In a call with a new colleague the other day, I was moderately taken aback when he said that he could see I was quite a sadist. I assumed I hadn’t been listening and asked if he meant a masochist, and working too hard, but no, he was intent on sadist. We were talking about the way I coach. I told him that I only ever wanted to have seven or eight clients and that I insisted they be ambitious, resilient and hard working. That way, I could be very vigorous in challenging them and they would follow through on what we agreed.
I know, I know….it sounds a bit hard. But I see so much covering up of human potential, so much apology and fear of appearing peacockish, so much umming and ahhing that I can’t help myself. I’m just pushy. Well, maybe a bit more than pushy: whatever is two stops short of aggressive on the human interaction direct line.
Nelson Mandela is often quoted for the following (although self-help guru Marianne Williamson actually wrote the passage in her 1989 spiritual best-seller, “A Return To Love”, and no one can find a copy of Mandela’s 1994 speech where this was supposed to have featured):
Our deepest fear is not that we are weak. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world … As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
I go along with that completely. Why should we be allowed to shrink back from owning up to our gifts and talents? It should be a criminal offence.
Imagine if everyone recognised, owned and developed the natural strengths they have been given into talents. Mental health would improve, communities would thrive, nations would bond in a way we have not seen before. And this would happen if we not only owned our own strengths but determined that the second greatest gift we can give to others is the encouragement of their strengths in turn.
Because the limited size of my coaching practice is such that I only want to work with people who are really ‘up for it’, I ensure that my clients are completely aware of how I work. Typically I take leaders of organisations and partner them on what is often quite a challenging journey, as they work through what has been blocking their progress. My role is that of a ‘thinking partner’, making sure that my client achieves clarity in what they are thinking, so that they can make sure-footed decisions and achieve the deeper vision they have been blinded from. Their decisions in turn have a hugely beneficial impact on their colleagues and customers. This is a bit like the UK blessing (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PUtll3mNj5U or the Indian version, which I think I prefer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zwzgrx21rw), where the song talks about blessing your children and your children’s children, and their children. In other words, the benefit flows in a river with multiple tributaries. You can see why I might be just a tad enthusiastic about helping to release power and potential in a leader.
So yes, I challenge my clients to identify and own their talents, when often there is some kind of vagueness or opacity that is a feature of what they bring to the conversation. The hero of every coaching story that I am involved in is the individual sat in front of me (probably behind a screen), and my job is to give them the courage and the confidence and the commitment to act to see the story out to its brilliant conclusion, and not end when the baddy steps onto the scene, which is of course inevitable in any normal story. Or life.
It might appear to border on the sadistic, but the reality is that the pain involved is so much less than the alternative long-term pain of knowing that your talents are being quashed, and that you are somehow allowing this to happen.
If you want to find out more, and have a chat about how we might work together to get past the obstacles you sense are blocking you on your journey, ring and leave a voicemail on 07818-092245 if you are being courageous, or drop me a line on firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to be slightly more cautious.
Remember, your playing small does not serve the world…..