Hard work followed by play
I got to relax on the Sunshine Coast in Australia recently, after I travelled and worked with Tony, our friend and business partner in Brisbane. Tony and Ross had kindly booked an apartment in Coolum with beautiful views over the rolling surf of the Pacific. Yet it turned into a great lesson in leadership, coaching and the paradigms we create in our world.
We ate out one night and ordered a bottle of wine from McLaren Vale (Geoff Merrill’s Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre 2011 if you want the detail).
The young waitress brought it over and tried to unscrew the cap. She struggled and tried to use her apron to apply extra grip. It was only then that we noticed it didn’t have a screw cap – it had a cork.
There was a look of puzzlement on her face– she had clearly never seen a bottle of wine with a cork before. She wandered off for advice and eventually brought the bottle back opened, poured us all a large glass and left.
It reminded me how we all inhabit our own paradigm – the way we see the world, the rules we live by, the beliefs we hold. It’s sometimes hard to see outside our own paradigms.
And, as leaders, we may need to create a new paradigm, especially if our vision is bold and different. It’s a place that coaches can bring real value, when they help leaders see the world view they currently hold, and then support them to open up possibility of new ways of seeing things.
It requires self-awareness on the part of the coach. The reminder that not everyone sees the world our way. Without that, we’ll sink into our own paradigm - and limit the leaders we coach at the same time.
We can still do some useful transactional coaching: short term fixes. But we’re at the level of solving problems using the old rules. To add real value and coach at the transformational level, we need to explore this whole area.
In the Forton Group coaching model, we talk about ‘Structures’. Structures are the things that give, or deny, access to resources. The most obvious ones are physical structures – the computer, tablet or smartphone that allows you to read this blog. The planes that fly us 10,000 miles across the world. Or the poor infrastructure that denies access to a decent phone call home!
As we walked back from the restaurant, I came across another example. A shop sold what I call ‘flip flops’ that were labelled as ‘thongs’ - a completely different item of clothing here in the UK!
Language is another structure: the helps us communicate – or, in this case creates barriers to communications. Our language is part of our paradigm; it adds filters to the way we see the world, it’s what helps create assumptions.
Transformation: when real change happens
The real change happens when we look at structures that limit our access to internal shifts: our beliefs, about ourselves, or about others. When we start to shine a light there, then real possibility can open up, real change can happen. That’s transformation: where such a profound shift has happened, things just can’t be the same again.
But nobody said it was easy. Transformation takes willingness; attitude shift; the desire to change. The ability to change. If my brain finds it hard to accept a new word for a familiar object, how will it react to a whole new way of working?
In order to support the leaders and executives we work with, the first place to start is with our own world-view. To look at the structures, beliefs and attitudes in our paradigms. In this way we can better appreciate the journey, and better understand the challenges faced by the people we coach.