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Going out on a limb

Going out on a limb

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?  

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