greatness" and your spiritual journey.
The 1980's was a rich time of spiritual exploration for me. I was drawn to Buddhism and the writing of Thich Naht Hahn. His approach to Being Peace spoke deeply to me. During that decade I also was exposed to Earth-based spirituality, enjoying the chants and spiral dances, and Native American chants and medicine wheel ceremony. I also participated in Sufi Dances of Universal Peace, and later came back to it for deeper connection with the Divine.
In the 1990's I felt a longing to integrate my spirituality with my everyday life and didn't want to just do spiritual stuff on weekends and work during the week. In 1995 I talked with two former colleagues about putting together some sort of training program to help others who similarly wanted to integrate their spirituality with their work. That was the genesis of my book. I attended the Symposium for Spirituality and Business for several years held at Babson College and heard many wonderful speakers. I wrote about them in my book along with ideas that I developed to help others find ways to remember their spirituality at work. For me, working spiritually means finding greater connection, meaning, and wholeness in what I do and how I work with others.
In one of my workshops on my book tours a participant asked a question that I knew many others had been thinking- do I need permission to be spiritual at work? My response was that we don't need permission to breath or think- it's part of who we are. Why should we need permission to be spiritual? I ask people to describe what it means to have a spiritual experience. People share words like peaceful, balanced, clear, forgiving, loving, compassionate. So why do we think we need permission to be this way at work? When I ask a group 'Wouldn't your work environments be so much more productive and supportive if we brought these attributes to work?' Everyone says yes!
I make a big distinction between spirituality and religion. Religion includes a set of practices, traditions, rituals, doctrines and rules. Spirituality is how one experiences life in a sacred way, how you show up in the world connected to your higher truths and understanding of the world.

3) Tell us about your Coaching practice.
I've done both management coaching as an OD/HR employee for a company and I've done spiritual life coaching. While in both cases the person I'm coaching sets the agenda for what we focus on each session, they are two quite distinct experiences of coaching. The internal management coaching I do involves understanding the politics, structure and goals of the organization. With this understanding I can support the manager or staff in bringing their best ideas and traits to their work often navigating those areas to be most effective. Usually the manager or staff sets their goals in conjunction with their boss and they have something quite specific they want to accomplish to be effective in our coaching work together.
In the spiritual life coaching I do, I help my clients understand and better articulate what it is in their life they most want to achieve or get clarity about some aspect in their life. Many people have general ideas of what they want to change or create in their life. I help them sort out what specific first steps they want to take to move in that direction. Then over time, they start to see shifts and want further work to keep their momentum. They usually see how the ideas we explore supports most aspects of their life- work, relationships, health, finances etc.
I use many tools in my spiritual life coaching, affirmations, visualizations, meditations, drumming, written exercises, to support my clients in getting the clarity, insights, and motivation they desire. I help them live their life by design not default. It's easy to keep with the status quo. It's much more difficult to live as an awakened being.

4) Tell us how we can reframe how we see our coworkers.
Often in work we have co-workers or bosses we don't like or struggle to work with effectively. Yet these people are there to help us grow and expand our comfort zones. I encourage my clients to look at such people as teachers and props for us to find our growing edge and see how we can best grow to address the challenges presented. We don't have to like the other person, but we can see that they provide experiences for us to be better people in some way- more tolerant, more patient, better listener, better ways of expressing ourselves etc.

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Brief Profile

She is the Owner/President of New Paradigm Alliance Inc, Washington DC. She holds a PhD in Organization behavior and has authored 3 books viz. Path for Greatness, Coaching for work-life balance and Digging for Treasures

She has been honored with Psi Chi, National Honor, Society for Psychology and has been featured in ‘Who is who of American Women.’ Her areas of specialization include Improving Performance and Organizational Effectiveness, Leadership Development, Talent Management & Strategic Analysis

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