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Why coaching made me realize my whole life has been a lie

I’ve been passionate about leadership for as long as I remember. Without me acknowledging, it started already when I was a rebellious student in the 8th grade. It was year 2003. I had constantly problems with teachers, studying overall, and really most of what was going on in school. I got along really well only with some teachers, but with most of my classmates. I was a pain in the ass, but I had my reasons that most people didn’t understand.




 

I think most of us are familiar with two kinds of teachers. There are the ones who are passionate about the subject they teach. They make you easily understand how it could be useful in your future. They infect you with their passion, and they make you understand that even if their subject isn’t one of your main interests, it’s still very much needed to be able to paint the whole picture of knowledge, not just parts of it. They give you respect, and understanding. Furthermore, they challenge you and expect a lot from you. They’re like your good friend who at the same time also doesn’t take any sh*it from anyone. Anyone wants to be like them.

Dumb, inexperienced fighting spirit

The other kind of teachers are teaching you, because in their hearts and minds, they actually just enjoy control. They get pleasure from being in charge, giving you grades, planning your path. They don’t challenge your knowledge and capabilities. They challenge your personality and confidence, as they try to put you down. I will never forget when I was sitting in Chemistry class, not listening to the “gibberish” she was telling us in her monotone voice, and watching out from the window, when the teacher called out my name, and asked: “What are you staring at? Is that your empty future?” And then explained that if I continue not being present in her class, then there’s no way I’m going to succeed in life. It’s funny that I still remember that day - clear as it was yesterday. I guess words do have an enormous power. Luckily, at that moment, I just thought she probably drank too much last night and suffered from hangover, but for a lot of people this kind of sentences could be decisive. These kinds of teachers don’t consider your character or your ways of approaching learning. They just want you to obey. I always wondered— how is it possible that they are our role models? The people we should look up to. I wanted to change that, so I fought. I argued, I tried to constantly fight against the system, while the only thing I really did was hurting myself. I didn’t know how to use the right tools. I didn’t know how to communicate my ways of thinking. I didn’t know how to make them do things differently. I didn’t know how to approach them. I was young, dumb, an inexperienced fighting spirit.


Now, 20 years later, I’m still fighting, but my tools are different, my way of thinking is different, and my battles are bigger. I have more experiences, more knowledge, more empathy, more patience, and also more determination. Every time I hear about a leader who does more harm, than good (and oh, I hear about them a lot!), it brings me back to the Chemistry class. It makes me feel a bit of anger, a little pity. It makes me feel defenseless, but also hopeful, encouraged, and powerful. It’s the fuel for my fire. And after all, if we stop believing in change, then what are we even doing in the first place?

I know nothing at all

I’ve been mentoring leaders, and I’ve been trying to help managers by building a tech tool for handling team communication. I’ve been educating people about leadership via social media. All to make sure people don’t settle with crappy leaders, and bad work conditions. And I still constantly feel I don’t do enough, so I took my mission to another level, and went to study coaching to develop my ways of approaching leaders. You probably know that the more you learn, the more you find out there’s even more to learn. Well…While being part of that learning journey, I almost felt I know nothing at all. I started doubting the ways I raise my kids, communicate with my parents, my friends, and really anyone around me. But why?


We yearn to be looked at as smart, and bright. We want to be taken seriously. To be able to succeed at that, we love to talk. We love to share our experiences, our knowledge. We like to teach, we love to make others see that we know better. I think all of that is also related to the reason behind crappy managers. Insecure people want to control, lack of empathy loses the ability to listen, having no trust causes communication issues, and people who doubt in their own skills, tend to micromanage. How does coaching relate to all that? Coaching isn’t about teaching, directing, telling people what to do. It’s not about controlling. It’s about letting all of that go. It’s about asking questions. It’s about being curious, actively listening to the other person while understanding their emotions, reading their gestures, and all that while being completely present. When you do all of that, do you know what happens?


I’d call it magic.


You start to see their own ideas, and thoughts. You learn so much more about them, about their vision, principles, views on life. Not only that, but you start to see the reasons behind their behaviour, and all that together provides you the ability to give them almighty tools to make changes in their skills, habits, flaws, strengths — in anything! You don’t tell them what to do. You let them tell themselves, what they need to do. It’s so much more powerful. Going into all that, learning the ways to listen, be 100% present in a conversation and building up questions to get the most out of a conversation really changed the way I communicate with anyone in my life. My conversations are from now on not only different with leaders, but also with my family and friends. Instead of telling my kids what to do, I ask what they think should be a reasonable way to solve the situation. Have you tried asking them questions instead of telling them what to do or what to say? Instead of telling your friend which should be the right way to go, listen to them carefully, and ask them questions to make them see a bigger picture. Don’t direct, just be curious and present. If you know your partner should do something differently, then how about trying to understand why they do things the way they decided? Maybe there’s a good idea behind it? And if you ask that, do you really listen, or do you ask to reply?

Illusion of being a good communicator

A lot of people who reach me, because they’re struggling with their manager, complain that they never feel heard. Their managers either think about other things and aren’t focused while having a conversation, or they tend to only speak themselves. I’ve even heard of an hour long weekly 1:1 meetings that are fully filled with managers talk. Do you feel that when you listen to others, you’re present? Do you feel at times that while they speak, you already start to think about what to ask or say next? Maybe even get ready with an argument? What if I challenge you to recognize it more, and really try to avoid it if I promise you, it will make a change?


I’ve always considered myself as a good communicator. Well…In that sense, my life really has been a lie. But the good thing about it is that for the rest of my life, I’m much better at this, and isn’t that what coaching is all about too? It’s about reaching a better version of yourself. Not by others telling you how you should do it, but by yourself figuring out how it’s better. What I know now with each cell in my body is that listening is the most difficult and valuable thing I can do. So is coaching in my world.



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