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Moving Toward Difference

Friday, September 7th, 2018

By Sharona Halpern

I have been thinking a lot lately, about how my participation in the Cape Cod Training Program might contribute to making the world a better place.

I was born 13 years after the Nazi concentration camps were liberated. Many of the adults in my life as a child were survivors of those camps, or had survived the war by hiding or escaping under life threatening conditions. I grew up in an insulated Jewish community, where I was taught to be courteous to non-Jews, neighbors, bank tellers, the mail carrier, but to limit my interactions with them to everyday politeness. A German family lived across the street, and we never said more to them than “good morning” or “have a nice day.” My parents said, “We don’t know where they were during the war.”

When my mother came to visit my college dormitory, she commented to me when we stepped off the elevator, “You seem friendly with that girl. I was friendly with my non-Jewish school friends AT school,” she said, “but we never invited them into our house.” The only non-Jews who entered our house when I was growing up were the plumber or the electrician.

I was taught that difference was dangerous. Difference had taken the lives of my parents’ cousins, my great grandparents, and many other relatives and friends. Difference robbed my two beloved great aunts of their fertility, as they had been used as human experiments by Nazi doctors in the concentration camps.

There is no way to participate in CCTP and not encounter difference. As a faculty we create opportunities for building trust, to support faculty and participants to learn from our differences, rather than avoid them or simply tolerate them. I am sure some years we succeed more than others. A couple of years ago, CCTP participants came from seven different countries. And, as you know, participants also come from a variety of professions–we have chefs, ministers, pediatricians, surgeons, mountain climbing instructors and psychotherapists, just to name a few. During our time together, we take risks, and we support each other to be vulnerable and curious. We build trust and intimacy with people who are different than ourselves. (And, as I write this, I am aware of our continued intention at GISC, to become a place of even greater diversity in our community, diversity of race, culture and class.)

So many of the troubles of the world stem from our fear of difference, and from our lack of close contact with people who are different from ourselves. When we gather outside on the last day of CCTP, planting bulbs that will blossom into daffodils in the spring, we are marking our connection as a group, the learning community we create in spite of, and as a result of, our differences. Let’s take this experience back to our lives, and remember to stay curious and to move toward difference rather than moving away from it.

“To let yourself be vulnerable to another point of view–that’s what takes true courage. To open yourself to another’s convictions, and risk being convinced, a little, or a lot, of the validity of their perspective. Now that’s scary.” –Justin Trudeau, Commencement Speech at New York University, 2018

Some of you have asked what your next step should be after taking CCTP. For those of you who have not taken the Third Week, talk to someone who has and sign up. The Third Week is an opportunity to build on and expand what you learned in the first two weeks of the program. The next Third Week is scheduled in England this November. Sign up soon as the class is almost full. If you want to take it in the US, let us know and we will start to put the next class together. We are also offering three days of Supervision in Wellfleet in March 2019. That is the best way to continue to develop yourself and your skills–by being a member of a group, presenting practice dilemmas, asking questions and watching the faculty work.

We always enjoy hearing from you and we would love to see you again. Please stay in touch.


Slowing Down

Friday, March 30th, 2018

By Nancy Rutkowski

As winter gives way to spring, I find I’m learning to slow down and breathe again. It seems like such a simple act but hard to maintain, and one I easily forget.

So I’ve taken to getting up most mornings and watching the sunrise. I’m lucky to have a second-story room that faces east. Three large windows look onto four magnificent white pines, nearly twice as tall as my home. I’m watching this morning as I write to you.

There’s something about the sunrise that makes the relearning easy, especially with the many sunny days we’ve had here lately. Maybe it’s because the sun compels me to surrender to its beauty, to give up thinking and doing and to simply be.

No matter how many sunrises I watch, each one is different. Even now I find myself putting down my writing tablet. I don’t want to miss any part of this experience. I want to see each shift in color, each increase in intensity, each new pattern that emerges.

This isn’t unlike how we are with our clients. Slowing down and attending to “what is” gives us a window onto the nuances of our clients’ experiences, the shifts in expression, color, tone, or breath. Slowing down helps us to see and be with them in the many difficulties they must bear.

