Being Well-Used

By Guest Author, Carol Ross
At the end of a 14-hour day, after working with a team of 24 people in a company, I looked over at my partner for this client gig, Deb Siverson. She spoke for both of us when she uttered the words, “I feel well-used.”

We were at dinner with the team. The dinner capped a marathon week of email and phone conversations with the client, weekend afternoons on the phone with my partner analyzing team data and designing the day with the team, and working closely with a subset of the team beforehand to create allies and role models.

And now, we were celebrating breakthroughs in relationships that were unimaginable a week ago. Parties that had been polarized–disenfranchised team members and management–were willing to work together on long-standing problems. The “us vs. them” stance had softened enough so that eye contact could be made with the enemy and glasses raised for a toast. Cliques dissolved as team mates chose to move to other tables to mingle. Team members felt heard. It was truly remarkable.

All of this was possible with tools from an advanced coaching curriculum on coaching systems that my partner and I had finished last year. Systems can be a couple, a family, a team at work, a department or business unit. What I am learning in applying this in the real world is that it takes all of me to serve the client well, to be well-used.

The Radar must be on target from moment to moment-noticing when a participant is disengaging, hearing the anxiety in a voice, seeing the body language of restless feet that conveys the explosive energy just below the surface, being aware of my rank as an outside coach and using my power appropriately, for the good of the system.

As I work in the moment to adjust a planned exercise to work with foursomes instead of pairs and to act on an impulse to co-create a movement with a participant, the Creative Muse is in control.

The Project Manager focuses on preparing the sponsors to play their roles effectively, gauging the time spent and time left throughout the day, touching base with my partner and with the sponsors to determine whether we are on track, setting up the room to move from one exercise to the next, effortlessly.

When participants have trouble acknowledging conflict on their team, the Story-Teller comes alive to relay my own experiences about difficult conversations with a family member. The Inquisitor holds both me and the client accountable, our feet held to the fire. Can the client get the results she wants if she’s not willing to play full out? Is the client willing to release his perspective to try on a new one? Am I being honest with the client about what is required to get the desired results? Have I role modeled what I want for the client-transparency, courage to go into the unknown, a valuing of the diverse voices on the team?

The Ham revels in role-playing as we explore unexpressed voices in the system, exaggerating the movement and tone for effect. I am pleased when I get to play the role of Danger-narrating how systems operate unconsciously in its presence.

The Truth-Teller comes forth as a way to move team members into action. I don’t let them off the hook to slide into the end of the day, without the change their hearts yearn for. Being fearless now will serve the group in the long-run.

Being well-used means working with Compassion. To honor the place when tears are shed by one person but meaningful for everyone in the room. To see the humanity in those who become numb to survive. To know when a group has gone over their edge and to accept the natural instinct to go back to their comfort zone.

The Learner takes whatever is in front of me to turn it into an insight for the group. The Toddler gets curious about what’s trying to happen in every moment. The Clown’s silliness puts everyone at ease. The Authentic Self urges me to be vulnerable, to normalize what feels awkward for a participant.

The many parts of me come together in service to the client. My gifts are well-used.

Being well-used is not only about what I give, what is called forth from me, but the impact that it has in the world. I talked with a client, several weeks after working with her team. I was pleased to hear that some of the concepts that we believe create a healthy group are becoming part of the team’s language, phrases like, “Everyone is right, but only partially.”

This road of being well-used is full of potholes and detours. Some days, I’m running on empty. Other days, I zip along. In the end, I know that I have taken the client to a better, more productive and satisfying place. Along the way, we both have been transformed.

Copyright © 2007 by Carol Ross and Associates, LLC.