Socrates is the Father of Coaching!

By Maria Koropecky, Wellness Coach

Have you ever wondered why all of a sudden, more and more people are calling themselves coaches these days? Where were all of the Life Coaches, Spiritual Coaches, Career Coaches, Leadership Coaches, and Health & Wellness Coaches even 20 years ago, back in the 1900’s?

While there are plenty of socio-economic reasons that address why we’re big into coaching these days (which I won’t get into in this blog post), would it surprise you to learn that coaching has actually been around for 2500 years?

Although the modern coaching profession is booming these days with many people throwing their hat into the ring, the roots of coaching, as practiced today, can be traced, in my opinion, all the way back to Socrates and his Socratic Method.

I said, “the roots of coaching” and not “actual coaching” as we know it today, because there is ONE BIG DIFFERENCE that I’ll get to in a minute. So stay with me.

This Socratic insight dawned on me while I was watching the BBC TV series, “Genius of the Ancient World,” a show where historian Bettany Hughes investigates three giants of ancient philosophy – Buddha, Confucious, and Socrates.

“By daring to think the unthinkable, [Socrates, Buddha, and Confucious] laid the foundations of our modern world. I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that these men, who lived many thousands of miles apart, seemed spontaneously and within 100 years of one another, to come up with such radical ideas. So, what was going on? I want to investigate their revolutionary ideas – to understand what set them in motion. This time, Socrates,” ~ Bettany Hughes.

I had my own aha moment while watching the episode where Bettany travels to Greece to learn about wise Socrates, a man who lived 2500 years ago in Athens, during a time of tremendous upheaval and transformation.

I realized that during my coaching training at the Rayner Institute in 2015, I was actually learning a version of the Socratic Method! So, in my mind, Socrates was the first Spiritual and Life Coach! To me, Socrates is the father of modern coaching!

A little bit about Socrates

The son of a midwife and stonemason, Socrates was born in 469 BC and grew up in the suburbs of Athens, Greece, during a time of great social unrest.

Socrates believed that living a virtuous, happy, and flourishing life was within reach. He emphasized the importance of caring about wisdom and truth and improvement of the soul, rather than seeking status and stuff.

He favoured oral communication over writing.

He was all about asking good questions.

He also “played the fool” in the sense that he didn’t pretend to know more than the person he was talking with, which allowed them to have their own insights.

Socrates also said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Here’s a look at the Socratic Method in play

Fortunately, in case you missed the airing of “Genius of the Ancient World” on TV, you can still watch the whole video on YouTube.

The whole hour is very interesting but if you don’t have time to watch from beginning to end, I recommend starting at minute 24:42 when Brittany (BH) has a conversation with writer, Apostolos Doxiadis, (AD), who in effect plays the role of Socrates.

Here’s the 5-6 minute transcript:

Bettany Hughes narrating: “His Socratic method worked something like this – Socrates would engage someone in the street… He’d ask them an ethical question… The person would attempt to define the concept, but Socrates would find inconsistencies in their answers… They would be forced to withdraw their definition and to reformulate and refine their ideas… This process would spiral into a dizzying round of question and answer. Socrates likens his role to that of a midwife, who helps to nurture and deliver the thoughts of others. But it was never an easy birth.”

Minute 24:42. AD: “So, Bettany, I understand you’re here to do a documentary about Socrates.”

BH: Yes.

AD: Why are you making this documentary?

BH: “I can learn something more about Socrates and I can share that knowledge with the people who are watching it.”

AD: “These are big words – ‘knowledge’ and ‘truth.’ Shall we take one of them? What would it mean…? So what is this thing – knowledge – that you want to impart?”

BH: “In my book, knowledge is love of what it is to be human.”

AD: “So, knowledge is love?”

BH: “Yeah.”

A.D: “OK. So, if you wanted to have an operation for an appendicitis, would you go to a woman who was full of love, but knew nothing about surgery?”

BH: “No!”

AD: “OK, So I would say that the definition of “knowledge as love” is not good enough. So, let’s try it again. Is there one kind of knowledge, or many kinds of knowledge?”

BH: “Knowledge is one thing…”

AD: “Take your time. I don’t know the answers to this.”

BH: “Maybe knowledge is one thing, but knowing is many things.

AD: “To know how the stars move and to know how the liver operates is the same thing?”

BH. “No, they’re not the same thing.”

