Quiet the Commentators

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The bike race up the Mt. Washington Auto Road could serve as a metaphor for the many challenges leaders and growing organizations face (also great coaching topics) – goal setting, commitment, and performance gaps, to name a few. With an average grade of 12%, this race pushes riders at all levels to their physical and mental limits. It’s uncomfortable at this edge, and that’s when our mind gets loud.

In my most recent race, what emerged within the first mile were two conflicting commentators that we all have; 1) The Protector, whose job is to keep us safe – to avoid failure, embarrassment, and physical or emotional harm (voice: “Slow down!“), and 2) The Competitor, whose job is to achieve results – to work hard, push us beyond our limits, and out of our comfort zone (voice:”Go faster!“). Each has equally important responsibilities and functions depending on our circumstances. However, it’s impossible to completely satisfy both and the arguing is distracting.

As I crossed the finish line, The Competitor was disappointed, critical, and looking for excuses. The Protector was annoyed, but happy to be done. Neither side was gratified – the impact being that it was hard to find fulfillment or a sense of accomplishment from the experience. This is the unfortunate cost of this conflict, even when we give our best effort. A coach is able to provide an outside perspective and can therefore more easily identify the commentators, their intentions and impact, and act as referee. The conflicting parts are identified and heard, allowing for integration, negotiation, and ultimately a quieter, more peaceful ride. To put this into practice, identify an area of your work or personal life where you are currently challenged or feeling uncomfortable:

  • Identify The Protector and The Competitor. What do they each want for you? Acknowledge each for their diligent efforts.
  • What impact is each is having on YOU? On your team? On your business? On your experience?
  • Is there room for negotiation between the two? How would a referee intervene? What would compromise look like?
  • As you think about what’s most important for you in this endeavor, which part will serve you best? How can you better leverage that part?

Looking back, I am grateful for The Competitor that urged me to the top, and for The Protector, who got me there without cardiac arrest. And when I “mute” them both, I can fully take in the satisfaction and thrill of the experience. As you may find, bringing awareness to the commentators can be tricky, that’s why CEO’s, pro athletes, and coaches have a coach – not just to be better at their craft, but to compete with less noise and greater fulfillment. Next to winning, that’s the best possible outcome.

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On September 19, 2012
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