And it helps us to bear ours as well.

I remember as a child lying on the couch with my back to the world, tracing my finger over vines of ivy in the fabric’s raised surface. I can see now how, even then, I was learning to slow down and bear the weight of a chaotic world. I was learning to regulate myself.

The winter has been a difficult one for many of us, challenging our capacity to simply be. The world seems increasingly more chaotic and unpredictable, existential threats increasingly real. Maybe you, too, got caught up in chasing the news and forgetting to breathe.

I’m reminded of a quote from Moshe Feldenkrais, “You can’t do what you want until you know what you’re doing.” I would add to that, and we can’t know what we’re doing unless we slow down long enough to notice.


To those of you who do not know me, let me briefly introduce myself. I’ve been involved with GISC since the Center opened its doors in 2002, and for over a decade before that I participated in a supervision group led by GISC senior faculty. I have a coaching and psychotherapy practice in Bloomington, Indiana, a daughter and a grandson in Myanmar, and a cottage on Lake Superior where, during the summer, I watch the sun rise over the lake every day. I’ve watched the Cape Cod Model develop over the decades, and I’m thrilled to be a part of a program I wholeheartedly believe has the power to change lives. I look forward to meeting and greeting you in person as time goes by.

Nancy Rutkowski


Exploring Not Knowing

Friday, February 16th, 2018

By Stuart N. Simon, LICSW, MCC

Lately, as I sit with clients, I have found myself exploring the experience of not knowing. It’s notable because I have spent so much of my professional life wanting to learn and grow … which necessarily involves knowing things. I assume we all do that. But as I said, I have been exploring “not knowing.” I find I am enjoying “not knowing.” Perhaps it’s really the experience of not having to know. I think this is making me a better practitioner … therapist, coach, consultant. It provides me a lot of freedom. However, the road to “not knowing” has not been comfortable for me. It’s too close to the experience of feeling “stupid.” Perhaps turning 66 has helped me get over that!

It brought to mind the picture of the Old Lady and the Young Lady:

I’ve noted, when people see it for the first time, how hard it is for some to see the young lady if they first see the old lady, and vice versa. For those who don’t see both ladies very quickly, it can be a frustrating and confusing experience. And the reason it can be so difficult is that seeing the unseen in the picture isn’t reliant on an additive process. In order to see the other configuration, we have to de-construct the one we originally see. We have to genuinely “let it go” in order to allow the new image to emerge. We have to “un-know” and “un-see” something in order to see something new. And, as I have said, un-knowing or not knowing isn’t so easy.

I suspect you don’t need me to see the implications for our present political climate. How rare it is for any of us to be having genuine conversations these days in which we suspend what we “know,” and work to see what the other “knows.”

But the implications for our professional practice are just as relevant. It is one thing to understand that in any one moment I may not know the client’s experience or may not know how to be helpful. It’s another thing altogether to actually allow myself to embody the uncomfortable sensations of “not knowing.” However, it offers the opportunity for genuine curiosity. Paradoxically, it can allow us to join in a rich, authentic and empathic manner.

Stuart N. Simon

Greetings From CCTP

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

Just for CCTP graduates…

We, the faculty of the Cape Cod Training Program, hope this note finds you well.

We are writing about two new and exciting opportunities coming up for CCTP grads only.

First of all, our offer to repeat CCTP at half-rate tuition continues – as space allows. Our next class begins on May 3, 2018 and is shaping up to be a diverse group of participants.

As you know, CCTP has continued to evolve. We are continually updating the program and have made some changes that we find exciting. In particular, we focus more on developing the intervener’s presence, as well as seeing how people connect. We place increased emphasis on personal growth and development, and we have added in more practice sessions in the large group.

Comments from a past graduate who took CCTP as a refresher:

“Re-immersion in the Cape Cod Training Model five years after completing the program was a richly rewarding experience. The attention to personal presence and authentic connection—modeled and taught—met me where I want to be as a professional, wife, mother, colleague and friend. Re-engagement not only enhanced my skill in using the model, it allowed me to make new discoveries about where I am well and less developed with greater insight and gentleness.”

