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We are a group of dedicated coaches and leaders bringing Self Leadership & Coaching programs to prisons.  Carrying on the legacy of the late Laura Whitworth, who fostered a vision of supporting, inspiring, and transforming the lives of inmates by training them to be Co-Active Coaches, we are developing curriculum that will do that and more. We have developed 5 powerful 2-day courses that we are piloting at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility.  Gathering together our collective knowledge, and building on our experiences with the earlier Bigger Game Prison Project, we have developed a program of Self Leadership that draws on (with permission) the methods, skills, and tools from top coach training institutes, personal growth workshops, and spiritual teachings.

What is Self-Leadership:

Self-leadership is “the process of influencing oneself”.  “The concept of self-leadership is derived primarily from research and theory in two areas of psychology…social cognitive theory…and…intrinsic motivation theory (cognitive evaluation theory).” – from Mastering Self-Leadership:  Empowering Yourself for Personal Excellence by Charles C. Manz and Christopher P. Neck.

“One must first know themselves, to lead themselves, to effectively lead others.” dlp

As Warren G. Bennis (founding chairman of the Leadership Institute at the University of Southern California) stated, “Becoming a leader is synonymous with becoming yourself.  It is precisely that simple, and it is also that difficult.”

This foundational belief  is what makes this program uniquely different.   Leading ourselves, our lives, families, communities, and  organizations is how we will make a positive difference in the world.  In order to lead our lives in productive, positive ways, we need to gain self awareness and develop responsibility.  Our Courses offer these basic skills and tools.

What is Life Coaching?

Maybe you have heard of executive coaches who work with senior personnel in corporations to enhance their effectiveness and leadership. In the last ten years the coaching profession has hit the mainstream. Sometimes calling themselves life coaches or success coaches, coaches work with all types of people who want to live more meaningful and fulfilling lives. Coaching is a profession on the leading edge of personal and professional development. Coaches are in demand by executives, entrepreneurs, in corporations and by anyone who wants to excel. Individuals and groups use coaches to work with them in going beyond the ordinary, to bring out their best. Co-Active Coaching is a specific model of coaching that was developed by The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and provides the curriculum in which The Laura Whitworth Prison Project was initially based.

Self-Leadership Courses:

  • Self-leaders know they have Innate Value.  They recognize that their value is a gift.  They cannot increase or decrease their value.  They CAN increase and decrease their experience of their value.  Self-leaders choose to treat themselves and others as valuable  human beings.
  • Self-leaders have Emotional Fluency.  They can recognize their feelings and choose to express them in healthy ways.  By taking personal responsibility for getting their own needs met, self-leaders are better able to communicate and handle interpersonal conflict.
  • Self-leaders know they always have a Choice, even when it’s a choice about their attitude or beliefs.  By taking full responsibility for their choices and those consequences, leaders are constantly learning about themselves and others.  They grow to be better decision makers.  They feel more empowered.
  • Self-leaders know they have Impact and are intentional about the kind of impact they have.  By recognizing and taking responsibility for their impact, they are able to maintain integrity between their beliefs and their actions.

Self-leaders are in touch with these 4 principles.  They both recognize how these concepts are at work in their lives AND choose to act in ways that are in alignment with these ideas.  Coaching skills, including communication skills, are powerful tools that all effective leaders have.  And using a coach approach in our experiential workshops allows participants to both explore the content and practice the tools.

Why Prisons?  Often, when we tell people we’re doing coach training with inmates in prisons, people will make some sort of joke.  They’ll laugh uneasily and say something like, “What are you doing, coaching them to be better criminals?”  There is a naiveté in most of the world about who the people are who populate the cells behind the razor wire of prison walls.  Even the most educated and enlightened people can have Hollywood visions of wretched people in orange jump suits becoming even scarier members of society while they do their time.

What we’ve found as we’ve done this work, is that behind the heavy slamming doors, security cameras, and doubled fences are human beings that somewhere along the way lost touch with themselves.  Yes, some are scary because they’ve strayed so far from that core for so long.  Most are not.  For some it happened before going to prison.  For others, it happened once they got there.  With a system primarily designed for punishment more than rehabilitation, the chance to regain a sense of self is often sorely lacking.

Coaching and Self-Leadership are two of the fastest routes back to ones self that we know of.  When the inmates connect to their core values, learn to distinguish the empowering from the disempowering voices within themselves, learn to understand and process their emotions responsibly, uncover their true purpose, develop their communication skills, and have compassion for themselves on this human journey – they change.  They heal.  They grow.  They make different choices. They begin to feel their lives behind bars are not wasted.  They have a reason to move forward – a reason to make better choices – for themselves, their families, and their communities.

More About Us:

We believe in Self-Leadership (as described by Charles Manz and Christopher Neck) and Co-Active Coaching and Leadership (as describe by The Coaches Training Institute)  There are always 2 co-leaders at the front of the room and at least 2 assistants at the back of the room.  So far, our co-leads have included Marlena deCarion, Helen House, and Virginia Kellogg, and our assistants have included Sophia Arain, Sarah Dean, Reuel Hunt, and Deanna Peterson.

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