A Little Help From My Friends
In celebration of Valentine's day this week, I am writing about my appreciation of a dear friend, colleague, mentor, and coach, Geri. Whose peer coaching and mentoring have you valued over the years? Join me and express your appreciation this Valentine's Day to the colleagues in your life that have aided you on your journey to becoming your best self.
My appreciation and respect for Geri is the result of deep and powerful conversations I had with her during one of the toughest years of my career. What is the real stand-out here, and this is really about who Geri is as a person, is that she showed up for me with support, coaching, and tough love when needed, and she and I had only been working together for a few months. On paper we were peers, but in reality, she had more wisdom and experience than I had accumulated at that stage of my career. From the very beginning, however, what made her stand apart from all my other peers was how she showed up in every conversation. Geri made curiosity the center of all communication. She was not judgmental or engaged in one-upsmanship parrying in meetings. Rather she was truly interested in learning about the thoughts and perspectives of others around her. She didn't seem concerned about being right or being the smartest. When you engaged in dialogue with Geri, her focus was only about supporting the best conversation and creating something mutually beneficial. I think that it was this characteristic that made it easy for me to show my vulnerability and ask for her coaching to help me build new skills at showing up differently in my conversations and interactions with those I sought to influence.
Six weeks into the new year is a pivotal time for most of us in assessing where we are with the goals and energy we felt at the New Year. Setting goals or making resolutions is automatically an act of vulnerability because we are committing ourselves to do something that is beyond our comfort zone. Sharing that vulnerability with others can feel scary, but it also can generate a different accountability partnership that can spur greater success.
When you tell someone with whom you regularly interact what you are trying to achieve and the specific actions that you are committed to doing toward that goal, you can then invite that person to help you notice when you are on path, when you achieve victories (big or small), and when you have slipped into old behavior patterns that you are trying to change.
There is no doubt that we are conditioned to respond to rewards, and yet we often fall into the all or nothing trap, instead of noticing and celebrating the smaller steps forward that can string together into a much bigger outcome with consistency. That's where a peer coach is helpful. Let me clarify this idea by sharing more about my experience with Geri.
Early in my career, I was in an expert consultant role. My job was to go into a business situation, assess, and tell the business leader what s/he needed to do. In my new role, I was being asked to shift from expert to coach. This required developing and refining a different set of skills such as listening, asking generative questions that expanded and deepened conversations, noticing what was not being said, etc. These skills are in some ways antithetical to the expert consulting approach because they are much more tentative and focused on opening and broadening rather than narrowing and deciding - a more natural fit to my ENTJ personality. I invited Geri to observe me in staff meetings and client meetings to help me notice what was effective, when I made choices consistent with practicing my coaching skills, and missed opportunities to use those skills. The added benefit that I didn't anticipate at the time was the impact this had in facilitating my whole peer group and manager noticing me showing up differently. This resulted in changes in assumptions and beliefs about what work I was capable of doing and how well I was performing.
My growth during that time in my career was monumental because it fundamentally transformed my perspective, beliefs, and approach as a professional. I am certain that my ability to learn those skills and make them such a natural part of what I do would not have happened without the gift that Geri gave to me in agreeing to be my peer coach.
We have all heard that the greatest rewards often come when we take the greatest risks. Choosing to share your goals for self-improvement with others and inviting them to become part of your feedback and reinforcement system may feel like you are taking a risk. I believe, however, that this is the accelerated path to transformative change. Double down on your goals - ask a friend to be your coach or accountability partner and Ignite Your EXTRAORDINARY!
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