OPINION: THREE MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT – WOULD YOU COACH DONALD?

If you were asked, how would you respond? We used our Legacy Thinking toolbox to come up with predictable answers – and an interesting solution

It was a question I posed to the wonderful Guildford Coaches Group in the UK. I was invited there to share tools from our Legacy Thinking toolbox. The US election result had just come in, and in the context of gaining insight and wisdom by seeing a situation from the perspectives of others (one of the concepts at the heart of Legacy Thinking), and taking responsibility for the ripple out of our work (another concept) it felt appropriate. And a bit edgy.

So. The situation: the phone rings.
“Hi, it’s Brad. I’m from Donald’s team. He’s decided he wants a coach. We’ve done an internet search and decided it’s you. Do you want the job?” Where do you stand, folks? If you vote ‘Yes’, go to the right. If ‘No’, go to the left. If ‘Maybe or Other’, find wherever feels right for you in the room.

Where would you stand in the room?

As in many recent polls and elections, it divided the people. We invited our audience to speak their thoughts and feelings from where they stood.

Those who said ‘No’, commented: “I don’t want anything to do with him or what he is up to” and “Given my thoughts, I’m sure others would serve him better.”

Those who thought ‘Maybe’ said: “It depends if he is really up for change.”
And other questions to be clarified and confirmed.

The ‘Yes’ corner thought: “It’s not for me to judge”; “I’m sure coaching would help him find the right answers” and “I’m sure there’s a soul in there somewhere.”

Which got a laugh.

What it highlighted is the range of possible responses – all in their way reasonable. And our individual hierarchy of beliefs (many of which are hidden to our clients – and often ourselves). And our boundaries.

As coaches, what do we choose to do in these times? It’s all academic of course – sort of.

The times are changing. It was interesting to hear Esther Rantzen on Radio 41 this weekend say that a social ‘lunching’ group she’s part of has banned talk of Brexit because people were grabbing each other across the table. We experience many clients who feel strongly about current events and the direction of travel. It is affecting them practically and personally, both at work and outside.

Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk deeply affected by his peace work during and following the war in Vietnam, wrote: “The peace movement is often filled with anger and hatred and does not fulfil the role we expect of it… Peace work means, first of all, being peace.”2

And Haim G Ginott3 wrote, and Tracy Sinclair uses in her email sign-off: “I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humour, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanised or de-humanised.” 4

As coaches we play a big part in creating the climate in our conversations. Whatever our boundaries, beliefs and work, whatever our response to the changing world, perhaps the first place to look and do our work is not out in the world, but within ourselves.

 

 

References

1 Esther Rantzen, BBC Radio 4, Broadcasting House, Sunday 19 March 2017

2 T N Hahn, Peace is Every Step, 1995, p111

3 Haim G Ginott (1922-73) was a school teacher, child psychologist and psychotherapist and a parent educator. He pioneered techniques for conversing with children and is the author of Between Parent and Child (1965)

4 H G Ginott, Teacher and Child (1972)

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