Secondly, as most of you know, we were thrilled with the launch of CCTP The Third Week in January 2017. Participants came from around the corner, across the country, and over the ocean. This was a unique opportunity, since all of the participants shared the foundations of the Cape Cod Model. This allowed for focusing their learning on embodiment of the concepts and model and therefore delivering more robust interventions. In addition, each student had an opportunity to apply the model to their particular professional circumstances. For example, in practicums participants chose to work with individuals, dyads/couples, or work teams/families.

“The Third Week sounds like a refresher and consolidation of CCTP. It was so much more than that. With a field of participants who had embodied the core Cape Cod Model principles well beyond the end of the Cape Cod Training Program, the quality of interactions and readiness for advanced teaching was on a new and exciting level. The faculty were up to this task.  Not only did they work beautifully together, they seemed to relish the opportunity to share more deeply of their expertise—and they did so generously.”
John Durland, PhD

Looking ahead, we have decided to offer CCTP The Third Week in Boston, June 7-12, 2018, and as a retreat in the UK, November 8-13, 2018. The UK program will be held in a choice location with the intention of living and learning in community.

We welcome you to call any of us with questions about these upcoming programs. We hope to see you again soon!




Carol, Sharona, Joe, Stuart and Nancy


Dr. Sonia Nevis, 90; Gestalt psychologist founded center in Wellfleet

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Written by By J.M. Lawrence, Originally published 

When a course of therapy with psychologist Dr. Sonia Nevis ended and a client struggled with goodbye, she would ask her patient to pick up one of the many glass figurines in her office — a little glass horse, perhaps, or a cat. Then she would tell her client to break it.

“They are often surprised and may physically pull back. They will sometimes say, ‘Don’t you care about it?’ I might answer, ‘Yes, very much.’ They will say, ‘So why do you want me to break it?’ ” Dr. Nevis said in an upcoming book.


“I’ll say because the sensation of loss is one that most of us avoid, even though it is so ordinary,” she added. “We all have to learn to experience it in the moment. If we are lucky, we can do it with another.”

Over the past few decades, Dr. Nevis taught and mentored thousands of psychology professionals, managers, and business leaders in the concepts of Gestalt psychotherapy at the Gestalt International Study Center in Wellfleet, which she founded in the late 1970s with her husband, Edwin. Unlike the Freudian focus on mining the past, Gestalt psychology focuses on living in the present and teaches that the whole of relationships is greater than the sum of its parts — with the parts deriving character from the whole.

Dr. Nevis was masterful at living in the present and helped develop the center’s core training programs, colleagues said. She was 90 when she died Sept. 10 in a Brighton nursing home, where she had lived for several years and led sessions on finding happiness.

“She had this marvelous way of connecting with people,” said Mary Anne Walk, a former student who now coaches executives and formerly was executive director of the Gestalt center. “She didn’t believe in using your energy to be negative. She believed in using your energy to find the best in herself and in others.”

No one could predict what Dr. Nevis might say, said Stuart Simon, a Gestalt practitioner who teaches at the center and formerly was her student. “Usually it was creative, brilliant, and rarely without some commitment to the heart,” he said.

He said he used to joke with her that she was “a mutant” — she had a difficult childhood, but emerged optimistic, strong, and full of kindness.

She was 5 when her mother died while giving birth. Her father was mostly absent in her life, and she was shuttled among relatives who paid little attention to her. She had no one to say, “I love you,” and no one to say, “I hate you,” one colleague observed.

Dr. Nevis “never conveyed the sense she had to overcome something,” said her daughter Amy, of Brookline. “She was such an expert at living in the moment. She was an incredible observer. She saw things and heard people in a way I think was really beyond what most people can do.”

“When you were in her presence, you just felt better,” said psychologist Joseph Melnick, a longtime friend of Dr. Nevis who had been her student and then taught with her for many years. A collection of their conversations are included in their book, “The Evolution of the Cape Cod Model, Gestalt Conversations and Practice,” which will be published next year.

Dr. Nevis, who stood a little over 5 feet tall, could scribble a few sentences on an envelope in preparation for a lecture and command an audience. “You couldn’t say anything to shake her,” Melnick said.

