Lever 3 Activate Learning (Mind the Jerk)
Lever 3 is slightly different. It’s more about me as the leader and I call it Mind the Jerk. I can also only really describe it by relating a story. About 2 (or was it 3) months into engaging the team of coaches I support I found myself in front of our team wall listening to one of the coaches excitedly sharing what was happening in her space ( a team wall is literally a wall that visualises what we are doing and where we are and yes, this was before we all went virtual). Her whole face was lit up as she shared what next steps were possible. I listened, as I always do only this time something else was happening for me. Instead of my normal curiosity and focus on it not being about me, I am not doing the coaching, it is about the coaches finding their way, instead of that, my inner jerk decided to come out and play. I waited (not so patiently) for her to finish (my jerk was gearing up nicely) and then I said, “Yes, but…..”. I can’t remember what the but was, it isn’t important other than it was me basically saying you are wrong, here is how it is supposed to be, I am the expert. What will stick with me is how in a nanosecond all the light and enthusiasm went out of her face. Even worse, the same thing happened with the 2 coaches along side of her. They froze and I realized I had just messed up! Big!
My jerk tried to convince me that as the leader and expert I had every right to intervene and judge what was happening as being wrong and not the right way to go forward. My inner jerk really did try and convince me that I was totally right and justified, only I could see her face. I have lived that! I know what it feels like to have the wind taken from my sails and to be judged and shown up in public. I have also vowed to never create that for someone! Ever!
So yes it would have been easier to just ignore it and pretend nothing happened. Only the damage had been done and it wouldn’t go away by ignoring it. So the next day I apologised and asked for forgiveness. I shared what I had experienced and observed and how that wasn’t the impact that I choose to have on the world. I felt sick doing it. Who wants to stand up in front of people and talk about how they just messed up and how I am after all not perfect ?
I work with amazingly gracious and gentle people, they forgave me and we moved on…into a totally different space. I had no deliberate intent behind asking for forgiveness other than an inherent knowing that I had to own this so. What I did not expect was the impact that it had. Something had shifted for us as a team. There was more freedom, more safety. Suddenly everyone was sharing more and sharing more of the things that perhaps made them also look imperfect. Some how we now all had permission to make mistakes and own them and move on. When you mind the jerk, you Activate the Human and that is what really empowers people. Allowing them to be their whole selves without fear of judgement. And yes, my inner jerk still comes out and that is OK. It doesn’t do it quite so dramatically and for the most part I catch myself in mid jerk and just burst out laughing and move on.
To read more about this lever, see the blog post Lever 3 Mind the Jerk