Leadership Coaching Is About Memory

Where do our values come from? The traits that drive our beliefs, feelings, attitudes, and actions come from our past experiences – our memories. Our pains and joys in the moment are magnified from our past, creating feelings of grief or satisfaction. It’s how we remember these events that shape the stories we tell ourselves and others. Stories that can highlight others as villains or ourselves as heroes. Our memories are powerful!  And we may all share the same experience, yet then say very different things about that mutual experience. We all see the same movie and some may hate it, love it, or not get it.  And these in-the-moment reactions reflect our memories regarding sound and light, impacting our current experiences.

It is not surprising that our emotions are closely related to our memory. Emotions of fear, worry, guilt, betrayal, hurt, delight, absolute joy, and gratitude all tee off past memories and experiences. These emotions deeply influence the way we integrate these memories into our daily lives.

As leaders, we interview and coach with similar intent: To learn another’s “story.” To coach or hire, without knowing their back story is to simply lecture. We need to learn what got them here, and where they want to go. Our job is learn the memories shaping why emotions and actions appear the way they do, and mostly we need to do this for ourselves first. Before we can have real influence on another, we must first unpack ourselves. We need to learn why some things set us off, and why we ignore other things, as just the “way I’m wired.” Well, it’s more how our memories are driving our sense of gratitude or doubt, and dozens of other emotions, hundreds of times a day.

These memories may be hard or painful to touch and reaching them in self-reflection or in coaching/interviewing others can be scary. Many of our most powerful memories may be  deeply hidden, in order to protect us. It is from this deep place that we need to tread carefully to coach ourselves and coach others. The center of us is our memory. Reflecting on memories is a very good use of time, and creates greater humility and vulnerability – key cornerstones of trust building.

The more we know the memories shaping our old stories,
the more we can use these memories to build new stories for a better future.

God gave us memories, so we can have roses in December. ~ Vin Scully


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