A conversation with Floyd Carlson, MSMIS, B.Sc., PCC, ORSCC
Ask Floyd Carlson a question, and he’ll give you an informed and thought-provoking answer. His drive to learn has served him well in a career which has ranged from the battlefield to the boardroom. Long before training as a professional coach, Floyd served with military units including the 101st Airborne Division before exploring the fields of computer automation, management and leadership.
It was a particularly powerful coaching session exploring an experience in Iraq that fired Floyd’s interest in coaching. Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC™) skills and tools now support his work with corporations and large organizational systems. Floyd also has a passion for helping veterans reintegrate into their relationships.
Floyd holds a Master of Science in Management Information Systems (MSMIS) from Bowie State University and Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration & Marketing from the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point. In addition to his ORSC certification, he is an ICF Professional Certified Coach (PCC), and is trained in the Co-Active Coaching (CTI) and Neuro Leadership Institute Brain-Based Coaching models. He is currently completing the Neuroscience, Consciousness and Transformation Coaching Certification program.
If Floyd had a superpower, it would be:
Strategy. I can close my eyes and see different courses of action playing out. It's like a flowchart. If this, then this. Then all of a sudden, I've got the answer - this feels like the best route to go.
The other superpower is the pit bull. Pit bull means that when I get really focused on a task, it will get accomplished. If I have it in my mind, that's what I'm going to achieve. It's a discipline, that focus to get it done. I have a picture to remind me - a friendly, happy pit bull.
I'm on purpose when I'm being of service.
On his days as a soldier
I've had quite a few transitions through my life. What's really driven everything has been my zest for learning. I tend to go with my gut, that feeling of - "Wow, this feels right. This feels like the next step."
Anytime I'm doing something in service, those are the times when I perform at my best. After finishing my first degree I re-enlisted as an infantry officer, completing my Airborne and Ranger qualifications. I jumped from planes, all of those things. It gave me such a wealth of leadership experience. At a young age, I was leading a platoon of 34 people, and then a company of 131 people.
After my time in 101st Airborne, I trained to be an automation officer. Then I was back in Germany for my third tour, getting my master's degree on the weekends. One of my instructors worked for Cisco, a high-tech company in Belgium. He invited me up to take a look around. I thought I was going to look at the lab, but when I got there he had five interviews set up for me.
There was something about that moment - it felt like it fit like a glove. They made me an offer, and I resigned my commission and moved my family, not really knowing what to expect or even all of the languages spoken in Belgium. What an experience! I was coming out of a military environment into a multinational organization where one of the first teams that I was leading had 16 different nationalities.
I started to read everything I could find about culture. I needed to shift how I was leading to work with the different nationalities of the people reporting to me.
On his journey to coaching
I like to run marathons, and I saw this article in Runner's World about how to improve your running using neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). Lynda Dyer, a master of NLP, was having an intro session one evening. Meeting Natasha Black at one of those events for Lynda Dyer was a game-changing moment.
Natasha helped me to be able to let go of a lot. In particular, there was one episode in Iraq where I thought I got myself killed.
A lot of things were happening, explosions going off around us. We were doing a prisoner of war search, checking for weapons or explosives. You can imagine all that's going on in your head - you're remembering your training, you're checking for tripwires, you're doing all of this stuff.
I reached in and found something, and that's where I made a mistake. What I should have done is rolled the person over. If it was an explosive, I might have lost an arm or something like that, but it wouldn't have killed me. The mistake I made was in pulling it out. It was a long black tube with wires on the top - and as soon as I pulled it, I heard the distinct sound of a round coming down to hit the firing pin.
At that moment I remember thinking, "Oh my gosh, I killed myself." My body shut down and my mind was convinced - that was it.
They say you see your life flash before your eyes when you think that you're about to die. For me, it was true. I saw all the images. It was everybody who had ever loved me in their happiest moments. The really unique thing was this image of a little boy, a blond-haired boy with red bib overalls. I didn't know the image. At the time when I was there in Iraq, my spouse was pregnant, but we didn't know the sex of the child. Later, when my son was that age, he looked identical to the images I saw on the battlefield.
When I started to come to, I was shaking. It was like if you reboot your computer and your system starts to come back online. Everything started to function and my consciousness was back. Wait a second, I'm not dead. It turned out to be a homemade radio, with batteries that had slid down the tubes. My brain had taken me through all those predictions, when in reality it was - thank goodness - a homemade radio.
