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View from the (l)edge

View from the (l)edge

by Moyra Mackie on October 18, 2013

One bright Sunday this June when I stepped briefly onto the glass platform in The Shard, 244m (800ft) above south London, it hit me that the older I get, the more afraid of heights I become.

And I’ve been thinking a lot about fear this week

Fear can be immobilising. It can stop us from having tough but necessary conversations and from taking necessary decisions and risks.

Effective leaders confront fear every day; in having challenging conversations, in making decisions and taking risks. Which is why leadership can be so hard and so lonely.

Leadership requires stepping onto the ledge

One of the roles of a coach is to work with leaders to help them manage their anxiety, to model a way of reflecting, talking and listening that they can take back with them to form more effective habits of responding and communicating with those around them.

Coaches work with leaders to step out of their comfort zone

Mary Beth O’Neill puts this most eloquently in Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart, when she says that all coaches need to develop a “signature presence”. This takes both professional training and years of practice. Ideally this practice should be both inside and outside the coaching room.

“Having signature presence is critical for coaches. Presence means bringing your self when you coach: your values, passion, creativity, emotion and discerning judgment to any given moment with a client. Presence means developing and sustaining your tolerance for a host of situations many people actively avoid; ambiguity, daunting challenges, the anxiety or disapproval of others, and your own personal sources of stress.”

And the last few weeks have certainly provided me with plenty of practice of all of the above  

Not in the coaching room, but in my attempts to bring a little bit of the coaching room into other people’s every day routine.

Devising and developing a coaching app – Change Ninja – has been the easy bit

Essentially I have tried to distil 15 years of coaching practice with input and inspiration from Chip and Dan Heath, Richard Boyatzis, Daniel Pink , David Maister and Paul Watzlawick. And that’s the bit I feel confident about; supported by the fact that there is not another app like it on the market.

The fear, anxiety and stress come from stepping out of my comfort zone

Getting a bank to finance app development is like trying to get a mortgage on a house you haven’t built yet. So Paul Jenkins, my business partner, joined me out on the ledge as we launched a campaign to get Crowdfunding.

Which is why I’ve been pre-occupied, and sometimes immobilised, with fear

Crowdfunding is like inviting all the friends you’ve ever had to a big party and then wondering if anyone will turn up.

We wrestle with the fear of rejection and failure – which of our network will really show up?

We wrestle with shame – is this crowdfunding or, as someone in our network put it, begging?

And we have discovered, like many others who have stepped out onto that ledge,  sometimes the person who joins you is a complete surprise, and they bear the most extravagant gifts.

So Paul and I are two weeks into our six week stay out on the ledge

Sometimes it’s exhilarating and the views are spectacular. Sometimes it’s foggy and lonely. Always it’s exposing and scary.

But feeling the fear and doing it anyway is a source of learning

We have to take feedback and rejection. We have to test our networks and ourselves.

And I’m certain it will help me with the next executive I coach out on that ledge.

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie

Moyra Mackie helps leaders and teams to work with courage, compassion and creativity. She is an executive coach and consultant and the founder of Mackie Consulting.

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