Creating Space for Change: A Little Bit Goes a Long Way

By John Whitehead

The difference between the best and the worst, between success and failure, between mediocrity and excellence, is often very small. Witness how tight the spread between first and last place can be in an Olympic downhill race. A single insight is sometimes worth a life’s experience. That is one reason why I call myself a lifelong learner. There is a constant need to fine-tune our skills, to be constantly on the lookout for those little things that make a big difference.

In working with clients as a leadership coach I often see a significant shift in people’s reactions to situations, such as change, when they become more self-aware. This may not be a huge surprise to those who read my posts, but as someone pointed out not too long ago in a comment, there doesn’t seem to be much change happening; that people are not as self-aware as we might think, even with the wide availability of self-help books and other resources.

I  agree with that opinion if you look at the macro level, but in my one-on-one coaching conversations, and I suspect with the many other one-on-ones going on in the world, at the micro level there is change happening—and it’s happening one person at a time. Will that have a huge impact? Who knows? I certainly don’t (but I hope it does). I do know that the more people I can reach out to and work with on understanding their emotions and how their actions impact others, the more chance there is for some little piece of the world to change.

Perhaps an HR professional, following a workplace accident, has had to inform and support the family and affected staff, but has received no support herself. Perhaps a worker feels he is not connecting in the workplace and really just wants to fit in. Maybe a health care worker finds his emotions get away on him and it is affecting how he performs his duties, or a CEO feels her staff are not connected and not working well together. In all these cases, the starting point is understanding, first and foremost, who they are.

Sometimes all that’s needed is a pivot in their thinking, just a small shift. At times like that you see the eyes widen, smiles break out and the “wow” moments happen. It may be just a small insight into how their actions or reactions are getting in the way. Most of all I think it is when they grasp the key insight that there are those things you can control and those you can’t…

John Whitehead, coaches individuals and organizations in becoming more effective by helping them improve their interpersonal communications, emotional intelligence and resiliency.

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