• Vanessa Anstee

How to help your people stop protecting and start learning with just-in-time learning

In life we do two things with difficult situations: we protect, or we learn. Leadership and being our most brilliant selves require learning. The challenge that we have is that in moments of difficulty we can be masterful at self-deception.

Working with clients it is easy to see parts of yourself in their struggles. My clients are smart, quick thinking and full of ideas. So, when they’re faced with difficulty they often try and think their way out of situations. They want to know why things are happening and they are analysing everything that’s happened desperately seeking answers. But there is an assumption in their strategy to analyse and that is that the problem is logical.

Take for example the client that is struggling to sleep because they can’t stop worrying about the future of their work and cannot reach a decision about it. They come to coaching wanting to know what decision to make and are often frustrated, exhausted and overwhelmed not only with the situation but carrying the weight of their analysis. That thinking is a protection. It stops them from feeling and being fully present to what’s going on. By staying safe in their thoughts, the issue persists because the emotion is running them under the surface.

The temptation in this moment to meet them in their analysis can be huge for the coach. They’re anxious and often defensive. It’s easy to catch their anxiety and continue down the path of using logic to find the right answer. But the truth is they need something different. This is the moment where the coach can really stand for them and the truth that the way they’re coming at this isn’t working.

When clients slow down and experience what’s happening in the moment, they are able to name their emotions. They can name that they feel e.g. anxious, angry, afraid and having named it they can be with it. They no longer have to pretend it’s not really happening. They can allow it and in doing so they create new awareness. It’s from this new place that the magic happens. Having slowed down they can use their thinking mind more productively. They can remember the times when they have felt clarity and resonance in what they were doing. They can get fresh perspective on the situation and from there, when they’re ready they can act from a deep place of knowing instead of from reactive thinking.

Coaching when applied well meets the client exactly where they are and provides a just in time solution. Instead of attending training courses or pursuing qualifications from the place of deficiency, coaching comes from a place of sufficiency and is relevant to your life in moments where you know you want a different solution that is unknown to you in your current state. It helps you unlock the solutions and resourcefulness inside of you. I like to envision coaching as two people walking side by side, equal and adult, exploring a challenge from a whole new perspective that wasn’t previously available from inside the issue.

One thing I have learnt from running a coaching and training business for eight years previously is that the clients I work with best are those that are really motivated. They have a passion burning deep within them to be of service, to express their creativity, to make a difference. And they often have high achiever fatigue, burnout, overwhelm and frustration in common. When I meet them at the point of questioning if it’s worth it, if they should give up, the last thing they want is opinion. What they want is clarity. They need someone to stand with them and help them process, learn and move forward. It’s so much easier to coach someone that is ready for coaching because the pain they’re in means they are ready and open to learning.

Many L&D professionals have a shared vision: to help the organisation learn together. The just in time model helps make that journey easier, more relevant and more adult. It doesn’t impose learning; it offers it at the point where it’s most needed and in bite sized chunks that respect people’s time.

If you are struggling in your organisation to help people learn, ask these 3 simple questions:

1. What are people struggling with right now?

2. Are they in enough pain to be open to learn?

3. How can I meet their pain points with relevant, timely solutions that hold them as adult learners?