This afternoon, I was driving to an appointment and was struck by a dilemma.
I noticed someone walking along the side of the road and I put my foot on the brake to slow down and then just hovered, not knowing if I should stop to assist him or drive past and let him be. Lest you believe me cold, callous and selfish, let me explain.
This young man was somewhere in his early 20’s and he was grossly overweight. He had on the uniform shirt of a local grocery store not too far from where I saw him walking. Now, I am a very maternal woman and I worry about everyone as if they’re one of my own goslings to be sheltered, nurtured and cared for in life. I put my foot on the brake to pick him up and drive him around the corner to work. It would have been a five minute drive and not really out of my way. But I hesitated.
In an instant, my thoughts went to, “Will I be helping this young man? Or will I be enabling this young man?”
You see, the weather wasn’t bad. He wasn’t struggling. He didn’t seem unhappy.
My heart thought that he needed “help”. My head thought that he needed to feel strong and build his confidence – and most of all, he needed to be healthy. For all I knew, this was his only daily exercise on his quest to slim down and improve his fitness. I had to really choose to empower him rather than enable him. I had to choose to serve him rather than take care of him. I had to envision him after six months of walking himself up the road the distance from his home to his employment – and the satisfaction, not to mention improved physical state, that he would feel with his accomplishment. So I drove on past him, looking in my rear view mirror about 15 times to see how he was making progress and to make sure he wasn’t having any physical trouble walking to work. (Truth was, I was trying to convince my heart and my conscience that he was better off on his own.)
It’s the same thing when I’m coaching my clients. With a major difference. When I’m coaching women entrepreneurs, I never question whether I should enable or empower them. I always take natural action to EMPOWER them. I never doubt whether my client needs more coddling or more encouragement. I always encourage them to move forward without coddling. It’s a delicate mixture of compassion and direction. However, I never put my foot on the brake or hesitate to do what’s best for my entrepreneurs, to say what needs to be said. I always call it like I see it, all the while making sure I stay present to how it appears for them.
The coaching relationship is one of tough love. It involves directing, encouraging, telling it straight. Being a cheerleader but not a mindless fan. Being kind yet not lenient. Being empathetic yet not softhearted. A coach is someone who must EMPOWER you in your business and in your life – especially when you’re an entrepreneur because the two are intrinsically entwined.
I do practice tough love with my businesswomen. And I am also their biggest supporter. I believe in my clients and that is why I expect more from them than they expect from themselves. I demand it. Because I know they can handle it. As a result, they amaze themselves constantly by achieving far more than they every dreamed possible!
p.s. I do still look for that young man walking down the street sometimes to see how he’s progressing. I choose to believe that he’s getting healthier and stronger each and every day.