When a male therapist she was supervising blurted out that he would like to sleep with her, Dr. Nevis’s comeback became famous among her friends.

According to an anecdote in her book, Dr. Nevis sat back and said, “Let me think about it.” Then she stretched her hands about a foot apart and said, “This much of me would like to sleep with you.” Then she stretched her hands out to more than a foot and said, “This much of me wouldn’t.”

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Dr. Nevis was the daughter of Kelman March and the former Ruth Kwitko. She graduated from Brooklyn College and met Edwin Nevis in New York while socializing with friends at the movies, according to her family.

They married in 1948 and moved to Cleveland, where she graduated with a doctorate in psychology from what was then Western Reserve University. In 1956, they helped found the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland with a mission of training couples and family therapists.

Edwin, who also taught at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, died in 2011.

While Dr. Nevis was raising her two daughters in the 1950s, she became a student of Gestalt founder Fritz Perls. Friends invited her to attend a Gestalt workshop in Cleveland with Perls, and Dr. Nevis experienced a transformative moment.

“Suddenly I could see what was happening between myself and other people,” she said. “I could name some of the feelings I was having. I realized what was happening between myself and other people. It was the first time I felt seen, and the first time I could see . . . the fog was lifting.”

In addition to her daughter Amy, Dr. Nevis leaves another daughter, Melanie, of Brooklyn; a brother, Ronald March, of Wyckoff, N.J.; two grandsons; and a great-grandson.

About 100 friends and colleagues gathered at the center last Sunday to celebrate her life.

Dr. Nevis enjoyed playing bridge and poker. She also loved listening to the great female jazz artists of bygone eras and going to a Wellfleet theater for live broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera.

Her book includes a paragraph that contains a few guiding principles for navigating intimacy while remaining authentic and human.

“Be generous; it’s good for your heart,” she wrote. “Disappoint people with regret, but do disappoint them. Be curious; you’ll learn continuously. Talk directly to people, not about them to others. Enjoy differences; we need others’ perspectives. Think optimistically, so that you see what’s working. Look for the humor in your life.”

J.M. Lawrence can be reached at

How My First Book “Emerged” through Gestalt Coaching. The World Looked Away – Vietnam After the War: Quoc Pham’s Story

Friday, September 1st, 2017

by Dave Bushy

I met Quoc Pham at lunch one day in 2014. My brother knew Quoc’s son Hung and had asked me to consider writing Quoc’s story about imprisonment in post-war Vietnam and his eventual harrowing escape by boat into the South China Sea.

The idea of writing a book, or even a short story about someone’s life, was not my focus that day. After retiring from corporate life in 2013, I had been building a coaching practice and even temporarily shelved writing a story about my grandfather’s war exploits. But my twin brother, who served as the captain of Hung’s ship at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, gently prodded me to “just meet” Quoc Pham, who was visiting from California.

Curiosity comes naturally to me. So does conversation. I’m an extrovert who loves to engage individuals and learn more about them. The intensive coaching training I received at the Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) gave me tools that focused and harnessed my abilities in ways I could have never imagined. Perhaps the most important is this: Really, really listening to someone and working with them towards a shared perspective and feeling. We call it “co-creation” in coaching. Wrapped into that listening is attentiveness and recognition: discerning the softness in someone’s voice when they speak about a loved one; or the change in their breathing when they relive a painful experience. Even the cadence and tenor of a voice can arouse curiosity in me easily now, thanks to GISC. Pursuing that curiosity through appreciative inquiry and provocative questioning can allow ideas, thoughts or “figures” to emerge that the client might have not been noticed before. As my favorite instructor Mary Anne Walk says, “The only question you’ll regret is the one you don’t ask.”

As I asked questions and listened to Quoc that day, I carefully watched his face. He had been through more than anyone I know; yet there was a serenity about him that was calming. He had experienced brutal conditions in the Reeducation Camps of Vietnam, been punished for being in the South Vietnamese military and saw his family lose everything. He had been beaten, nearly starved, and seen people die, yet here he sat, placid and kind. And yet… I shifted my eyes from his whole face and looked deeply into his eyes and saw something that I had not seen since I left the Army. I saw a glimmer of regret and grieving. It was merely a glimpse, but it was enough. That one glance reminded me of what I had seen in the U.S. Vietnam Veterans with whom I served in the Army, who had been through the horrors of war so far away, and then watched as the “enemy” defeated their own country.

