COACHable/ Awareness Comes First

Photo by Cody Davis on Unsplash

Photo by Cody Davis on Unsplash


Utrecht, 8 August 2018 — How do you show up? Answering that question can give you the first key to leading positive change.

If you haven't watched Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter's TED talk about the Six Keys to Leading Positive Change, you might miss out on essential practices on your leadership journey.

What is the first key she mentions? It is about showing up, and how you show up.

My work with both emerging and executive leaders in the past week underlined just how important this first key to leading positive change is.

What emerged is that three practices are essential to becoming a more effective leader. 

1. Showing Up with Awareness

It's always new, and gurus have been recommending it for thousands of years. Leadership starts with self-leadership, and that starts with 'waking up' to become aware. 

Aware of what?

Yourself, for a start, who are you, what you do, what you don't do. Importantly, to become aware of how you see the world around you, and what drives you to think, act, and speak in your favorite way. 

Awareness too of how you are being seen by others. And how your words, actions, and behaviors are influencing others. Showing up on time is only the start of those.

These are all about showing up.

Equally important is how aware you are about your potential, of how you can transform to bring out the best in you. Far from being a cliché, this is essential and ever relevant.

Moving on, how aware are you about each situation you find yourself in? What is really going on in the situation? What are your opportunities to act in the situation, and which choice of role and style will help you make your best contribution to a positive outcome of the situation, for you and all concerned? 

How aware are you about how you show up? 

Several of the emerging leaders I worked with last week decided to change their attire when showing up for their Leading in Presenting practice on the last day of their leadership course. That is a simple yet powerful example of what awareness can lead you to do.

2. Showing Up with Curiosity

While I have no doubt that you show up with good intentions when you meet people, what I often observe is that conversations end up as opportunities for people to listen to what the other side has to say.

Does that sound familiar?

Listening skills are hugely important. We were born with two ears and one mouth, for good reasons. Active listening goes deeper. It is a skill that can be taught and learned.

Showing up as a leader goes even further, however.

The question is how curious you are about other people, about the situations you are in, and about how you can best contribute to influencing positive change.

Numerous gurus through the ages have taught and showed that a life worth living is a life dedicated to helping others. To follow in their footsteps, it takes being interested to get started.

Practicing curiosity can take many forms. Last week I learned from my fellow facilitator and friend Andrés Cabrera Flamini when he used Kris Girrell's Periodic Table of Human Emotions to help our group become more granularly aware of specific human emotions in ourselves and people around us.

Showing up with curiosity requires that you consciously suspend your own thoughts to make space for listening, and to maintain that awareness to keep listening when your ever-helpful mind whispers the next piece of advice you should give to the person or people you are with.

How curious are you about discovering more about the people you meet? And how does your curiosity show up in your conversations?

3. Showing Up as Coach

Research and experience show that coaching is one of the most powerful ways to grow more leaders around you. It is a crucial part of the 70:20:10 rule for leadership development.

You should, therefore, consider one-to-one coaching to become a core element of any leadership development program you are involved with for yourself and for others. 

That is why I incorporate coaching into all my leadership training work. The leaders I work with learn how to be coached, and how to practice using coaching skills as part of developing the enabling leadership style.

What is your experience with coaching, and being coached, as you stretch yourself on your leadership journey? 

Becoming skilled in coaching allows you to show up with more awareness and curiosity for the benefit of other people as well as yourself.

And, you will always learn a lot about yourself when you show up with a coaching style for others.