Interview with coach Naida Culshaw

Today I am thrilled to interview friend and former colleague Naida Culshaw, a coach and facilitator who offers workshops on self-leadership. When we worked at the American Library together, I saw first-hand how Naida helped co-workers and library volunteers. An excellent listener, she asked insightful questions, which allowed the people she talked to feel better, gain perspective, and make necessary decisions. Recently, I had the opportunity to take a greytogreen workshop with her. Participants included writers, corporate managers, people in transition, and small-business owners. Despite our different backgrounds, I was surprised to see we faced many of the same concerns and challenges at work and in our personal lives. We all learned better communication skills, how to see a situation from different angles, and had the opportunity to think about what goals we wanted to set as well as the steps to obtain those goals. Naida’s passion is to encourage reflection and growth for individuals and teams. For anyone wanting to manage their day-to-day situations more positively or make a change, I highly recommend a workshop or a coaching session with Naida.

What books are on your nightstand?

Amongst Edgewalkers by Judy Neil and Say Yes to the Mess by jazz musician and management scholar Frank Barrett, you’ll find these two:

Change your questions, Change your life by Dr. Marilee Adams – Virtually everything we think and do is generated by questions. Questions are at the core of how we listen, behave, think, and relate—as individuals and organizations.

TouchPoints: Creating Powerful Leadership Connections in the Smallest of Moments by Douglas Conant and Mette Nørgaard – even in the smallest and otherwise ordinary moments you can transform aimless activity in individuals and entropy in organizations into focused energy — one magical moment at a time.

What does that say about your approach as a developmental coach and workshop facilitator?

During a one-on-one session or as a participant in one of my workshops, I encourage you to rethink, reframe and rephrase either the messages you’ve been expressing or the questions you’ve been asking.This process stretches your thinking, opening up additional avenues for exploration and offers through discussion other points of view to consider. This applies to an individual going through a transitional period or a team looking to do things differently.

Touch points are those everyday moments where individuals at work and at home could make a difference. How? By focusing on four essential components: 1) using your head = a commitment to inquiry, 2) using your heart = a commitment to reflection, 3) using your hands = a commitment to practice what you preach and 4) the mastery of “touch” = asking “How can I help?” In both coaching and workshop situations, these components find their way into the mix.

How has the transition to living in France been for you?

Smooth with the normal bumps in the road! When I arrived I had one thing in mind – no expectations. I approached everything like a beginner, being inquisitive and curious – asking the question “Why?”

Life is an adventure, so this was just another in a string of moves and transitions. I already had a natural cultural sensitivity, a deep desire to understand the culture in which I was living and to fit into it as much as I could. I think I’ve done a pretty fair job thus far. As I like to say with a smile “I’m not in Kansas anymore!”

From curating exhibits, to teaching, to offering self-leadership workshops and one-on-one coaching, you have a very dynamic career. How have your roles in communication and community building lead to what you’re doing now?

I learned in the rush-rush of the marketing world that communication is a tricky thing. In fact, to create authentic communication you have to embrace the silence – don’t rush to fill the pauses – and you have to actively listen – without rushing ahead in your mind. In my work as a coach and facilitator I call upon these skills very often, this is where I find the most energy and potential.

As far as community building, I see it as capacity building; fostering economic and social resilience. At the heart of community building is making connections. Connecting people to each other, resources to those who could benefit from it and ideas to those who could learn from or even support their further development. In my teaching, in the process of exhibition development and my consulting work, I look for bridges – places where connections can be made. It’s part of my Edgewalker profile!

When working with individuals and teams, what are the challenges you’ve encountered?

I wouldn’t call them “challenges” per say, but “invisible roadblocks.” These are the deep-level issues between people and within ourselves that go unspoken. It could be the sense of being disrespected, belittled, or even overlooked. However, these feelings then generate a belief about a situation or person – from one perspective – which may not have been the original intention of the other, but unfortunately clouds things afterwards.

We as individuals are great at talking ourselves out of things, finding every reason why something “won’t work” or why “I’m just not the right person.” Uncovering and then acknowledging these “invisible roadblocks” isn’t easy, but when it happens it’s like a breath of fresh air into a room that has been closed for years. It offers the you the opportunity to look at all the angles and decide how this/these roadblock(s) can be placed to the side.

What are the rewards?

When a person realizes what’s been silently driving a belief or action, and finds for themselves ways to reframe the situation in a more positive light – that’s rewarding.

When a team uncovers the “unspoken truths” each may have been carrying around – based on erroneous assumptions – then takes responsibility moving forward to be less quick to judge and more open to ask – Why? – that’s rewarding.

When one of my one-on-one coachees “graduates,” stepping out into the world to live a “life by design” rather than a “life by default” – that’s rewarding.

Why should a company or individual invest both time and money on leadership development?

In a paper examining the findings of the 2014 Global Human Capital Trends survey, the authors note that “Today’s market environment places a premium on speed, flexibility and the ability to lead in uncertain situations. At the same time, the flattening of organizations has created an explosion in demand for leadership skills at every level.”

It’s this phenomenon that’s driving the need to re-examine what “leadership development” or “training” means. It may no longer be the exclusive workshop offered to managers with a straight path to the C-suite, but other professional development opportunities for the larger part of the organization that builds on an employees own intrinsic motivations, aligning their skills, values and passions with that of the organization. And in some cases, there isn’t a natural fit.

Henry Ford said “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave, is not training them and having them stay.” Organizations are not only not developing enough leaders, they are also not equipping those they are creating with the critical capabilities and skills they – and the organization – need to succeed. This has a direct affect on the bottom line, both in the short and long-term.

What advice would you give someone who’s reassessing their life and thinking about making changes?

How often do we make time out for ourselves to sit and think about what we want? By investing in some “quiet, reflective, me-time” you have the space to discover what really motivates you, what your blind-spots may be, and uncover the subtle self-limiting messages you may be telling yourself that have kept you from moving forward. This could take the form of a workshop, a presentation, or even a structured discussion with a mentor or friend.

It’s about stopping, take time out to really access where you have been, where you are now, and where you want to go. Then devising a plan and taking action would be a more natural next step.

Would that advice apply to an organization wanting to have a more “engaged” workforce or who are looking to develop “leaders at all levels”?

Absolutely! “Engaged” employees and “leaders at all levels” are builders. They’re naturally curious about their company and their place in it. They proactively bring their talents and strengths to work every day. They’re passionate about what they are tasked to do, and they have a visceral connection to their organization – helping it move forward.

But this comes from having a deepened sense of what they want and how they fit into the big picture. It’s also knowing that their contributions matter. Discovering their intrinsic motivations, identifying blind-spots, and uncover the “invisible roadblocks” applies here as well.

As individuals and together as a team, taking the time out to reflect, examine and reframe is an opportunity to develop critical soft skills which in the end offer growth opportunities for the individual and support the long-term needs of the organization.

So what do you have planned? What’s next?

I’m really looking forward to a presentation I’m giving later this month for members of AAWE, and I’m also facilitating a greytogreen CHOICES & RESULTS open workshop in Paris in March. People can visit the greytogreen website for details and to preregister. To learn more about my services or to contact me, please visit my online profile:

  1. Andrea

    Am always amazed by the wide range of people you interview on your blog!

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