AD: “Does the person who possesses knowledge in the big way know everything? Between those two, who is probably the best stone maker?”

BH. “Er… The one who…I don’t know! I give up, I give up!” I have to say that the one thing you’ve proved to me is that I know nothing.”

AD: “Ah, no, no. That’s me! [LAUGHTER]. I am the expert at making other people know things, but I’m no good – I know nothing and that is the only knowledge I claim for myself.”

Coaching and the Socratic Method

As you can see, a question leads to an answer, which leads to another question, which leads to an answer, and so on, and so on.

There are many similarities between the Socratic Method and Coaching but again, there’s a big difference, which I’m getting to…

Here’s a continuation of the conversation between Bettany and Apostolos, essentially describing the Socratic Method, with some hints pointing to the coaching process as well.

BH: “That Socratic method is fascinating and stimulating, but it is also infuriating.”

AD: “Yes, because it’s in an oral context, the way we do it, and Socrates famously believed in the supremacy of the oral over the written and that also stirs up the emotions. First of all, in his pretence of being the fool, the ignorant man, of knowing nothing. Yes, and because that is his tool, that he turns, in fact, against his friends – or opponents, as you may take it – and makes them admit to things that they don’t want to admit to, by playing essentially the fool, saying, ‘I know nothing, I know nothing. I can only ask you to tell me, because I know nothing.’ So, he laid an emphasis on the definitions, then on what he called “diaeresis” – division – of breaking down a problem into little parts, analyzing parts, analyzing it. And then, attacking each one separately and then trying, inductively, to group them back together into a more general concept.”

Did you catch the big difference between the Socratic Method and Coaching?

While both methods start off with a blank slate, and use verbal communication to exchange ideas, and are about asking good questions and listening to answers, and breaking down the topic into smaller parts, observing them, and putting them back together again in a new way, the spirit of the conversations are much different.

With the Socratic Method, it’s more of an interrogation rather than a conversation. It’s more of an argument where eventually someone will paint themselves into a corner. It’s a handy technique that lawyers, and detectives, and journalists use all of the time.

On the other hand, with coaching, the spirit is much more convivial. From a coaching session, you’re meant to feel safe to express yourself, to take something away from the conversation, to have more clarity, and to feel stronger, rather than feeling more lost, confused, and frustrated than you were when you started.

So even though Socrates wasn’t intending to create the profession of coaching, he did get the ball rolling, and over generations, just as children build on the ideas of their parents, coaching has grown from it’s humble beginnings, and has taken the art of deep conversations and introspection, to a whole new level.

But still, where would we be today without Socrates and his Socratic Method?

BH: “So, Socrates uses that to make people become aware that things they consider simple, and elementary, and basic, and that they know – they in fact don’t know. And what about the modern world? Do you think we could have the modern world without Socratic debate, without questioning what it is to be human and what it is to be human in the world around us?

AD: “Well, I think that the best way to accept, to find Socrates’ place in it, is to see that the opposite of the Socratic method, essentially, is fanaticism and dogmatism. And in that sense, the modern world very much needs an antidote to those things, at every level.”

Bettany Hughes narrating: “The Socratic method was cathartic. It got difficult issues out into the open and defined concepts with much greater precision. Socrates’ tough questioning, with his trademark irony, was conducted in public, causing a stir wherever he went. He was inviting everyone to seek knowledge of the human good, to identify fundamental truths. But people could only do this for themselves by constantly interrogating their actions and most deeply held beliefs. “The unexamined life,” Socrates said, “is not worth living.” Minute: 29:37.

Enter, today’s Life Coach, Spiritual Coach, Wellness Coach…

“Socrates might have been infuriating, but his tenacious questioning of what it means to be human still has absolute resonance. By stating that the ultimate evil is ignorance and that a good life is within our reach, he challenges us all never to be thoughtless,” ~ Bettany Hughes.

So that’s why I think Socrates is the father of modern coaching. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Like Socrates in ancient Greece, we’re also living in highly charged times and we’re still wrestling with the same questions about the nature of life and death.

If you’ve reached a point where you’re interested in examining your own life and exploring life’s big questions, consider working with me, Maria, a Wellness Coach. Feel free to email today! Let’s talk!

25 Signs You’re an Up & Coming Green Leader

by Maria Koropecky, Wellness Coach

I coach Green Leaders on living the life that lights them up!

