Several years ago, I found myself walking on the Great Wall outside of Beijing. Beside me was a young man who was assigned to be my guide. It was a beautiful day beginning with a misty morning. I kept stopping and looking out over the wall. At one point as we stood and gazed over the misty mountains, I sensed that there was something much bigger happening, something much bigger that I was seeing. Indeed, there was.
As I gazed into the mist with my guide, I realized that coaching is a lot like standing with leaders or colleagues or direct reports as they look over the horizon. I couldn’t clearly see what was out there. Many times, neither can they. There’s often a mist that prevents us from seeing clearly. The “mist” may be the challenge of competing priorities, or the impact if an important decision is made, or the stories that people will make up once a difficult announcement occurs.
Standing there, looking into the mist, I was so glad to have my guide with me. He gave me information that helped us determine which fork of the Great Wall to take. He let me know how far we had come and what was ahead. At one point, he suggested that I slow down to avoid a particularly uneven section of the wall. Although I didn’t like that suggestion at all, I appreciated his honest feedback that my pace might need to change.
Throughout the day, we walked together, talking and discussing ideas and options. We covered a lot of ground. I learned about myself and about him and about the journey we were on.
At the end of the day, I realized it was a deeply satisfying journey, and the mist had cleared.