I've not blogged about my agile coaching role for a while. To be honest, I'm a bit disheartened with coaching. Coaching as I understand it places the emphasis on the person being coached to create change. Whilst on the surface this makes sense, it does assume that the person being coached has positive goals and is motivated to achieve them. If this is true, then the coach is a mere assistant showing the way.
Whilst many sports men and women, do have elevated ideals, I don't think the same can be said for the workplace. My experience of the workplace is that of extreme politics. By politics, I mean numerous agendas all vying for supremacy. In my experience, very few of these agendas can be described as noble, aimed at making the world a better place. In my opinion , these competing agendas are responsible for making organisations sub-optimal, and less than ideal places to work and thrive.
Some organisations do manage to maintain lofty ideals, with everyone working towards a common goal. Organisations such as Universities for instance, where an ethos of egality and openness is well established. In such organisations, motives tend to be somewhat different than in the workplace. The pursuit of personal financial security (money), is largely replaced by the desire to gain the respect of your peers.
In the workplace the need to be held in high regard by others can exist too. The success of Japanese companies like Toyota for instance, can largely be put down to the well established clan system that has existed in Japan for many centuries. By fostering clan like loyalty, Japanese companies have managed to achieve a high degree of optimalisim.
In a last ditched attempt to see if coaching can really address the problems in the modern work environment, I've started looking into NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). NLP is a psychological science touted by many in the coaching profession as the theoretical under pinning for what they do.
NLP is an interesting mix of eastern leaning philosophy, spiritual awareness, and modern western psychology. NLP proclaims that we can better achieve our desired outcomes, by re-programming the way we think, speak and behave, and in so doing become successful. In NLP, the role of the coach is to help people 're-program' so that they can succeed.
As someone who is well versed in eastern Buddhist philosophy, and who believes in the power of meditation (directed thought), a potential flaw in NLP jumped out at me straight away. NLP starts with the desired outcomes of the practitioner, but very often, it is these desires, that are at the root of the problem.
To explain this last statement fully, would take more time than is warranted here. But in short, it is what we desire (our intended outcome), that is often what leads to our unhappiness in the first place. For example, many of those who desire 'financial security' still find themselves feeling 'insecure' and desperately unhappy, even when they have acquired more than adequate wealth.
People caught like this do not fully understand their own motives. They are consumed by their surface desires, unable to see what lays underneath. Often their desires stem from uncomfortable human emotions, such as fear, jealousy, low self esteem etc. Free of the need for a quick fix, they are more able to see what ever it is that will make them truely happy. I describe this type of awareness as wisdom.
This is why, I feel that what is needed in the workplace is leaders. People that can lead by example, act as role models and inspire those around them to elevate their thinking and gain wisdom. Such people don't merely facilitate, but set the direction and promote values that others can follow. In my coaching, I make a conscious effort to lead. This can manifest itself in several ways. One important way is establishing congruence between my actions and my words. By this I mean 'walking the talk', practicing what I preach. Through this I manage to gain trust, a commodity that is in short supply in the workplace. Next, I try to limit my tendency to judge others, and to become over critical. This is something that I really struggle with, but when I do achieve it, I find that it increases my ability to influence others. People tend to be more open to you when they feel safe from personal attack. Finally, when necessary, I'm brutally honest, and unequivocally is saying what I feel is needed. After a while, when people feel safe and that they can trust me, they become open to taking my lead. I find that when I talk, most people are willing to listen, especially when I take the time to listen to them.
Despite my personal achievements in persuasion and leadership, I find myself in scenarios, where a positive coarse of action is being blocked by someone with higher authority. In most cases this person has sanctioned my role, but has chosen not to consult me on a decision that affects my ability to do my job. They are happy to pass on responsibility whilst reserving control for themselves, leaving me powerless.
This in my opinion, is a failure in leadership. Most often triggered by fears. For such people, what is missing is the ability to lead themselves. To conquer their fears and self doubts. Leaders aren't born in my opinion, but made. The concept of leadership is well established, and many cultures have established ways of ensuring that they foster good leaders. With a good leader a coach becomes a useful tool, helping the leader and their team(s) become the best they can be. The sports men and women, who use coaches to achieve their goals are a good example of this. A sports person, who does not pursue excellence, or who is not motivated to do the hard work needed, will not be helped by a coach.
So whilst the role of coach is significant, what I feel the workplace really needs is good leaders. Not being a captain of industry myself, I have limited my ambitions to leading my own life. NLP may help me get to where I'm heading faster, but if I'm heading in the wrong direction does NLP help?
I would love to hear from soneone with real experience with NLP.