The recent Brexit vote has made many focus on what’s important to them. In our client conversations, too, we must focus, using courage and boldness

By Alister Scott and Neil Scotton

A debate kicked off in September on the UK’s BBC Radio Four about flags: are we waving them more than we used to and, if so, what does that mean?

The BBC’s Last Night at the Proms at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the culmination of a series of classical concerts, with its many flags, had just happened, so that became an obvious part of the conversation.

Matthew Parrish, writer for The Times, said how he would have wanted to wave the EU flag at the concert, and that until the Brexit vote he didn’t realise how much it, and what it stood for, meant to him.

Like Joni Mitchell sang in ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ all those years ago: You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Sometimes it takes a loss, or at least the threat of a loss, for us to realise what’s important. It’s easy to take things for granted. The recent State of Nature report by UK wildlife bodies highlights the diminishing wildlife around us.

Closer to home, and inevitably hard-hitting, the recent death of Alister’s wife, Sarah, is a reminder of the wonder of life, the gift of health and the delicate thread from which we hang.

One thing we notice about big change is that on the surface it can seem to happen suddenly. It can be a shock. But more often, things underneath have been moving inexorably for a long time. We don’t always notice. Or we choose to ignore it. This can apply to both positive change and to the loss of good things.

At a political level, we worry about the ‘nanny state’, and the importance of independence and not interfering with others. Similarly, as coaches we recognise the importance of the ‘client’s agenda’, as well as the importance of the relationship with the client.

And who hasn’t been influenced by their desire to keep the contract?

But when do such concerns stop us offering what can be a hugely powerful, awareness-raising wake-up call for someone or something? How often have we as coaches found a powerful comment, observation or question falling from our lips, and immediately wished to retrieve it, only to find the massive beneficial impact it has on the client.

Our timidity preventing our greatness. Alister’s recent experience has led him to comment more boldly when he notices something ‘not quite right’ about a client’s or a friend’s health. For him, the worst has happened, so what is there left to fear?
As long as his intervention is offered with humility, humanity and kindness, what can go wrong?

Both non-directive AND not holding back. The paradox of going beyond yet another of life’s dualities.

So, if you – and your clients – had a flag to fly, what would it stand for? Is the courage there to wave it? Is it your or your clients’ own, or is it a matter of showing allegiance to something? Is there something happening in your client conversations, or out in the world, that if it were to pass or be lost you would regret not having said something?

The years don’t simply pass, they pass faster. If you’re not doing something for something you care about, when will the time feel right to you?

As the poet Dylan Thomas would have us think: let us not go quietly into the night, let us rage against any dying of the light.

  • Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton are cofounders of The One Leadership Project, working together with those who are making big change happen.

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