Coaching: Great Expectations

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Often we think that coaching will generate an instant change within someone. Amazing really that we expect that this is a result we will achieve. Coaching, in my view, is not a magic silver bullet. I believe this is an unrealistic expectation for the organization, individual and team. It almost sets everyone up for failure and potentially sabotages the good work that can be achieved through coaching.

I’ve been coaching for over 10 years. What I’ve experienced is that coaching takes time, practice and sometimes can be a struggle because its about “unlearning” entrenched behaviour that we’ve taken for granted for many, many years and we do it so automatically that we don’t even realize we’ve reacted in a particular way, or said something upsetting or insensitive.  We do not question our behaviour and communication because often we do not consider it a problem. Isn’t the problem out there? Isn’t it everyone else that’s the problem??

It is so much easier to blame others than to look at ourselves. I hear others say:  look how they’ve treated me – that’s not fair! Yes that’s correct, organisations and how people treat each other are often not fair… I validate the issues and ask….in this situation what can you control? Sometimes there are long pauses and then silence. People know the answer to this question. You guessed it, the answer is: we can only control ourselves and our reaction to what is happening.

Let’s put all of that to one side for the moment. I will digress for just a second.

Let’s go deeper and delve beneath the ‘learned behaviour’. What lurks around in there?

There are reams of research from a variety of quarters that identify we are hardwired to be negative and not positive about something. This has been learned behaviour … this is what is expected of us by our families, colleagues, partners and children. Some of the research has shown that the negative perspective is far more contagious than the positive. This means our attitudes are more heavily influenced by bad news than good news! So we are seeking and honing in on the negative and dismissing the positive! We also tend to see people who say negative things as being smarter than those who are positive: giving greater weight to criticism than praise [R Williams, Wired for Success, 26/10/17].

Here is the thing: if you bring some or all of those ingredients together:

  1. ‘unlearning’ entrenched behaviour
  2. learning more about ourselves and changing our responses
  3. managing ourselves and our reaction to what is happening
  4. ceasing to blame others
  5. being mindful that we have a natural predisposition to focus on the negative and get this reframed…

…we need to give ourselves time, have some patience and add a splash of humour and kindness. We’re not going to get it right first time and probably not second time either. And that’s ok.

Be kind to yourself and others. You may be amazed at the changed responses of others around you. No-one is perfect.