My answer to this question is an unmistakable YES. The question that remains is: Who should how supplement the consultant staff already in place for the support of these important persons under public attack? How can coaching make a difference among all the existing guidance and mentoring? In this article I show, how von Guttenberg, Hildebrand, Wulf and other persons exposed to public criticism could have had more mental scope and space for action, had they made use of the right coaching process at the right time.
Let‘s start at the outset: Charismatic and powerful managers in the public cross-fire theoretically could relay on their existing group of counsellors to cope with this crisis. Strategy consultants, members of task forces, quality circles, friends, mentors, management trainers, lawyers are already in place. Once their client is overexposed to public criticism – unfortunately – they tend to feel helpless. Out of the blue irrational things appear to happen: Where previously coping was easy by approaching the problem with logic and ratio, in the present crisis the normal problem analysis, the assessment of rational options, the monitoring of decisions, or the checking of consequences seem not to provide the required feeling and aura of integrity as they did before. What is going on in such situations?
The first blow hits like a shock or a stab in the back. Without prior announcement a person like Hildebrand sees himself flatfootedly exposed to severe accusations and charges. Unprepared he is required to respond to critical questions from journalists, politicians, and the larger public. Under such conditions human beings show natural shock reactions in three bio-social systems. These are:
- Reactions of immobilization, for example to feign death, to black out, or to switch off all perceivable behavior;
- Spontaneous activities of the mobilization system: Flee and/or fight behavior; and
- Activities in the social contact system.
To blows of accusation we tend to react almost automatically within these three modes . And, in fact, for the past few thousand years this has saved human beings from being killed or from being isolated. Nevertheless one has to be aware of the fact that these spontaneous reactions are largely out of the control of our rational brain. It is difficult to influence them by simple intention. It is actually an unconscious or subconscious neurobiological motivational system. The persons are not doing what they are doing on purpose. It’s an adaptation to a situation that their nervous system has evaluated as dangerous. The question is, how do we get us out of feeling threatened? Traditional strategies would be to reason with these persons, to tell them they are not in a dangerous situation, to negotiate with them, to reinforce them, to punish them if they don‘t respond as directed. In other words, we try to get the behavior under control. But this approach doesn’t work very well with these reactions, because they appear to be driven by the body’s visceral state. Our current knowledge leads us to a better approach.
Wulff, Hildebrand and others tend to freeze their body-mind system, to sit the crisis out and wait, while they are overwhelmed by ideas of fight and flight. Also they have lost contact with the social ground they have grown on, and their social role is no more attuned to the actual challenges. Many of these fallen angels in reality try to disappear abroad, for example as University Teachers in the US. Just to repeat it: Essentially these are normal and healthy reactions. But to manage the crisis such a reactive set of actions is not very supportive. It leads to irrational behavior making everything worse. What can be done with coaching to help a person get back to a rational action mode controlling his life?
Innovative approaches are needed. All processes supporting the information processing in the mind-body system provide the opportunity to get rid of stress and pressure remains. By applying such methods the system is de-frozen and the river of information starts to flow again. The person regains his flexibility and inner maneuverability, his mental vigor, and alertness. As the attacked person cannot go on in the society as he did before, the person has to reflect his role in the system simultaneously through a systemic coaching method, for example mapping or constellations. This means to start with a limbic coaching method and then to align with a freshly emerging social role. Once the basic stress is re-processed, the accused person can go on to use the headwind for his own advance and take a benefit of the difficulties. In this phase coaching apply coaching tools such as the active-alert hypnosis to induce a state of positive trance, a kind of runner’s high. The energy of the resistance or the power of the aggression can now be used to fly higher and look at the accusations as a sportive challenge to be met playfully. By applying these three coaching methods (limbic coaching, role reflexion, and high flying) the previous crisis can be transformed into a great opportunity to step into a bright future.
As regards these approaches, future articles will inform you further.
Your Claude Ribaux
Coaching in Depth: The Organizational Role Analysis Approach. Newton et. al. (eds.). Karnac Books (2006). ISBN-10: 1855753286.