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Notes from the Nexus

Lessons from Doug

6 Comments / in Blog / by Bebe Hansen

They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
With a pink hotel, a boutique
And a swinging hot spot

Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got til its gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

Joni Mitchell Big Yellow Taxi

PC: Doug Silsbee

July 30 marks the one-year anniversary of Doug Silsbee’s death from Cancer. I’ve been spending some time reflecting on the many gifts that he brought to me in our multi-faceted relationship as teaching partners, collaborators, business partners, and friends. Doug was a thought leader in coaching, leadership, mindfulness, and presence. As the founder of this Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership work, he had a large impact on those with whom he taught, coached, and collaborated; on the coaching community at large, and on coaching as a profession. And the Presence-Based work continues to touch all of those who engage with it.

I am honored to be a steward of this work, and as you may know from my previous blogs, this past year has been a challenging and rewarding journey of growing and stretching. I didn’t consciously consider that of course, when I said “yes” to continuing the lineage of this body of work! I am grateful for the learning this past year has offered. As I have whole-heartedly stepped in to take the helm of this coaching and leadership business, the Presence-Based work itself, and to continue the legacy that Doug has inspired.

Lessons Learned and What Lies Ahead

As we celebrate Doug’s life a year after his death, I am mindful of some of the lessons learned from Doug. I have clarified some of the values I hold dear in myself and want to express. And I’ll offer some thoughts about my view of what’s ahead.

A Glimpse at Doug’s Wisdom

These are some of the qualities of what I’ll call wisdom, that Doug embodied and that I’ve learned from him.  My intention is to continue practicing them. Perhaps you will recognize these, too, and might wish to emulate them as well:

  • Share your heart
  • Be transparent about what’s true for you
  • Walk your talk, as best you can
  • Lead with the spirit of generosity
  • Listen deeply to what’s calling, and place yourself in service to that
  • Author your own story

My Version of This Wisdom

Here’s my own version of the values that I’ve discovered along the way that resonate with me currently. Perhaps these speak to you, too:

  • Ask my heart what’s important and meaningful in this season of my life and work; align with and act from there
  • Follow my energy, aliveness, and enthusiasm
  • Leverage my unique and creative gifts
  • Be of service to those who want to wake up and be the best version of themselves
  • Watch for what wants to happen next, and follow that thread
  • Write the next chapter of this work with courage, using my authentic voice

Where Do You Land?

As you read these bullet points, notice where you land on the distillations of our values, purpose, or meaning that I’ve written about above. Notice if any speak to you, or spark some of your own distillations.

I continue to reflect on what these mean for the upcoming year, and what might be in store next? Here’s where these lessons and qualities seem to be leading right now.

The Long Game

PC: Doug Silsbee

I’m actually not sure I have any “final answers” to what’s next for me and for this Presence-Based Coaching and Leadership work. However, I do have a sense of the direction we need to head. Things like the ability to cultivate our capacity to be present to what’s objectively needed now, in this world of seemingly endless and fast-paced disruptions and chaos. Things like connection and inclusion. Care and kindness. Creativity and resilience. Presence and mindful awareness. Conscious and intentional choice. Expanding this proven, integrative methodology based on the principles of Presence, that scaffold human evolution. This body of work that results in life-affirming choice and change – on all levels and scale from global to local to individual.

Specifically, this work is about developing leaders, and the coaches who serve them for the long game. Diving a little deeper to find each person’s innate capacities, gifts and talents for living and leading from the inside out. Remembering that what we DO emerges directly from who we ARE. Engaging in learning, practices, and community that support our more awake and conscious mindsets, relationships, world-views, and embodiment of what truly matters to each of us individually and collectively.

We Grow While Supporting Growth in Others

What I love about the Presence-Based work, and about this coaching methodology in particular, is that it creates a customized opportunity to do our own work as coaches while being of service to others’ growth – in the same moment! We pay attention to not only our skill building around the coaching competencies (horizontal axis of our own development as coaches). We also pay close attention to our habits and patterns as they show up in coaching, and how these often play out in the coaching conversations and interactions with our clients (the vertical axis of our own development as humans).

