With a specialization in executive coaching and team development, Sheila has worked extensively with professionals in financial services, international development, communications, nonprofit and healthcare organizations to enhance their results through effective leadership. Areas of coaching include strategy development, designing strategies to actualize vision, enhancing emotional intelligence, leveraging diverse working environments, enhancing interpersonal communication, developing resilience, work/life balance and mindfulness. Sheila’s coaching/consulting style is described as results oriented, insightful and supportive with an ability to challenge limiting assumptions.
Sheila Diggs (she/her) is a Certified Resilience Toolkit Facilitator (a graduate of Certification Cohort 9) working in Silver Spring, Maryland. She works with leaders, teams, and managers in organizations.
This month, we spoke with Sheila about her experiences as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator and the incredible work she is doing. We are so excited to highlight her! Read below.
Describe your experience of facilitating The Resilience Toolkit in a few words.
I feel like sharing these practices reduces suffering and I am grateful for the ability to impact people in that way.
How are you working with The Resilience Toolkit?
I feel like I’m starting to click the Toolkit with other things. I’m going through somatic experiencing certification, so it’s connected. But what I love about the Toolkit is that it’s actually a toolkit. It has structured practices that can be replicable, whereas what I feel is different, for example with the somatic experiencing, it’s more than noticing of people in the moment, and bringing awareness to them. It may be slowing movements down to do the “completion cycle” of the nervous system. So it’s a little bit different. But I do feel like I’m integrating both of them, because I feel like practice is a way in which people can take something and they can experience the benefits or the impacts over time. Whereas if you don’t have a practice, if you don’t have things that are replicable, then you don’t always know what do outside of interactions with a coach or a training.
I can give kind of an example of I have combined it. I have an individual executive coaching client that’s in marketing communication. Anybody that’s in that arena has a lot of energy, very sympathetic nervous system energy, because that’s the arena that they operate in. So this person is in charge of a really big restructuring of the business within the organization that they’re in. And they’re also doing their other job with marketing and communication. So it’s like culture change, introducing new technologies. This is also a female within a largely male (white male) organization, and so there’s just a lot of things that generate some sense of pressure and activation. So with this person they always come into this session, and they’re very, very up. It’s very sympathetic. I met with them yesterday, and I described to them, I always feel like when I get on the video with them. It’s like I’m trying to catch up to them. It’s like they’re running down the road like a 1,000 miles an hour. And I don’t – my nervous system wants to try to catch up, and so I go to the Toolkit. What has helped me is that I’m aware of my nervous system wanting to do that now. Is that what I want to do for this client? Because I’m trying to catch up with them the whole time. Then it becomes co-regulating – but is it co-regulating in the way that is beneficial? So one of the things that I’ve done is that I notice a lot of the moves that they make, so kind of going to some of the other modalities to slow that down. Arriving within the space, one of the movements of the person was a lot of hand movements. And they also just do this thing with their shoulders. So slowing it down. And you could see the impact on the nervous system in doing that. But then I thought about going to the Toolkit – this regulatory flexibility. So what do you have to give yourself some flexibility in the moment, because they may not be aware that their shoulders are like this, or what their hands are doing. And so I introduced arm sweeps and leg sweeps, and different practices that we have in the Toolkit. And so at the end, this person now has, like 5 different practices that they can bring into their work that is helping them have a flexibility to choose. Maybe the arm sweeps don’t work like the butterfly hug – maybe it was really activating for them. We did orienting, which we don’t know how it would work, and they liked that. So that then becomes the practice. That to me is the way I’ve integrated it. I can take that practice element and introduce it to people, and it’s something they can use. I introduce the nervous system and the window of capacity and all that. So it’s good knowledge, understanding, slowing down, regulating, and then having a practice.
What has been most satisfying in your work as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator?
Most people have an experience to the Toolkit practices and it is satisfying to see the impact on people feeling more attuned to themselves and less stressed almost immediately. I’ve dealt with a lot of different modalities in my years of working, and I think with the somatic pieces, it just has a more of an immediate effect that you can help enable people to really become more aware of the changes in themselves. That’s the other part of this, is that it’s also building that interoception, building that awareness, that I think many people just don’t even have access to around their bodies. That’s something that seems like it just stays with people – that once they’re aware of it, they don’t lose that. It’s another modality of learning that is very powerful. I’ve realized that because we don’t have as many defenses around our body as we do around our minds, as we do around our emotions, the body is more unexplored territory for many people, so their experiences of any changes are more obvious for them.
Describe a challenge you have encountered in your work as a Resilience Toolkit Facilitator.
Well, I think probably the largest challenge is doing the work in the arena of work that I do – in organizations. It’s very head thinking based, so I think the biggest challenge is for people seeing some value in utilizing the body to affect them. For some people, it seems very – I’ll use the word “woo woo,” just because it’s not what we are brought up with. We have certain perspectives about what the body is for, a lot of it is using it to carry around the brain. So I think that’s probably the biggest challenge – how I introduce the somatic aspect of it, how it’s useful. But I think the biggest thing is that once people have an experience of it, then it’s good. But you have to have that element of safety for them to regulate, because when you’re cynical, skeptical, that can impact and reinforce their mindset about why it wouldn’t work. But that’s relationship building, encouraging people to be curious and try things out.
