Why Should Professional & Personal Growth Go Hand in Hand?

Clifton Carmody, PCC is the Founder and Principal of MNDFL LDR - a three-year-old international boutique executive coaching firm specialising in developing conscious leaders. Clifton, and the other ICF-certified coaches at his firm, work with leaders who attain goals more effectively, living a higher quality of life by showing up fully present and intentionally.

They work with leaders who wish to work consciously and lead from their hearts and minds. The work he and his team, does is to help leaders be more efficient and happy. They do this by teaching clients how to go through their day-to-day life more consciously to attain goals easier, with peace and purpose. 

For most people, this is a paradigm shift. Business and self-help books have touted tactics and easy fixes throughout most of their clients’ careers. MNDFL LDR turns that paradigm around and works with their clients to come from a more authentic, less scripted position. Their clients start using their leadership not as a bully pulpit but as a position of honour that also serves as a place to grow personally. This shift, in turn, leads to more success at home and work, with more fulfilling relationships; and sometimes even better health outcomes.

What brought you to executive coaching?

About 23 years ago, I was a young father when I was part of a small group with an intimate audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was worried and stressed out as a businessman trying to make a living to support his young family as I learned to be the best manager I could be. In those days, it was customary to lead in a transactional sort of way. I worked hard and demanded the same from my staff.

It was traditional, stressed-out top-down leadership. There was a winner and loser in every transaction, and I was going to be a winner. And it came at a cost, both personally and professionally. I took up meditation as a way to handle the stress.

As things worked out, I was invited to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Dalai Lama. I heard something that day that changed how I would relate to my career, family, and friends going forward. Instead of using the conventional method of top-down management, I would try to make each interaction a transformational one. I would embark on a path to make all parties feel heard and empowered, always grounded ethically and consciously. Although I have had some spectacular failures along the way, for the most part, I was very successful within this new practice. Mindful or conscious leadership are terms that I would use to describe the work.

A wise person once told me that “true success is not about what you achieve but who you become along the way.” Many people know this intrinsically but are too caught up in careers or life to see where they are headed. People are beginning to realise this, and I think this is the reason why we see such a re-examination of values during this post-COVID era. This stay-at-home period has given the population time to think through their values. Unfortunately, some seem to have felt like they were not growing as people and just left their employers.

Why do most of your clients approach you? What are the main things leaders need help with in today’s world?

During these last two years of pandemics and riots, we have seen a considerable surge in the need for leadership coaching. There seems to be an evenly divided audience in those who are prospective clients.

Leaders can lead effectively during times of known goals, hazards, and obstacles. They have been trained through experience in handling these “known” events. But the last couple of years have been anything but traditional. To get to the next leadership level, they need to lead based on a system of values, self-understanding, and empathy because they do not have all the answers. As a society, we have the corporate values mastered, but the internal skills have been missing.

Many of our other clients are executives who are feeling a bit overwhelmed. We have entered a new age where nobody knows all the rules of the road. Long-term managers and executives who have often successfully led in a top-down manner are now struggling to relate to a new generation of brilliant, young idealistic workers. These leaders come to MNDFL LDR to work on soft skills to bring a new set of tools to their personal and professional lives.

MNDFL LDR also has human resource departments or department heads worried about the company’s lack of leadership development. We are told that senior managers and high-potential candidates in the organisation cannot always create a compelling vision with empathy for their teams. Some lack the emotional intelligence to navigate these unique times we have been experiencing the last 18 months. They see it as an excellent opportunity to invest in conscious leadership development programs.

The happiest people I know are those that have successfully married their professional and personal selves.

What have leaders and CEOs struggled with the most during the pandemic?

They don’t have the answers. CEOs got to their positions because they had the solutions to customer problems and staff issues. This situation is very uncomfortable for otherwise successful people. Nobody has gone through a pandemic like this. After unsuccessfully navigating this uncharted territory with the same set of tools they used before, CEOs and business owners come to us to work on unique approaches to these unique problems. These challenges are frustrating not only to the leaders but to their staff. We even see now that the pandemic is winding down. For the most part, the team does not want to return to the status quo. Staff wants more input in this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world. Leaders are insecure and anxious. There is no road map. Changes need to come from within.

How have you helped your clients overcome these struggles?

Since CEOs and other leaders do not have all the answers, they need to be open and available to hear from those who might. We coach CEOs to be more aware of themselves. Allow them to see what they bring to meetings. Teach them how to slow down. The best leaders in these times are those that are approachable. If your people are uncomfortable approaching you with a solution or an issue, that is a lost opportunity.

MNDFL LDR uses a process of self-inquiry for the client and 360s feedback from their peers. We use this to investigate the congruency between our client and their staff’s opinion of the leader. We then put together a plan to help bridge the gap. We help leaders become more whole people. More compassionate, mindful, and empathetic, and in doing so, our clients see possibilities where there were none. They achieve goals that have not been reached yet.

