What happens when the energy dies?


A reader once told me that her energy for the work that she once treasured had died. She went on to explain that all of the energy she exhibited in the beginning was gone. I explained to her that the energy was not gone but her enthusiasm did. See when you begin a project there is much excitement and you feel as though there is nothing that can stop your progress. Normally if things don’t go as planned you begin to lose it and feel as though something was lost in translation. To get that energy back take a good look at your project and re-develop it. Find the areas in which it had flaws and grow.

What is your body saying behind your back?


© The Learning Advantage, 2005 Page 1
What is Your Body Saying Behind Your Back?
by Sandy Mobley
Employees are always watching you, their
leaders. What are they looking for? They
watch your mood – are you optimistic, worried,
angry? They check to see if you really
believe what you are saying. They listen for
the meaning behind your words. If you lack
conviction, it will show in body language,
but you might not have a clue. It could be
overt like a colleague
shaking his head from side
to side while saying,
“Yes.” It could be harder
to put a finger on like your
boss saying, “This merger
will be good for both
companies.” And although
you can’t pinpoint anything
specific, the words
just don’t ring true.
We have all been taught to be aware of body
language, but we don’t always read it correctly.
The introductory books on the subject
say if someone crosses her arms, she is
closed or defensive—but perhaps she is
nervous or feels more comfortable with her
arms crossed. There may be much more to
her story than this one-dimensional interpretation,
and it can be understood only by accounting
for emotions and words in addition
to body language.
Communication between humans is complex,
subliminal, multi-layered. Just as body
language alone can’t tell you everything,
neither can words alone. By varying the tone
and tempo of your voice, you could express
the statement “you got the job” with joy,
sarcasm, anger, disbelief, or no emotion at
all. And you could do it all with or without
crossing your arms.
If you ever succeeded in doing business in a
foreign country without speaking the language,
you know that communication is
multi-dimensional. But what you may not
realize is that aspects of communication that
you thought were working may in fact be
hindering your ability to be understood.
Diagnosing Alignment Gaps
The field of somatics examines the connections
among body, emotions, and language.
When all three are aligned, your behavior is
visibly authentic. When not aligned, your
messages ring false to your audience as well
as your subconscious. Some part of ourselves
feels off, even though we can’t identify
the cause. Imagine a CEO watching the
Union shut down his plant and saying to the
press through clenched teeth, “It takes more
than a strike to upset me.” Those words do
little to ease the leader’s stress and in fact
may aggravate it further, leading to greater
mismatches among body, emotion, and language.
How can we recognize when our
bodies and emotions are aligned with our
messages? And, when they are not in sync,
how can we bring them into alignment?
One way to diagnose an
alignment gap is to examine
how the world responds to
you. When you communicate,
do people understand?
When you make requests,
do others take action? Do
people want to work for
you and with you? Do you
feel effective in the world?
If you answered “no” or
“sometimes,” your language,
emotions, and body
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© The Learning Advantage, 2005 Page 2
are most likely out of alignment. There may
be inconsistency, for example, in what you
say and how you say it. The woman who
unconsciously smiles broadly when denying
a co-worker’s request sends a mixed message,
yet she wonders why people don’t take
her denial seriously. Her body is talking
louder than her words, and it is contradicting
what she says.
If you want to send clear messages, it is important
to learn what story your body is telling.
After all, while everyone else reads our
body language and emotions, we are often in
the worst position to see them ourselves.
“She does great work, but ….”
Laura is a principal at a top tier consulting
firm. I began coaching her when she was
“finally being considered” to become a partner.
For several years Laura had been told,
“You aren’t quite ready yet. Be patient.” She
was growing angry and bewildered that the
firm had yet to recognize and reward her
talent and experience. When I spoke with
the firm’s partners, I also had a hard time
understanding why her promotion wasn’t “in
the bag.” She met all the formal criteria –
selling a tremendous amount of work, delivering
on time and profitably, building a stellar
team, developing and promoting her
people, and modeling all the organizational
success qualities for leadership, integrity,
and collaboration. But the partners said
vaguely that she lacked leadership presence
without providing any specifics. When
pushed they finally admitted, “I don’t know
exactly, but something is off.”
