“I‘ve got this stupid song in my head and I can’t get rid of it,” one of my kids said to me the other day.
“I’ve always got a song in my head,” I replied. And it’s true, I do. If you know me at all, you’ll know music is a very important aspect of my life.
For some reason, today’s song – or perhaps I should say ‘guilty pleasure’ – is Shake it Off by Taylor Swift. You know the one:
’Cause the players gonna play, (play, play, play play), and the haters gonna hate, (hate, hate hate, hate). I’m just gonna shake (shake, shake, shake, shake). Shake it off! Shake it off!
And it’s got me thinking about coaching.
It’s got me thinking about coaching because at a seminar last week someone said to coach at your developmental edge, you’ve got to “shake off” your existing coaching paradigm. And that is when the song kinda lodged in my brain. Reflecting on their own self-development, they actually said something like this, “As a coach I need to develop reflexive self-awareness to go to the edge of my practice – to a place I’ve not been before, and yet intuitively I know I can. I need to shake off my own paradigm.”
Using creative devices for our own development
And so I thought about the song’s lyrics. It’s amazing how a creative device – such as a song, a picture or some sort of creative process – can shed new light on our thinking and self-reflection.
Consider this lyric from Shake it Off and think for a moment about how your coaching clients experience you as a coach:
Never miss a beat; Lightning on my feet; That’s what they don’t see.
Now consider the next stanza and think for a moment about how you experience yourself when coaching:
Dancing on my own; Make the moves up as I go; That’s what they don’t know.
That seems like flow to me, ease if you will. You are dancing in-the-moment, using your intuition to move to the beat emerging from the coaching dialogue, and your client doesn’t really know what you are doing, how much work you are doing or how much artistry is involved. Rather, they simply experience a great, helpful conversation. Going with the flow, making it up as you go along to suit the music; this is working at your edge.
The risk is that we play it safe
The risk is that we do not find this special place often enough, or even at all. Instead, from fear of being out of our depth, we reach for trusted coaching tools and techniques, or retreat into a defensive position – fight or flight, appease them, collude with them, interpret others’ behaviour from our own biases or slip into ‘rescue’ mode. This is not working at our edge. This is playing it safe.
Tips for working at your edge
Firstly, recognise this defence is a normal response to fear. Slow yourself down. Breathe. I use a mantra to centre and ground myself. Stay curious – be okay with not knowing. Notice what is happening and name it. Take responsibility for your shameful feelings of not being good enough.
You are good enough.
Shake off your coaching paradigm and try something different. You need to practice self-reflection to go to your edge. Take it to supervision – that’s the best place for developing reflexive practice. Supervision can help you build inner strength, see your blind spots and learn through shame.
Trust your intuition and know that you will be okay. Trust yourself.
Or as Ms Swift might say:
I got this music in my mind, singing it’s gonna be alright.
And now you’ve got that stupid song stuck in your head, am I right?