Don’t Get Mad, Get Insightful

Into every change agent’s life will come non-believers, skeptics, and vocal critics. They’re your evidence that you’re creating real change. If everyone around you is smiling and nodding in agreement, you’re a long way from the cutting edge.

When these contrarians show up with their “humorous” jabs and outright condemnations of the efforts you care about so deeply, it can be hard not to fight back. The change champion in us all may want to lecture, argue, and sometimes apply some pressure get the non-believers to “see the light.”  Or at least tone it down a bit, so the dissention doesn’t spread.

This doesn’t work because “seeing is believing.” And they don’t “see” what you’re talking about. If you want them to believe that the change you’re championing is real and worthwhile, you must “be” the change.  And in so doing, demonstrate what will be different in ways that appear inviting, valuable, and doable.

Here’s the trick: Don’t get mad, get insightful.

When I facilitate our Coaching in the Moment workshop it’s not uncommon to have participants in the class who believe that coaching is some variation of “a fluffy waste of time.” That’s cool. They’ve probably been “coached” by people who didn’t know what they were doing, or they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable or threatened by a “coaching” experience.

Whatever they feel, and therefore believe, it’s valid. My job, as a change agent, is to give them a different experience.  One that opens their eyes, their minds, and even their hearts to what coaching truly is. I consider this to be an intriguing professional challenge.

I think of shifting hearts and minds as being a bit like solving a puzzle. Getting mad at the puzzle is a waste of time.  I need to stay centered and listen very carefully for clues that reveal what the person believes to be true. I often find that people believe that coaching takes too long, requires asking a lot of touchy-feely questions and has nothing to do with getting actual work done.

Once I hear where the disconnects are, I acknowledge what I hear. That might sounds something like, “It sounds to me like you believe that coaching takes too long.” Then I begin to paint a picture that outlines an alternate reality. I tell stories of managers who’ve reported huge time savings by transitioning to coaching-based leadership, or I give examples of how one insightful question got to the heart of an issue far faster than the old condemn and correct approach to feedback.

What I’m really doing is using coaching approaches to demonstrate how coaching works, while I’m illuminating what coaching is. It’s the congruency between how I show up, what I’m saying, and what I’m pointing towards that is my best evidence that there’s a different – more effective – way of doing things. Knowing that it may take time – and repeated experiences – before the lights come on for some people.

Here’s the fascinating part:

  • The more curious I get about the worldviews of others, the more I learn about my own worldview.
  • The more I learn about myself, the more congruent I become.
  • The more congruent I am, the better I am at helping others see new possibilities.

How cool is that?

Choose insight, not might, when faced with contention, and you’ll discover more of what you – and the world – are truly made of.

For some musical inspiration check out this video Nothing More, by Alternate Routes.

Dianna L. Anderson, MCC

CEO, Cylient


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