Change is only possible to the extent that we have support for that change.
This is probably not a popular message for those of us who pride ourselves on being mature, independent, self-directed, achievers, who have earned our autonomy. I’m saying that we can’t succeed in making a change to ourselves, or a club we belong to, or a team or organisation we lead, unless the amount of support is proportional to the amount of change we wish to make. Not enough support – we fail.
The question is, what is support? I think it’s more personal than we imagine. I went to my coach recently, feeling depleted, down and sorry for myself. I’d been putting in a lot of work on an important project, and felt like I’d been getting nowhere. She dismissed me cursorily – threw me out of our session after only ten minutes, telling me to get on with my practice! I was shocked, hurt and furious with her – and yet I mobilised again! Looking back, I think if she had commiserated and comforted me I would have remained stuck. Support for me at that time was not a cuddle but a kick.
I was talking about the subject of change and support with my friend Malcolm some time ago, and he said that support is ‘that which enables’. I like this! It's about being up close and personal with our clients - it suggests different strokes for different folks, and it suggests varying the amount of 'whatever enables' according to the situation.
As coaches, I think we need to take stock of how we support our clients to change. Are we stuck in a pattern that is limited in its range of possibilities – either too soft or too harsh or to ‘samey’? Are we afraid to give our clients harsh feedback or throw them out of a session in case they don’t work with us again?
To offer ‘that which enables’ requires discernment – to really see what will make a difference; it requires courage – to risk doing something provocative and perhaps unwelcome; it requires creativity – the openness of mind to step out of our habitual patterns and do ‘the relevant unexpected’; and it requires deep compassion, to challenge someone from a place of tough love rather than ego.
Let’s examine our models of change for a second – are you providing the right amount of support and the right kind of support for your clients right now?