Our lunch that day was more to just get acquainted, but I filed that feeling I had experienced in a safe place in my heart and mind, and nodded my head affirmatively when Quoc said, “Will you be willing to write my story?” I then said, “Let’s try a couple of chapters and see.”

We agreed to meet every two weeks via Face Time, as Quoc lived on the opposite coast. We began right away, adhering rigorously to a schedule of one hour every two weeks, which would continue for three years. Our routine evolved into an hour of interviews and coaching, followed by about six hours of drafting by me, followed by comments and editing from Quoc. Like any solid coaching engagement, one session built on another; trust grew between us and figures emerged routinely. At one point, I saw Quoc’s son, who had seen some early chapter drafts. “My father is telling you things my siblings and I have never heard – how is it that you and he communicate so well?” I just smiled and thought about coaching and knew that something was in synch for Quoc and me as we co-created in our sessions in order to tell the story of his life.

How does a fledgling author interview someone about their life’s journey, let alone the most intimate and brutal experiences a human being can endure? As I carefully took notes and recorded the interviews, something emerged for me. I was not just being a reporter, asking things like, “What happened then; and who was involved; and where did you go next?” I was actually being a coach, encouraging someone to explore areas of their memories that they might have forgotten, or perhaps didn’t want to enter. I was looking for how someone felt and how he had made meaning of his experiences. I was noticing something about a man, and I was pursuing it with gentle inquiry, continual prodding and genuine attentiveness. By intention, I was seeking to know everything about his journey through the years in the camps and his escape by sea. “What happened next?” was followed with “How did that make you feel,” and “Tell me more about what you experienced at that moment.”

Often, I gave Quoc time – sometimes long minutes – to collect himself. Part of coaching is giving someone time and space to think. Such silence is uncomfortable for humans – we just don’t cope well with long gaps in conversation. But those gaps can allow the person with whom you are working have thoughts emerge that might never have surfaced.

Quoc’s and my journey together in our calls and my follow-up draft-sharing were the vehicles we used to create The World Looked Away – Vietnam After the War: Quoc Pham’s Story. In it, you will see and feel his deepest thoughts about not just his camp experiences, but his feelings about the woman he loved and the family that nurtured him.

Being a coach has expanded my range of possibilities and helped me understand those of others. I use the tools of Gestalt Coaching every day in every conversation, be it coaching or dialogue with friends and family. I know I could not have joined another on his journey and completed a 400-page book without the benefit of my coach training at GISC.

To listen and be heard

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Here at GISC, the sun is out. Fourteen professionals from as far as California, Sweden, Wisconsin and Denmark or as close as Wellfleet gather for their 7th day of training to learn the Cape Cod Model – our Center’s process for helping people and teams change.

Five years ago, I was in their seat as a participant and fortunate to have our founder, Sonia Nevis in the room. An avid note-taker, keen on capturing the words from each faculty member, I’ve saved my notebooks and I’ve decided to share some of the nuggets from our Cape Cod Training Program teaching.

Let’s start with the check-in – the first 15-20 minutes of each day when participants sit together with faculty in a large group to discuss any questions or thoughts that are present from the previous day’s work. Even in these seemingly mundane moments, we were being taught that “Gestalt is a way of looking at the world and thinking about your life.” Check-in is important “to get something out of your head” so we can start where we are today.

The notes that follow are what I need to do this morning to start my day with a full sense of connection to the current participants, to the teaching and learning that inspired greater range and growth in my own life, and to the creative urge that the sun – after many days of rain – has inspired within.

Day 2 comments from Sonia:

You cannot feed your own soul. Connecting is food. To have listening and to be heard is food. The basic principle of how the world is better is to really listen and to really be willing to be heard.

Sonia went on to emphasize that “the learning that takes place at GISC is getting more and more skilled at reaching other people and listening.”

