Many people I know, including myself, pride themselves
on helping others. We love to experience the value we feel when
we add value for someone else. But how many of us are as willing
to be coached as to coach someone else? "Change agents"
may simply be those of us who decide to be the changer to avoid
being the change.
As a charter member of the too-smart-to-learn club, I recently
took a deeper look at the dynamics of coachability. How come even
those of us who are committed to learning and to helping people
have such a hard time receiving coaching or any kind of feedback?
It is a feature of my native culture, and probably yours if you
grew up in the Western Judeo-Christian ethic, that the ability
to criticize is deemed a measure of smarts. How much more smarts
it takes to deliver the messages in ways that hold no criticism
and that bypass the learner's inner critic! In her feature article
in this newsletter, coach and Syntax consultant Sandy Mobley addresses
the beliefs and behavior of coaches who are able to run interference
with both the inner and outer critic.
For me, learning something new sends the immediate message: you
are wrong. If I need to learn something new, I must not know it
already, must be deficient, must have missed out on some intelligence
that others have. Perhaps it is the one-down power relationship
of the child, when being taught by bigger people, that produces
such a struggle in ourselves to maintain self-esteem.
The superior evolution and value of people who can learn has been
demonstrated over and over again. Even so, the ego suffers when
it is time for new learning - at the stage we refer to as "conscious
incompetence." Some of my best learning times - where I somehow
lost the fear of inadequacy long enough to receive corrective
feedback - were times when I was in a community that reinforced
safety, positive regard, and the explicit value system where asking
for help was admired.
A few years back I first heard about the idea of "appreciative
inquiry" in a workshop about using simulation activities
for team learning. It made perfect sense, allowing a group of
senior internal and external consultants to attempt to stay positive
in giving each other feedback. In Syntax, we practice exercising
the muscle of focusing on the desired result, the "Aim Frame"
in approaching group situations, so I was able to recognize when
people in the workshop were able to maintain the positive frame
and offer intelligent insights.
In Appreciative Inquiry, attributed to David Cooperrider of Case
Western Reserve University, you assume that something IS working.
The Thin Book of Appreciative Inquiry by Sue Annis Hammond,( SueHammond@AOL.com)
is a good introduction to the depth of this approach. It represents
a shift of attitude, a possible salvation for the uncoachable.
As more and more of us are aware of and working with this and
other frame-shifting methods we will be able to help future learners
reduce the struggle to accept feedback. Perhaps we can all begin
to welcome feedback, even the uncomfortable parts, and take care
of our egos and our self-esteem through positive living!
I hope that the growth of the coaching profession signals the
growth of our willingness to ask for help, to recognize true wisdom
rather than smarts, and to receive the same abundance and love
that we want to give.
When we take responsibility for dealing with our own inner critics
we are to have a culture that is no longer slave to harsh voices
from the past. We can manage our behavior to gain simultaneously
on both sides of the learning equation: we can help ourselves
as well as others recognize and reframe criticism.
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