This past week has been hard to witness, and even harder to understand. My coaching instincts and thought processes helped me immensely although I am still devastated by the violence, left wondering what I can do to improve things. Can’t help those last few words, it’s what coaches do and it’s why coaches exist: to improve things for others and everyone. I offer this blog to you, as a way for you to process what you have witnessed and what you are feeling and maybe, just maybe inspire you to contribute to improving things.
When starting an engagement with a client, I have a rule that I insist on following and repeating, often more than my clients feel is necessary. I do it anyway.
The rule is “No Blame, No Shame, this is a Judgement Free Zone.” The rule works pretty well, because it defines the dialogue, and get’s people talking about the facts, and then the implications of the facts. It puts one’s biases in check. In understanding everything that has happened since George Floyd died, I relentlessly followed this rule to make sense of things. I found my myself wanting to judge everything and everyone, but by invoking that rule, I made sure I’m looking at facts, not opinions or judgments, and setting aside my biases as much as I can. It’s allowed me to learn more and assess more and connect the dots better. That’s what happens when I coach a client’s team and it’s what happened here. I suggest you try to apply the rule to the conversation you are having within your mind and with others about all of this.
I also know from my coaching experiences, that the initial problem identified by a client is usually a surface problem that goes way beyond the upfront appearance of the problem. If we only fix the initial problem, it usually comes back. We need to fix it, but we also always need to dig deeper to fix it long term. It’s a symptom, not the cause or disease to be addressed. This also has been helpful to understanding all that we have observed this past week. George Floyd’s death is a sympton. Protesting is a symptom. Rioting is a symptom. Escalation is a symptom. Understanding symptoms requires us to go much deeper than a simple analysis that fits a preconceived opinion or bias.
Coaches also know from serious researchers, like Marcus Buckingham, that humans are horrible at evaluating the performance and motivations of others, we just aren’t very good at it. Yet we are pretty good at judging our own performance, motivations, and behaviors. We also know from mental health statistics that we can get that mixed up as well. I have looked at my own performance and behaviors and evaluated how well I’ve been doing eliminating my own biases and how I have contributed to the racially charged environment we have found ourselves in, either by action or inaction.
Thinking through last week’s events like a coach, will lead you to a better understanding of last week and how you can personally contribute to long term solutions that will make our nation more just and peaceful and productive.