I attended a coaching skills training program in 2014 that I knew would challenge me when I registered. Having received coach training more than a decade ago, I felt I needed renewal and a challenge, but wanted to make sure I stayed open to any new ways of working with my clients that I would learn. I knew enough about the training to recognize that it would require me to think and act outside of the box I’d put myself in after working and coaching in corporate settings for so long. I wanted to enter this training with a “beginner’s mind“.
What “being open” meant was that I needed to consider that this training had merit, and that I needed to admit that I didn’t know it all. If I could do that, I had a chance of taking in new skills that, with practice, would help me to get even better at my craft.
What I got were new skills AND a rekindling of the passion for the work I do. As a bonus, I found a network of people at the program who were united in their quest to make a difference, and that helped us to help each other.
I see defensiveness, judgment and hubris sometimes in leaders; taking the low road, the road that is most travelled, to avoid the vulnerability and pain that comes with admitting that they have something to learn.
That low road is the least courageous path you can take. The fearless thing to do is to stay open and learn something new every day. This only happens when you are willing to admit that you don’t know it all and make a commitment to:
Noticing what’s new: Get out of your head and use your senses as you cease the chatter in your mind. Observe and listen as you go about your day. The people around you, despite your frustrations with them, often have a lot of wisdom, ideas, and new things that can help you to lead better. Stop and notice.
Withholding judgments: If you pay attention to finding the nuggets of newness around you, you’ll find renewal and creativity you didn’t know you/your team had. When you become aware of your judgments and cast them aside when they don’t serve, you can learn, change and grow.
Being willing to walk outside of the box: What you learn is important, but what you do with it is even more so. Be willing to courageously walk outside of the box you’re in, to do something different based on what you’ve learned. And then be willing to take others with you. That’s the true mark of a leader!
Continuing: Observe yourself, and notice the impact you’re making with the new things you learn and put into action. Find a way to capture them (journal? Tell a friend? Use your smartphone to record your learnings?). Tweak your behaviors as needed.
Don’t be surprised when you inspire others around you to be open too. Can you imagine what you can accomplish with your example of openness?