And the words flowed in through my ears, my eyes, my hands as I wrote furiously to capture her specific point of view:

If there’s only one person, it’s self-reflective. We are in relationship with the past and our Self. But all you can do is repeat the same thing. We can’t continue growth without another person. We develop to the extent that we allow ourselves to be in contact with the environment.”

These notes from our founder’s voice make me wonder:

What’s the optimal blend of sunshine and support to foster new growth in your life today?

If “no one person is making an experience happen” then join me in a virtual conversation and leave a comment below.


Facilitation as a Leadership Skill

Thursday, April 28th, 2016

By Paul Cummings, CPF, PCC

It used to be that leaders and managers could rely on the old ‘command and control’ methods of getting things done.  Back in the day, and standing atop a clear hierarchy, the boss was Lord (and less frequently Lady) of all he or she observed.  These were simple, predictable and in some ways, relatively comfortable times. It used to be that the boss could shine, taking all the glory for success (deflecting failure where possible) and where people had confidence in a job-for-life.  In today’s world of work, much has changed and those days are a distant memory.  The command and control approach to leading and managing is now as outdated as the weekly wage packet.  So what’s so different now?

  • Workforce enlightenment – today, the average worker is far more educated, both formally and informally.  Workers know their rights and how to exercise them.  More of them also know how to use their talents and exercise power and influence.
  • The information age – with the advent of the Internet, information is everywhere.  This shifts power from the boss across and throughout the whole organisation and beyond, empowering many.
  • We are globally connected – by way of social media; stories, events and campaigns can inspire and incite people (workers, customers, service users) meaning organisations no longer exist in their own discrete and predictable bubble.
  • Higher degrees of complexity – in a time of increased specialism, it’s no longer possible for the boss to be expert in everything.  Instead, today’s leader or manager must get comfortable at having people around them who are more expert in some other particular field/discipline.

The leader or manager who can facilitate individuals and teams through the challenges of these four contemporary realities has a better chance of succeeding.  Instead of commanding and controlling, it’s time to facilitate the workforce.

Facilitation is an often-misunderstood term. In the context of leading or managing, it’s about employing processes and ways of being that makes it easier for leaders to get more done through others. Facilitation is about running effective meetings, keeping people focused and arriving at decisions that lead to appropriate and timely actions. Facilitation is about setting behavioural expectations and holding people to account when expectations fail to be honoured. Facilitation is about making it easier for people to bring the best of themselves to the task in hand. It’s about welcoming resistance and conflict with genuine curiosity instead of seeing them as a nuisance to be overcome. It’s about having proven skills, knowledge and techniques that allow leaders and managers to confidently negotiate the challenges that inevitably occur when bringing teams together.

The key advantages to adopting a facilitative approach to leading and managing are:

  • Participation – with so much expertise and insight available in an organisation, its madness not to access it.  Maximising participation is essential – this means having the right people involved in the right meetings and making sure these meetings are conducted so that everyone, regardless of status, has a voice.
  • Collective thinking – reliance on just one person to steer an organisation means only one mind on the job.  Unfortunately, all of us are blinkered in some way or another.  Facilitating collective forms of thinking may seem complex, time-consuming and risky but using facilitation skills effectively can ensure any number of participants can effectively contribute their collective brainpower to the issue being addressed so that a deeper, more informed conclusion could be reached.
  • Ownership – when you create participation and facilitate collective thinking, you engender ownership for both problems and solutions – this is the magic of facilitation! People who are involved in decision-making processes early on can help shape thinking and prevent unnecessary resistance at the latter stage of implementation.
  • Processes that work – The success of facilitation as an approach in organisations is that it provides leaders and managers with proven processes that work.  Facilitating makes it easier to reach decisions that stick, explore ideas, share information, action plan, problem solve and foster learning.

If you know command and control has had its day and seek to promote participation, collective thinking and ownership for your organisations vision and mission, get yourself skilled in facilitation – after all it’s your job to make it easier for the people you lead to be as amazing as they can be!


Paul Cummings, MA, CPF, PCC, works with dedication and fun to facilitate organizations and people to think and act with greater confidence. He is a GISC Certified Coach and will be teaching Facilitation Skills at GISC in May 2016.

