What I love about this real quote is that although it’s from a lifer that we have mentored, it could be any of us in any situation in our lives.
We’re well known for being champions, ok, evangelical, about taking a coaching approach to moving people forward. So I’ll tell you a little story about how I arrived at this as a manager.
I’ve always worked with people who are a bit ‘stuck’. Again, this could be any of us at a time in our lives. In this case, it was Daniel. Daniel was 17 and being trafficked by a Soho sex ring from Leicester to London. It was also my first job in this sector. Although I’d been at uni in Leeds and lived in Moscow, nothing prepared me for the extraordinary lives people lead. It was 2004. I was 29 and didn’t have much of a clue.
I was about to move on to a promotion in a prison and I was desperate to see Daniel more forward before I left. To cut a long story short, I got Daniel enrolled at the local college in the belief that a focus and education would help. Two years later I ran into a former colleague who basically told me, it hadn’t worked out well for Daniel. In her view this was because Daniel hadn’t been involved in the decisions or the execution and all I had done was what I thought would have worked for me! Daniel has haunted me ever since.
What I now know is that not only were Daniel’s challenges way beyond my skillset and the support he had access to, but that yes, I was guilty of that which I was accused. I did everything FOR him, with little consultation because I thought creating a mini-me was probably the answer. Well, it works for me, so why not him?
What would have helped Daniel? Some good open and strengths-based questions for a start. Like what? Like:
‘Daniel, where do you want to be in a year’s time?’
‘Daniel, what are your next steps?’
‘Daniel, what are you good at?’
‘Daniel, how will you feel when you’re out of this situation?’
‘Daniel, when you’ve been in difficult situations before, what’s worked and who did you turn to?’
You get the idea. This would have taken months if not years, but he wasn’t short of brainpower or time and we’d have got to the right solutions for him, I’m certain. I’m guessing that what we’ve all just been through counts as a pretty tough situation too. Not the same as Daniel, for sure. But those same questions can help with colleagues, friends and family who may be scared, feeling stuck and want to move on too.