You may have thought it was Siri or Alexa, but it’s actually the human brain that wins the top spot for its ability to see and anticipate patterns. Yet like any good algorithm-generator, the accuracy of the brain’s predictions depends heavily on the accuracy of the underlying data.
The powerhouse that is human decision-making becomes faulty when the data of our past experiences is no longer a reliable predictor of our future, or when we’re dealing with sustained cognitive inhibitors like stress, fatigue, or depression.
Enter the Covid-19 era.
The uncertainty about what’s next for our organizations, our industries, and our world has become palpable. What we thought we knew has shifted, calling into question some of our core beliefs about work and society. Given how strange things are right now, it’s no surprise that even the smartest, most successful leaders among us can feel lost.
The good news is, we can still navigate our path successfully. But we can’t expect to figure it out on our own. To find confidence and certainty moving forward in uncertain times, it takes intention, diligence, and, often, an outside perspective. That’s where coaching comes in.
Coaching as a Way Forward
Globally, we’re experiencing more stress, isolation, trauma, and grief than ever before. These emotions can lead to defining moments and revelations about what matters most in life, which in turn can change outlooks, values, and behaviors. What you thought you wanted and what others could reasonably expect from you is likely all in the process of changing. Relying on your old operating system isn’t going to cut it.
Everything is different now, whether we like it or not, and it’s smart to turn off the autopilot for the foreseeable future.
But how can we figure out a new way forward when everything (and everyone) we’ve relied on for support is shifting around us? This is where adding a genuinely outside perspective — like a coach — can be critical to your support team. Coaches help you feel more grounded amid uncertainty, by working with you to clarify what’s important to you, what’s in your control, and how you can better handle difficult circumstances in order to achieve your personal and professional goals.
While it may seem like a conversation with a trusted adviser or friend might get you some of these same benefits, relying on someone in your inner circle for a new perspective may leave you more confused than before. No matter how well-intentioned, people have their own thoughts and opinions about who you are and what you should do. That’s why the outside view of a coach is even more valuable during times of uncertainty.
But what makes a good coach? When considering adding a coach to your professional team, we recommend the following list of behaviors:
- Offers both objective and perceptive guidance. You want to choose a coach who has enough distance from the specifics of your life to avoid being influenced by personal experience, while at the same time understanding enough about your day-to-day realities to pick up on the nuances of different scenarios. This combination of impartial and experienced enables the coach to ask intelligent, relevant questions to encourage you to see a spectrum of possibilities in any situation, rather than your most immediate assumptions.
- Balances structure with openness. A good coach encourages you to stay open to the new possibilities that typically come with major unrest and change while embracing boundaries required for intellectual rigor and lasting improvement. This means helping you think beyond your default understanding — but also ensuring that you always return back to your goal as the big-picture consideration at hand. The brain is most creative with a moderate amount of structure, so having too much leeway (or restraint) can waste your mental energy.
- Never tells you what to do. This final criterion may surprise you. But a good coach doesn’t tell you what to do. Instead, they help you figure out what you would choose to do yourself if you were at your clearest, a technique that is much more productive in the long run. They help push away the clouds that are currently blocking the light in your mind so that your most important values and carefully honed intellect can shine through brightly and immediately. “My clients can be frustrated when I answer their questions with more questions,” says Fringe coach Katie Aldrich, “but the reality is that they know themselves, their relationships, and their jobs far better than I do. I’m just the shovel that helps them keep digging till they strike gold.”
We can all agree that these are anxious, uncertain times. Yet it’s often in times of crisis that we have the most potential to not only see — but act on — the need for change in our own lives. The future offers no guarantees, but an outside perspective can help us step more thoughtfully, confidently, and productively into the unknown of tomorrow.
To learn more about Fringe’s coaching philosophy, visit our Coaching page.