You may be wondering what I mean by Green Leaders. Well, to me Green Leaders have heart and interestingly enough, the colour associated with the Heart Chakra, is Emerald Green!

Our Green Intelligence is about our compassion and heart-felt feelings. Green balances our spirit world with our physical world so we can relate to others with unconditional love and kindness. Green is also the colour of nature, healing, and new beginnings.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to do work that allows you to share from your heart, to be of joyful service, to contribute in a meaningful way, to make the world an even better place, and to inspire others to do the same?

To me, that’s what being a Green Leader is all about and I invite you to give yourself a chance and to throw your hat into the ring!

Here are 25 signs you’re an up & coming Green Leader:

  1. You have a big heart and you care about people, animals, and our planet.
  2. You have a creative and nurturing spirit.
  3. You’ve been asking yourself questions like, “What’s my life’s purpose?” and you feel like there’s something really big out there waiting for you but you can’t seem to claim it just yet.
  4. Your new ideas for change have not always been well-received or understood and people have bullied, criticized, and harassed you for being different, but you’re still determined to keep going.
  5. You want to take on more leadership responsibilities at work but you don’t know how to communicate your intentions to the higher ups.
  6. You care about environmental stewardship, and you’ve volunteered on a clean up crew like the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup with the intention of doing that kind of work more often, or even starting your own similar group.
  7. You’ve been on a Green Committee at work or school and enjoyed discussing ideas on how to improve your organization’s Reduce, Reuse, and Recycling efforts.
  8. You’re what they call a “Green Consumer” and are mindful of the environment when you make your purchases, taking into consideration things like how the products are made, what the products are made from, and how far they’ve travelled to get to you.
  9. You’ve thought about voting Green in past elections but there weren’t any Green candidates on the ballot or you were afraid you’d split the vote.
  10. You look for ways to save money and stick to your budget and it bothers you when you notice things like money and resources being wasted.
  11. You can’t stand watching incompetent leaders be in charge and feel like you can do a better job.
  12. You’re opening your own business.
  13. You’ve been the first in your family, neighbourhood, class, or office to do something new and positive, paving the way for others to follow suit.
  14. You’d prefer your personal space to be neat, tidy, and organized but you’re still surrounded by clutter because it’s hard for you to throw things out.
  15. Although you have access to a car, you’re starting to choose to walk, ride a bike, take the bus, or join a carpool more often.
  16. You’re looking to optimize your health and wellness, and practice self-care, but you find yourself over-indulging in unhealthy behaviours from time to time.
  17. You’re interested in eating fresh, healthy, and organic food every day but you still order highly-packaged take-out dinners a few times a week for the convenience.
  18. Spirituality is becoming more important to you and you may be drawn to yoga classes, learning how to meditate, the personal growth movement, reading self-help, leadership, and spiritual books, attending workshops and seminars, distance running in charity events, going to church, praying, etc.
  19. You’re noticing moments of synchronicity, the interconnectedness of events that aren’t planned or repeatable, and it’s really cool!
  20. You’re an advocate for social justice and believe that all humans have a fundamental right to health, wellbeing, education, clean water, nourishing food, safe shelter, and freedom.
  21. You’ve been known to speak for those who have no voice.
  22. You’re grateful for the diversity in the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms of the world.
  23. You marvel at nature’s beauty and enjoy camping, and nature hikes, and spending time outside in all kinds of weather.
  24. You’ve witnessed an environmental disaster first hand and are now motivated more than ever to find solutions and create changes that will lead to a healthy future on a global scale.
  25. Deep down, you’re optimistic about the future.

As you can see after reading this list, I’ve not painted the portrait of a perfect person or somebody who is better than everyone else even though they’re a leader because perfect is boring and more than that, perfect doesn’t exist, other than as a mathematical absolute. We’re all a work in progress and there’s always room to grow.

So, if you resonate with many of these qualities and you’d like to grow into your potential as a Green Leader and help make the world an even better place, please contact me, Maria. As a Wellness Coach, I can help!

Wellness Coaching Can Help You:

  • discover what lights you up so you can do more of it;
  • get clear about your life purpose and what you want to do as a Green Leader;
  • remind yourself about what’s already working;
  • uncover the hidden obstacles in your path;
  • figure out ways to blast through the obstacles as they come up;
  • make incremental changes that add up over time;
  • tap your motivation to keep going; and
  • be the Green Leader you were born to be!

