Coaching Mastery – Belonging- Generating it is your responsibility
We recently published the issue called “Coaching Mastery – Belonging- Generating it is your responsibility ” written by Janet M. Harvey, MCC, CMS, ACS
Social belonging is a fundamental human need, hard-wired into our DNA. And yet, 40 percent of people say that they feel isolated at work, and the result has been lower organizational commitment and engagement. In a nutshell, companies are blowing it. U.S. businesses spend nearly 8 billion dollars each year on diversity and inclusion (D&I) trainings that miss the mark because they neglect our need to feel included.”
As this quote from an article in the Harvard Business Review suggests, well-intentioned work in DEI has not produced sufficient change. Today’s societal consequences for this short- fall may be recognized in any domain of life: economic security, education access and quality, community health, planetary well-being. Research in each domain listed affirms that humans are compelled genetically to belong.
According to Dr. J. Craig Venter, head of the Celera Genomics Corporation, “race is a social concept, not a scientific one.” Scientists working on genome sequencing now agree that the percentage of human genes reflection in your external appearance, what we label as the basis for race, is in the range of 0.01 percent. The failure to tend and befriend the essential human motivation for feeling a sense of belonging prioritizes ‘othering’ in the human sympathetic system, hard-wired toward flight and fight responses to fear for survival. In simple terms, the roots of human society favor the idea of ‘othering,’ closing ranks to exclude anyone or anything that threatens existence.
I’d like to challenge your assumptions about your agency in the pursuit of social justice and equitable ways of being. To belong is a verb that easily translates in more than 100 languages spoken today. However, our social norms lag behind in this important way to bridge ‘othering’ into belonging as a human race.
Changing your social norms requires a fierce and courageous challenge to what’s familiar and therefore comfortable. Diversity speaks to the numbers based on some criteria to define differences in a group. Inclusion speaks to choices made to either othering (excluding from the dominant group) or belonging (tending and befriending non-dominant people and expanding the conception of what defines “us”).
What is missing is the feeling state of belonging. Generating the feeling that a person belongs is every person’s responsibility. Fulfilling that responsibility requires a new level of disruption; a shift that strengthens emotional and psychological safety to be with others authentically and in genuine relationships.
In the words of Pat Wadors, Chief People Officer with Procore and former CPO for LinkedIn, “D&I may capture our head, but belonging captures your heart.”
The updated (Nov. 2019) ICF Core Competency Model added five skills that specifically equip coaches for strengthening the feeling of belonging between coach and client, for both individual and team engagements. The unlearning and learning always begins first with you, exploring your personal assumptions usually operating sub-consciously and therefore invisible to you.
The degree to which you choose to create belonging for you is the degree to which you succeed in doing so with your clients; you cannot see what you have yet to claim as your personal sense of self. Remember that assumptions can go in many directions: you can assume you are more capable because of an assumption, and you can also assume you are less capable because of another assumption.
This principle about assumptions also holds true with your perception of your clients. What assumptions do you notice you might be making about yourself and then about your client because you hear certain words or an experience described during your coaching sessions? The way you define each of the terms in any category of identity most likely differs from your client. In what you think you know about the client, there are going to be things you do not know. For example, you may see that you and your client have different skin colors. The difference in color is known. What is not known, without asking, is the association of skin color with personal identity and the meaning of that identity in the client’s life.
I recently provided coaching supervision for a coach who shared an exploration with a client who identifies as a Black woman and had completed a six-month engagement to prepare her to secure a desired promotion at work. The coach asked his client what he could have done differently in the partnership to generate a more satisfying experience. The client said, “If you had asked me about being a Black woman and taken interest in how my experiences shape my perspective and decisions.” This story illustrates the importance of the central skill in the competency of cultivating trust and safety: to “seek to understand the client within their context.”
Use this coach’s story to inspire you to double down on your curiosity and wonder with clients. Rather than something new and surprising surfacing several weeks into a coaching relationship, invite a broader exploration during your initial discovery session. Your responsibility when creating the client coaching plan includes consideration for the full context of a client’s life. Activate more curiosity by asking more questions about how this client interprets their experiences and what memories from their life experience are the source of making sense of those experiences. Be more present to what you do not yet know. When this happens, allow more space to invite more sharing in whatever way the client finds useful and relevant to the coaching session outcome.
In order to foster connection and equity, allow more transparency about yourself. Invite the client to be curious about you when you misinterpret or misunderstand what they are expressing, especially about the impact on them that you completely miss. Share your own personal history and how you realize that influences your first impressions. Acknowledge that you know you have blank spaces in your experience, and you are committed to looking and listening longer, with more curiosity to see other people beyond your first impressions. Do this especially with people you’ve known a long time. Generating belonging in the coaching relationships is your responsibility.
Tell us what you think about this issue and this Coaching Mastery article.
How does it apply to you and the women in your life?
Let’s continue the conversation by connecting with your colleagues on our Facebook page