I’m sitting bright-eyed in the lair of my Sociology class. I’m 20 years old and have a budding crush on my instructor, whom was probably twice my age, if I were to guess. But everything he said illuminated my thoughts… he seemed to exude a rare wisdom.
My fantasy of wisdom and illumination came to an abrupt halt one morning. He completely stumped me.
“Your new assignment is to write a 3 page essay outlining a time in your life that you experienced racism personally and to describe how this impacted and shaped your life.”
The assignment was given a few weeks after we were taught that the majority of Caucasians in the US do not experience racism, or even perceive it when it is happening to others.
My class was comprised of a variety of ethnicities. Those of you that know me, may know my ethic background consists primarily of Irish, German and Cherokee. On paper I’m listed as “Caucasian”.
This was the perfect assignment for me, I thought. I’ve never experienced racism, until my Sociology class! By his own teaching, the probability of Caucasians having a racist story to personally reflect upon would be low to none. Being that he knows this statistic, demonstrated to me that he banked on Caucasians flunking the essay.
I wrote my quirky essay, which brought in “Stars Upon Thars” by Dr. Seuss, alluding to the racism existing within this very assignment.
I sat down in class feeling a bit glib the day our papers were to be graded and handed back to us. As mine surfaced to the top of his pile, he looked stern as he approached me. He held out my paper in front of me and with a halfway smile said, “C for Clever.”
What did I learn?
Not turning in anything was a strong consideration. However, taking no action would have resulted in zero credit and brought my GPA down. That was not an outcome I desired though.
Being rude in my essay was another consideration. After all, how dare he put any of his students in a position to fail an assignment. Yet, that was not an outcome I desired.
I once heard that our third reaction to something is always going to be the best reaction. I’m not sure where the idea stems from, but it did help me find the Goldilocks alternative of “just right.”
I decided to take the middle road, turn in an essay, use my creative resources and attempt to bring to light the challenge and conundrum before me. While I didn’t get an A, I was very pleased with my “C for Clever.”
What in your life calls for a creative stand to be taken? If “C” stood for “Challenge”, what would you do differently to make the world a better place?
Have you been in a session and felt stumped, like you were unsure where to go with your next question?
How about being in a session that seems to be going nowhere, or when a session appears to go in circles and we as the coach feel lost? I call this the circularity trap.
Circularity feels like we’ve become a dog chasing it’s tail. If feels as if the client is heading nowhere in particular. When circularity is happening, we are stuck looping with our client and not fully able to serve a higher outcome.
Here are three steps out of this tiring loop.
Step One: Recognize it.
Notice any of the following:
Steps Two: Reclaim the session.
Stop the client, at an appropriate time. Confirm the session agenda is still the agenda. If the agenda isn’t clear then now is a great time to firm up the agenda from here on out.
Coaching Key: When there is no clear start, there is no clear stop.
Step Three: Trust in the goal.
When we are newer at coaching, circularity can throw off our confidence. You may need to take a moment to remind yourself to trust in the coaching process and our training so that we can be fully present again. Remember, when we are sitting in self-doubt, we have actually left the client.
Keep in mind circularity in coaching is a very easy trap to fall into and typically results from not honing the agenda as clearly as we thought we had. Sometimes this is because the client unintentionally discovered a new agenda. Sometimes it is because we could have spent more time exploring the agenda and its relevance.
Regardless of the reason, when we observe the looping and reconnect to the desired outcome, we establish forward movement. When we have forward movement, we are in the wonderful flow that we cherish about coaching.