2 minute read
Working in the field of OD and team coaching is a privilege. It requires a great deal of what is termed as ‘use of self’ – the ability to suspend your own judgements, beliefs and ‘baggage’ so that you serve your client in the right space; not consciously or unconsciously steer them towards a place that you want for them or have experienced yourself.It always needs to remain ‘their work’; our role is to stand with them and help create space to navigate it.
‘Use of self’ is a skill that take life-long development and features in every area of your life. It’s not just a work thing, for example, ‘when you’re contracted as a team coach and then need to hold back a strong opinion you so desperately want to share with the client’. And just as importantly, it shows up in an extraordinarily wide variety of ways. Let me share with you a personal example of how not recognising what’s currently ‘going on for you’ can impact your work.
I should start by sharing that I’m particularly laid back when it comes to décor at home – I find it difficult to get excited about choosing wall colours, wall paper samples, bathroom tiles, etc. Both my wife Tash and I are happy for her to have the freedom to choose whatever she sees best…as long as it’s not going to bankrupt us…
Then things seriously changed on our most recent decoration project – having our sitting room plastered, rewired, new furniture, blinds, the whole lot. I found myself seeking to take full control; coordinating different tradespeople with the air of a military manoeuvre, comparing furniture websites and quotes became a daily tussle, and when things weren’t working with the timescale that worked for my family and I, I became really (overly) frustrated.
I was really not the best version of myself….but why had this ‘flip’ happened and what had triggered it?
At the same time, the timings of one of our projects had slipped slightly due to a change in the client’s organisation – I must say not something that’s alien to us, we work in the field of ‘change’ after all! We sensed a heightened anxiety from our client and I felt a want to step in and help ‘fix it’, not that I had the power to, but in the same human-nature way of wanting to ease someone’s ‘pain’.But I couldn’t. Their work needed to be completed first before we could continue, but we were ready now; slipping dates sends ambiguity upwards, and control downwards!
So why do these two link? Due to my control being suddenly reduced in one aspect of my life (project), I unconsciously craved and almost demanded it in another area of my life (decorating).
But hang on, how is this relevant to ‘use of self’? For me it’s about noticing what’s going on for the ‘whole’ of you, not just your work. It reminds me of the game you find at the funfair: ‘Whack-a-mole’ (you know the one!) Mechanical moles (or Minions?) pop up through a hole and you have to smack it quickly before the next one arises. The moles aren’t linked, so whacking one harder than another is wasted energy. Just because you lose something you desire in one area of your life, be aware where you might be ‘over-compensating’ for it somewhere else. My example is about Control(or as Oxford Dictionary defines it “the power to influence or direct people’s behaviour or the course of events”), but it could be something else for you…
Affection? Performing? Inclusion? Achievement? Power?
Take a moment to reflect on what your ‘needs’ are and however they are influencing your day right now. Are you over-compensating or pushing for something in one area of your life as you’re not getting it from elsewhere? You might see something you hadn’t noticed before.
I’ll highlight again that ‘use of self’ takes life-long development. Christina and I work with teams and groups we help each member build their own ‘use of self’, creating space for safer and equal conversations…leading to greater productivity…leading to better outcomes…and, consequently: Unlocking Performance.