Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

Big pitbull rolling over my shoes

It’s early in the morning and I’m out on my daily walk. A big pitbull walks up to me, then crouches down on the ground as if she’s ready to attack me. Her jaws look incredibly big and I imagine her biggest aspiration is to grind her teeth in my juicy calves.

But the dog lady seems friendly enough and tells me that her dog is super sweet. Her calm confidence reassures me that she can manage the dog if it becomes aggressive.

I need that reassurance, especially after I was chased by a pitbull for more than 10 minutes a few years ago. Fortunately, I biked faster than he ran, but only barely. I’m just saying, there is some reality behind my assumption that pitbulls are aggressive.

But I also know that one experience is too small a sample to make any valid statistical inferences, so I’m willing to challenge my assumption and let this pitbull walk up to me.

I am happy I did. She pees on the ground out of excitement and her wagging tail shakes her body left to right. Then she rolls over on her back and offers her belly to be petted.

When the dog lady is ready to leave, the dog nests herself against my calves, unwilling to go anywhere. ”You have a forever friend in her”.

And so does she in me. Not only did she give me a big booster in positive emotions, but she also shattered my assumptions about pitbulls.

Challenging our assumptions is a key element of learning according to Chris Argyris. And it is super hard because we are unaware of them by default. We can only become aware of them when they bump into our current reality and leave us clueless about what’s going on.

When that happens, coaching can be very helpful. In that safe and accepting environment, you can explore your assumptions without being judged, criticized, or shamed for your biases.

With the help of an outside, neutral perspective, you might realize that what you always believed to be true, is not true at all. Maybe your filter for the world stops you from pursuing more meaningful goals and seeing new opportunities.

One of them could be a big pitbull rolling over your feet to be petted. Another is to experience more freedom, fulfillment, and joy in the work you do.

Schedule a discovery session if you want to see how coaching might help you.

P.S. In the attachment you can read a short introduction to the work of Chris Argyris on Organizational Learning. I believe this can be one of the most meaningful contributions to your effectiveness as a leader.