If you wanted to teach leaders how to make better decisions, what subjects would you include on your curriculum of consciousness?
To parody Otto Scharmer, there is a blindspot in coaching theory, training and practice, as well as in our everyday social experience. This blindspot concerns the outer place – the physical environment – where the coaching is situated.
Being ‘solutions-focused’ as coaches does not always serve our clients. Heresy, perhaps, but I think we can be more effective when we orient to the underlying need of a client, which is so often about a desire to be resourced through the quality of the relationship alone, rather than through solving a problem.
When people are in pain, it’s natural for us to want to get rid of their pain. Sometimes though, trying to get rid of something helps us avoid what is causing it. This avoidance does not really help anyone...
I learned some time ago that the best way to improve performance is to get people to relax and enjoy themselves. So picture me at the gym recently, facing the prospect of a fitness test to determine if I had made any gains since employing a personal trainer in December. I did not feel relaxed. I was not enjoying myself. No part of me believed in myself.
Are we paying the right kind of attention, as coaches, to the language that passes between us and our clients? I suspect not!
‘Mindfulness’ is the jaw-grinding word of the week, and mindless references to it in organisational work are driving me crazy! While one of its early Western exponents, Jon Kabat-Zinn, described it as ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’, I’m concerned that its careless use in business is another way of getting us to focus on the task at hand and so meet our given performance goals.
How do you go about realising your potential?
Our dominant cultural assumptions about personal and organisational development are usually about reaching goals; striving with effort; solving problems; constantly achieving… We are all looking for something, and often what we do is focus on The Next Big Thing To Achieve, rather than stepping back and looking at the pattern of our searching and striving, where there is always yearning, longing, and potential exhaustion.
One way or another, all coaching boils down to the rude pragmatics of ‘bodies in a room 1’. With the increasing professionalisation of coaching, and the resulting sophistication of coaching techniques, it is easy to overlook or to underplay this basic reality. Yet the soft animals of our bodies interact and communicate in subtle yet powerful ways that are often beyond our immediate awareness and conscious control. Our bodies hold, express, reflect and reveal an extraordinary amount of information.
I’ve had conversations recently with colleagues, clients and friends who have been re-examining the direction of their life and work… They’ve felt unfulfilled, frustrated, empty, and in touch with an inner deadness that is demanding to be brought to life. I’m no stranger to the experience, myself, of course – two years ago I had an idea about writing a children’s story about a dragon who loses his fire, and goes in search of it. In exploring this idea, I had to admit that I was that dragon! I think many of us reach a point where we feel inauthentic and unfulfilled, doing what we do.