Wednesday, August 3, 2011

One small step for man. One giant leap for joy.

Posted on Wednesday, August 03, 2011 by International Coach Federation

"The universe has been evolving for 13 billion years. It's unlikely that its ultimate goal is consumerism" - Brian Swimme

Now there's a thought.

At the recent wonderfully organised ICF European Conference in Madrid many speakers highlighted the current malaise in economics, sustainability, happiness etc. And wherever you are living and working I'm sure there are examples of recent environmental impact, economic slowdown/collapse, social need. If there's one thing that is apparent right now it's that in some way we're all in this together. The big question that seemed to be hanging after Madrid (beyond where are the female voices in all this - I for one would love to hear a few more) was "OK, but what can we do?"

For me this leads to a more specific question - what am I personally helping to bring into the world? Many years ago John Elkington put together the neat idea of the Triple Bottom Line - people, profit, planet. It's age old wisdom, packaged for the current era. And it's really getting traction now. Charities I'm working with are very clear about their need to be financially responsible and indeed attractive to money in order to do their good work - money is an enabler, not a fiend. And businesses I'm working with are increasingly keen to demonstrate their social and environmental responsibility, for a long list of reasons including brand, reputation, customer loyalty, security of supply, avoiding government intervention, driver for innovation, cost savings and more.

So what about us as coaches? On the one hand much of what we do is inherently good. But I find it interesting at conferences how many questions I get asked which are actually fishing for how well am I doing, how much am I charging, where are the market opportunities and what is the next big thing. It's all about money. Which is fair enough given that it can be tough to earn a living in coaching and money is important for choices, freedoms (in some senses), and providing for those we care about.

But what about our social and environmental impact - not just through our direct actions in how we travel and do we do pro bono and the like, but in the fuller picture of what our collaborative work with clients brings into the world?

For me I reached tipping point a few months ago. Frankly I'm fed up with a me/more/now client agenda. So I'm upfront now in saying if this assignment is just about performance/profitability without bringing more net good and health into the world I'm probably not the best coach for you and I'd be delighted to recommend another coach who will likely serve better. I'm upfront in discussing what they feel the legacy of this work will be, how it will be seen in a local and global context, how our grandchildren may judge it, and is our aspiration for good big enough.

It's been a "coming out" experience. I was very scared of a backlash. I was very scared of ridicule. I was very scared of starving. That hasn't happened. It's a joy. It opens whole new conversations.

With clients as experts and guides, how about we step into the unknown and begin to discover the world beyond consumerism?

Neil Scotton, PCC, August 2011

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