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Does it matter if you don't tell your people that you value them?
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
On Friday, February 19th, 2022, during Storm Eunice, a tree landed on my 94-year-old mother's house. Fortunately no-one was injured and a whole raft of practical support (and cards and bunches of flowers) was quickly offered, so that Stage One of the cleanup - the tree removed and the roof safe and watertight pending full-scale repair - was done and dusted within an amazing 36 hours. On the Saturday, during a pause while the team of tree surgeons considered their next move (it's a complicated business, removing a 10-ton tree that's only being held up by rafters and tiles) I got talking to one of the team. In the course of the conversation, he mentioned that he is scared of heights.  This was surprising, to say the least, given that I'd just seen him scampering up the tree trunk to the roof line, and standing there wielding a chainsaw! "Ah, that's different"  he said.  I know what I'm doing, and if I need to do something really dangerous - like going up a tree to lop off branches - then I'll be harnessed up.  Just don't ask me to go up to the top of a tall building and look down!  Without that support, I don't feel safe." * * * Funnily enough (and this weirdly keeps happening!) a few days later a coach brought a related topic to our supervision session.   She'd noticed that her coaching clients - all senior leaders - regularly commented on how safe they felt with her, but that this was a quality that she really didn't value in herself and wondered why.  We started, as usual, with me creating space for her to think about this, and explore what she might be assuming that made her dismiss this quality of safety that her clients seemed to value so much.  What emerged was several assumptions, the key one being that "leaders need to be creative, and safety is the opposite of creativity". She asked for my input, so I shared with her my conversation with the tree surgeon, and how for them, a sense of safety seemed to be vital for making decisions about how best to proceed with what can be a pretty dangerous process.  Literally, they need to feel safe in order to go out on a limb... Further thinking later, what emerged for my client was a liberating alternative assumption that "safety is the birthplace of creativity."  It's certainly something that chimes with my own experience.  But what do you think?  How does this resonate for you with your clients?  
This morning, in a gathering of one of the small "supervision" groups I run (I prefer to call them professional and personal development groups), one of the participants wanted to talk about Endings. He was completing a course of coaching with a client next week and so the concept of endings, and how to make good ones, was very much on his mind. It just so happened (and maybe this was why it was particularly in the forefront of his thinking) that this was the last gathering of this particular group, after about 18 months, and eight sessions, together. So the rest of us gave him uninterrupted attention, while he thought about Endings and what would make good ones. Then (after a good chunk of time to think for himself) he asked us for our input and we added in a few thoughts of our own, before he then returned to his own thinking and a plan of action. What was particularly lovely for me was that the plan of action (two steps: Acknowledging where you've got to, and Appreciation of the other person's qualities) that he outlined are essentially a description of how we typically end any kind of meeting/course/gathering held in a Thinking Environment. He'd experienced me ending our sessions this way seven times already, and somehow it had seeped into his consciousness without him realising... To mark the ending of our time together today we had two Closing Rounds. For the first one I asked: "What are you most taking away from our time together over the past 18 months?" (Acknowledging where you've got to) and for the second "What qualities do you most admire or value in each of the other participants"? (Appreciation). Listening to each other as we shared our learnings and experiences, and then each hearing how we were valued by our fellow group members, was, as usual, a lovely way to end. And of course... It does also mean that I now have space in my diary for another group! If you are a coach, OD consultant or facilitator and would like the opportunity to reflect on your practice, share experience and ideas with a group of fellow professionals, do get in touch. (All of my groups are run using the principles of a Thinking Environment, so it's useful if you have read one of Nancy Kline's books or been on Time to Think course, but it's not essential.) For more details and an initial conversation, email me: anne@annehathaway.co.uk #coaching #thinkingenvironment #CPD #supervision