I decided to observe Laura’s interactions
with others to uncover the problems the
partners couldn’t explain and she herself
couldn’t see. I asked Laura if I could facilitate
one of her planning meetings and she
agreed. We defined the agenda and intended
outcomes. The goal of the meeting was to
develop a strategy that the whole team
agreed on to land a new account. At the beginning
of the meeting I was struck by
Laura’s erect stance, direct eye contact, and
athletic build. She appeared confident and
polished, with an easy laugh and warm smile
that lit up her face. With four peers and six
subordinates in attendance, Laura kicked off
the session, setting a relaxed and confident
tone. She joked and they bantered back. She
smoothly transitioned into inviting participants
to share what they knew about the target
organization, its leaders, market strategy,
and competitors. Laura listened attentively
to each person. The group members treated
each other with respect, waiting for one person
to finish before speaking. Next, they
brainstormed possible offerings for the organization.
As expected, Laura was fast and
prolific in generating ideas, and her enthusiasm
ignited a creative spark that generated
more ideas from other participants. Everything
I saw pointed to Laura’s exceptional
leadership ability.
As the brainstorming options were narrowed,
two ideas emerged: Laura’s and one
of her peers. When the group seemed to favor
the peer’s idea, Laura explained hers
again. That’s when I noticed her posture
shift. She began to lean forward while holding
her chin up and looking down her nose.
Her voice became higher and louder and her
jaw was tight – not just tight, but locked and
loaded. The room grew tense. When one
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© The Learning Advantage, 2005 Page 3
person expressed a concern, she cut him off,
reiterating her position. Another person
jumped in to support him, but Laura retorted,
“If you had bothered to study the
data, you’d realize that idea is irrelevant.”
The team’s stimulating creative energy
drained away. Participants stared at the table.
The room grew silent.
I called for a break in the meeting and pulled
Laura aside. “What’s going on?” I asked.
She said she was frustrated because their
idea wouldn’t work – she’d been through it
before. “They’re just wasting time!”
I reminded her of her goal for the whole
team to agree on a strategy to win the account.
“How are you doing toward that
goal?” I asked. “And, how do you think the
team feels about you?”
Laura’s eyes narrowed
and her jaw was
clenched as she looked
down her nose. “They
just don’t get it. But
what would I know, I’ve
only led thirty successful
new client wins,” she
said sarcastically.
I asked her to recall how the meeting had
begun and what she thought about her team
members as they plunged into the task. Remembering
how enthusiastic and happy she
had felt to be working with such a strong
group, her eyes softened, her jaw relaxed,
and she let out a deep sigh.
It became clear to me what was getting in
Laura’s way. When she was “up,” Laura
could take a team from zero to sixty miles
an hour in seconds, but when she was
“down” or disheartened, she could squash
their motivation with a single look. Since
she couldn’t see what her team saw, I demonstrated
it for her and asked her what she
noticed. I squinted my eyes, tightened my
jaw and looked down my nose as I haughtily
said, “My idea is based on the experience of
thirty wins; let’s not waste time with other
“I come across like that?” she asked. I nodded.
She was quiet for a few minutes as she
recalled numerous similar situations.
Under normal conditions, Laura was easy to
work with and brought out the best in her
team. But, when her ideas were challenged
or dismissed, she put others on the defensive
or shut them down all together. Because she
didn’t behave this way often, it was hard for
people to recognize this pattern, and it left
them feeling uneasy when they thought
about working with her.
Laura is smart and driven to succeed, so her
ideas are rarely dismissed. But on those rare
occasions when they are, she feels her talents
are not being recognized and it feeds
her resentment over not being promoted.
Her reaction can be quick and vicious —
and devastating to her career. Her desire to
be acknowledged drives her to be great, but
it also holds her back when she doesn’t get
the recognition she seeks.
To break this pattern, Laura needed to recognize
how she was feeling before she
erupted into behavior that put others off.
This is where somatic principles can help
her identify alignment gaps among her
words, emotions, and body language and
then adjust her response before making a
show-stopping comment.
First she needed to slow down. Because of
her high energy and strong influence skills,
one wrong move on her part could push the
whole team over a cliff. By slowing down
enough to examine a situation, she could see
What is Your Body Saying Behind Your Back?