We’d love to hear about your experiences with facilitation as a leadership skill.  Please respond with your comments below.


BEING GREAT: An acronym for learning leadership

Friday, September 18th, 2015

By Nancy Hardaway

Listening 2 Leaders

How do you teach people how to manage (or become better at managing, depending on their experience) in 20 minutes? That was my challenge last spring when I gave a talk to a group of young professionals.

Research has found that over 70% of people in corporate America name their boss as their biggest stressor in their lives and that anywhere from 40-70% of managers fail. Obviously, people need help! In order to make the concepts easier to digest and remember in just 20 minutes I organized them with an acronym : BEING GREAT

Typically it’s not the content of the work or the tasks that cause problems for managers. It’s the people interactions. Every interaction between people is “co-created;” you are half of the equation so managing or leading others requires managing yourself. The first word of the acronym, BEING, represents ways to manage yourself:

B: Boundaries

E: Emotions

I: Intent and Impact

N: Nature

G: Goals

BOUNDARIES: Managers need to set and understand their boundaries. They have to find the appropriate place for themselves between the company and their boss, and their allegiance to their staff. They have to be careful about friendships past and present, and where the boundary is in what they disclose to whom. Promotions from within cause colleagues to become staff overnight, necessitating careful and explicit renegotiation of boundaries. Then there’s that tricky balance between work and home. Those boundaries blur too easily and you find yourself answering emails while playing with your kids – not successful or satisfying for either activity.

EMOTIONS: Emotions impact perspective, decisions, and affect interactions with colleagues or staff. It takes awareness to recognize your emotions in the workplace and skills to manage them successfully. Neuroscience research tells us that some of the most successful ways to manage emotions are labeling (putting a word to the feeling shifts the brain from feeling to thinking mode), reframing (looking at it in another way, or in Gestalt terms, looking for the multiple realities), and refocusing (turning your attention elsewhere).

INTENT AND IMPACT: How often does it happen that someone takes your message (words, body language, action) the wrong way? We need to know the difference between what we intend to convey and the impact we actually have. It requires knowing our intention. It requires paying careful intention to the way our message is being received and interpreted. And we need to check and verify – just plain ask.

NATURE: Managers and leaders need to understand how they are different from others: What are your biases and filters based on your experience, wealth, gender, family of origin, age, culture, occupation, etc.? What’s your work style? How are you motivated?

GOALS: Understanding your goals, your priorities, and your values is key to managing your time appropriately and knowing whether you are succeeding. You have to know your organizational goals (the big picture) and the goals of your role, which shift your focus from to-do lists to prioritization toward the bigger picture. And you’ll only know whether you are succeeding if you have some sense of your goals in life.

You can’t lead without followers – you would be a parade of one. So the second word of the acronym, GREAT, is about managing others.

G: Goals

R: Reviews

E: Events

A: Accountability

T: Teams

GOALS: Goal are so important, they show up twice. In this case it’s about knowing your organization or boss’s goals (make sure to ask and clarify) and then setting the goals for your team as a whole and for each individual. Express the “why” and express the “how” and express the “when.” The why is what inspires so make sure to spend time with it. The how and when create the basis for success and holding people accountable. Provide enough detail for clarity and enough space for innovation and independence.

REVIEWS: Massive research demonstrates that only 30% of performance feedback has a positive impact. Our Gestalt training enables more successful results. Build on the positive. Provide feedback on a daily and weekly basis rather than waiting for the annual review. Provide specific data – evidence and examples of what you mean. Provide support for new behaviors – assume if they could have done what you wanted before and knew you wanted it, they would have. Follow up to feedback (71% of managers never follow up on reviews – how unfortunate!).

EVENTS: I chose the word events (which typically involve a lot of planning) to cover meetings, important conversations, retreats – planned interactions where you want to accomplish something. Know why, who, what, when, and how for every meeting. Plan how much time will be needed for what you want to accomplish and know what a successful outcome would look like. Plan for good beginnings, middles, and endings – don’t skimp on those endings or overbook your agenda so you run out of time. Closure is important for effective results.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Start with clear expectations, and maintain communication. Be specific about what and by when, and the consequences to all for missed targets. Don’t wait – quick and frequent check-ins are better than big blow ups after the deadline passes. Be direct – too often new managers confuse directness with being mean, often because they wait until they are angry at failed performance to act.

