We tend to do all we can to avoid risk and stay in our comfort zones. This is the premise of Doug Sundheim’s new book ‘Taking Smart Risks’. For my coaching clients this tendency shows up most strongly when they are contemplating to stay as they are now which they perceive as safe or to do something different which they perceive as risky. However, as Doug Sondheim points out the apparently safe option of staying as you are can be the most risky place of all. In his book he highlights five dangers of playing it safe:-
- you don’t win
- you don’t grow
- you don’t create
- you lose confidence
- you don’t feel alive
Interestingly, the same theme crops up in Seth Godin’s new book ‘The Icarus Deception : How high will you fly‘. The title of this book is a reference to the Greek myth of Icarus. Most of us know this myth as the story of a boy, Icarus, with waxen wings who flew too close to the sun. The sun’s heat caused the wax in the wings to melt and he fell out of the sky to his death. The myth is typically used to guard against the dangers of taking too many risks and ‘flying too high’. However, the full story of the myth is less well known and this is the deception to which Seth Godin refers. For in the full story, Icarus is warned by his Father to not fly too close to the sun OR too close to the sea. The risk of flying too close to the sea and the mist was that the wings would get wet and become useless. So the true moral of the story is that there are dangers of being too ambitious, taking too many risks, and also dangers of not being ambitious enough and playing it safe.
Bringing this back to challenging coaching; to challenge those we work with is to take a risk. We can challenge too hard, fly too close to the sun and alienate our coachees. Equally, we can challenge too little, get our coaching wings all wet and then we, and those we work with, don’t reach our full potential. The equivalent of the Icarus deception in coaching is to make sure we don’t forget the full story. Don’t forget to remind yourself and your clients frequently that there are hidden dangers in playing it safe. Please add your own thoughts and comments via our LinkedIn challenging coaching group.