Most humans, when they ask you or me for help want affirmation, not information.
Most coaches, in the business world, understand the above statement and give their clients exactly what they want, a cheerleader. Somebody that makes them feel better about themselves. Somebody that affirms the goodness in their strengths and gets them to take their eyes off bad habits, as if not looking will somehow make the problem behavior disappear. And, the fact is the world is full of coaches, leaders, and associates all playing this game. The truth is that the higher up you get in whatever system you’re in the more desperately you need information, not affirmation. And, the less likely you are to even sniff it.
Today, like everyday, I gave a practice participant information he can use. I used few words. I offended him and he had the courage to tell me so. Good. After realizing the information was offensive, I clarified my intent. You see, my aim is not to offend but inform. The problem is most us of haven’t been informed in the moment since, well, we had a coach that cared more about our performance than our feelings. I asked my target this morning if his college coach ever offended him with information he could use. Again, he answered honestly that, in fact, he had. He was still unhappy with me but maybe he was beginning to understand my belief in him was the catalyst, nothing else. Good.
If you are coaching little kids playing soccer for the first time, I highly recommend that you give them a boatload of affirmation and just a little information. Point them in the right direction and let ’em kick some grass. It’s just a game, after-all. Isn’t it sad that most corporate CEO’s are treated by you and me as if they’re little kids who can’t handle the truth. We affirm our leaders, not to protect their fragile psyches, quite the contrary, to protect our own. All the affirmation in the world, won’t change the facts facing your industry, facing your company, and facing you.
Give your leaders some information they can use. Tell them something they can’t see from their perch, but you see with clarity from your position. And, leaders stop asking folks questions that lead to affirmation. Ask them tough questions, in safe environments, that prime them to tell you the truth. And when they do, let it in. Sit with it awhile. Let it marinate. Who knows, you just might be getting the kinda information Churchill was trying to give Prime Minister Chamberlain after their convo with Hitler, back in the day. This kinda information exchange will make you both…
Every team could use another truth teller, truth hearer, and true performer in your position. We certainly don’t need another cheerleader, do we? Give your teammates information they can use. Inform. You may offend. Inform, anyway. Good…