This is a more personal post than I usually write. My friend Becky Robinson of LeaderTalk suggested I write about a recent experience; she was insightful to do so since I found that it has great relevancy to the struggle all leaders have with taking risks and questioning their beliefs in order to learn new skills. A recent learning experience of my own was humbling, frightening and difficult. I am just now, a few weeks later, able to begin to make some sense of it.
Recently I spent three days in an Integral Coaching workshop meant for experienced coaches. I am an experienced coach who attended with a subconscious (and arrogant) belief that I already knew enough about how to effectively coach my clients. That belief was thoroughly trashed by noon the first day. It was a painful, yet ultimately welcome experience.
The biggest challenge I experienced was that of letting go of my own resistance to accepting that I had something to learn. I was, after all, “experienced”. The resistance was grounded in my own (incorrect) KNOWING that my way was right.
As I was learning new theories and practicing new skills, I struggled. My mind wrestled with what (I thought) I knew to be true and my body tensed (I actually felt the experience as a muscle cramping – my body’s way of resisting, I suppose!). I was discovering that I didn’t know it all.
Several weeks later, I realize that “knowing it all” is not an option here. The skills I learned will benefit my clients. I now must put them into action.
I’m reminding myself to have patience. I suspect that the learning wouldn’t have triggered the reactions I’ve had if there wasn’t something useful for me there. I’m slowly finding ways to use the new skills with clients, and I’m having some success with it in small steps.
What are the lessons that I’ve had about the experience that are relevant to you as a leader?
Be open to the new learning. The way to develop and grow is to let go of what you think you know and be open to what is new. It is hard to recognize (and accept) when you are holding on to certainty. When you find yourself struggling with it, let it go.
Be patient and kind with yourself. Change is hard. It doesn’t often come in a moment or even as a three day workshop. Allow what you are learning to simmer. Realize when you are being tough on yourself about taking in new skills. Let the experience of resisting be a part of the learning experience; reflect on it.
Personal change is hard. Sometimes the beliefs that keep us from learning are very sticky – it takes a lot openness and self-kindness to become unstuck and turn some of the new things you are learning into action. Hang in there.
Participating in this workshop was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever had – and one of the best. Sometimes good things come to us in the struggle.