There’s a Chinese proverb in which several blind men are summoned to court to answer the question, “What is an elephant?” As each man grabs a hold of one part of the elephant, the men in turn make their estimations:
“An elephant is a round pot.”
“An elephant is a thick tube.”
“An elephant is a large leaf.”
After some time the men begin arguing with one another about the nature of an elephant. Each of them is right, but only partially right. They only have access to one perspective of what is a very objective reality.
We can all agree that there is a thing called objective reality. In so far as our coaching practice is concerned, we have to acknowledge that we only see the portion of reality that we’re privy to. And that lot only represents a portion of the portion that our coachee/client/colleague is privy to. It’s a portion of a portion of reality.
The only remedy for this condition is curiosity. To stay curious in our coaching response keeps questions flowing, keeps options open, keeps the blind man running his hands down the elephant hide, searching for more information about the true form of the thing under examination.
“Its network is Facebook’s superpower;
its reputation is its kryptonite.”
Motley Fool analyst Aaron Bush recently spoke about the viability of a currency developed by Facebook. Their Libra cryptocurrency is in the news for its widespread adoption and subsequent widespread dismissal by notable companies and organizations in the domain of international finance.
Of Facebook, Bush said the following:
Its network is Facebook’s superpower; its reputation is its kryptonite.
What would you say is your superpower? Your kryptonite? What helps you amplify your existing strengths? What perpetually limits your potential?
I’d like to ask this of the teams that I lead. In some cases I lead teams of team leaders (insert Escher sketch). What would they say about the superpowers and kryptonites of their teams?
Soapbox moment: The term “business book” troubles me because the category unnecessarily creates a degree of separation from industries (such as education) that sorely need to learn what some of the world’s great thinkers are thinking. What if we called them “insight books.” Perhaps they would wind up in teachers’ stockings around the holidays. End of moment.
Now to the books.
The brain is a thinking tool, not a storage device. -David Allen
David Allen, Getting Things Done.
Reason why teachers should read it:
- Teachers fill a number of positions for which they receive no formal training (budget forecasting, project management, etc.). Aside from the obvious learning gaps this presents, teachers need superb organizational skills which are largely “solved” with a visit to the Container Store. David Allen’s productivity methodology, if part of the common PD profile for teachers, would allow teachers to free up their psychic RAM (the words of the author) so that they may do the “real work”–realizing the best educational outcomes for their kids.
- The premise itself behind the need for GTD productivity methodology (and recently reiterated by the author during his interview on the Simplify podcast). If we took this axiom with us to planning meetings, parent meetings, PLC meetings, I suspect the decisions we make around curriculum and assessment design would see significant changes.
Kerry Patterson, et al., Crucial Conversations
Reasons why teachers should read it:
- Two truths about schools: they are hierarchical and they are siloed. This combination makes change difficult. The change that most impacts schools is not of the technical or mechanical sort; it is deeply linked to individual teacher philosophy and identity. (“I’m a traditional/progressive/strict/caring teacher.”)
- Although a hierarchy exists in schools, real change happens laterally–between teachers. In order to grow and to grow others, we need to learn the currency of communication. Crucial Conversations equips the reader with the mindset and the tactical skills to enter into a conversation with respect and purpose. Respect keeps the conversation going, but purpose will lead to actual change.
This is a quote that caught my ear some time ago from an episode of The West Wing Weekly podcast. The hosts were discussing with guest Richard Schiff the power of silence in dialogue (Schiff was careful not to call silence “pause” because the silence in dialogue is not the absence of something). So it is for the power of not responding during a coaching conversation.
At its root coaching is the act of prompting further exploration. Effective questioning is a wonderful tool for helping your client to go deeper. Asking your client to “say a little more about that” encourages talk of behavior that drills down into the belief that drives behavior, or to go deeper, to the way of being that has engendered a system of beliefs, which manifest themselves as behaviors.
So, as you approach those uncomfortable silences in your coaching conversations, remember that the silence, the spaces between the notes that your client shares with you, those too are part of the music.