26 / 10 / 2014 12.01am
By Fay Andrews-Hodgson
#Blogtober Day: Sunday 26 October
The coaching arena can be a hugely powerful place for both coachee and coach; when coaching goes well it really can feel magical. In these moments it can be tempting to allow the experience to seep into our ego as a coach. For this reason, one of the key ingredients of coaching is humility. Without it there is the potential for us to go for the glory.
So how do we maintain that humility? One way to look at it is that the magical bit is the coaching process itself, that we are merely conduits of this wonderful thing called coaching. Another way to look at it may be similar to what is described in Elizabeth Gilbert’s (author of Eat, Pray, Love) fantastic TED talk called ‘Your elusive creative genius’. She challenges the societally accepted view that artists are people tortured by their creative talents, questioning whether it has to be that way. To do this, she looked into past civilisations and noticed that this view of creative people has not always been the same. According to her talk, Ancient Greeks and Romans didn’t believe that creativity came from human beings, rather that they had a ‘genius’ – a magical divine entity that lived in the walls of an artist’s studio, like a little house elf. This psychological construct allowed the artist to distance themself from the outcome of their work and this in turn protected the artist from the potential pitfalls, e.g. narcissism, if the work was brilliant (as the artist couldn’t take too much credit), or depression, if the work was rubbish (because obviously your genius had been useless that day and you couldn’t held entirely responsible!) But then the renaissance came and people changed their description from people having a genius to being a genius. Elizabeth argues that this was a mistake. That now the highs and lows of a creative person’s work fall straight onto their ego with no psychological construct to protect them. Hence the tortured artist.
As silly as the idea of having a house elf appears, this strikes me as an interesting psychological construct for coaching. It is undeniable that coaching is hugely rewarding for the coach as well as the coachee, and there are plenty of opportunities for us to take power out of the relationship if we are not really careful. So to keep our ego intact and maintain our humility, perhaps we can do what Elizabeth Gilbert suggests…that we do our part and show up for work (to coach), and at the same time invite the genius elf to join us!
Fay Andrews-Hodgson has been an OD practitioner for over six years at York Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, with a focus on delivering bespoke OD. She started her journey towards OD ten years ago when she reflected upon what truly interested her the most, and concluded it was the way people work. She graduated with an MSc in Occupational Psychology, developing a further specialisation in coaching and more recently in coaching supervision. Fay can be contacted via Twitter @AndrewsHodgson and blogs on her website.