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This week, while Alison Whitmire takes time away from her blog, we welcome guest blogger Terrie Lupberger, MCC.
We live in a fast-paced, increasingly complex world. We have immediate, 24/7 access to events as they unfold around the globe. Adding to the confusion, a multitude of competing opinions about what really did happen, why they happened, what they mean, and what should be done about them. We feel overwhelmed with uncertainty and fear.
In response we, as a collective, have become short-sighted. We look to sound bites to help us navigate complexity. We put band aids on our problems. We want quick fixes. We look to the formulaic and familiar for solutions. We overly rely on the so-called experts, or at least those with the loudest opinions. We live in a mood of impatience. We want answers NOW.
But the view of many contemporary philosophers and great thinkers is that we human beings are experiencing the end of an era – philosophically, ecologically, politically, psychologically, cosmologically, scientifically, etc. They conclude that we are witnessing a time on the planet when there are no simple problems left to address, and that our worldviews, and ways of thinking about them, are outdated and inadequate for the task.
To more successfully navigate the world we find ourselves in requires the ability to be okay with not knowing, with taking action with no guarantee of success. It requires us to be comfortable with chaos and uncertainty; to hold paradox; to be able to, metaphorically, walk across the bridge even as it’s being built.
It requires us to “be with” what is happening in the moment, while simultaneously holding the vision of a different future. It requires us to manage our own doubts and fears, and not project them on to those we work with or lead. It requires the ability to be equipped, cognitively, emotionally, spiritually to face the complex issues of our times. It requires us to develop the ability to self-author our lives instead of being overly dependent on experts’ rules and values.
Quoting author Ralph Peters, “The great paradox of the 21st century is that, in this age of powerful technology, the biggest problems we face internationally are problems of the human soul.”
Perhaps this is one of the major reasons coaching emerged – to address the challenges that the human soul is encountering when all of our traditional knowing and understanding of the world is insufficient to navigate its complexity and volatility.
This briefly sums up the context in which we coaches also find ourselves in, as well. We’re swimming in the same turbulent waters, and are subject to our own blind spots, fears, shortsightedness, and uncertainties, threatening our opportunities to make an impact.
Helping people expand their perspectives, move beyond their limiting beliefs, and grow their awareness for the sake of outcomes more aligned with what they care about is what we coaches do.
And, after 20+ years in this profession in various roles, my conclusion is that we are at risk of wasting a tremendous amount of effort, time and money. We may be helping others create change that isn’t getting to the real issues, or developing the abilities needed, to face the world in which we find ourselves.
After 20+ years of study, research and practice in what I call ‘the change business,’ I still see change agents doing much of the same old thing – wrapped in new models and words – and leaving a lot of potential impact and change on the proverbial table.
I see us overly rely on, and overly prescribe, information and theories. I see us rush to the actions – the “doing” – while skimping or skipping over the exploration of our clients’ inner worlds – their beliefs, assumptions, emotions, level of awareness, and worldviews that are driving ineffective thinking and behaviors, including what they say they want.
It isn’t for lack of great intentions. Most of the coaches I know care deeply about their clients and making a positive difference. However, we are in danger of limiting the impact we care deeply about making because we, ourselves, have our own blindnesses, limiting beliefs and lack of development and awareness as human beings. We are, after all, products of the same systems as our clients are.
Going as far back in history as the Greek philosopher Socrates, the western world (especially but not exclusively), has held the belief that there’s an objective world out there that is understandable through logic and reason. We have held the belief that human beings are fundamentally rational, reason-able beings who, by gathering as much information as they can about that objective world, can use it to understand and navigate in it.
We are living in a collective worldview that believes that the world can be perceived transparently and objectively; that through rational, logical analysis we can all see the same world and problem-solve the issues presented. We largely believe that more knowledge is the missing link to success, and that once we have the knowledge, we’ll be able to take new actions toward our goals.
This is a belief that has been running in the background of our collective thinking for a long time. It’s like an old version of a computer operating system that is limiting what’s possible and is in desperate need of an upgrade. It’s not that objectivity and rationalism are bad. Indeed, they have contributed to great advances in science, medicine, construction, technology, and many other fields.
