Very often, during my coaching conversations, one of the biggest challenges that occurs for people is for them to see themselves as “responsible” for their results. Until a person is willing to see themselves as “responsible”, they are effectively, helpless: waiting for someone or something to come along and change things for them. It is not unusual for people to spend years (or longer !) in this state, and while they are in it, no amount of coaching is ever going to be effective.
The whole concept of “responsibility” is a big topic in being effective, and not one that I propose to dig into in this particular blog (maybe next time !) – instead, I want to take a quick look at what gets in the way of someone seeing themselves as “responsible”.
Two of the biggest barriers that typically occur are these:
1. Blame and Fault
“If I accept that I am responsible, then I am to blame and/or at fault for what happened.”
To see it like this is to misunderstand the notion of responsibility.
When I coach people about taking a “responsible” point of view, I am not interested in blame or fault (or credit) – rather I just want the person to see that they had input into creating the result. Maybe that input was active (it was something they did) or maybe it was passive (it was something they did not do.) Maybe it wasnt an action at all, and was simply a choice they made about their attitude towards the situation.
Once I have succeeded in having someone take a responsible point of view, then the second barrier kicks in.
2. “Why Would I Do That?” (Im not stupid!)
Although this is rarely stated, this is often the 2nd major underlying barrier to being “responsible”.
Even if a person is willing to give up the notion of blame and fault and see that they had input into the situation and result, they cannot see why they would then do that, especially if it a repetitive pattern in their lives.
“Why would I keep on sabotaging myself like that” ?
The answer to this question is often uncomfortable for someone to acknowledge; namely that, although, on the surface, the result is one that they did not like, they are getting some benefits or “secondary gains” from this course of action.
Human beings are, on one level, very simple creatures – we keep doing things that give us what we want, and we stop doing things that do not give us what we want. So, from my coaching viewpoint, my coachee is not “sabotaging” him/herself, instead, he/she is producing a result, which at some level, serves them.
For example, I was recently coaching somebody who had a chronic habit of being late, and they had been told that this was one of the things that they needed to handle if they were to be promoted. Once we had battled through all the excuses and justifications, we finally came to this question:
“OK – so if I am responsible for my punctuality, then what is my “secondary gain” for being late all the time …What is my payoff for being late?”
In their case, once we explored this together, the coachee came to see that, rather than an act of self-sabotage, this was, in fact, an effective strategy to generate something that was very important to them throughout their life: namely, visibility.Once they were late, then when they did arrive, all eyes swiveled onto them, and they became the center of attention ! Perfect !
Now, there is a possibility of change, because the coachee sees that their results are in their hands.
Whether they go on to make a new choice (be on time) and create new results (get promoted) is still to be seen, but at least they have now shed their cloak of helplessness and can see the possibility of new actions and results.
Senior Trainer & PCC Executive Coach