James Gimian

Coaching…for Leadership and Life

Bringing insight and awareness
to skillful leadership action

My view of leadership and coaching

Leadership is the power of bringing others around.

It sounds simple, but as we know, doing something simple is not always easy. That’s partly because learning to lead effectively is less about applying a list of “expert” practices than about gaining personal insights that illuminate the best next steps for us.

My goal in coaching is to help you discover insights that activate your way forward in leadership and in life. Insights in coaching arise from seeing our habitual, limiting patterns as well as our emerging, expansive possibilities. It’s about awareness of the “me” story we’re relentlessly building—and about glimpses of the gaps in that story.

Your life is run by your opinion. You think it’s fact, but it’s just your opinion.

— Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Buddhist teacher, public talk

Yeah, well, you know, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

— The Dude, The Big Lebowski

Insights such as these help us shift our view, to see ourselves and the world differently. And seeing differently is the beginning of the path to being differently. This shift leads to a place where authentic leadership actions become first thought. For example, when facing a difficult challenge, we can’t stop the action to consult the manual. We respond on the spot from the learning we’ve integrated into our being.

This shift in our way of seeing and being is where new, skillful actions begin to arise. Leadership gestures that previously involved tremendous effort and conflict become, in the phrase used in the Art of War to describe skillful action, like “rolling round rocks down a steep hill.” That’s what round rocks do: they roll downhill easily. That’s how effective leaders accomplish more by doing less, and with the added benefit of not leaving a mess behind.

How we can work together

I look forward to engaging with people who yearn to weave together challenging work, a fulfilling life, and a commitment to contemplative practice. I’m inspired by those who have a sense of urgency and a sense of humor, along with appreciation for the irony inherent in this kind of work.

If you’d like to explore working together, we will set up a time to chat to make sure it’s a good fit. If we decide it is, we will agree to a coaching contract. I favor an initial three-month commitment to ensure time and space for a successful outcome, though you may cancel at any time. We will meet every couple of weeks (twice monthly), with an option to meet more frequently as needed, including open access for emergent challenges.

The coaching sessions feature open inquiry and mutual deep listening, doing what I refer to as “getting into the gaps together.” In addition to our meetings, I’ll suggest some practices—both dedicated (setting time aside) and integrated (done on the spot)—you can use in daily life.

“Each of you is perfect the way you are…and you can use a little improvement.”

— Shunryu Suzuki Roshi,
Buddhist teacher, advice to his students

Our coaching approach will be tailored to your goals. I completed the ontological (study of being, presence) coaching training from the Newfield Network Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) in 2019. Buddhist studies and practice have been an ongoing feature in my life since 1972. And, in 1980, I began studying Sun Tzu’s Art of War, and over the years I have adapted its profound lessons on leadership in times of uncertainty and conflict. See more here.

No matter what framework we follow, developing skillful leadership always seems to arise from openness to our interconnected world, ongoing curiosity, and making friends with oneself.

About Me

My learning has come from 50 years of leadership in business and the workplace; from studying and teaching the Art of War’s lessons on effective action amidst conflict and chaos; and from meditation practice and Buddhist study. You can see a more formal bio here.

Another version of my story is that since my early teenage years I’ve followed the path of Diogenes, the cynic who was always looking for an honest person. I often made life difficult for myself by becoming impatient and vocal with teachers and coaches when I felt a disconnect between their expert “talk” and their different “walk.” Then, when I matured a bit, I realized that my impatience was really about my own disconnect between the talk and the walk.

Five decades of working on that disconnect has been a bit like Mr. Toad’s wild ride: a road strewn with some successes and many failures, messes, and embarrassments. But as it has turned out, it’s been those very messes, failures, and embarrassments that have seared enduring and valuable lessons into my heart and mind. The journey of successes and mishaps continues to this day, and I am grateful for them all.

Cows run away from the oncoming storm while the buffalo charges toward it—and gets through it quicker. Whenever I’m confronted with a tough challenge, I do not prolong the torment, I become the buffalo.

— Wilma Mankiller, Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation,1985-1995

We live in an interconnected and interdependent world, which can give rise to nearly magical skillful means when faced with seemingly intractable situations. It also means that any leadership action inevitably brings some amount of resistance and conflict. Those challenges are rich with information that can help shape our effective action. I’ve found that rather than avoiding or “splaining” conflicts, it is most helpful to embrace and gently lean into them.

Coaching Information

For an informal chat about how we might work together, please use this form or reach out to me directly at coaching@rulesofvictory.com. Please note: I respect your privacy and regard your inquiry as confidential communication.