WTF has a new definition and meaning: “What’s the fear?”

While sitting next to a colleague during a recent presentation, I simply wrote these letters on the top of my note pad to keep myself in check. The trouble with sitting next to someone with a keen sense of humor is that nothing goes unnoticed. He quickly picked up on my doodling and this made him smile. After each obvious and irrelevant point made, one of us pointed to the acronymn. It became a game.

I know what you are thinking.

“DJ, you should be above that kind of behavior as a coach.”

And what I want you to know is that I am not, nor is anyone I know. We coaches are steeped in all that it means to be human and quite often you will find us exhibiting human behaviors and learning from those just in time to share our insights or ask a different question. While we know how to relate to others and surface the truths behind most any surface level conversation, we sometimes are stopped in our tracks if we are not mindful around those we influence.

During this session I also took lots of notes. The presenter sparked some insights for me personally, as they did for the rest of the group. Yet, there was something about the way the presentation was delivered that led me to the WTF note to self. I didn’t understand some of the stories and some of the self promotion.

At the coffee break, several people chatted about the presenter’s lack of awareness. After the break the same colleague rewrote the acronym and presented it back to me: “Where’s the fear?”

That question lived with me throughout the rest of the week and I personalized it as I went through my own gyrations with the group in ways that made it appear as if I was selling my wares when introducing the next phase of our work. One powerful lesson I’ve had as a coach is that life is a boomerang when you sit in judgment of others – and the older we get – the quicker the boomerang circles back to hit you in the face.  So as I spoke about licensing a coaching program to the organization – something that was a simple deliverable in our contract for the year and something that would build integrity into use of intellectual property – I found myself square in the middle of my own lesson. I created a distraction away from my message, which was, “and now it is time for you to own this capability and learn to teach what you are practicing.”

My own message resulted in others to look at me with the WTF crunch on their faces. There it is again, instant karma.

After I pondered WTF in this new way, I realized that this fear only shows up when we really care about something. For me, I really care about delivering on my promises and a scope of work in contract obligations – completing the journey if you will. We had a roadmap for our work with a sponsorship expectation. My role in the game was and is to stay in the design state and bring people along. That responsibility keeps me focused (maybe – “what’s the focus” is the next WTF?) and I really care that our coaching initiatives land well for the leaders who are the intended recipients. I really care about coaching being honored as a profession.  I really care that people who deliver the coaching skills are practiced and competent in their abilities.   I really care that people feel confident and authentic when they coach.  So my fear was and is that if we stop short of delivering on our promise that we fail to continue to advance the great work we have started.

This insight allowed me to clarify intention for those who lead the program and easily move to the next phase of our work together.  If I hadn’t addressed the fear, I might have been stuck unaware of the challenges this team had in understanding my intentions and continuing the partnership.

Let’s explore this notion:

1) “Where are your currently challenged in ways that keep you up at night and how are those things related to your unstated commitments or what you care most about?”

2) “Where do you judge others in ways that hit you back, like the returning boomerang?”

3) “WTF?” What’s the fear?

4) “Where’s the focus?”

5) “Where’s the fun?”

What else you can do to turn the WTF acronym into a new meaning and conversation?