More polarization is coming… what can we do as coaches and consultants to support our clients?

coaching leadership performance Jan 22, 2024

More polarization is coming… what can we do as coaches and consultants to support our clients?

I just read the article "Science is revealing why American politics are so intensely polarized" and it sparked the following note I sent to my client (senior leader in a public school district).

Sharing the note and my take here because it will increasingly be in our space over the next year and I believe we are apt to support each other, our clients, and our communities as coaches and healers.

  • Top article quote: “The media do their part to keep things inflamed. Conflict grabs attention. We’re evolutionarily predisposed to pay attention to conflict, because we might be in danger. We don’t turn our head really quickly to look at a beautiful flower. We turn our heads quickly to look at something that may be dangerous.”
  • My take: The polarization, agitation, and high emotion you and the team are experiencing within the community is likely a product of a much larger context. It’s… unfortunately or fortunately - depending on your relationship to context… normal. The work is to stay in the turmoil of understanding even when it’s fair more convenient to blame, complain, or isolate.
  • Application for Client: This is particularly relevant as we step into an election year and prep the team on what to expect re. difficult conversations. The immediate reaction here is to armor up, but the goal is to stay open and model a different type of leadership for students and staff as their parents, media, friends, and family will likely be consumed. This may be something we bring proactively to the team - not as a warning, but for everyone’s awareness.

Application for us (as coaches, consultants, and facilitators):

  1. This is good awareness to have as we walk into rooms and address sensitive topics. Personally, when I think of potential friction points (ex. DEIB), I don’t first go to political differences.
  2. This may be something to flag for your clients, especially those of larger teams or organizations.
  3. It is also reminder for us to continue to lean into the necessary structures and support that bring us equanimity. In medical terms, “we need to care for the caregiver”.
  4. It’s in the mess where I believe coaches are (1) most needed and (2) trained to thrive. While the domestic and global events of the last few of years brought unpredictable instability (COVID, George Floyd, Capital Insurrection, Russia Ukraine war, Israel–Hamas war - to name a few), I have a feeling that we (coaches) have the opportunity to bring stability during the predictable volatility of the election year. I'm choosing to see it as a call up and a challenge.

Open to comments and alternative perspectives.

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