I recently asked about 15 people I work with and have worked with in the past to write 360 reviews of me. It’s with the product through the leadership circle that I’m told is a good leadership development tool. What I noticed is that the people that have been my coaching clients – whether individual or in teams – rated me much higher than my peers. I realized that I have not been giving due voice to my peers, and that I have been failing in that respect in what process work, one of the foundations of my coaching work, calls “Deep Democracy.”
I realized that while what I stand for as a leader is dignity, growth and freedom, that I have been privileging the voices of those who have not been heard to the exclusion of the voices of people who are accustomed to being heard. I realized that this touches on power – power in our relationships, our organizations, and most of all, in our heads.
Of course power is not just a concept in your head or something you can easily manipulate when you are a torture victim, a rape survivor, or living in poverty. But I believe also that power is something that we can shape. I realize that I have the luxury of saying this from a privileged white, middle-class, 1st world, educated place. But I think it’s true.
We all inherit certain power structures that then speak and act through us. But we are not unwilling or unwitting. We can consciously choose to reshape the traditions and social patterns that speak through us, and we can do this as an ongoing active conscious creation.
So in light of what I’ve discovered in the 360 about power, and the ways I relate to it, I’m choosing to consciously reshape my understanding of who my coaching clients are. And they are not limited to those who have had it rough; instead, my clients are anyone who wants a change in their life. Their careers, their personal lives, but an exponential, real change. And that will include folks who are doing just fine but want more, as well as people from overtly challenging situations. This frees me up to be a better coach, to be less stingy and more generous with my coaching services. And that’s a good thing!