I’m looking forward to hearing from you, Maria

10 Ways to Nip Gossip in the Bud in the Workplace

by Maria Koropecky, Wellness Coach

“Gossip is the Devil’s radio,” ~ George Harrison

Gossip is as old as the hills.

Gossip is a negative, malicious, and damaging conversation about someone else behind their back.

Gossip is not friendly banter, idle chit-chat, or a productive discussion about work-related issues.

To illustrate my opinion, let me tell you a little story about Cytisus scoparius. Chances are you’ve seen these stunning yellow flowers, otherwise known as Scotch Broom, in the spring, in open meadows and along roadsides, in British Columbia.

On the one hand, this tough and pretty plant improves soil, is a good erosion-control plant, and it can be used to make brooms, hence the name.

On the other hand, Broom is invasive, it prevents other nearby plants from thriving, it’s a fire hazard, it’s toxic to livestock, and its pollen is considered an allergen to some.

Did you know that this species is not native to North America? It was imported here in 1850 with the help of a Captain who planted it at his Sooke farm, just outside Victoria, B.C., to remind him of home.

Little did the Captain know, once established, Scotch Broom is stubborn and difficult to remove. On top of that, it’s an aggressive, invasive species that is well-adapted to spreading: a single plant can produce 18,000 seeds per year! It’s also drought resistant and is able to survive in harsh conditions. Since the 1850’s, with the help of human hands, Scotch Broom has spread across British Columbia and beyond and has caused considerable damage along the way.

You may be thinking, “What a jerk! That Captain had some nerve bringing Scotch Broom to North America! Now, I have allergies!

You may also be thinking, “What does Scotch Broom have to do with gossip?”

Well, ironically, to make my point about gossip, I’ve just told you a story that maligned the character of a person who isn’t here to defend himself. It just goes to show how easily gossip can find its way into any conversation. I know the Captain was not malicious in his intent when he brought these flowers across the pond and I don’t want you cursing his name every time you see Scotch Broom on the side of a road. Instead, what I want you to think of, is gossip!

I told you this story because I really want to illustrate how gossip is just as invasive and destructive in the workplace, as the Scotch Broom is on the North American landscape.

Although gossiping may seem innocuous and harmless at first whisper, it plants the seeds of disrepute and negativity in the workplace.

No organization is immune from it but tolerating gossip in the workplace leads to a stressful work environment.

One little, not-so-innocent story about some unsuspecting person can travel quickly from person to person and group to group. That little story can hang on for years and can seriously damage the reputation and livelihood of the victim.

I don’t know if you can think of anyone who has missed out on promotions or has lost a job because of gossip, but I do. Me. I know gossip was a factor (among others) in the decision to let me go from a government job I had years ago. Aside from the on-going office politics, one of my co-workers belittled me behind my back, to anyone who would listen, and that gossip changed the climate in the office and my manager’s opinion of me.

Gossip in the workplace can also create productivity issues. It’s a huge time waster. If employees are talking about each other and are running to the supervisor to settle their differences, nobody is getting any work done. If gossip is running your office, you can almost guarantee that productivity is suffering also.

Gossip also breeds distrust among co-workers, staff, and managers. People will start to second-guess each other and strained relationships don’t make for good teams. The distrust will lead to low morale which will then lead to staff turnover issues. Your employees – the ones you have invested in – especially the top performers who don’t have time for this nonsense – will find jobs elsewhere. Who wants to work in a place where everyone is unhappy and doesn’t get along?

10 TIPS AND STRATEGIES FOR A GOSSIP-FREE WORKPLACE

Keeping gossip to a minimum is one huge way to reduce the tension and negativity among your employees.

Whether you’re a business owner, manager, supervisor, co-worker, or the reigning office gossip, here are some tips and strategies for a gossip-free workplace:

Tip # 1. DON’T PARTICIPATE IN GOSSIP – EVEN AS A BYSTANDER.

By participating in negative conversations, you perpetuate gossip and you also discredit and dishonour yourself by association. Any participation in gossip will be viewed in a poor light and may cost you a promotion down the line. It also shows that you’re not a “team-player” like you said on your resume.

Tip # 2. HOW TO RESPOND TO GOSSIP.

