The combination of standing for something and stepping into the unknown, whilst often building fabulous teams and organisations, and also leading a balanced life, is challenging, enriching, fulfilling, and demanding.
Andy Bradley, co-founder of Frameworks for Change, is leading for compassion. He is speaking, writing, training, recruiting, meeting, selling, organising and much more; much is required to inspire and enable others to create consistent cultures of compassion.
He also carries a deep love for family and many other things as part of a full and fulfilling life. It’s easy to get lost in so many things happening at once.
Andy wanted some time out to find his way forwards on things that had become concerns. He was clear – it involved being with nature, and coaching style conversation in a deep trusting professional relationship.
He got it. It led to changes in himself, his valued relationships, and the business he helps to lead. To give you some idea of what happened, in case it’s of use and interest to you or someone you know, here Andy and Neil from The One Leadership Project share an email dialogue they had as they explored and celebrated a fabulous day.
Andy: Neil, you are known and deeply respected as a humble and consistently powerful world class coach. My request to you included finding a place for us to be in Nature for a day ‘with no structure’ How did that feel?
Neil: On the one hand – intimidating; wanting to get things ‘just right’ on this first time of deep work together. Thinking of what might be the ideal location for you and effects of weather. And indeed recognising how much reflecting and self-work you have already done, the inspiration you give and have given, the level you are already working at. From my side, this is premier league/masterclass territory. I love working at this level, and like any actor before stepping onto a West End stage, a degree of nerves are to be expected. Knowing too that success requires letting go of all that, and being fully present. And also being very clear in the contracting and informed consent; I recall at several times in the run-up asking ‘And what would you love from me here/from the day together?’. And also – great excitement. Great coaching conversations are all about stepping into the unknown. In this case we had agreed to be fully emergent and as you say ‘with no structure’. That’s wonderful in the trust it requires before we begin; a deep trust in ourselves and each other and the deeper process of listening, allowing great awareness, non-judgement, compassion and allowing ourselves to be truly vulnerable and courageous. In your busy days, how did you justify to yourself taking a full day out?
Andy: A day out of a busy schedule – for me this is the paradox. Rather than think of this as a day out, I was clear I needed a ‘day in’. The Chinese characters that make up the word busyness are heart and killing! The characters for mindfulness are heart and presence. The way I think about the decision to ask you to offer a day space in nature is that I sensed it would help me to learn how to be (so that I would know what to do!). I imagined the day would have deeper benefits than a coaching process over time – an immersive experience would afford me the precious space of stillness, perspective and clarity – slowing down, tuning in, deepening into what is next for me to continue to take care of myself (life is busy and I want my heart to be singing), for my family and my catalytic work to create a culture of compassion in healthcare. How did the process of preparing for the day unfold?
Neil: In answering your question, I love a comment/distinction you made on the day – the difference between planning and preparation. Where planning is operational, logistical, functional. And preparation is the inner work. So in getting the plans right, there was a lovely step of reaching out to friends and professional colleagues through social media and inviting ideas for locations for us. That process in itself helped me mentally think through the day (did we want a room or yurt or anything at all? Did we want anyone else to be on hand or no-one nearby? etc) and then there was the getting out and seeing the places – which opened my eyes for a world of possibility. And truth be told, for a while I thought of what resources/models/exercises might be useful, and how to bring them along to the day. But the biggest step happened a few days before, following our conversation, where it became clear that what was most needed was simply presence and awareness, and trust in emergence. We both had huge experience and resources within. You may recall I brought some books and things in boxes along. And they never came out. The day was a great reminder of the power of awareness and listening deeply, connecting at many levels, discerning when to be quiet and when to share thoughts, asking permission when a comment felt scary or was potentially challenging and bold, and always offering choice. How did you prepare? And what was important for you in how we began the day?
Andy: My preparation began when I awoke on the day. My week had been busy and I had enjoyed a gentle awareness that Friday was a space held by you and the place in nature you had kindly discovered. I noticed a slowing down, no phone check, quietness as I packed and walked slowly towards the train station – almost a feeling of ritual. I realise as I write this (from a shady wood as I am walking the dog) how rare and precious quiet mind time is. I had no agenda for beginning, no need or attachment. I was able to let go into uncertainty because I was certain both of my need for space and of your deep care and skill as a coach. What was your experience of the day as it unfolded?
Neil: Your comment about ‘no agenda’ really resonates. It was clear from within 10 minutes of picking you up from the station that big things had recently happened for you, and it was the final message to me to simultaneously be aware of and let go of everything that had been thought of in advance and to ‘play the ball in front of us’. So the drive in was a time for listening, tuning in, getting in sync. Phil meeting us at the car park was a wonderful time – the 1/2 hour walk in allowing a gentle immersion into the day and more tuning in to each other and the day, and the conversation with Phil setting the tone for the candid, caring, compassion conversation. The ‘wilderness’ walk into the lands we would be spending the day in was perfect for me – a very different beginning, for a very different day. And there was clearly a reverence for us both entering into the woods. Beyond that, as the day unfolded, it felt most like a dance; constantly changing between who was leading and being led, sometimes moving fast, sometimes slow, sometimes feeling right to get very profound and personal and sometimes just right to spend time apart and give you your own time and space, and then come back together again. With some key moments; times to hold up a mirror, to affirm, to challenge with an alternative perspective – but always with permission and deep appreciation and respect. In a way, and this should be no surprise, it felt very, very natural. Powerful. Real. What meant most to you in the day?
Andy: The beautiful water lilies enabled a space to open up inside me – they are so present, graceful, unmoving, dignified and still. In this space I discovered the parts I play, I realised that much of the last 25 years I had been driven, focused, passionate and determined – this way of life has bought me to where I am, with a wonderful family and group of friends, with some influence on the culture of healthcare, with a radical vision and a business I am proud of. But despite my commitment to meditation and self compassion this way of life has not bought me real peace. What mattered most about the day was my discovery of the felt meaning of peace – surrender, letting go, knowing that all is perfect just as it is because it is as it is.
Neil: What has happened as a result of the day in nature?
Andy: I shifted from being ‘On one’ (striving and driving, unsettled) to being ‘At One’ (peaceful, humble, accepting) The changes in me, my loving relationships, the business I help to lead have been joyous. I have space. Space is so precious. Without it I am not free. I feel more consistently in touch with my own nature – strong, compassionate, vulnerable, caring, uncertain, passionate. I am more fully myself wherever I am. playing the parts I have chosen without becoming the part. My life feels more in balance and I find my time in nature to be such a blessing – it brings me a feeling of peaceful surrender, a whole Andy letting go time. My work continues to inspire me and present challenges but it does not define me. My family have talked about me ‘being here’ more (physically and I think spiritually)