Thoughts on Diversity and Coaching
Diversity so often conjures up the image of people’s struggle to deal with societal pigeonholing; not accepting someone else’s definition. No one really knows what it’s like to live in another’s shoes. As a coach, it’s my job to increasingly stretch my own ability to help someone see and choose the shoes they are walking in. I’m a white middle-class woman in her 60’s; my felt life experience is different from a working-class woman of color. Yet, I can also celebrate the richness in that diversity, in those myriad things that form us, all these experiences that shape us. Some limit us and some give us possibility. I see my style as facilitating our capacity to see, acknowledge, embrace or transcend these various aspects of ourselves to give us a greater sense of what could be possible.
We so often think about diversity in a tick box way, this is not what I mean by diversity. It’s not just an external thing, making sure we are not discriminating in any way according to the protected characteristics: race, gender, religion etc. It’s being fully cognizant of what is going on in me, my interior, which affects the coaching process. I am not a clean slate; some ideas are stickier than others. I often have to step back, see what is arising in my own mind, that response that flashes into my head that is quicker than thought. Being aware of that, not pushing it away or denying it, not suppressing it but doing my utmost to not let it leak out, to not impinge on my client. To let my client be who they are.
I realize one of my strengths as a coach is the range and variety of experience I have. That strength is dependent on me being willing to make available that breadth and depth. Not to shy away from anything in myself that might be stuck or limited and to really embrace that range, the positives, and the shortcomings. It lays the foundation for the client to welcome, embrace and celebrate their own diversity. This is my developing style, to use all of me to establish a deep rapport with my client and to use our differences to help find a way forward.
So diversity is not about ticking boxes, it’s about being completely open to difference. Being aware of the myriad demands of being human in an increasingly complex world. There is an acronym, which I recently discovered, it sounds far-fetched but seems very pertinent: VUCA, volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. I think this is a very accurate description and also necessitates the inclusion of diversity in the coaching practice. So many factors are in play: self, culture, gender, nationality, religion, ethnicity, and karma. The coaching journey is teaching me to be humble to who I am and to be fully there for the other. What a journey!