Any good coach will always do their best to understand the unique circumstances of the person they are coaching. No two people are the same, and therefore, no two coaching assignments are the same. You have to meet the person you are attempting to coach “where they are,” because a good coaching relationship is exactly that… a relationship. And like any other relationship, you have to understand the person you are trying to connect with if you have any hope of building something that works.
On the other hand, while each person you are trying to coach has their own unique circumstances, the professional world we are all trying to succeed in has some basic common characteristics. So, while any good coach will work to understand the individual, that same good coach will also look for commonalities in the environment that create similar experiences, and can become the basis for a coaching methodology.
I spent several hours in the car yesterday, on my way to some vacation with my family. As we got further and further north, while my wife was driving and my kids were reading, I was reflecting on some things my team has been going through over the last year. And as part of my process of “breathing out” my work, I spent a few minutes reflecting on the commonalities of the experiences of the people I have been coaching and training for the last twelve months. As I thought about it, it was clear that despite the unique circumstances of the person, and despite whatever industry or company they worked for (both of which will bring further unique circumstances), there were a few common experiences that have impacted every one of us:
- Even prior to the health crisis, we were living in a highly noisy, highly distracted world. Even when we were sitting in the same rooms together, when it was harder to hide the fact that we were multi-tasking, it was hard to be heard. Now, when almost everyone is connected virtually, some with their cameras on but many not, it is even harder than ever to capture another person’s attention and hold onto it. Multitasking is easier to hide, and we are no longer just distracted by the phone in our pocket. We are now distracted by multiple screens with many windows of information open in front of us. Our already-noisy world is somehow now even noisier and more distracted than it was before.
- Even prior to the health crisis, the average person was juggling a lot in a constant attempt to balance work and life. But the sudden flight away from the office, while reducing commutes and creating more flexibility, also obliterated any division that might have been possible between our work life and our home life. Add in the possible concerns about the health of a loved one, or for many families suddenly having kids at home while they remote school, and the already tenuous balance between home and work has been torn apart in one way or another for everyone.
- And even prior to the health crisis, social interaction for many people was something that they wished happened more. For many of us, as life moves along, finding the time and the energy to nurture our social connections was something that never seemed to get the attention it deserved. But we all know how much harder that has become over the last year.
My point here is that the environmental commonalities of the last twelve months are more than commonalities… they are universalities. Everyone was already operating in a noisy world, with a tenuous work-life balance, and with social connections that probably needed more attention. And then everyone was suddenly thrust into a new reality where all three of those problems became immediately and universally more challenging.
So while my team and I will always work hard to understand the unique circumstances of the person or group we are coaching, we also need to remember these environmental universalities. Building connections and communicating under these circumstances is really, really hard.
Success in any venture requires many things, including an understanding of the environment around you. In our world, we call that “situational awareness.” So my coaching advice to you today is this… while you make your attempts to understand the person you are attempting to connect and communicate with, also keep these universalities in mind. There is a set of shared experiences that needs to be factored into the way we deal with each other.
My team calls it giving each other “grace and space.”
Have a great day, everyone.
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