It’s Not About You

I heard this phrase at a workshop in 2005 and it has been paramount to my learning ever since.

Ian Chisholm, a performance coach and educator, was the source of these words.  Ian told the story of a young coach boasting to his mentor about the stellar coaching session he just took part in.  “I coached the stuffing out of my client.” Said the brash, young coach.  To which the mentor replied, “Word of advice.  It’s… not…about…you!”

These words resonated with me because I saw a lot of myself in that young coach.  Often, when I worked hard in learning and acquiring new skills and knowledge I was eager to share my development and performance with others.  I loved answering questions from instructors, for example, because it gave me the opportunity to proudly display that I did my homework and knew the answers.

I was looking for respect, and not willing to leave that to chance; however, I likely came across a wee bit pretentious.

I think of this concept often, and it has tempered how I carry myself in my communication and leadership practice.   I find myself giving space for the development of others.   I am increasingly becoming more of a facilitator and less of an action hero.  Sometimes that means I have to bite by tongue when I know the answer and take silent pride for that.

That said the inspiration for this blog post was triggered by a recent event.  Next month I will travel to Europe with my 12 year-old daughter.  I wanted to go to Italy, it’s one of my traveling dreams, but she seemed uninterested.  I felt a little indigent at her reaction; after all, she would be amazingly fortunate to have such an opportunity.  I contemplated either dragging her with me, and gathering the resolve to manage though her resistance, or leaving her behind and do the trip solo.

However, when I had time to reflect, I realized that the “drag along” option would be aggravating for both of us and leaving her behind was not favourable either.  I also thought that this would likely be the last time I could take her out of school for such an adventure and I while I would have loved Italy, we both would have lost out if I stuck to that plan.

Then, I recalled that she would rather go to England and Paris.  I’ve been to both of these places and was looking for a new destination (hence Italy); however, I wondered if she would show more willingness if we went somewhere that she wanted to go instead.  I added a few other places to our itinerary I haven’t been (Amsterdam and Belgium) and also threw in a few other wrinkles that will challenge my travel skills.  Then, I re-pitched it to her.

She didn’t buy into it whole hardily; however, I think she’s mostly on board.  We spent a few hours this weekend watching travel videos of our destinations and she withstood that with minimal complaint.  I will continue to involve her in our planning over the next few weeks to maximize her engagement, fully prepared that this will take more time and likely lead to moments of mutual frustration.

However, I think my adaptable approach will be worth it.  It is after all, not about me!

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One Response to It’s Not About You

  1. Rachael says:

    LOVE it! A few years ago I took a conflict resolution class and the key take-away for me was… ‘what am I making this mean about me’. I think that thought relates nicely. Thanks Greg!

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