What You Look For Is What You Will See

May 29, 2024

By Allison Iantosca, ACC

Here it is, my very first, number one, quick-fix coaching tool. Immediately applicable, low cost, works-every-time tip. Are you ready?

What you look for is what you will see.

There was this guy I used to work with. He was, for lack of a better term, a bully. He didn’t really mean to be a bully, but he had no emotional wherewithal to process what it took to trust his own communication capability. Instead, he would escalate the tell/sell/yell model within a matter of meeting minutes, leaving us gripping our hearts and sweet-talking our cortisol back to some kind of stasis.

He was unbelievably smart, strategic, and effective at the work and for a long time I forgave his shortcomings or, worse, used them to identify my own. I knew I was his counterbalance with my emotional intellect, but he wore me down with strategic analysis and witless determination.

Towards the end of our professional relationship, I had had it. A typical exhausted-and-alone scenario, I sought nothing short of complete validation from the coach we hired to mediate our failing partnership. “You’re right.” I wanted the coach to say to me, “He needs to go. Amazing you made it this far. I’ll let him know.”

The trouble was, it takes two to tango, as they say, and, apparently, I had to own up to my part of the dance. Here is where it got tricky. During the eighteen-month slide into the hot mess of our collaboration, I woke up every day seeking to validate my point of view. I made mental notes of his digressions and imperfections. I’d poll colleagues– not outright of course– but with fake sincerity that I understood the challenge inherent in dealing with his inadequacies while marking another chit on the scorecard.

During one session with the coach, I carefully laid out the depth of my heart wrenching experiences expecting him to acknowledge the one-sided issue I was so valiantly navigating and to assure me he was doubling down in his conversations with my colleague.

You already know this didn’t happen.

Instead, the coach said, “What you look for is what you will see.” 

What I look for?! How about what is so blatantly obvious it comes to whack me on the side of the head? Just ask anyone! THE TRUTH IS ON MY SIDE…A truth I personally substantiated over and over and over again. Until it was so mangled by my perception it didn’t dare take a breath.  

I’m not saying there wasn’t a significant issue that needed to be addressed. But the coach was one hundred percent right that this was shared, and our disentanglement required a much more multidimensional perspective. One, there was a lot at stake for our other colleagues and two, masking my own limitations by only focusing on his would most likely leave me at the ready to do it all over again with someone else.

The work of coaching is to expand our range. Change can only happen when we acknowledge behavior that comes so easily to us we don’t even think about it. That’s the point. To think about it. To ask ourselves if we are only seeing what we are looking to see and to get curious about what else we might add to the view. A coach can help, at the ready to support our exploration into those uncomfortable but incredibly valuable other parts of us that matter too.

There to remind us that indeed, what we look for is what we will see.

Allison Iantosca is a Gestalt International Study Center (GISC) trained coach certified by ICF with extensive leadership and management experience. She is an Executive Coach and is the Owner and President of Boston based FH Perry Builder.

*Photo Credit: brenkee, Pixabay

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