"Shotgun!" My boys used to yell this out as they elbowed each other to get to the front seat when we would leave in the morning for the school run.
According to Wikipedia, "riding shotgun" was a phrase used to describe the bodyguard who rides alongside a stagecoach driver, typically armed with a break-action shotgun called a coach gun, to ward off bandits or hostiles. In modern use, it refers to the practice of sitting alongside the driver in a moving vehicle or giving support or aid to someone. The coining of this phrase by Alfred Henry Lewis dates back to 1905...
For most of my career I would get shoulder-tapped for leadership roles, and most of the time I would happily step up and in, but a few years ago I realised I prefer taking the passenger seat, I don't have a real drive to be the one at the steering wheel. For many years I thought I was faulty or lazy, but over the years I realised that my superpower of Encouragement and my genius for Discernment is most helpful and fulfilling when I am riding "shotgun".
This is why I love leadership coaching so much. As I read the description above, I thought about how similar it sounded to what I do. LOL. I get to journey with people who are going somewhere significant, they are carrying something really valuable, and it is often at a very fast pace with the off chance of being highjacked. How thrilling is that!!!! I know I sound like a nutter, but it must have been all those cowboy movies I watched with my dad growing up.
My approach is to follow the A B C's:
A is for Accountability. Let's face it, leaders are busy, with lots of people pulling on their time and energy all the time. It would be very easy to let their own goals take second place. Those fortnightly meetings create the focus they need to get where they are going. My job isn't to pistol whip them if they don't do what they said they would, but to find out why they didn't and to equip them with better tools should they need them. Avoidance can often speak to a misalignment of values. My job is to ensure they have focus and clarity.
B is for sounding Board. Some of my leaders need a space where they can try on a crazy idea out loud, without someone freaking out because it is out there or starting an action plan or shooting it down before they have had a chance to process it themselves. Between disharmony and direction, you have to find hope.
One of my favourite quotes about hope is from Brene Brown. "Hope is not an emotion; it's a way of thinking or a cognitive process. Emotions play a supporting role, but hope is really a thought process made up of what Snyder calls a trilogy of goals, pathways, and agency. In very simple terms, hope happens when we have the ability to set realistic goals (I know where I want to go). We are able to figure out how to achieve those goals, including the ability to stay flexible and develop alternative routes (I know how to get there, I'm persistent, and I can tolerate disappointment and try again). We believe in ourselves (I can do this!).
I love creating this space for leaders. Leadership can be isolating and having someone to listen is invaluable.
I had a client who had what seemed like a crazy dream to take 6 months out of his business, to take his family with two young girls who were just about to start school to the country of his birth so they could learn his native language. Before he spoke to his wife he got the opportunity to talk about it and think out loud. I don't give any advice, I just ask tons of questions and listen. He did land up doing it a few years ago and it was so amazing that they recently set off for another 6-month stint again.
C is for Consistency. There is a rhythm with the coaching. We meet every fortnight and work on a thematic goal every quarter. That consistency ensures that small gains over time make for significant changes. It keeps the main thing the main thing and takes those BHAGs and makes them achievable. One bite at a time. It allows for adjustments mid-course as we check in to see what is working and what isn't. Also, over time, trust deposits allow for more openness and vulnerability in our conversations, which always leads to better insights and realisation about patterns that are unhelpful.
For many years I tried to be what others saw and felt should be my path, but as I get older, I am learning to trust that if I stick to my strengths and genius I will not only serve my clients better but also be able to do it over and over again. Playing to your strengths is energising and fulfilling, trying to improve and work in your areas of weakness is not only futile but depletes your energy and joy.
What are you doing that is depleting your energy and joy? And what are you neglecting or talking yourself out of even if it fires you up?