Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not Having All the Answers,...or Any For That Matter

As long as I hold onto who I am right now, I won’t be able to grow into who I might become.

Mondays, when I’m not working with a client, I spend a good chunk of my day handling administrivia, writing, doing paperwork, and wading through that special file I keep of “seed thoughts”, ideas, and reminders to add to, create or morph a program or concept. There is also this file I keep of emails that I parked because I know I need a lot of thinking time to process them. Mondays are when I schedule that time in.

This morning I came across an email exchange I had with a colleague way back when. We had been talking about learning through the process of coaching, not just learning the business of coaching, or through class material, conferences or seminars. Coaches should learn from their clients daily….increasing our awareness of who we are as individuals and professionals.

I remember writing her in response to a comment she made about my work. I shared the following: “What was amazing was how much I learn when I’m Shadow Coaching. I see and learn about things I never knew existed. But even more than that, the feedback I got this afternoon showed how many levels I work on with my clients when I’m on the scene. That’s what amazed me the most. This client told me how I also helped him change in a ‘holistic way’. That blew ME away. I wonder how many coaches are so wrapped up with coaching that they can forget they’re students at the same time? It doesn’t make us any less effective. Quite the opposite. It helps our clients realise the depth of their knowledge when we share how much we’ve also learned in the process. It’s a true collaborative partnership".

”Her response was “That’s why you’re so go damn good at what you do Sherlock! I learn tons from you and also keep you in my mind when I’m consulting and not sure what to do.”

There have been many a thread in coaching articles as to old ways of coaching, models perspectives etc. In the “old days” of coaching, we used to hold back any advice-giving or communication with regards to any sign we might not have all the answers. Now, things are changing dramatically. It might be easier because I’m a situational/observational coach and there to deal with situations and truth as it unfolds. It’s even more powerful when I’m able to tell my client “It’s not important to know what you do as much as how you do it or the drivers behind why you do it”. However it’s also incredibly powerful to turn to a client and ask “What is it you want from me right now? What am I missing?” and admit we’re both on a learning curve. Sometimes we need ‘permission’ to admit we don’t have all the answers but that in itself leads to a fact finding, collaborative learning curve.My clients are all unique individuals. Why would I even presume to use one methodology or answer for all of them?

How does the saying go? “It’s a very stupid man who believes he has all the answers”. Something like that?

One way I let go of who I am right now to become the person I may be in the future is by asking one question at a time, then paying attention to whatever unfolds without having the need to control what that might be. That just might be what it means to live in the questions.


Donna Karlin

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