How Stupid was I
Hi Elizabeth here. One of the most painful, but also powerful learning experiences I’ve ever had occurred whilst I was training to be a qualified coach, and take it from me it’s true what they say: ‘you learn the most when you make mistakes’!
Funnily enough the situation didn’t involve any coaching; instead it took place on the very first module of my coaching programme. Just to set a bit of context to explain my actions, I was not completely bought into the idea of having to spend the next 12 months learning how to be a coach, when (mistakenly), I thought I already knew what I needed to do.
So there I was sitting in the room on Module one and I decided to openly declare to the rest of the group: ‘feedback is extremely important to me, I don’t think people are honest enough in the feedback they give and I want total honesty throughout this programme’. Crikey even paraphrasing writing down and remembering what I said and perhaps more importantly how I said it makes me cringe, even to this day. Obviously I have no idea what impact this had on the group, although if I look back hard enough, the tell-tale signs of how scary that might have been to some people were there. It must have felt like I was laying down a challenge, I might just have said: ‘give me feedback if you dare!’
True as the statement is, I really do believe in the power of great feedback, I know now that I said it from a perspective of trying to prove I was already someway down this coaching journey and didn’t really need to be there. Even if this had been the case, (and for the record I don’t believe it was) I gained nothing from declaring it, other than to create distance between me and my fellow learners. I am quite convinced that this single, let’s face it pretty assertive statement from me prevented some members of my coaching group even approaching me, let alone wanting to work with me.
It was only when I reflected on this experience, sometime later, I realised that instead of declaring my hand up front and risk pushing people away, it would have been far better to understand where the other members of the group were and how they were feeling first, so I could then have adapted my style and communication to help them to feel at ease. What a great learn for me personally, but more importantly also for any leader. One of our ‘Golden Rules of Leadership’ is: ‘Stop it, it’s not about you’ and it’s a shame I didn’t heed our own advice (even though we hadn’t written it at the time). As leaders you are far more likely to get better results if you consider how others are feeling, what their views and opinions are, before launching into your own.
Thinking about it now, there was also another key learn in this experience for me, as I allowed my own baggage, of not really wanting to be on the programme, to interfere with my thoughts and behaviour when I was faced with a new opportunity. I can see now I was making a very personal stand about how I was feeling and I let this get in the way of what was going to be a great opportunity for me to learn. How stupid of me!
I wanted to share this experience in the hope, that as leaders you don’t make the same mistake as me and allow your own thoughts and feelings to get in the way of learning something new or helping to make your people feel more at ease…
Next time you feel like making a point or taking a stand, just step back and consider what impact your actions might have on others, and if it would be better to seek their views first
(Just for the record, I did actually go on to thoroughly enjoy the coaching programme and am now a qualified coach.)
Thanks for reading
Love this Elizabeth – shows real humility that you can share this. I admire you for your honesty.
Thanks Steph – really appreciate that