Some days it feels like I enter into a battle for the hearts and minds of people infected by the epidemic of "Not Good Enough."
This is where consultants/ coaches/experts - honestly trying to help others with the best of intentions - have asked questions like:
- What's the problem here?
- What are you doing to fix this?
- Why isn't this better?
- Why haven't you fixed this?
- How is this going to get better?
The consultant/ coaches/experts are looking for problems to fix, because (they think) that's how to get better.
Cold hard logic versus messy human emotion
Of course, logically this approach makes sense. Find problem, fix, repeat. Eventually we'll run out of problems so we will have achieved greatness!
While I could argue that not doing bad things doesn't necessarily equal doing good things, I won't. My point is that this approach can be subtly devastating - emotionally.
Because the approach can initiates defensiveness and denial, which can evolve into an unhealthy self-perspective. The reaction is often (unconsciously) "I'm a good person, and I'm doing the best I can. I can't have problems." and with persistence of the negative message the response can eventually become (again, unconsciously) "I'm not as good as I thought. I'm inadequate. I'm not good enough." The infection is complete.
This epidemic can strike anyone - and leaders are especially vulnerable since their work by definition tends to include a significant amount of interpersonal and emotional work.
Doctor, is there a cure?
Sort of. The steps I'll cover aren't a magic bullet, yet they can make a difference for most people. And they are easier said than done.
1. If you're setting out to help someone - meet them where they are without judgment.
2. Help them lift their sights up from today's reality, to what's possible, and finally to what they would really love. The clearer a picture of what success looks like, the better.
3. Ask them questions about what's holding them back from that enticing future. Questions like:
- What's getting in your way?
- What successes have you had so far?
- What's worked well?
- What is the first thing you would see that would indicate we're on the right path?
- How does this future motivate you?
- How would this future change how you connect with your work?
4. Help them create and implement a plan to build on success and climb a set of small steps to their future.
See the difference?
The first approach essentially assumes inadequacy and strives to be good enough. "You'll be good enough when..." is the primary underlying message.
The second approach assumes adequacy, and strives to be great. "You are good enough and can be great when..."
This difference in approach - whether you take it with others or even with yourself - absolutely makes the difference between failure and success.
(The irony? The problems in the first approach and the challenges holding you back in the second approach are almost always the same thing. It's the perspective you hold that makes them feel unreachable and punishing versus achievable and able to be tried again until you succeed.)
PS I probably don't have to tell you which approach we use.