Throwing light on the coaching journey
“Visible reality is only a small crumb of what’s really out there” writes artist Conrad Shawcross. I came across his work ‘Slow Arc Inside a Cube IV’ as part of ‘Light Show’ at the Hayward Gallery in London. It’s one of a collection of quite amazing and thought-provoking creations which use – and indeed celebrate – light as the work itself, rather than as an ancillary to the work. Shawcross’s comment can be applied to many of the exhibits, which remind us how often we take light, darkness and shade for granted and we fail to notice what lies beyond what’s immediately apparent.
The exhibition enabled me to see a sequence of fluorescent tubes as a flight of stairs (‘Light Steps’ by Brigitte Kowanz) and a single lightbulb as emitting moonlight (‘Lightbulb to Simulate Moonlight’ by Katie Paterson) – and it prompted me to reflect on my experience in executive coaching: the features of the leader I see in front of me in any given coaching session are indeed only a small crumb of what’s really there.
My role is to respectfully explore with the leader what lies beyond the visible reality. When they invite me in to their world to understand that world more clearly, discern more options and fulfil the leadership task more effectively, more of their world becomes visible to them. Shifts can happen for them and they can transform.
All of this is only possible because the relationship between us is trusting enough for the leader to feel safe enough to step into a risky, perhaps shadowy, space – and to see their challenges and their options more clearly in that space. Some clients speak of me as shining a torch on their path. For me as coach it’s a humbling, often inspiring and certainly illuminating experience.