Although in the business of coaching for well over a decade, I am still amazed at how powerful coaching can be.
Recently, a young leader commented on our coaching conversation with “ah-why-didn’t-I-think-of-this”.
From my perspective, as a coach I want to ensure the continuity of those precious coaching “aha” moments – when a Leader reflects deeply about their approach, strategy, decision, etc. and comes to new and better conclusions than before.
Why then, is one coaching session better than another?
Why is it that a question with one individual will open a floodgate of rich thinking and with another gets only a semi-cooked perspective?
My strong and bitter bias is that our business society does not reward introspection. I know that for the Leaders with whom I work it is not a problem of intelligence, critical judgment or (in)formally diagnosed ADD.
Is it then a question of being disciplined to take the time to ponder and analyze? Is it respect for the task in front of us and giving it the attention it deserves? Is it really as deep as our values? Is it taking pride for the results we produce? Is it ones’ own personality that is more designed to take action than to think? Is it organizational culture that conditions us to react quickly? Laziness? An addiction to an instant email or message response?
I don’t have the answer… However I do have a few thoughts perhaps worth sharing…
1) It is not always necessary for us to react/respond immediately. The urgency is often self-imposed. So before reacting let’s validate the timing, complexity and attention the response truly requires to have the desired impact.
2) Our ego wins and we want to prove that we are competent– we have a need to show to others that we have our act together. This is one of A. Ellis’ “Irrational Ideas and Beliefs” – The idea that we should be thoroughly competent, intelligent, and achieving in all possible respects. So, instead of punishing ourselves for not being perfect in our jobs, lets work on accepting ourselves as those beautiful human beings who have general flaws and imperfections
3) We may give others all the attention they need, but we fail to extend the same degree of generosity to ourselves. This may result in limiting thinking and introspection to a brief moment between meetings and ultimately compromising the quality of service we provide. Taking 20-30 minutes daily to think, anticipate and dream can provide a great sense of being prepared and grounded.
4) We are lonely. We don’t ask for help. We often do not know how to ask for help. We do not solicit input from others or surround ourselves with people who may have different views on issues. Being inclusive and consultative, allowing our thinking to benefit from the robustness of different perspectives is considered one of the main success factors of leaders in business. The trick is to know whom to include (beyond the comfort zone) and what questions to ask.
5) We don’t truly care for the quality of the outcome. Often overwhelmed with the amount of work, we just want to get things done. Doing it fast may seem more rewarding than doing it well. Far too often I hear people say “I sent them an email” – almost washing their hands from taking full ownership and responsibility for the final outcome. Successful leaders know well the difference between being accountable and being responsible. They do not have a “this is not my job” or “this is outside of my control” mindset. They are persistent, ingenious and give a damn. They take responsibility for their actions by trying to foresee the consequences of these actions and stand behind these consequences… that requires introspection as well.
So if you want to be a better leader – make introspection and thinking a part of your leadership practice and habit. And let me know how that works out for you. I’d be keen to learn.