By Gord AkerPCC
View original publication on Millenial Magazine
There is an age old fable of a traveller who, upon attempting to enter a walled city, is challenged by a sentry who asks him: “Who are you, where are you going and why is it important for you to go there?” The traveller asks the guard, “How much do they pay you to ask me those questions?” The guard, somewhat taken aback, answers the question at which point the traveller says: “I will pay you twice that amount to ask me those questions every day for the rest of my life.”
While there are many versions of this story and its origin is somewhat murky, there can be no denying the underlying message. It is simply that human beings have both a drive and a hunger to know who they are, grow to their full potential and be inspired by living a life of contribution, purpose and meaning.
Indeed, it is through the passionate pursuit of our purpose that happiness emerges and personal fulfillment results. It could be argued that the sentry in this fable was the first Executive Leadership Coach because these questions are the foundation for any Professional Coaching relationship.
Where did my life go?
The unfortunate reality is that while we may have these aspirations, few of us actually act on them. The day-to-day transactions of routine living end up taking over our lives and before we know it, we are floating down the river of our life, staring zombie like into the distance, waiting to be dropped off the end into the bucket of bliss known as retirement.
Wait…what? Where did my life go? Is this it?
The truth is that living a fulfilling life is a radical act. The river flow of societal inertia is extraordinarily powerful at sweeping us along in an unrelenting current of “’Must Dos’, ‘Should Dos’ and ‘Not ready yets’”. It takes both a rebel and a leader to stand in this torrent and choose to step into something more meaningful, more inspiring and more worthy of their time on this earth. So difficult are these steps, that few can do it alone. So daunting is the prospect of failure, that few will seek help. And this is a travesty. A colossal waste. And completely unnecessary.
It is a travesty because all of us possess sufficient leadership talent to lead our own lives. We may not discover, develop and deploy this talent, but it is there. In its more advanced form, many of us have the leadership ability to influence positive change in the people around us and in the world that surrounds us.
Failing to do this, is a colossal waste of humanity’s collective potential. And it is completely unnecessary because the very resources we can use to escape this river of predefined expectations and help us to discover the path that is right for us, is readily available. This resource is an Executive Leadership Coach.
If You Want More, Get An Executive Leadership Coach
The good news is that an Executive Leadership Coaching is neither new nor unproven. It has been used successfully by business leaders for well over two decades to breakdown insecurities, challenge assumptions, provide focus, and support exceptional growth in themselves and their organizations. Readers interested in learning more about Professional Coaching are invited to visit the International Coach Federation (ICF).
So what is Executive Leadership Coaching and how does it work? Many people believe that Professional Coaching is about providing assessment and giving advice. But being told what is wrong with you and what to do about it is a role that most bosses, many parents and some spouses are happy to fill. So thankfully that “need” is well looked after! Professional Coaching on the other hand is about as far from that experience as you can get.
An Executive Leadership Coach is trained to create a “safe space” where you can explore your challenges, perspectives, beliefs, values, assumptions and aspirations with complete candor and without fear of judgement. The coach does not have an “agenda” nor an “answer” for you but rather supports you in discovering who you are and where you would like to go.
Coaching is a process that inspires wide ranging exploration of possibilities, encourages deep personal reflection and enables personal insight and truth telling. This is why coaching is the single most powerful mode of personal growth and professional development available today – because the insights and answers come from you, the client, NOT the coach. And that insight, once unearthed, can not be denied or discounted. It is real. It is yours and it matters.
But just knowing is not enough. Insight is just the planted seed. For that seed to grow, it needs to be nurtured, nourished and supported. An Executive Leadership Coach will challenge you to translate your insight or idea into action and that action will result in real growth.
A Professional Coach will support you when you falter or when you aren’t growing as fast as you would like. When your internal critic shows up to yell in your ear that you are failing and that you are “not good enough”, it will be your coach that distracts him while you get back to the important work at hand.
What Is Your Truth?
What is the experience of being coached? For many people it is the first time in their lives that they feel completely seen and heard. It is also incredibly affirming to be unconditionally accepted for who you are. It can also be exciting and terrifying!
When you first articulate your truth – that you are unhappy in a relationship, that your career is faltering, that your staff or employees are unengaged, that your leadership capability is not producing the results you want, that you want to feel more alive and vital – it can cause a feeling of vulnerability and be quite intimidating. Thankfully, the safe space created by you and your coach pushes back the fear and drains the insecurity.
When your coach asks: “What do you want to do about that?”, it can be a pivotal moment in your life – full of anxiety and trepidation and yet at the same time, energy and anticipation. And when you commit to taking that first step into the future you want for yourself, something rather difficult to explain happens.
It starts with you feeling more grounded, centered and real. And then other people start to notice that you are more calm, focused, determined and authentic. And then within two to four weeks, you see your actions start to have an effect and your situation starts to improve. Soon your confidence grows and your courage is more present and the “dream” you started with seems a little bit closer. And soon, you are leading your life instead of being a victim to it.
You are taking charge and moving in a direction that inspires you and creates the energy you need to carry on. You may be tired but you will be amazed at how quickly your “tank” is refilled when you are on the path that is right for you, worthy of you and aligns with who you are and how you see yourself in the world.
Now that you have used Professional Coaching to escape the river of mediocrity, you are undoubtedly looking for that sentry at the city wall, because now you have the answers he was looking for!