I didn't realize how much energy and emotion was still tied to that experience. Coaching helped me to access it, as I’d been burying it through repression. Natasha, who is trained to work with trauma, supported me through the process. I was able to really reflect on the impact that that her coaching and support had on me. That then became my quest - to help others. That's what got me into coaching.
On using a coaching approach in leadership
When it comes down to it, leading is still leading. You use the same concepts, be it military or civilian. It's just that the consequences can be different. Military decisions have more life-or-death outcomes.
Coaching transcends all of them. Anybody can build the skill sets. I wish I had the coaching experience that I have now when I was first leading when I was 19 years old. That would have been such a different way of approaching it - helping them to gain insight rather than being the fixer.
In a corporation, leading with coaching is quite important. Dr. David Rock, who runs the NeuroLeadership Institute, talks about how if you tell people what to do you will typically be 8% successful. If you tell people what not to do, you'll be 5% successful. But if you can get them to gain insight - that's the money right there, helping a person to do that through coaching.
On his biggest inspirations or philosophies
There's so many. Being a conscious leader truly is an ongoing journey of being aware of your behavior and the impact that you're having, and moving towards your ideal self. Having that optimistic image of where you want to go.
Daily meditation supports me. Just reflecting on things such as - what am I really grateful for today? Who do I love, and who loves me? What am I excited about? Asking those power questions really gets me set up to have an energetic and full day.
Another influence comes from B.J. Fogg's work on tiny habits. When you wake up in the morning and your feet hit the ground, the first thing you do is to say, “It's going to be a great day.” Also "The Four Agreements" - having impeccable words, impeccable thoughts, not taking things personally, not making assumptions, being the best you can at everything you do. These are the influences that support who I truly want to be.
If I ever had a tattoo, it'd be duty, honor and family. Duty is in service, honor is sharing the highest integrity in all that I do, and family is everything to me. Like the movie “Meet the Fockers” - are you in the inner circle? When it comes to my relationship with my partner, we made a conscious choice. We saw others around us, and we didn't want to be roommates. That really helped to energize our relationship to be focused on who we want to be as as a couple.
On how he became interested in ORSC
I went to the Coach Training Institute (CTI) route, and after taking the courses went into the CTI Leadership program. One of my cohort members who had taken the ORSC series said, "Hey, if you're gonna be working with teams, you might look at Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching."
So I took the Fundamentals course. In that first course, there are six tools to add to your toolkit. I was immediately able to use those with teams. I was like - "Wow, I definitely need to do this."
I went through the whole series, and then I wanted to go deeper into really understanding how to use it. ORSC certification took my understanding of the tools, the skills and the competencies to an even higher level.
On his favorite tools
When you go through Systems Integration, you get all of the tools in the dojo manual. They are at your fingertips. I have mine tabbed, so when I'm working with a system or a client, I can quickly access different tools.
There are so many that that I enjoy using. First is the Designed Team Alliance - those questions about the atmosphere that we want to have together doing this work. What makes those relationships thrive? That question that never gets asked - how do you want to be when things get difficult? Those questions really work so well to get teams and couples connected together. It creates the foundation.
Informal Constellations is a quick way to see the system where it's at on a particular topic. I remember doing Informal Constellations on risk taking with an engineering team. We asked a question that showed how active they wanted to be in taking risk. The three leaders were right in the center, and everybody else was up against the wall. Just that realization - that we need to do something different here - was so incredibly powerful. And they did it. We were able to support them to put in actions that would give people more comfort, and to help them to feel safe so that they could actually take risks. That had a huge impact on creativity and on new products that organization was able to bring out.
Bringing Down the Vision - this particular tool really taps into essence, dreaming about what's possible together. Then you work with the consensus reality of making it happen. I remember working with two leaders who are going to do a co-presentation together. Their style was so incredibly different, but in going through this tool, you could see how they were going to be on stage. The energy they got from this exercise - they were able to take it on stage in their presentation. It was incredibly successful for them.
On what’s lighting him up right now
I'm really diving deep into neuroscience and love what I'm learning about how the brain works. It's really got me excited about the potential of bringing neuroscience into the work that we do already with systems.
I've just been trained as a facilitator for Healing Memories, an organization originally created by Father Michael Lapsley who was exiled from South Africa because of his stance against apartheid. After a contract was taken out on his life, he was seriously injured after opening a letter bomb. From that experience, he created this magical workshop about helping people to tell their story, and being part of their journey for working with trauma. I am so grateful to be part of working with veterans with this. Just to have your story witnessed and listened to - I've seen 10 years of life coming back into people.
