Thursday, August 4, 2016

Five Ways that Coaching Can Help During Times of Divisiveness, Hate, and Violence

Guest post from Andrew Neitlich:

Each week it seems that a new, horrible story about violence shocks us and shakes our faith in every having a peaceful, civil, and kind world. As a leadership coach who also trains leadership coaches, I believe that both coaching and being coachable are key skills that can make a difference in this environment.
Coaching is the process of asking powerful questions, listening, and sharing insights so that people gain clarify and move forward to solve problems. I notice that in times like these, more managers and leaders than ever before are questioning what really matters to them. Coaching helps people gain clarity about what really matters to them, how they should live, what type of careers they should have, and how they can have maximum impact on the world both inside and outside of their organizations.

For instance, I have been working with a junior executive in a major investment firm. Initially he hired me to become a better leader so that he could move up and oversee more offices in his organization. However, as the coaching progressed and we built trust, he shared that he also wanted coaching to figure out how to have more impact in the world. We worked together to create a plan that allows him to continue to grow as a leader in his present role while exploring opportunities that might lead to new volunteer leadership roles, career opportunities in industries where he believes he can make a more significant contribution, and potential roles in a billion-dollar foundation that his organization runs. What he shares in common with so many other coaching clients is a desire to make a difference, to use his unique gifts to make a measurable contribution and serve in the best possible way – all while still taking care of his family and being financially responsible. He is trying to find an authentic life and career in an extremely uncertain world with many needs.
A second way that coaching brings value is by letting people process what is going on. Whether you are a leader who uses coaching as a tool or a full-time coach, coaching allows you to ask questions and then let others work things out. Asking questions while listening and empathizing allows others to get more grounded, come to grips with what is happening, and work through potential distractions in order to get refocused.

Third, people who know how to coach also understand what it takes to lead. They know how to adapt their communication style to have more impact, how to engage and mobilize teams, and how to influence others. This gives them the opportunity to get involved in places that make the world more peaceful and civil. Any of us can use our leadership skills to get involved with organizations that are having impact on the world, that bring people together, and that make a difference. For instance, I work with a teacher who recently decided to leave his teaching job in the USA and spend time in Israel teaching English to impoverished children. He has never traveled internationally but decided that now is the time to build more bridges between cultures. We don’t have to give up our jobs and move to a new country like this young man, but we can certainly get more involved in leadership roles in non-profit and civic organizations in our communities.
Fourth, if you know how to coach, you can coach leaders of organizations that are making a difference to be stronger. Among my colleagues are coaches who work with leaders and managers of police departments, non-profit organizations focused on building stronger communities, schools that teach diverse populations, and governments. My own practice started by coaching non-profit boards and executives to become stronger, more aligned, and to have the capacity to achieve their missions in their communities. This kind of work is incredibly rewarding, because it brings people with different viewpoints together and often accomplishes remarkable results. For instance, I worked with a billion-dollar community foundation to help the board decide their annual grant making priorities to build a more diverse and inclusive community. I also worked with a non-profit children’s theater company that developed and executed a plan to bring drama training to children in 20 under-served schools. Coaching and facilitation helped the leaders of these organizations to reach consensus and be accountable for results – more so than if they had tried to move forward without this kind of support.

Finally, perhaps most importantly, leaders and coaches understand what it means to be coachable. One of the problems in times of violence is that politicians and pundits tend to dig in their heals about how best to solve the issue. Dialog stops and one-way speeches and accusations become the norm. For instance, every time there is a senseless shooting in the United States, it seems that one side rushes to their stump speeches about gun control, while another side rushes to their demands for better screening of possible terrorists, the mentally ill, and enhanced law enforcement. Coaching reminds people to listen to others, go into what is not known instead of what everyone thinks they already know, and find common ground. It helps people shift from “no, but…” to “yes, and….” Coaching can help different parties come together, listen to each other, and develop solutions that work based on evidence rather than predetermined positions and biases.
Coaching isn’t a panacea. You can’t coach a terrorist or murderer to change their ways, because you can only coach people who recognize a problem and want to change. However, for leaders and coaches who understand the power of coaching, we can make a difference – even a small one – in these very challenging times.   

Andrew Neitlich is the founder and director of the Center for Executive Coaching, a leading coach training organization based in Central Florida. He has trained over 1,000 coaches around the world—including clients within FedEx, Aflac, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, the United States Air Force, Florida Institute of Technology, University of Minnesota, the United States Department of Defense, Macy’s, the NBA, and Deloitte Consulting. Neitlich is author of five books and received his MBA from Harvard Business School. He lives in Sarasota, Florida with his family and plays lots of tennis. His new book, Coach! The Crucial, Deceptively Simple Leadership Skill for Breakaway Performance, is available for purchase at You can learn more at or connect via LinkedIn.

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