Lynn Schoener 
October 9th, 2014  
Lynn Schoener
As a coach and consultant to organizations in transition, I work with leaders to develop coaching cultures and  improve employee satisfaction, team performance, and engagement.  My coaching work with individuals is designed to help them through...Read More 
Lectures and Ladders and Hook, Oh My! 


"An artist! That is so cool." I topped off her glass of iced tea and asked, "How are you marketing your work?"

My oldest nephew's new girlfriend, his first real love, answered tentatively. "On Facebook."

"Facebook? How does that work? Do we need to be friends for me to see your portfolio?"

She hesitated. "Yes...but even if we friended each other, you'd really have to know where to look."

Within minutes, we were friends and I was on her profile page. Buried under endless photos of him and them, this 21-year-old talent (and she is talented) had a grand total of four pictures of her paintings.

"This won't work!" I cried. "You need to get on Etsy! It's a fabulous online marketplace for original art."

"Yes, I know. I buy things on Etsy, but--"

"Why aren't you on Etsy? I interrupted. "You are good! How will anyone beyond your Facebook circle ever know you have things for sale? I thought you said you wanted to make your living as an artist."

With that, she looked down at her salad and changed the subject.

Could there have been a more coachable moment, and could I have possibly messed it up more than I did? I don't think so. I missed an opportunity to help her take a baby step in the direction of her dream. Instead, I bullied her into a defensive cower by serving up my toxic cocktail of urgent enthusiasm, with a shame chaser.

I did unto her what I deplore having done unto to me: I advised and admonished with no clear or complete understanding of the problem. Furthermore, I don't believe she thinks marketing and selling her art is a problem worthy of her attention right now. She's in love, and my nephew is the priority. My behavior, however, created a problem that didn't exist before this conversation. She doesn't trust me to understand her, and worked hard to avoid me at the family party two days later.

What happened? What hooked me? What made me lapse into lecture mode, leading from ahead with my own agenda? I love art and artists, and I want to see them thrive, yes, but that truth wouldn't pull me off a coach course. I want my nephew to be in love with a "go-getter," not someone content to piddle around half-heartedly with a pretend business. How about that for a textbook example of racing up the Ladder of Inference? One conversation and I have her pegged as not worthy of our Georgia Tech engineering grad. That does not explain, however, the intense irritation I felt when she revealed her low-leverage sales strategy.  

Something else, some story much more about me than her, hijacked my skill and will to be present, curious, and appreciative. I saw myself in her reluctance to move out of a familiar setting, however ineffective it might be. I saw myself in her ambivalence about being in the world, selling her work, and risking rejection. I saw myself in her desire to have her boyfriend make the money, the decisions, and a life for us--I mean them--both. In some ways, it was as if she had left the lunch table and I was in a conversation with myself. For those few minutes, I acted as if my own creative goals were dependent upon her launching an Etsy site.

What hooks you? What kinds of people and issues set off an emotional, even irrational charge within your psyche? Beyond the immediate circle of your nuclear family, do you ever notice an urgency for people to do what you think is best, and to do it your way? What is that about? If you can bring more awareness to what drives your impassioned exchanges with others, you can increase your "be with" batting average when a coachable moment emerges.

Here are a few questions that my do-over might include:

"What do you like about Facebook as a venue for marketing your art, and what are the limitations?"

"You are familiar with Etsy as a consumer. How might you learn about the process of becoming a vendor?"

"When I suggested Etsy, I noticed that you looked uncomfortable. Would you be willing to share your concerns about it?"

Sometimes that awareness only comes, as it did for me, with the queasy feeling of having breached a boundary-a boundary that the coach approach deeply respects. With a ruthless review of your hooks, assumptions, and biases, you can turn a missed coaching opportunity into the beginnings of a kinder, gentler way of being.

Enjoy this glorious month of transition!



Copyright 2014 by Lynn Schoener



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