Stuck In The Middle

Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle. These lyrics to an oldie but goodie song by Stealers Wheel kept spinning and cycling through my head one day as I reflected on my situation at a client.

Clowns to the left of me. Jokers to the right. Here I am stuck in the middle with you.

Gerry Rafferty / Joe Egan

As an Agile Coach practitioner working with coachees in the context of the larger organization, it can often feel like I’m stuck in the middle. Between organizational leadership proclamations on the left and coachee aspirations on the right. My mind and heart being tugged in two different directions.

  1. Clean consistency and efficient standardization to the left of me.
  2. Messy tailoring and crafted uniqueness to the right.

Should I go left or should I go right?

  • Attaboys, accolades and longevity for me if I go left. Honouring leadership but betraying coachees.
  • Fit-for-purpose, real value and sustainability for my coachees if I go right. Honouring coachees but betraying leadership.

No matter where you go, there you are

Jim Russell

Why choose? The middle is exactly where you are so, why go left or right? Why not just sit and stay in the middle?

  • It’s the center of creative tension between left and right.
  • It’s the perfect vantage point to observe and appreciate both left and right.
  • It’s an opportunity to build bridges between left and right.

“When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot.”

Bruce Lee

What if we match leadership intent and principles with coachee’s desire and objectives?

Like water being poured into a cup, bottle or teapot, water becomes the cup, bottle and teapot

The coachee is like water. They will go where they please and do what they want. Often in ways that are small and subtle. Like boulders in a stream trying to divert its path, anything they may disagree with will gradually erode over time. Hard to notice until it’s too late to stem the building tide of resistance. Until the boulders of change become pebbles eventually disappearing altogether while the water continues to flow.

As an Agile Coach, what I can do is to form and forge the cup, bottle and teapot in the shape of leadership’s intent and principles so that the coachee’s desires and objectives flow into and fulfill the intent and principles without compromise.

Leaders may inspire and hold the vision of “what” the future could look like or a definition of “done”. Now, the key at this point for leadership is to stop and let the magic happen. Let the people decide their purpose, their organizational and personal “why” – why they exist and do what they do. Then, let them decide their mission – “how”they will realize leadership’s vision.

If I can help facilitate that, I will have gone from being stuck in the middle to revelling in the middle!

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