© The Learning Advantage, 2005 Page 4
the impact she had on others and act accordingly.
Going slower often amounts to paying attention
to breathing. When Laura breathed
deeply into her body until her breath reached
her belly, she felt calmer and more confident.
And when she was calm, she didn’t
overreact. Because we aren’t typically conscious
about our breathing, I gave Laura
practices of taking time outs and noticing
how she was breathing. Recognizing that
breath high in the chest increases anxiety
motivated Laura to take deeper breaths. And
with that she felt more confident. She had a
strong and loyal team and she actually
enlisted them in helping her recognize when
she was coming on too strong. With their
assistance and her willingness to change, she
was promoted to partner with enthusiastic
“You’re a nice guy, but….”
Randy, a senior associate at a technology
consulting firm, has a blend of exceptional
technical, consulting and interpersonal
skills. Though he had been with the organization
for six years, he seemed unable to get
promoted. Because the organization had
been downsizing in the last year, there were
even fewer advancement opportunities, and
Randy felt his best career move was to look
elsewhere. He had no trouble getting interviews,
usually ending up among the top two
or three candidates, but he wasn’t landing
any offers. He asked me to help him with his
interviewing skills.
The first thing I noticed when I met Randy
was his warm smile and cherubic face. On
his 6’2” frame, it was quite disarming. As I
studied his stance, I noticed that his posture
was hunched and bent over, as if he had
been riding in a Mini-Cooper for too long.
Also, for his size, his handshake seemed
When we sat down, I saw that he slumped in
the chair. I learned that he grew up in an upper-
middle class family in Georgia, had
gone to prep schools, and had an Ivy League
college education. He was married and looking
forward to starting a family, so advancing
his career was important. Thoughtful
and articulate, he had even published several
technical articles on computer security. With
his slight Southern accent, the best word to
describe Randy would be genteel.
Randy told me about a recent job interview
that had involved
six peers and the
hiring manager. He
said the conversations
had gone well;
his background
seemed to be exactly
what they
were looking for.
He expected to get
an offer but was
surprised when the
manager called and
said they had chosen
someone else. This was the third time
this had happened and he couldn’t understand
what he was doing wrong. I asked him
whether he had requested any feedback from
the manager about his candidacy.
“No,” he said, looking at me quizzically.
“That never occurred to me. I don’t think I’d
feel comfortable asking that.”
“Why would it be uncomfortable?” I asked.
Randy had been turning his head slightly to
the side as we talked, making only brief eye
contact. When I asked the last question, he
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looked completely away and down. “It feels
impolite to put them on the spot like that.”
I asked Randy what requests he had made of
his current boss for a promotion or for feedback
on why he hadn’t been promoted? He
admitted he had only jokingly asked if he
would be the company’s oldest senior associate.
“Does your boss even really know you want
a promotion?” I asked. “Have you made it
absolutely clear?”
Randy thought if he worked hard, kept the
clients happy, was a good team member, and
didn’t make waves, he’d be assured a promotion.
I suggested he look at the situation
from his boss’s point of view. “If you had
two equally good employees and one
pressed you for promotion and the other
didn’t, which would you promote?”
“I never thought about it that way,” Randy
admitted, “that my lack of directness may be
keeping me from getting promoted.” I asked
Randy to call the last manager who hadn’t
hired him and request feedback. “It may feel
uncomfortable,” I acknowledged, “but what
do you have to lose? He already turned you
down.” Randy called him for feedback and
couldn’t have been more surprised at what
he learned.
“You have strong experience and wonderful
interpersonal skills,” the hiring manager told
him. “We all really liked you. But in our
business, customers sometimes push too far
and we didn’t feel like you would be able to
push back. That can cost us time and money
when we do more than the client is paying
That feedback came as a surprise to Randy.
“In my current job, I have to do just that
while keeping strong client relationships,”
he explained “I’m good at doing it, so what
was it that made him think I couldn’t do it?”
He added with astonishment, “He thinks I’m
a wimp.” I asked Randy to tell me about a
time when he pushed back and to describe
exactly what he did.