If you’re constantly hearing gossip from one of your co-workers and you really don’t want to hear the on-going saga, here are some things you can say to get off the hook, out of the conversation, and stop the gossip in its tracks:

  • I feel uncomfortable talking about “so-n-so” in this way.
  • I don’t think it’s appropriate to discuss “so-n-so” while s/he’s not around.
  • Hearing you talk about “so-n-so” makes me wonder if you tell any stories about me like this when I’m not here.
  • If you don’t have anything nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.
  • Or, say something positive about “so-n-so” to turn the tables.

Tip #3. ASSESS THE CONTEXT

If you by chance catch wind of some gossip circulating around the office, assess the context. The gossip may be pointing to a weakness in the workplace that may need attention. Maybe employees are worried about a big change coming down the pike, for example. If that’s the case, having open communication, where everyone is in the loop, is the best way to handle the situation.

Tip #4. IF YOU HAVE AN OFFICE GOSSIP ON YOUR PAYROLL, talk to them in a closed-door meeting to find out what’s going on with them. Give them some attention and listen to what they have to say, so they feel heard. Forcing gossipers to explain themselves may shed some light on the situation. Once you hear their side, let them know that you will follow-up with anyone else involved, especially the person they are talking about. That alone may curb the gossip to a certain extent. Be sure to make it clear that at this point, the gossip must stop and that it is not tolerated at work.

Tip #5. DON’T LET YOURSELF BE THE SUBJECT OF GOSSIP.

Stay professional at all times, especially during office holiday parties because you never know who might be listening or watching. Keep your personal business to yourself and don’t confide in just anyone.

Tip #6. COMMUNICATE DIRECTLY.

If you have an issue with someone at work, tell them directly in a professional way rather than talking about them behind their back.

Tip #7. IF YOU’RE THE OFFICE GOSSIP.

If memories of past conversations in the office are floating in your head right now and if it’s occurring to you that you may indeed be the office gossip, think about why you feel compelled to talk smack about other people.

  • Are you trying to make yourself look better?
  • Are you trying to vent some frustration to feel better about yourself?
  • Do you enjoy the attention you get when you tell your stories?
  • Do you feel insecure about your own job?
  • Do you think you’re doing someone a service by exposing a flaw?

I’m hoping that once the gossiper sees how hurtful their behaviour is to others around them, they’ll change their tune to a more positive and supportive one in the world.

Tip #8. HAVE AN OFFICIAL NO GOSSIP POLICY TO DISCOURAGE GOSSIP.

Brief new employees on your no gossip policy when they are first hired and include “gossip” as a topic for discussion in a staff meeting. Let your employees know that gossip is not tolerated in this place of business and consequences of gossiping may include a written warning in their personnel file, a demotion, or they may even lose their job entirely.

I first came across a no gossip policy when I went back to school at the Aveda Institute and I must say, I was really impressed by their pro-active stance. I really felt respected by the school’s administration, like they had my back, and I really made a point of not engaging in gossip from then on.

Tip #9. FOSTER A SPIRIT OF COLLABORATION AND INNOVATION.

“Be less curious about people and more curious about ideas,” ~ Mary Curie

Ideas drive business. You’ve opened your business to solve a specific problem in the world and hired your staff to come up with ingenious ideas to deliver on that promise. Getting caught up in petty gossip prevents your staff from flourishing and from coming up with those amazing, out-of-the-box solutions that will put your business on the map. Let your employees feel safe to be creative, do their jobs, and wow your clients instead!

Tip #10. HIRE A LIFE COACH FOR YOUR STAFF.

A good life coach provides a safe place for people to express themselves. Instead of taking the passive-aggressive route of gossiping, employees can voice their concerns to a neutral professional who will help them work through their challenges in a constructive way.

Also, gossiping may demonstrate a talent for communication that has been mis-directed up-until-now and this person may in fact have the potential to be a great leader. Working with a life coach can really help staff members develop their communication skills in positive ways.

Allowing mean-spirited gossip to run rampant in the workplace can lead to a culture of distrust which will negatively impact productivity, morale, and loyalty. Managers should act quickly and not let gossip get out of hand. Pervasive gossip can be like Scotch Broom, and as it spreads, it will wreak havoc throughout a department, then the whole company, and will ultimately affect profits.

I’m sure you don’t want your company to be taken down by gossip, so make sure you nip it in the bud and refuse to tolerate it from here on out.