A Coaching Power Tool created by Dorian L. Lennon
(Executive & Life Coach, JAMAICA)
What is COURAGE?
In my own mind, courage is overcoming the odds – the difficulties or the addictive pleasures of life. Walking away from some of the pleasures of life takes courage at times, depending on one’s belief or the journey they plan to take in the future. Courage is being willing to change, to move from a place of fear or failure to one of boldness and success.
What do some writers say about Courage?
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage
When we least expect it, life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change; at such a moment, there is no point in pretending that nothing has happened or in saying that we are not yet ready. The challenge will not wait. Life does not look back. A week is more than enough time for us to decide whether or not to accept our destiny.
Courage, according to Aristotle is the mean between fear and recklessness. Cowards are debilitated by excessive fear, especially of things that shouldn’t be feared. Reckless men take unnecessary risks with excessive confidence in the face of danger. The courageous man, however, strikes a balance between irrational fear and foolhardy recklessness. The courageous man fears that which should be feared, but he endures his fear with confidence for the right reason… for the sake of honor and nobility
Aristotle in Nin
As stated by Nin,
…our working definition of courage is recognizing rational fears, but acting nobly despite this fear in order to maintain manly honor. Art of manliness- Developing manly courage
My socialization, which sets the stage for my responses to various life experiences (professional and personal) and especially during my youthful days as a nurse in training, has taught me to be a courageous student, employee, wife, mother, and entrepreneur. As a young student nurse, I have had the experience of making a ‘life or death’ decision on behalf of my father. This has further taught me to be courageous and to not retreat unless it is to protect myself and others in the face of ‘no available alternative’. At age 62, my father fell from a tree and fractured his 4th & 5th cervical vertebra which rendered him unable to move (quadriplegia), with loss of sensation from his waist down.
After spending a week in a rural hospital with only pain medication, and stabilization of head and neck to prevent further trauma, I requested a transfer of my father to the city hospital in which I was a student nurse. I was told that there was no ambulance to transport him to the next hospital. I decided that I would ask one of my friends who had a car to transport him for the over 100 mile journey; a very serious risk that could cause further damage to my dad. Not getting a transfer for my dad on the basis that he should be transported by an ambulance, I signed him out of the hospital (I was merely 20 years old and still a junior student nurse; maybe if I was more knowledgeable and experienced, I would not have made such a decision!) and my friends accompanied me to the Kingston Hospital with my dad’s head in my lap, cushioned by 2 sand bags, one on either side to prevent his neck and head from moving. It was an extremely long slow drive as we had to ensure that he arrived safely.
My dad was a courageous man whose determination and tenacity have helped him many times to overcome the odds. This is a time when he needed help to survive and I was adamant to help him. He had surgery the morning after he arrived at the hospital, and he displayed more courage on the journey to recovery. He was very positive, he obeyed the rules, he welcomed the physiotherapist and was overjoyed when he was assisted to sit up for the first time after many months. He had to be held in place, and could only stay in that position for a short while. On my visit one morning, he told me that I should assist him to sit up so that he could drink his coffee in a sitting position. I was frightened and hesitant as he did not tell me (I was working on another ward) that he was being assisted to regain the use of his hands. After seeking permission from the Nurse in charge, I proceeded to help him to a sitting position. Oh dear, he swung from side to side until he steadied himself with my assistance. I was so fearful for his safety that I did not want to give him the cup. My courageous father asked for his cup of coffee telling me to drape his chest with his bath towel as some of the coffee would spill. At the point when he got the cup to his mouth, only half a cup of coffee was left! He laughed, looked at me and said – “I did it.”
After a few more weeks, my dad was discharged for home with a 1 month appointment to return to see the doctor. Oh dear what am I going to do? He cannot sit up for the over 100 miles that we had to travel back home! My pastor who had a small bus, decided to drive to Kingston to collect my dad and to take him home. We were overjoyed; my mom, family and friends were all waiting to see him. He was not yet able to do ‘fine’ movements with his hands, neither could he walk. Thankfully, he had gotten back sensation in his bladder and bowel but had to be assisted to the bathroom etc.
My mother and brother had many fearful moments as my dad insisted that he had to walk before he kept his doctor’s appointment. The doctor said that he may never walk again, so he was not sent home with crutches!! My dad asked my brother to prepare 2 pieces of wood which he would use to balance himself while learning to walk. He went down the steps on his ‘rear end’ and had to be helped back up these steps when he had completed his ‘walking practice’. It was very hard work for a 62 year old man! He persevered. On the day of his doctor’s appointment, he walked from the hospital gate to the orthopaedic clinic. The doctor who was attending to another patient, was so shocked when he saw my dad walking in, that he had to take a seat before greeting him. My dad did it, he walked! My father continued to climb trees until he was too old to do so, and died at the age of 90 years!
The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter. Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die
In my experience in the corporate world, I have seen many courageous persons of both gender, and more females than males who retreat in the face of fear or danger. The next case study is about Retreat and assistance/support of the coachee to move her to a state of courage.