The foundation takes the work into places where there's been genocide or really difficult trauma. It's all about letting people tell their stories, and being witnessed.
On working with veterans
One of the aspects I love about ORSC certification is this idea of a world project, how you want to bring this work to the world. My world work project is bringing ORSC to help veteran families reconnect. It was almost like it was meant to be - for me, coming back from Iraq and seeing soldiers and service members experience the challenges of coming back from an intense environment.
One of the the tools we use is Myth Change. Imagine that your family is in a canoe. Everything's working well, then suddenly one family member gets deployed for 12 months or longer. The canoe is rocked, but then it stabilizes. Then when the service member comes back, having them get back into the canoe is also going to rock it because the whole environment has changed. It creates a Myth Change with new roles.
How do you help people navigate that? Faith and Marita's ORSC work is so phenomenal in being able to work with systems to support them. It helps families to design a new way of going forward in how they want to be together.
Working with healing and memories, and coaching veterans in different capacities is really where my passion is. I see the power of what coaching can do - not just for helping individuals, but for systems to reconnect and determine how they want to go forward together.
On his book
One of the big reasons why I'm in coaching is to help people achieve their dreams and work through things that are holding them back. My book "Conscious Leadership in Action" is about supporting people at a different level. It focuses on conscious leadership, which really has been the story of my transformation of going from being a soldier all the way to being a leader. It covers all of those things along the way that I had to let go of, or focus in on to connect and have the impact that I wanted to have.
I have an idea of writing another book on conscious teams. I ask people how many times they have been on a team where they felt there was flow. Everyone had each other's back, you supported each other, and you're just in this constant state of flow. It's typically a very short period, and often on a sports team rather than a work environment.
When I was in the CTI Leadership Program, we each had to share a story about ourselves. The first person shared such a deep story that it gave everybody else permission to tell the deep story about themselves too. It goes back to the healing of memories when your story is witnessed. Talk about the empathy being created. That team, that cohort was so tight. It truly lasted. Life gets in the way, but we still have that connection.
We need a guide on how to make teams truly work. ORSC work helps support that, which is brilliant. So many concepts come up around this idea of a conscious team.
On what ORSC tools do for teams
I remember doing Land Work with one team which was just a team in title. By the end, you could feel the emotional field shift. It was the first time they truly felt like a team. And the energy in the room was so magical, I was moved as the coach taking them through that activity. They were finally a team, and in that moment, they could have achieved anything they wanted to achieve.
It's really fun to watch the arc. Working with one manufacturing team over eight sessions together, seeing where they were when we first started to where we got on that arc. We ended with the appreciation loop, and that was incredible.
The other tool that worked really well with them is the meta skills wheel. People step into their values and really embody what that means to them. It also becomes a means to take on any opportunity that comes up, be it a challenge or a new possibility - to put that in the center as part of your values.
With one couple, the topic they put in the center was about aging parents who no longer could take care of themselves in their home. What do you do about that? When the couple stepped into their values, the insight came to them of what they really wanted to do, what conversations they needed to have, and how they wanted to go forward. That whole process of teams or couples going through that - once they've gone through that experience, they're moved, and you're moved by being part of it.
Something which really drives me in this work is constantly being able to shift and move and see the impact you have on others. With individual coaching, you might see it right away. Systems coaching may take time. We talk about this in our foundational courses, the 2% tiller change. If you're flying to New York and you're three degrees off, you're going to land in DC. Over time and distance, the change becomes bigger.
Working with systems, the shift may not be there right away. Trust the process, trust that it's going to work, and continue.
On his GOTIC Acronym
Something that works for me is called GOTIC.
G stands for growing, If I'm learning, I'm getting new experiences and exposure in a role, and what I'm doing is fulfilling me, that's the growth.
O is for others. That's when I'm with people I just love being around and our energy flows together, when they have the same open mindset or growth mindset. Just being around others.
T is trust, when we have deep trust in each other.
I is inspired. The work inspires me because it's impactful, and that makes it engaging.
C is creativity. I can bring my creativity when GOTICS is in place. I'm being of service and helping others.
This concept is part of how I think. I'm looking for those opportunities, and when they are there I know I'll be at my best.
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