I have coached leaders from top leading companies such as Amazon, Booking, Coca Cola, Disney, etc., and from startups all around the world. However, one of the things that I enjoy the most is training coaches and future coaches. Although I have trained professionals for the last two decades, I started training coaches on 2016 when I created a two-year International Master Programme and I was invited to join other similar initiatives. Since then, I have accompanied hundreds of professionals to become leaders coach and coaches.
In 99.99% of my trainings, I face the same situation: I confront a client (future coach) and not her but someone else from the cohort get uncomfortable and heated. It is very interesting, though. A kind of double projection seems to take place: First, it seems that the witness (also a future coach) thinks she would not like to be in the shoes of the client, therefore, she interprets that the client is feeling the same. However, it is not the case in 99.99% of the time. Second, it seems that the witness thinks she would not like to be in the shoes of the coach (myself) because then, the client could get.., can you guess? Yes, “uncomfortable and heated”.
Although it does not occur in reality (clients/coaches do not get angry 99.99% of the time), such witnesses play themselves in the role of coach “as if”, or “if only”, having what in psychology we call counterfactual thinking (thinking about a past that did not happen), therefore, feeling 100% sure that they would take a different path of action if they were the coach (any other path that it does not involve confronting the client :-D). Of course, as you might realize, social comparison could be playing an important role here, which in reality works like: A witness (future coach) who is learning and have no previous experience as a coach compares the coach´s behavior (mine) to her “most likely behavior” (“what I think I would do with this client if I was the coach”) and uses such comparison to assess herself.
Going beyond such witness´s attitude, (please notice that at this stage, the witness´ behavior is not under scrutiny, since she is just observing) we can systemically tap into something grounded deeply and of specific value: an underlying pattern.
Somehow, many of us live with and are led by the following underlying pattern: We want others to like us. Right? Does it sound familiar to you, or your colleagues, or relatives, etc.? Therefore, confronting the client is too risky. We want the client/coachee loves us. Such pattern is so strong that if that requires being soft with the client and protecting her, we do. Using systems theory here, you could apply such reasoning about this pattern to other life areas, not only work-related. Examples? Your couple, your family, your friends, your direct supervisor, etc. Similarly, it can be applied to other professions such as teachers, sales, etc. (Please, notice that to be likeable is great and gives us so much, but as a pattern, it means it is fired automatically and we cannot decide when to turn it off, etc.).
In that context, my answer to the witness (future coach) who is mad at me is very straightforward: If you want to make everyone happy, don´t be a coach or leader. Go and sell candies, ice creams or similar things ,-D We can make the point in a sweeter or in a bitter way, but I am sure you are getting my point. The fact can be a bit painful. However, to be aware of such underlying pattern has no price. Moreover, once you have acknowledge it, you can work on it to better integrate it so it does not led your life in “autopilot mode”. Once in this new stage, what you are able to give and offer as a coach has tremendous strength since it comes from a place of freedom.
Allow me to finish this post with at least four take-home key messages:
1.- When we learn something new, it is because we do not know this “something”. Therefore, there is no point to compare yourself with a teacher/facilitator/trainer/Coach, etc. The outcome of such comparison will be unproductive 99.99% of the times. Be humble and keep a beginner´s mind. Every time you feel you realize you do not know something, stay there and be grateful, since by being there, you have higher chances to learn.
2.- Making everyone happy has to do more with “my” EGO than with myself. The sooner we realize the ego and oneself are two separated entities, the better life we will have and the better results we will achieve. If we keep this fusion, we are within the hamster wheel, with a challenge that is impossible to fulfill. Or do you really believe you can make everyone happy? ,-D
3.- Patterns repeat in our different systems (at work, at home, etc.) although they can manifest in different shapes and sizes. Once you discover a pattern in one context, scan it in other contexts. It can be fun and it is a life-changing experience since such awareness allows and facilitates change. Patterns are neither limitations nor problems, they are just gifts we received in the past (normally early years from beloved ones) and we have to accept, love and acknowledge them. With love, we can work and integrate them.
4.- A coach is someone ready to bring you to the edge, to the cliff so you can have aha moments, insights, reframings, etc. You are then responsible for what you do once you are there: you can jump, come back, etc. Everything is ok. If you want to be a coach, and you are uncomfortable with confronting, you have at least two options: (a) do not become a coach or a leader coach, (b) or get a coach and work on it. You will make it an investment sooner than you think.
5.- Any other take-home message you want to add to this list? Please, leave a comment below! Thanks in advance!