We were at the Calgary Farmer’s Market last weekend. It was the Saturday before Hallowe’en and there were kids (and adults) in costumes everywhere. I wish I had taken pictures of many of them because the kids were really cute and some of the adult costumes were really creative. I have to admit I have a shyness around asking if I can take someone’s picture … but perhaps that is the subject of another blog. So I satisfied myself with taking pictures of pumpkins.
I write this post as I’m on a plane down to Santa Barbara, California to dive into the depths of program I’ve enrolled in to be certified as a leadership coach. It struck me that there is quite a similarity between what I’m embarking on and what small children are thinking of at this time of year.
What might that be?
Simply the question of “what do I want to be”? I am “this” today, but I really want to be “that”. In the world of children it is about being a superhero, a comical figure, something beautiful or powerful. For some of the kids it is about becoming a future vision, appearing as a profession you aspire to.
I’m the same way right now. I aspire to be a coach. But I think about it differently. Rather than putting on the “coach” mask, I think about taking off my “expert” mask.
I’ve spent my whole life becoming an expert … someone who people would look to when they needed to solve a specific problem. My journey of self-awareness over the past several years has spent some time examining the impact of my expert persona on my effectiveness as a leader. They aren’t easily compatible, which led me to try to understand who my most essential self is, where I discovered that I love to build new things, but I’m happiest when I am facilitating success or agreement for others.
So for me, the journey to become a certified coach is an unmasking. It is the stripping away of my self-made identity as an expert. At its stickiest level, it manifests in me as an identity as an executive. The discovery of my attachment to my executive identity was somewhat revealing to me. There was a certain amount of angst associated with the understanding that while coaching is a clear path to engaging the natural facilitator within me, it will require me to let go of my executive identity in order to be truly effective. The comfort in this for me is that it is not an immediate thing, but for me to follow my dreams that will be an end result somewhere down the road.
As a leader I wonder how I can help with this same process for others. Some might view the process more through the innocence of a child’s aspiration to become something “more”. Others might view the process more like I have experienced as a form of “unmasking”, of becoming who I was always meant to be.
When I think about the process it isn’t a complex one, but it is a personal and emotional one that requires a lot of trust. So I then start to consider if I’ve done what I need to do with my team to earn that trust, for them to share the fullness of their dreams, to trust that I will help them achieve those dreams and, where those dreams are still forming, to offer them support in bringing them into focus.
I would love to hear from others on this idea of “becoming” versus “unmasking”. What are your experiences with this? As a leader, have