TEAMS: It takes intentional leadership to create teams, even though our brains are wired for collaboration. But we want to collaborate with “friends,” not “foes.” Here’s where the Gestalt concept of intimate (relational) and strategic (work accomplishment) is so helpful – it takes a balance of both for good work to occur.

BEING GREAT takes work, important work. Being a great manager or leader is an opportunity to make a positive difference in the lives of those who work for and with you rather than becoming the biggest stressor in their lives.

Closing Counts: What we can learn from Jon Stewart

Monday, September 14th, 2015

By Gwynne Guzzeau, Executive Director

Jon Stewart got it right: closing counts. For over fifteen years, fans of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – the popular comedic news show on cable TV – have tuned in for a potent blend of fun and facts, myself included. During the past year, the final weeks, and Stewart’s last episode as host of The Daily Show, we were not only treated to his edgy brand of humor with heart, we were shown how to create a good ending.

In these final days of summer, as we look to the fall and year-end, how are you attending to the endings in your life, small or large? It may be the end of a summer vacation or the end of the third quarter with only one quarter left to meet the 2015 goals you set for yourself back in January.

What can we learn from Jon Stewart about creating good endings? A lot.

Here’s what I saw in the final episodes that speaks to the Gestalt practices we teach at GISC.

Stewart didn’t go cold turkey; he practiced leaving. Over a year ago, he took a leave of absence for several weeks. Whatever the reasons, it gave him experience letting go of a job, a role, and a routine that he’d held for over 15 years. During his leave, he tried something new by directing a theater production – more practice letting go of The Daily Show.

Not all of us can take a long leave and land a short-term gig in a dream role like Jon Stewart. But we can practice letting go of our work identity, role and routine in small ways. For instance, on your next vacation, what would it be like to truly leave behind all responsibility for work? What does that mean? Well, it could be as small as committing to: “on my vacation (or on the weekend, or after 5pm . . .), I will not check my emails from work.” The point is that to end well you need to start small and practice. Design a small test run of a bigger goal.

Get Support
I’m willing to bet a week’s pay that Jon Stewart didn’t cook up this plan on his own – he had help. Maybe it was his wife, colleagues, friends or a trusted advisor, but at some point there was probably a professional advisor – a coach or a therapist to support the meaning-making that leads to a good ending. How do I know this? I didn’t count, but in the final weeks of his tenure as host of The Daily Show, Stewart repeatedly said, “I had to come to terms with it,” that is, leaving and letting go.

As you and I plan and practice our own endings in the coming weeks, with whom will we meet and talk as we create endings for the year, the vacation, or even the weekend? It can be as small as a conversation with family about why the weekend, vacation or year mattered. Or we could hire a coach or reach out to work with one of GISC’s coaches-in-training who start their coach certification program in late October.

Endings matter and even the smallest degree of attention can support the experience of closure and our internal transition.

Take an Appreciative Stance
In his final episode, Jon Stewart ran long. The 30-minute show lasted 60 minutes. The way I see it, Stewart took his time. And he needed the time to both acknowledge his colleagues and, I would argue, to take in the acknowledgements and appreciation expressed to him by others.

As he said so often, “I had to come to terms with it.” If we can do that for ourselves by adopting an appreciative stance and perspective for what has been and what is, then we free ourselves to be available for the actual ending – the good-bye.

And it is in the smallest of gestures or practices that all our preparation and work on “coming to terms” with closure shows up. For me, Jon Stewart’s good-bye from The Daily Show is captured in the handshakes of thanks he took the time to make with each individual member of Springsteen’s band at the very end of the show.

Jon Stewart showed us how to create a good ending and that’s what we all need in order to make a good beginning. So I wonder, what’s next? For Stewart, for you and for me?


Gwynne Guzzeau, MS, JD, is the Executive Director of GISC. She teaches The Next Phase: Life Strategies for Navigating Personal and Professional Transitions.


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