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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Become a Better Partner Using the “Hula Hoop” Theory, an Effective New Coaching Tool

By Dana Williams


During a business trip last week, I encountered a woman who was traveling with three hula hoops crossed very strategically across her body. She had a joy in her step as she glided through the chaotic San Diego airport. With her huge suitcase and hula hoops in tow, she was a sight to see among the crowds. I wish I had more time to spend with this wonderful “hula hoop” lady, but we were both on the move so instead, I snapped quick photo. She was confident and did not worry about what those around her thought. It appeared to me that her mind was positively focused on making a difference in the world using her talents. 

She may not have known it, but this woman and her hula hoops illustrated an effective coaching strategy I find many of my clients desperately need. Great moments and effective partnerships don’t come from focusing on anyone but yourself. Science tells us that we can rewire our brain to be focused on positive performance and experience. Yet we continue to listen to the toxic voices in our head that tell us otherwise throughout the day. We worry about what people think, we make up stories about situations that are not even true and we form habits that we do not even realize we have. We tend to react to activities in our day instead being curious about what we are thinking and why.


(Photo courtesy of Dana Williams)

Over the past 24 years, I have had the privilege of working for Southwest Airlines in operations, recruitment and currently in marketing. I am kind of a serial entrepreneur and Southwest Airlines boomerang. Over the years as I was growing in my career I found myself leaving the company to gain new expertise or to follow lifelong dreams. Each time I was lucky enough to return to Southwest, I brought a different perspective and a desire to teach what I had learned so that I could influence those around me in a positive way. I have been on a journey the last nine years of studying people in the workplace in my various positions in marketing. What I have come to realize is most of us are shaped by our life maps, patterns that were developed early in childhood that we have brought with us to the workplace. We all follow the habits we have learned—both good and bad--and we internalize with a lot of negative self-talk.

One of my passions in Marketing is to help create something from nothing and curate teams to drive results. With my passion of curating teams, I have discovered life-giving tools that can create lasting improvement in self-love, performance and life-balance. One of my favorite daily tools to counteract this negative self-talk is CliftonStrengths

I have been practicing applying my strengths for over six years and became a certified coach several years ago. I have yet to get bored with the material. I maintain a curiosity about my thoughts as well as a curiosity about those I am influencing in ways to help encourage and guide a positive drive in productivity. I have also learned that there is a lot of uncertainty in our world and giving coworkers the ability to be certain about their talents has been an amazing experience.

As a coach, I’m often asked, “How can I work better with (insert name here)? We seem to clash and can’t get things done.” I ask them to focus internally on their own strengths and what might be getting in the way of the relationship with a coworker. Nine times out of ten, the problem is not the other person, it is ourselves and how we have internalized communication with our own map of the world in our mind and created self-talk from old patterns that can be demotivating.

Change Your Entire World By Changing Your Focus 

A breakthrough I have learned is the “hula hoop” theory. When we find that we are frustrated, it is usually because we are trying to control someone else, rather than looking inside our own hula hoop, meaning ourselves, the only place we truly have control. In my sessions and workshops, one of my favorite tools is to ask those I coach the following series of questions:

  • What would success look like in relationship with this person?
  • Are you focusing on what you fear or are you focusing on what you want to achieve? 
  • What strengths are getting in the way
  • What strengths could help you get unstuck? 

I then ask them to mentally get in their hula hoop and spend more time working on themselves rather than working on trying to change those around them. Through studying their own strengths, they learn about how to communicate their needs to their leaders, coworkers and partners. They also discover more about their own weaknesses and begin the journey of self-management and creating pathways to be more productive at work and home so they can maximize their potential.

Through the strengths movement, I have learned about Nobel Prize-winning scientist Daniel Kahneman who theorized there are only 20,000 individual moments in a waking day. How we choose to impact and influence those around us for good happens in those fleeting moments. Given the uniqueness of our CliftonStrengths profiles, we are each here on Earth with a deeply implanted sense of purpose. Why not use our energy to work on ourselves and become better with what we have where we are, than spend countless hours focusing on what someone else has done to us? You can change your entire world by simply focusing on what you have inside your own hula hoop.




Strategic Marketing Advisor, Traveler and CliftonStrengths Certified Coach.  A Southwest Airlines employee who has spent 24 years in leadership and Marketing at the World’s most loved airline.   She has a passion for guiding people to impact the world by focusing on their unique talents and is surrounded by entrepreneurs (both husband and daughter have successful startups).  In her free time she and her husband facilitate small groups for married couples, hang out with family and travel the world in search of the best beaches. 


Dana's top 5 strengths are: Ideation | Strategic | Futuristic | Maximizer| Individualization.

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