I recently met with an extraordinary group of women to form a professional “Master Mind” group. I was thrilled—and not a little intimidated—to be asked to join this group of exceptionally talented and accomplished master coaches.
We spent several days, each taking turns on the hot seat to examine a big goal and troubleshoot the obstacles keeping us from achieving it. The group offered ideas, perspective, and loving support—and, to a person, we all had amazing breakthroughs.
At one of our meals as a fun way to engage all of us in conversation together, I asked a question (a Blanchard tradition, as anyone who has ever shared a meal with a Blanchard will attest). The question was: What is one of your biggest regrets?
We went around the table, each woman answering the question in turn. I was astonished when I realized that every single person had the same essential regret. Each story was different in terms of the details so it took me awhile to grasp that all of the stories were alike in one fundamental way. One woman regretted that she had let a toxic relationship go on too long. For someone else, it was a business venture she had known from the outset was doomed to fail. One person lost a business; another, a staggering amount of money. For me, it was both.
It wasn’t until my turn came that I recognized the common theme. At the root of each regret was that, at the outset, we hadn’t listened to the small voice that piped up in the quiet moments. The voice that said, “Don’t do it—this person does not have your back.” The voice that said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” The voice that said, “Stop. Look again. Slow down.” The voice that got buried under the excitement of the moment, the time constraints, the unbridled passion and enthusiasm for an idea, and the clutter of countless daily tasks. The voice of intuition that registered the tiny red flags in an otherwise perfect scenario. The voice of the “gut” that detected a pattern it had experienced before, even if the brilliant brain in our head didn’t. In every single case, stopping the action to avoid what would ultimately be a major life regret would have involved disappointing others, disturbing a well-laid plan—generally upsetting the apple cart.
I would submit that if any of us had been working with a coach at the moment of impact, we might have avoided the heartaches, the headaches, and the losses. A coach would have encouraged us to think through to that extra deep layer. A coach would have heard the uncertainty in our voice and asked what was beneath it. A coach might have noticed the red flags we were unable or unwilling to see ourselves. Where was my amazing coach, who once yelled into the phone “Mad, I am standing up now, that is how strongly I feel that you are making a mistake. I don’t stand up very often, Mad. Mad, are you listening to yourself? Explain to me how this is going to work out well for you!”
Of course, the operative phrase there was: Are you listening to yourself? This story makes me laugh today. I don’t even remember what I was thinking of doing, but I can guarantee I didn’t do it—and today it’s one regret I don’t have.
Many misconceptions still exist about what a coach really does. I would say one of the most important things they do is help us listen to that small voice we often ignore—the one that keeps us from making terrible mistakes. For those who are moving at lightning speed and juggling responsibilities and opportunities, I really can’t think of a more valuable service.
About the Author
Madeleine Blanchard is the co-founder of The Ken Blanchard Companies’ Coaching Services team. Since 2000, Blanchard’s 130 coaches have worked with over 14,500 individuals in more than 250 companies throughout the world. Learn more at Blanchard Coaching Services. And check out Coaching Tuesday every week at Blanchard LeaderChat for ideas, research, and inspirations from the world of executive coaching.
4 thoughts on “Listening to the Small Voice”
Having worked with a phenomenal coach for over 10 years, I hear you loud and clear! Not only has my coach helped me listen to the small voice cautioning me against doing something I would later regret, she has also helped me listen when it says, “Have courage. You CAN do this! Take the next step. You know what it is.” We live now in VUCA times (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, for those that are not familiar with the acronym) and a good coach is indispensable in helping us navigate through VUCA. Everyone can benefit from excellent coaching. If you’re thinking about hiring a coach, listen to the small voice inside that says, “Do it. Now. You won’t regret it.”
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Oh, if only that small voice had been a big loud one maybe I would have listened! Maybe I was deaf?! Great column!