Randy immediately had an example: “On
the last project, the client, Sue, waited until
the last minute to give assignments and I
always stayed late to do them. Then one day
I heard a colleague say he couldn’t stay late
and she said, ‘That’s ok, I’ll get Randy to do
it.’ At that point I realized I was being too
accommodating and Sue was taking advantage
of me.”
As he recalled this event, Randy’s back became
so straight I thought his backbone had
turned to steel and his direct eye contact was
intense. “What did you say to her?” I asked.
“I said that she should not mistake my affability
for weakness. Even though I’m a team
player, I’m not a fool. And, you know what,
she apologized and never gave me a lastminute
assignment again.”
I realized that Randy let things go for too
long before taking action and that he rarely
if ever pushed back as a first response.
“What kept you from speaking up before?” I
“Well, it takes a lot to get me angry,” he answered,
“but once I’m there, I can be tough.
I want to be careful not to intimidate people.”
I asked him if anyone ever told him that he
was overpowering. I expected to hear a story
about an early job experience, but instead
Randy related a story from childhood that
has stayed with him for decades.
“Between my height and my booming voice,
I can be a terror,” he explained. “As a kid, I
What is Your Body Saying Behind Your Back?
© The Learning Advantage, 2005 Page 6
used to intimidate my cousins. We played
army and I was the general. I made them eat
dirt and I tied them to trees until they cried.
One day my father found out. He was angry
and said that gentlemen do not use their size
or power to intimidate others. I was so
ashamed that I had disappointed him.”
His father’s comment about being a gentleman
was solid advice, and Randy clearly
had taken it to heart, perhaps to an extreme.
I suggested that Randy might be able to use
his strength in a non-threatening way when
interviewing. Surely his size could convey
confidence and control, not just brute power.
For the next few months we worked on improving
Randy’s posture and eye contact,
calibrating between being a slumped-over
door mat and an overbearing military general.
During interview role play scenarios,
we fine-tuned his posture to convey confidence
and strength, while allowing his
charm and genteel nature to show through.
In his new job, he displays confidence and is
nobody’s pushover.
Coaching can help
Somatic coaching typically requires several
face-to-face sessions to diagnose bodyemotion-
language misalignment, trace its
cause, and develop techniques to bring behavior
into alignment. We work together to
determine what feelings trigger ineffective
behavior and then create ways of recognizing
when and how these emotions are set off
and find more effective ways to express
them. For Laura and Randy, the time was
well spent. They achieved their immediate
goals, and they now have an ability to more
accurately see and hear themselves as others
see and hear them. When you consider that
we all have alignment gaps that limit our
effectiveness, you gain an even greater appreciation
of somatic coaching’s power to
increase awareness and capacity to change.
And, isn’t it better to get feedback from
someone who is your advocate and wants
you to succeed than from others who may
not be on your side? A somatic coach helps
you identify and shift the inconsistencies in
how you show up, and eventually helps you
see them for yourself. If you aren’t getting
the responses from the world that you want,
talk to a somatic coach and find out what
your body is saying behind your back.
About the author… Sandy Mobley is a master somatic coach, certified by the
Strozzi Institute. She works with managers and executives to develop greater leadership
presence by letting their bodies talk for them in the way they intend.
With an MBA from Harvard and masters degree in mathematics and computer science,
she understands the unique challenges leaders face in the business world, and
knows the value they can bring to an organization when they have impact. Sandy
has been working with leaders in Fortune 50 organizations, major associations, and government
for over twenty years. Her expertise is in individual and team coaching, organization development
and training, especially in the areas of leadership and change.
She can be reached at 703-979-2133 or visit her website at LearningAdvantageInc.com.

Bringing in your new season


As the clock strikes 12 and the new year rings in many will celebrate the new year, many resolutions that were never meant to be kept, gallons upon gallons of drinks that will take days to wear off and the joy of celebrating the birth of another year with those that you love. Use this opportunity to celebrate the new season of blessings, thanks and praise. Something special is happening and you are alive to receive it. dance with joy and give thanks to the almighty for it is truly because of His grace and mercy that our arms lift high and open wide. You have another opportunity to live that life that you have always wanted. Don’t let this one pass!