With the Olympic games taking place in London, “mind the gap” is being seen and heard by many attendees traveling by train to the various venues. It’s a warning to passengers to take caution while crossing the gap between the train door and the station platform. Failing to mind the gap could lead to a dodgy situation.
“The gap” can also apply to the distance between where you are now (professionally, personally, or as an organization), and where you want to be at a given time in the future. As the need for warning signs and a pleasant British voice in Tube stations illustrates, sometimes we are not aware of the gap in front of us. When we do see it clearly, the gap can occur for us as a problem, discouraging, and unbridgeable.
Coaching is a powerful tool that can bring about not only awareness of the gap, but also direct action to bridge it. It looks at gaps in our development, performance, or even our level of happiness not as deficits to be judged negatively, but rather as opportunities. From this perspective, there is nothing wrong with gaps. In fact, if you don’t have a gap, you are probably not growing.
As a demonstration, pick an area of your professional or personal life where you know there is a gap. Then follow along with an example [in brackets] from a recent coaching client I worked with on her fear of public speaking. Think through or write down your responses.
- Clearly identify what’s on either side (present/future) of the gap. [This side: fearful, anxious, nervous when presenting resulting in mediocre performance → Other side: confident, relaxed, clear when presenting leading to high impact results.]
- What’s at the bottom of the gap? Identify the risks if you fall down. [Worst case: embarrassment (survivable).]
- What are the resources needed to bridge the gap? [A commitment to improving, time and energy to practice, financial resources for coaching and speaker training.]
- What is the first step, even if small? [Identify source of anxiety, build confidence through coaching, register for a public speaking course.]
- Why is getting “over there” important? [Passionate about ideas presenting and wants to communicate her message powerfully so that change results.]
- By when do you want to get there? Be specific – and commit. [End of Sept., 2012.]
- What will clearing the gap provide for you or your organization? [Ease, fulfillment in work, positive impact on people.]
Identifying and then breaking down gaps into manageable and doable tasks is one of the many benefits of working with a coach. Perhaps more importantly, a coach is there to remind you that you have the creativity and the courage to do it (even when you think you can’t), which can make the difference between a dodgy situation and reaching your destination.