One of the biggest challenges of a coach (/leader) is helping people on the road to change. We don’t want to change. Ideally, we sit under a banana tree, eating the bananas that fall down. We want to sit comfortably and not get too much hassle in our life. When a coach comes by and tries to make us see that there’s more to life than sitting under the banana tree, we resist and argue.
As a coach, it often takes me time to ‘see’ what holds people back. Some come with their own topics and actively seek input. This helps me get closer to what really matters to the person. Other people sit back and expect the coach to uncover their hidden challenges and secrets. If the coach doesn’t satisfy their hidden expectations, they close down. A bit like dancing. Once both partners commit, the energy flows and the dance goes smooth.
Edith Eger, a psychologist and Holocaust survivor describes the coaching challenge (sometimes I feel like a psychiatrist) beautifully:
We do not change until we’re ready. Sometimes it’s a tough circumstance – perhaps a divorce, accident, illness or death – that forces us to face up to what isn’t working and try something else. Sometimes our inner pain or unfulfilled longing gets so loud and insistent that we can’t ignore it another minute. But readiness doesn’t come from the outside, and it can’t be rushed or forced. You’re ready when you’re ready, when something inside shifts and you decide ‘Until now I did that. Now I’m going to do something else.’
Change is about interrupting the habits and patterns that no longer serve us. If you want to meaningfully alter your life, you don’t simply abandon a dysfunctional habit or belief; you replace it with a healthy one. You choose what you’re moving toward. You find an arrow and follow it. As you begin your journey, it’s important to reflect not only on what you’d like to be free from, but on what you want to be free to do or become.
I’m engaged in enterprise transformations. This means we have large groups of people that we expect to change. It’s like a very big ballroom where everybody’s dancing.
The first challenge I face is getting people ‘on the balcony’. Everyone is so busy dancing, they don’t take time to reflect, to see how they’re dancing. From the balcony it’s easier to see what’s happening and where things are going. But to get people on the balcony, we need to drag them out of the dance. But they resists. They have targets to make, bosses to report to, profits to create. I realized recently that in order to get them on the balcony, they need inspiration. They need a story, a purpose, something to change for and towards.
Transformation and change need 3 things:
- Inspiration (the story that sparks us to do things differently)
- Perspiration (hard work to create outcomes & learning)
- Reflection (looking at ourselves creating those outcomes and learning how to get there)
And it needs something else, the fourth ingredient: patience. This insight I got from my new coach, Lia. She told me something that hit home: wait. She showed me my ‘human design chart’ (which is based on my birthdate and some other inputs, which my rational brain partly resisted as a good student). This text resonated with me:
In the workplace, a Manifesting Generator is striving to find that balance between the Manifestor and Generator aspects. The Generator part enjoys committing to projects that require huge, sustainable energy. The Manifesting part likes to forge into new territory and launch new projects. You MG types must be given freedom and flexibility to break new ground and reach new heights.
Waiting for the right projects, opportunities, and people and honoring your gut response are your keys to finding fulfillment. When you chase or initiate without waiting, life can go wrong. It’s when you attract opportunity or respond after exercising patience that things tend to work out.
So that’s what I do as a leader and a coach. I initiate. I inspire and reflect. And I wait a lot.