Working with a coach is hard work. I admire these men and women who work so hard on themselves. Often paradigm shifts are of the most considerable magnitude. But from my experience, it pays off in not only professional ways but also personal ways.

What’s your advice to leaders interested in coaching who can’t find the time to do it?

Coaching is not for the lazy or faint of heart. We do not coach managers whom the human resource department or supervisors have said are in trouble of losing their position. Our coaching is not a remedial approach to improving performance. We are living in a world that is changing head-spinningly fast. Because of this, we require a new way of leading, and the next generation of leaders will be well versed in the areas MNDFL LDR works in now. It’s not if you will learn these skills; it’s when.

Steve Jobs of Apple, Eric Schmidt of Google, Steve Bennet of Intuit, what do they all have in common? They all were very busy, and they all had coaches. The very best executives and entrepreneurs in the world have made time for their coaches, and these were well before the current set of challenges. Thinking you have no time for a coach is like thinking you have no time to put gas in your car. Sure, you can get away with it for time, but pretty soon, the people behind you will pass you.

By all accounts, the ROI on coaching services shows coaching is well worth the money. The stats include employee retention, top and bottom-line numbers, job satisfaction, and quality of life issues. Clients who have been coached have overwhelmingly reported better conditions and results in the workplace. I would encourage all your readers, whether it’s through MNDFL LDR or another organisation with trained and certified coaches, to get coached. It is great for you, your career, and your family.

In your opinion, what’s the recipe for achieving fulfilment while growing and working on your skills and attributes simultaneously?

This is where the magic of coaching happens. Coaching is a beautiful and holistic approach to growing professionally while making fulfilling internal changes. The awareness and learning you attain work both in your professional and personal life. It’s not a coincidence that professional growth and personal growth go hand in hand. The two are connected. The most basic relationship between your professional growth objectives and personal happiness is simple: professional development improves personal life. To be truly successful at personal fulfilment, one must have professional happiness.

We live in a 24/7 world. We used to be able to segment our lives better. In reality, though, the professional you is the same person as the personal you. Any coaching process has to take into account both aspects of your life. While it may seem difficult to balance professional excellence with personal happiness, you realise these two elements are part of the same goal when you look deeper into the growth process. The happiest people I know are those that have successfully married their professional and personal selves.

A professional growth plan does not work if it is created without goals supported by personal values and ethical standards. A professional growth plan won’t sustain itself over time (months to years) without personal happiness. Though together, this equals success for the client both at home and in the office.

How do you achieve this in your life?

There are many ways, but I find coaching is one of the easiest for me. When working with a professional coach, you can expect to create personal and professional goals that will help you better align your professional identity with your values. The key to this step is to attain clarity as it relates to growth and happiness. For example: What does true success look like to the client? What professional goals and personal victories will lead to that desired outcome? Even more importantly, what internal and external barriers need to be addressed to materialise professional goals.

Here’s an example. A client of mine felt stuck and dissatisfied with her life, even though she had an excellent job as a marketing manager at a creative agency. The work itself was interesting and gratifying, but it wasn’t bringing her internal peace and satisfaction, which she craved. She was feeling internal discontent even though outwardly, her life looked okay. This inner dis-ease manifested itself in frustration with everything she tagged as “wrong” or “not working” in her world – job, living situation, boyfriend – you name it.

By working with us, she was able to identify the internal blocks that were creating internal discomfort, which she then learned to release. In releasing these internal blocks, my client was able to experience internal peace and professional satisfaction for the first time in her professional life —and this is where career growth begins to blossom. She did not have to change positions, she had to change her inner game.

How significant is constant personal growth?

Personal growth is the most crucial step! And this does not have to be complicated. A slight personal improvement each day compounds wonderfully. And it can be a fun habit and very worthwhile. Personal growth is working for the betterment of yourself, and it pays off with you and those around you. For this to become a habit, though, it must be something you look forward to working on each day.

Working with the right coach, you will not waste time working on things that do not reflect your values, and you’ll have more guidance to help work towards accomplishing those goals that are important to you.

The coaching approach works from the inside; you are working toward creating a life where you find happiness in your defined successes. Working from the inside out, you’ll make necessary changes in your life to reflect the leader that you want to become. Working from the inside out allows constant improvement in all areas of life: relationships, business, health, and spirituality. After coaching, you will be working hard for reasons other than just working for a paycheck. Your life becomes your masterpiece.

Working with MNDFL LDR, you will be working to develop deep self-awareness and improve communication skills. You will learn how to use your energy to work more effectively and maintain better relationships. Learning different ways of working from the inside out can support your leadership capacity in working with your teams. This is where goals are met much easier than trying to use top-down management techniques.

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