[This post is part of a series on Coaching Highlights from coaching Columbia Business School students. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]
Do you ever have an amazing epiphany about a major change you will make in your life, or how you’ll do it, and get excited about how awesome doing it will be?
This happens a lot in coaching sessions, especially after their first 360-degree review and coaching session. They often have major realizations and make fantastic, far-reaching plans destined for enduring success.
All that is awesome, but this realization came in the privacy of a distraction-free room, working with someone working to understand and support them. Often within minutes of walking out the door, they get hit with emails, calls, interruptions, reminders of homework due later that day, and so on. Your life has similar intrusions.
In other words, they risk empathy gaps slowing or halting their progress. Even straightforward and simple plans, when made in pristine environments, can fall apart when hit with the rest of life, leading people to give up.
As a coach I look out for too-high optimism. I don’t want to lower the optimism, but I want to prepare them for obstacles. I manage expectations to make them more capable to handle challenges. I try to have them conceive of situations that may slow them down and prepare how to handle them. Things like
- Someone judging them
- Not having as much time as they expected to focus on them
- Other projects temporarily taking priority
- Running out of a resource
- Feeling like they’ll never finish six months in
- Forgetting their original motivation
and so on. Besides having them imagine potential obstacles and blocks, I often role play to help them understand and prepare their responses.
Managing expectations applies to all people changing their behavior, not just students in lightning sessions, but you and me all the time.
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