My Take on Retreat is someone running away from a challenge, from a ferocious animal, or from someone/something that could cause harm. It is also being fearful, and retreating to protect self. I feel, however, that constant running away could create a life-long situation of discomfort, not exploring other ways of responding, and not taking a stand.
Retreat as defined by the Online Webster’s dictionary, is
an act or process of withdrawing especially from what is difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable; the process of receding from a position or state attained; to move or go away from a place or situation especially because it is dangerous, unpleasant, etc., or to change your opinion or statement about something because it is unpopular … Merriam Webster: Retreat
Mrs. Lenaire (name changed to protect coachee’s identity).
I met Mrs. Lenaire, a 35 year old divorced female and mother of a 15 year old son, at her Company’s Retreat which I facilitated. Her position in the Company is a very demanding one and being there only a year has not helped. This is about her 3rd job and on all 3 occasions she feels that she was being unduly pressured, and not given adequate support by her supervisor or her peers to get the job done.
She caught my attention at the Retreat because whenever there was a discussion about her area, it was literally taken over by other employees in the room and she said absolutely nothing or removes from her seat to get coffee and positions herself out of the centre of attention. In a discussion with Mrs. Lenaire the following day, I asked her the reason for not responding or not participating in the discussions about her area of work. She stated that it is futile to respond as the way the persons were behaving is their modus operandi. I later discovered that she was a 12 year cancer survivor who has been coping well, did not want to get too stressed, and had not revealed to her workplace that she was a cancer survivor.
She wore a beautiful blouse that day and was asked whether her photograph could be taken. She agreed for the blouse to be taken without showing her face; that statement sent ringing ‘bells’ through my mind. The photographer did a good job of taking the blouse without her face. At meal times, Mrs. Lenaire sat with the same persons with whom she seemed to enjoy herself. Before the end of the Retreat, she asked whether she could have my telephone number as she wanted to speak with me. I was happy to give her the number as I too wanted to get to know her and the reasons for her withdrawal from testing situations. She displayed insecure behaviour and retreated when the temperature of the discussions got ‘hot’ and required her input. What could have contributed to Mrs. Lenaire’s behaviour?
Mrs. Lenaire called the following week and during our discussions, I asked whether she would be willing to be coached by me – pro bono. She replied in the affirmative. This would be my first external client. A month after the Managers’ Retreat, Mrs. Lenaire attended her 1st coaching session via Skype. She completed the ‘getting to know you’ questionnaire that I had emailed to her before the first appointment.
The way forward for Mrs. Lenaire
Some responses from the ‘getting to know you’ questionnaire were discussed. In this process, other questions were asked in respect of Mrs. Lenaire’s responses to get further information to support her on her journey. Mrs. Lenaire’s response to the question: What value do you place on you?, was “I am not sure how to answer… It is usually defined by the value others place on what I’ve given them of myself…” What are 3 goals that you are ready, willing and able to work on? At this point she stated that she is willing and able to work on goals but did not articulate any at that point.
What are 3 roadblocks that might stop you from being fully open to coaching?
Mrs Lenaire stated:
1) Not being able to absorb quickly enough, any positive, objective truths that are conveyed to her;
2) Fear of failure, and
3) Pressure of everyday survival and responsibilities which could override her long term goals.
‘In what aspects of moving forward, are you stuck?’
Mrs Lenaire stated:
(i) focusing on the challenges faced by other persons, rather than on myself;
(ii) finding appropriate responses to questions asked at work, and
(iii) how to recognize my own successes.
The first session with Mrs. Lenaire lasted for 3 hours!!
She feels others have a damaged perception of her and her work. She describes the company with which she works as having a strange environment – the persons are loud – they intimidate others, some have minimal competency around what they are doing, and place the blame for their errors on someone else. Mrs. Lenaire stated that she ‘feels like a proper failure, and that she is not moving at the required pace because of insomnia’. What is responsible for the insomnia? Her response: ‘I worry about personal issues, I am exhausted physically, spiritually, and I don’t know if I should go backward or forward’. Her ‘take-away’ from this marathon session was to: “change her expectations of my supervisor and other employees, and get some measure of balance in my personal and work life”.
As the sessions progressed her take-aways began to focus more on herself. Mrs. Lenaire noted that she was learning to take the risk to be more vulnerable; that the way people treat us is the way we train them to treat us, and that she wants to learn how to teach others how to treat her. She thinks she is starting to like herself but would like to get to the point where she loves herself. She later stated that she has some exploring to do in terms of past events and how they impact the present. On about 3 occasions, Mrs. Lenaire telephoned between sessions crying very loudly stating that she left the meeting at work and plans to resign from the job. In a later session while exploring this behaviour, she shared that when she was a teenager, her mother while walking down the stars behind her called her stupid, idiot repeatedly. She cannot remember what led to the name calling; however, she vividly remembers the incident and how terrible she felt. She attributes her present response of retreating (change position, leaves the room, or leaves the workplace for hours if possible – and cries a LOT!!!!) to the experience with her mother calling her ‘stupid, idiot’.