July 19, 2008

I'm really an impatient person

Every now and then, one of the coaches I train in the solution-focused approach, remarks something like: "Solution-focused coaching is great, but for me it is very hard because I am really an impatient person." Over the years, I have more and more come to the thought that we have to be careful of describing ourselves in these kinds of terms. Saying "I'm inpatient" sounds like a mere description but it often also has the character of a declaration, as if your impatience defines you. It is like declaring this goal to be unattainable: "I am impatient, solution-focused coaching requires patience, therefore I won't be able to learn how to do it right." This reminds me of one of my favorite quotes ever, one by Robert H. Frank: "Our beliefs about human nature help shape human nature itself." Our believes about how good or competent we can be, determine our efforts or lack of efforts. If we define ourselves as impatient, what's the sense in trying to become more patient? After all, we are not patient but impatient. A second quote by Geoffrey Colvin comes to my mind: "Anything that anyone does at work, from the most basic task to the most exalted, is an improvable skill." This, of course, brings us back to the growth mindset. Patience can be learned. Saying: "I'm really an impatient person", expresses a fixed mindset, which will keep you from even trying to learn and thereby will confirm itself. It is a self confirming belief. Fortunately, changing from a fixed mindset isn't the hardest thing to do. In fact, it is easy. Peter Heslin and his colleagues taught managers a growth mindset in a 90 minute workshop. Back to learning to do solution-focused coaching. It can be done. Sure, it is not the easiest thing. But all the required skills can be acquired with deliberate practice. Even patience can be learned.

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