But our over-reliance on the old computer operating system and our inattention to the human being – the soul that is operating the system – is where the next edges of our profession lie.
Our coaching must consider and reflect the deeper and broader contexts in which we find ourselves. It must help our clients embody deep awareness that includes, and transcends, our clinginess to rationality, the known and the observable.
We, as coaches, need to move beyond overly simplistic models of what it means to be a human being at this time in the world. We need to challenge ourselves to work with the human being – their consciousness, their way of being, their energies, their states, their stages of development, their worldviews and embedded / embodied beliefs. In short, all the forces unseen and less knowable, objectively and rationally, that might be shaping and impacting how they navigate their world.
This is the territory ripe for disruption in our work and in our profession.
This learning and development edge we are called to walk is a precarious one. There is no roadmap, the way is not clearly marked. We are entering the territory of the human being. It will require our own developed capacity to walk in the not-knowing – to experiment – to suspend our own beliefs that have gotten us to this point, but might likely be in the way of our next evolutionary leap.
In short, to have the impact that we all believe that coaching is capable of, we will need to develop two important capacities.
First, we will need to move determinedly beyond our own comfort zones of what we think we know and how we come to know.
For example, if our beliefs create our reality as many scientists and sages say, then what beliefs do you have that might be in your way? If everything is energy, as scientists and sages say, then how do you work with your own and your clients’ energy fields to better support them?
If everything is in relationship to everything else, as scientists and sages also say, then how do we think about and alter our way of relating for the sake of better outcomes for all? Where are we limited in our own level or stage of awareness / consciousness? These are but a few questions we need to wrestle with, or better said, to delight in, to move beyond our own comfort zones.
Secondly, we will need to welcome and embrace paradox.
As a coach, your ability to hold paradox – to simultaneously hold opposing beliefs or tensions – is one of your most powerful abilities and gifts. If you don’t have this ability, you won’t notice them when they are presented. You’ll insist on your client choosing between their opposing truths instead of helping them learn from them; you will push them for clarity and certainty way too soon.
Your discomfort will become their discomfort. As Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner for physics, so eloquently said, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”
The big issues we are facing in our organizations, in our businesses, communities, our world and in our own personal lives require more than new information or a better change model.
We are dealing with something no less complex and profound as the human soul.
The kind of change we want to aim for as coaches is the kind that requires a change to the whole self, not a piece of it. To the whole actor who is taking the actions. To the whole inhabitant of the awareness or consciousness that is trying to navigate this world.
To be successful, we need to move beyond our own fears and proven formulas of success. We need to stop playing at the surface, move beyond the transactional and enter the uncharted and real territories of human consciousness, soul, spirit – whatever word chooses you.
It’s time for we of the coaching profession to take the road less traveled (to quote an oldie but goodie).
That road less taken is where evolutionary leaps can happen for our clients and for ourselves.
Will you – with the rest of us – take that road less traveled?
ABOUT OUR GUEST BLOGGER, TERRIE LUPBERGER: A Master Certified Coach and former CEO of Newfield, Terrie works at the intersections of leadership and coaching to elicit her clients’ greatest potentials. Together with Pamela Richarde, MCC, she also trains advanced coaches to challenge the myths, assumptions and beliefs that we coach and live by. The next online program begins in March 2019. For more information visit www.coachingreimagined.com, Contact Terrie here..
We hope you enjoyed hearing from our guest blogger. We’re grateful to Terrie for sharing her invaluable insights! Thanks, Terrie!
If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to be considered as a guest blogger, please email us. While we might not be able to accommodate all guest blogs, we certainly entertain all ideas!
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P.P.S.As a coach, you know there’s value in your coachees’ stories. But do you realize how transformative those stories could be with your specialized guidance? Find out at our January podinar. Our guest is executive coach, speaker, author, and founder of the field of Narrative Coaching, Dr. David Drake. Interactive webinar Jan. 25, 11:00-12:00 PT. Register – free!
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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence
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