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The Lovely Story Of The Song In The Wood

Written by: Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


We have all read simple stories that touch us because they contain beautiful and profound lessons.

A recent remodel of my office had me going through my lifelong collection of books and culling some to donate to our local library. One that I came across was An Unused Intelligence, a book by Andy Bryner and Dawna Markova published in 1995. It includes a charming story that, I have come to understand, describes the very best coaching relationships.

The story, liberators of the song that waits in the wood, spoke to me as I sat down to read it again. It is about a tribe of artisans who live on the east coast of Africa and do fine wood carvings. Groups of carvers sit on the beach contemplating a big block of wood. They sit with their hands on the wood, listening for the song that is captured inside. Only when the song’s whisper has been heard do they begin carving.

The tale captivated me and reminded me of Michelangelo’s description of looking at a block of marble and trying to imagine what it wants to be.

It is also a beautiful analogy for the art of leadership development and somatic coaching. If a leader wants to develop toward his or her potential, the form, direction, and intention must come from within. Teachers and coaches are not meant to create but rather to listen deeply to an individual’s story and allow the wisdom of the body to come forth. Coaches create a path of questions, if you will, for people to experience their strength, humanity, and human connection. They create a safe place to explore different ways of being. This kind of coaching requires:

  • Deep listening to the meaning behind the client’s words.

  • Questions that are insightful for the client.

  • Useful practices to develop a kind of muscle memory of authentic self.

Those artists sitting on the beach in Africa have a profound respect for the wisdom of the inherent nature of the wood. A good coach has a profound respect for the wisdom of their client.

For a minute, think of an environment that is so accepting that the essence of you shimmers to the surface, sometimes as a surprise, sometimes as an old friend. Can you imagine who you are what you are meant to be? This is the ideal of a good coaching relationship.

Leaders, especially now, need to be empathetic, resilient, and self-aware to a greater degree. They must be able to hear the song in the wood of themselves and their organization in order to lead in turbulent, disruptive, and distributed times. Times with no easy answers!

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Linda Watkins, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Linda Watkins Ph.D. is an executive and leadership coach with decades of experience helping leaders achieve personal and professional growth, including in new, creative, and future-oriented areas. She helps clients embody their leadership and become authentic, grounded, and future-ready. Many find her work transformational. Linda's passion for helping leaders thrive by developing new skills and capabilities has only grown as the world has become more complex. She and her company, Leadership for Today, are strong advocates for women and have been designing events that empower women for over 30 years.



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