Interview with Dr Sarah A. Morris, The Conscious Sensuous Executive Coach

1) What is the inspiration behind your organization's  name 'Parallax'?
Very often people get stuck in a particular way of thinking or being and this constrains our creative potential. The word “Parallax” is derived from optics and means “to see things from a different perspective”.  We believe in the infinite creative potential of individuals and encourage our clients to ‘Take a Different View’. In the context of leadership development, through executive coaching, we enable our clients to do just that and therefore create choice that delivers a higher level of performance.

2) What innovative solutions does Parallax offer to its clients, keeping in mind that leadership training & coaching is a very crowded industry?

 In two ways, I would say; the first is in the philosophy that now underpins our understanding of effective leadership development. Through direct experience and observation of working with clients over the last 10 years or so, we have come to understand that the single most important, yet largely unacknowledged, factor impeding leadership effectiveness today, is the ego. From these observations we have created a comprehensive and integrated leadership model called, ‘The Conscious Leadership Model’. This model is about the movement from a predominantly ego-full toward a more ego-less way of leading. It provides a road map for understanding how we may reach the pinnacle of our leadership effectiveness through moving beyond our ego.  The second way in which we fulfil our thought leadership position around leadership development, is through our Experiential Metaphors; these involve using either horse whispering, the principles of socio-drama or aero-nautical experiences to immerse our clients deeply and experientially in the learning process. If you like, our portfolio of the Experiential Metaphor experiences turbo boosts the transformation which arises from the one-to-one sessions that we hold with our clients.

3) Tell us something about your interesting interests Tango and bee keeping

I'm a very expressive person and I think dance is one of the most joyful ways in which we can be playful. Tango is a particularly sensuous dance which suits my personality; interestingly there is also a strong parallel with leadership and followership. As a follower in Tango, you have to be entirely present and in the moment, sensitive and responsive to your partner. There is no set sequence and therefore what you create with your partner is entirely spontaneous and requires a high degree of presence. Thus, I think the dance demands an exquisitely high level of communication which, of course, is also a prerequisite for effective leadership. As for the bees; I am an animal lover through and through. I find bees particularly fascinating because of the selfless way in which they work for the good of the whole. When you work with a hive you get completely immersed in Nature’s perfect expression of harmony – oh, not to mention the fact that I adore honey!

4) Tell us something about the experiential metaphor in context of leadership development

We use different Experiential Metaphors in different development contexts; so for example, horse whispering is particularly powerful for revealing how authentic we are as a leader; it is also very powerful in developing our capacity to become more sensitive to our followers’ needs. Horses are pack animals and are hardwired to follow a leader – it is not a matter of your status, the car you drive or any other external facet of power which we, as humans, are very often affected by. Thus, when we attempt to connect with and communicate with a horse it is looking for the degree of authenticity and congruence we bring to the interaction; it challenges us to step out from behind the masks that we often wear for gaining social approval and to learn to communicate in a more direct, clear and unambiguous way. We use horse whispering as part of the Conscious Leadership programme as it is particularly effective in revealing how our ego shows up and impedes our leadership effectiveness.

5) The combination of medicine and business administration degrees sounds strange to me. How do your medicine qualifications help you in executive coaching?

I started off in life as a physician and later on moved into business; this is when I gained my Masters in Business Administration. So, I must confess this was more of an accident than good planning! However, I have never regretted my time as a physician for it is a rich training ground indeed. I think the way my time spent as a doctor most supports my current role is that, of course, you have a good deal of opportunity to work with people in very difficult and intimate situations; such situations require the building of a good deal of trust very quickly. I think that building good rapport and trust is probably one of my core competencies as a coach. A good deal of research has revealed the fact that much of the benefit from the kind of relationship we develop in coaching comes from the quality of the relationship itself; so I suspect that if people think I am successful, then this competence has probably been a significant part of that.

6) I have noticed you write a lot about ego on your Blog. What positive and negative roles does ego play in the context of leadership?

I'm going to be controversial and say that, in my humble opinion, the ego has limited positive purpose in terms of facilitating leadership effectiveness. However, having said that there is one common exception that I see pop-up regularly in working with clients; a strong sense of self is useful in understanding where our responsibility for things begins and ends. So people with a poorly defined boundary around the self can easily become victims or, indeed, overextend themselves and take on responsibility for what, in truth, lies with another. It is important to say that the ego is an entirely healthy and natural part of our psychological development. The real issue is that most leaders are unaware of how strongly their conditioned ego-based patterns interfere with their leadership effectiveness. When we are finally able to consciously set aside the ego, we are then able to bring our self wholly to the single task of leadership which is this; to identify and respond to the needs of followers such that as a leader you are able to remove any obstacles or impediments towards those followers reaching the common goal. The ego less leader is rooted in a philosophy of service and is much more concerned about the ‘we’ rather than ‘me’.

Thanks Dr Sarah for the wonderful answers and sparing your precious time.
Brief Profile
Dr Sarah A. Morris is an Author, Speaker, Executive Coach and is the Director at The Parallax Partnership Limited.She is based in United Kingdom and has a unique combination of qualifications in medicine and management.


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