And then as a facilitator, it’s also letting it go if it didn’t work out for them because they weren’t willing to really participate – being okay with that. It’s also important to have compassion that this stuff can bring up memories and traumas. It can really unlock a lot of things that people have spent so much energy preventing the unlocking of. So not taking it personally, when maybe they get mad or they go “this is a waste of time” or you see their frustration – that’s the nervous system state that they’re in. So for me not to take that personally, or think that that has anything to do with me, because it really really doesn’t. I would say, that’s the maturity that I feel like I’ve gotten to since doing the certification, because in the beginning I didn’t feel as certain about what I was doing. Now I feel a lot more certain – I’ve been involved in the practice groups for over a year, then with my own practice – I’m more comfortable because I know it works.
How are you seeing alchemical resilience and transformation show up in the work that you’re doing?
I’m noticing how people experience themselves differently. You know, I had another client who would describe themselves as very introverted, and yet they had to be in a C level leadership position in an organization where they have to engage with people, groups, and events, and they could just see how draining that was for them. They would come into a room, and they would just make sure they back themselves up against a wall. So we talked about that being their nervous system wanting protection and safety, because there was this sense of being over-exposed…so at least I’m not exposed from the back. And so then we worked with how to take steps and thresholds into spaces. Developing a process, maybe doing some ankle rolls, and then take a few steps. And then some more ankle rolls, and another few steps. Maybe using arm sweeps that aren’t super obvious. Or maybe you do those things before walking into that event – that kind of taking things slowly and thresholding. They talked about the impact that that had on them – they don’t have to rush into things, their nervous system doesn’t have to push them into a space, that they can actually move themselves into that space in a way that supports their nervous system. So they’re having more agency around themselves. And so have that awareness so that they don’t walk right into a room – they stop. They may do some orienting. That was the other big thing – we talked about orienting before moving into a space.
So when we say alchemical, it’s like that practice is now kind of embedded into a way in which they operate, and they can use it whenever they feel like they need to access it. And they have the ability to notice that it’s not really unsafe, it’s just that my nervous system feels like it’s not okay. So what can I do with my nervous system? Because I need to be in this meeting. So what can I do to support my nervous system? And so that feels very powerful for people – that I don’t just have to feel overwhelmed. I can actually do some things that will enable me to give myself more space.
Describe any special projects you are working on.
I am incorporating the Resilience Toolkit in client sessions and leadership trainings. Recently, I have begun to work with a group of BIPOC women and introduce the Toolkit. I love that I am able to have an impact with my community in that way.
I guess in some ways I’m making it unspecial, I do feel like I can incorporate the Toolkit anywhere, and that’s what’s nice. It’s not as if it has to be a particular area. I’ve included it in my coaching with individual clients, in group trainings with larger groups that I work with, and with any kind of client group. You could insert it almost anywhere. And I always context it with a little bit of knowledge around the nervous system. I think a lot of people have heard of flight/flight/freeze, but we don’t really understand what that means within us. So that’s something that I I felt like I got a lot out of in the certification – just my learning around the nervous system and how it works, how it impacts us. So that little cognitive piece is helpful. And then the experiential piece with the actual practices gives people an immediate feeling of “oh, okay. Now I understand.” The theory and the practice and the result all come together.
What’s something that has piqued your interest recently that you would want to share with other Toolkit facilitators?
I really want to think about this aspect of resilience relative to a team. I’m doing this training called Resilience at Work. They don’t have the somatic piece, but they’ve broken it down into 7 different elements of resilience. They have it for an individual, for teams, and also for organizations. So I’m just thinking about this more collective resilience – it’s not just one person or individuals building resilience as they work together. But how does the group or how does the team hold resilience as they work together? And how do they build support for each other around that? I am always challenged with culture change and organizational change. It’s just so big and challenging and long term. So I’m thinking more of this next level, of that kind of collective holding. That’s what I’m more interested in right now is the individual to the group level. And how that can be used to support people as they work together.
I think the other thing I thought of is that I also want to see – and haven’t really dipped my toe in this so much – but I did study with Karla McLaren, who has done a lot of work on emotions. She’s written this book, The Language of Emotions. She basically says that all emotions are good, or helpful, and asks, “What are they communicating to us?” And so I want to see how that connects to the somatics element. I found her work very helpful. The way she has a framework around all the different emotions, and the questions that they’re asking of us, and how we can embrace them. Some of them we like to embrace, but most of them we are like, “I can’t deal with that.” I want to think about that relative to the somatics as well as more the thinking elements in theory.
Anything else you would like to share.
I’ve really found doing the practice groups has been so helpful. Because it’s one of the ways in which I don’t feel like I lose my learning, and I feel like I deepen my learning. So that would be something I would just encourage for everyone that goes through the Resilience Toolkit. It gives you that space to get another layer of what we learned in the certification and what we learned in the initial trainings. There’s just a little bit more depth, a little bit more subtlety, and even more ways of doing things than we learned. So yeah, that’s been such a benefit for me.
Doing this certification really has been one of the most impactful trainings I’ve taken over all the years that I’ve been doing things and I love that I’m in another arena of learning that I’m actually enjoying. I think of myself when I came in – I mean, I kind of went in head first. I saw Nkem in one thing, and I said “I’m taking this certificate,” but you know that’s a little how my intuition works sometimes. But I just felt so lost when I started that certification. It’s intense training! But I learned to sit back, and just chill out. Now I feel my own maturity level over time. And I think that that’s an obvious thing that should happen, but I just have really appreciated all of the support features that Lumos has. You know, and not just giving you a training, and then you’re done.
If you are interested in connecting with Sheila, you can find her on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/sheila-diggs-20700ab