Our Being and Our Doing

PC: Doug Silsbee

Both of these axis’ are needed for us to be effective in supporting growth and change. The same principle applies here:  who we are as a human—our being—directly affects how we show up as a coach—our doing. Both are critical for engaging the wholeness we are and can be, in service to another’s development. Our coaching clients have these two threads of parallel development going on as well, and in Presence-Based Coaching, we pay attention to both.

There is so much territory in these two domains of being and doing for exploration, discovery, and insight. And most importantly, this coaching methodology allows the direct and practical application of these discoveries into our lives and work. It turns out to be very rich territory, indeed!

Being and Doing in Leadership

These same principles of being and doing, the horizontal and vertical axis of development, and the integration of the two, hold equally true in leadership. Leaders who are actively cultivating their own presence and ability to be awake and aware have a unique edge. That edge is choice. Choice to act in a way that is congruent with our deepest values and purpose, to bring and apply our most creative and resilient selves to the complex situations at hand.

The often-hidden gem here is that the joy and fulfillment of leadership potential can be enabled by taking a perhaps radical stance. And that’s the perspective of seeing whatever challenges arise in your context, as an opportunity to grow on the inside to meet them. Seeing problems as a catalyst for personal and professional development. What a concept!

The New Chapter of Presence-Based Work

PC: Doug Silsbee

I am ever so grateful to Doug for all that he brought to this world. I am grateful for those who came into contact with his heart and care and continue to feel touched by this work. I am writing my part of this new chapter for the Presence-Based work by developing and sharing my own gifts and the gifts of this work, following my desire to be of real service, and making a meaningful contribution to the consciousness and awakening of those who are called to make this world a better place. At least in our little corner of it.

Marshall McLuhan said: “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew.”

And as Doug was fond of saying: ”I want to do what’s mine to do.

My Question to You

I’m getting clear on what my work is going forward. So, here’s my question to you. What’s yours to do?


P.S. The photos here are all taken by Doug. As many of you know, photography was one of his passions.





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6 replies
  1. Martha Hopewell
    Martha Hopewell says:

    I only met Doug once when he came to Boston to make a presentation a number of years ago, and was inspired to encounter a person who embodied so beautifully the values I also hold dear and the energy I wish to bring to my coaching relationships. As I re enter the coaching world after a long term executive director Engagement, I am so sorry to have missed continuing work with Doug, But I’m thankful he has such a devoted group of people to carry his vision forward . Good luck to you especially, Bebe.

  2. Linda Newlin
    Linda Newlin says:

    When I met Doug in person, I was changed and so moved by his presence and huge heart. I’m so grateful you are carrying on his work and adding your own unique gifts to this! I look forward to meeting you one day as well. His light burns brightly all around us who were lucky enough to know him and be touched by his work!

  3. June
    June says:

    Wonderful tribute to Doug and how his memory and legacy is unfolding through you Bebe. I only ever connected with Doug virtually. I am so grateful to you for saying yes and have a sense of what lies ahead. The opportunity to be part of the next chapter is a privilege. I am growing so much from being part of PBC. It is helping me clarify more of who I am and what is my work. I truly appreciate all that you are bringing into existence through your own path and wisdom to this amazing and necessary PBC work. Thank you Bebe.

  4. Laurie Hillis
    Laurie Hillis says:

    Thanks so much Bebe for your whole-hearted and vulnerable reflections. We have all been touched and changed by Doug. And he’s in our hearts, always. Thank you for carrying his light into the world.

  5. Jesus Alberto
    Jesus Alberto says:

    Thank you Bebe for pointing out to this Lessons from Doug, with the intention of honoring Doug’s life in the 3rd anniversary of his departure for the next level of Life…

    He is still alive in our consciousness in the Presence he facilitated to made us act or activate in us with his living example of being in that state of Consciousness

    Thank you Doug for Being & Doing for Us

    And answering the question of: What’s mine to do?

    I will say… I’ll go for the next level of integration of Being & Doing… To build a Presence-Based Triangle of Coaching, Leadership & Management


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