Learning, Reflecting, Story, Writing

The Thing That is A Bit Ugly


I have a coach. I’m a firm believer in do as you would be done by.

I believe part of keeping any business sharp (and unhelpful assumptions checked) is to work with someone who offers a different perspective on the thinking and actions being played out. I have to believe that, or I couldn’t do my job.

Or rather, I have to believe that.. It IS my job.

My coach challenges me in ways that often surprise. I think of myself as a fairly self aware, flexible, open person, so when she asks me something and I feel myself get defensive and stubborn, I’m constantly bemused: oh. Here is an edge. This is the limit of my thinking and my flexibility… Wow… Who knew?
And it plays out in me like this: No. I don’t think that way. No. I don’t want to reconsider, thank you… Can we move on? Ooh look! A shiny thing!

Of course I recognise this is discomfort. I have generated it many times in my own clients, found their edge, invited a rethink or a reframe only to be snapped at or neatly diverted elsewhere. What I love about working with Jo is she sticks with the tough questions. She lets me snap and wriggle and divert and throw up shiny stories. Then she quietly leads me back to the Thing that is a Bit Ugly.

Sometimes The Thing is so ugly it scares me and I can’t bear to be near it. Sometimes, The Thing just kind of smells a bit off and I wrinkle my nose at having to hanging out with it. Sometimes, just sometimes, it is so ugly I just need to laugh…..

But like a horror movie that terrified me when I was a kid, when I come back to the ugly thing, it is rarely as scary as I think it will be. Like all bad smells, if I just tackle it, open the windows and deal with the stink, it vanishes pretty quickly…. And then I can breathe in fresh air and my world is a little prettier…..

Working with a team this week, I kept bringing them back to the ugly thing. The unsaid. The unshiny. The stinky. They did what I do with Jo…. They snapped and wriggled and diverted. Eventually? Someone got brave and began to acknowledge the ugly thing…. Then someone noticed “this stinks” and team windows were opened and the room wasn’t quite so stifling anymore… As a team, they made a pretty big shift.

My point is this… Don’t be too afraid of your ugly. There is a good chance someone else won’t actually recognise it as that terrifying* and perhaps it is not that ugly after all. When you find your edge?… When it seems ugly and so stinky it is taking your breath away? Try not to close the door and let it fester.

It strikes me that The Thing that is a Bit Ugly might just be beautiful after all….


* My brother cannot understand how I can possibly still be scared of the movie Poltergeist. There were Killer Toy Clowns under the bed. He knows Nothing.

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