By plunging into the unknown with no certainty of what you “should” be doing, whatever you discover in the process is uniquely yours.
An Acrobat of the Heart by Stephen Wangh
I am working with a small team of three people in a large organization. I meet with one of the members twice a month individually to do very specific coaching on skill building and practices that enhance his communication with people at all levels in his workplace. He has been diligent, open, and willing to try new ways of listening, speaking, and being. It's not always comfortable, and, his commitment is paying off.
When I’m working with him, and when the 4 of us meet once a month, I typically bring experiential exercises for them to play with as a way for them to explore and discover their own patterns, beliefs, and practices. Many of the exercises require them to move around the space we are in, and bring their awareness inside themselves to notice what’s happening in their thoughts, emotions, and inner knowing. They jot down what they notice, then the 4 of us debrief and learn together.
At the end of our last session, one of the members of this small, high performing team asked me, “Why do you do it this way?” When I asked for clarification, she replied, “You could just tell us about this and we could all talk about it, why do you have us do these exercises?” My response was similar to Stephen Wangh’s quote above.
If you have an experience and discover your own learning, you will make meaning out of it for yourself, and it will stick. It will be yours. If it is yours, you will apply it.
If I tell you about it and it is mine, there isn’t as much potential that you will use it. The meaning and motivation come from your own experience and your own way of using it. It must be yours. From there, my role is to provide support in your efforts to change behaviors and become more skillful by becoming more aware and mindful. In other words, to consciously choose to try things like being a listener rather than doing listening. Those shifts take tremendous awareness and a lot of practice. Leaders who embody humility are willing to make those shifts.
As a teacher and coach, I know that teaching isn’t telling, and telling isn’t teaching. I see many organizations continuing to invest in training where the trainers talk about ways of being and provide very little practice. It isn’t wrong, it just isn’t very sticky. Participants attending trainings don’t go away remembering what the trainer said. They go away remembering what they did and how they felt. That’s sticky.
And, it’s not about who is in the front of the room. The person in the front of the room is there to be present, receptive, and willing to respond to who is in the room and their needs. We can bring information, experiences, and our own talents; but, when training sticks, it is because the focus is on the participant’s experiences and the meaning they make.
My clients bring me so much of my own learning, not only as a coach, facilitator, and teacher but mostly about being a person. We are fellow explorers in ways of being that make a positive difference for the sake of our work in the world and a shared commitment to the power of connection. For this, I am deeply grateful.