From:  Karen, Montgomery, Alabama

Dear Dr. Rosie

I work as an HR person in a medium sized company here in Montgomery. I love my work because I get to use coaching skills to not only empower employees’ productivity but also create an environment that is fun and highly effective.

Lately, though, the employees have been bringing me more challenging issues. I’m having to intervene in a way that feels forceful and imposing rather than my more usual style of empowering them through inquiry to take actions on their own behalf. Because there’s potential for harming themselves or being harmed by someone else I have to step in, in a way that I don’t like. I’m having to tell them what to do and make sure they follow through. I don’t like this way of working but it seems to be what I’m having to do right now. What do you make of this?

Thanks for your blogs. I always find them insightful.

Karen

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From Dr. Rosie

Dear Karen,
What you are describing is an interesting phenomenon for people who work with people. Quite often the people we serve and their circumstances provide a growing edge for us as service providers. Sometimes the growing pains of our work may be more uncomfortable than we want, but it’s important work none the less.

I’m a big fan of Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence and of David Hawkins’ work on power vs. force. Both of these men are talking about the foundational emotional capacity to relate to ourselves, to others and to the world in a way that enhances our ability to act with integrity, authenticity and in service to the highest good of all involved. They are shedding light on the importance of cultivating better relationships with our emotional selves in order to empower others to do the same. I suspect that there may be an important learning opportunity here for you, that if not for your employees, you may try to side-step and avoid.

I guess the question I have for you, Karen, is what is it that makes you want to work the way you do? Generally speaking we move towards what we desire and avoid what we consider to be undesirable. What would you say is undesirable that you are wanting to avoid that is showing up for you now? This question always provides great grist for the mill.

The majority of my supervision sessions with coaches generally have to do with these learning edges where the coach is getting confronted with their own resistance to being different as a coach. Here is one particular issues that arises for all of us:

The Golden Rule says: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To really live into this rule requires the cultivation of compassion and kindness. Well, for many of us who grew up in families where there wasn’t compassion and kindness, in fact there may have been abuse and neglect to some degree; we created a different Golden Rule: Don’t do unto others what has been done unto you.

In Self-Empowerment 101, I speak about our relationship to power and how to allow ourselves to use our personal power in the highest good of ourselves and everyone. If, as a child, I witnessed people using their power for personal or professional gain and they harmed others, especially or me, I may have decided to never use my power to perpetrate harm or pain on others. I will never do unto others what has been done to me.

Many of us in the helping profession come from backgrounds that led us to decide to use our power in what we consider to be loving and kind ways, however, we may be missing an important interpretation of loving and kind that could actually not be helping at all. We may be enabling others to be less then accountable and responsible for their behaviors. We may be supporting and even encouraging behavior that may be harmful to themselves and others.

I hate pulling rank on people. I hate using force of any kind, however sometimes I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do. It’s that choice-point, which may require tough love.

When sitting with a client in session, I ask myself if my actions are for personal or professional gain, or are they in the best interest of my client? This is the question to ask yourself. And likewise, if you are not using your power to empower accountability and responsibility in your clients for their actions – what is that serving in you?  In a sense, when you are not requiring accountability and integrity of your employees; that’s serving something in you and is not in the best interest of anyone. Do you get what I’m saying?

This is tough love, for ourselves, our client’s and our employees. And if we don’t discipline ourselves to be tough when tough is required we aren’t doing our jobs. This goes for every role we play – as friends, parents and community members.

When faced with a similar issue, Karen, I was angry that I had to be forceful, yet I knew I had to be, otherwise harm would come to my client, through their own actions or someone else’s. I had to tell myself that my use of assertiveness and forcefulness was required of me in service to my client’s well-being. I checked in with myself numerous times to ensure I wasn’t perpetrating harm for my own personal or professional gain.

If we are always using our power to avoid perpetrating harm we may be avoiding an important reality – one we can’t avoid; and that is that people won’t always like us, they won’t like our perspectives or our actions. We have to shift our interpretation about the perpetration of harm so that we have the capacity to act in our own highest good and the highest good of others, even if they don’t like it. This isn’t always easy to discern but again, if we are clear about our role and what’s required of us in service to that which we are in service to we can act more in alignment with our own accountability and integrity.