Harbor Tugs Suggest
A client transitioning from the military to civilian life recently asked, "Mike, I just want someone to tell me what to do for this transition. Why don’t you do that?" Here's my answer for you dear reader or prospective client; a more detailed view of my coaching philosophy.
Short Answer: Clients, including this one, generally come to me when the old way yields diminishing results, or believe it will diminish in the near future. If as your coach I tell you what to do, I guarantee you there’s only two ways it ends. The plan either goes sideways, in which case you'll resent me. Or it goes well, in which case it's my win and not yours. It’s important for you as the client to own your actions so that you learn to have agency and get some wins under your belt as a civilian. Otherwise it’s like paying a ringer to take your PT test for you and they score 100. Examples of what I've said to a client instead of telling them what to do:
Longer Answer: Military members are trained to follow orders and learn to expect their branch of service will provide a plan for them with the who, what, when, where. It seems they often forget to mention that pesky why. Military life is a pretty straightforward equation. If the regulations, orders, and plan are followed, then resources (pay, housing, liberty, etc.) continue to flow. If they are not followed, then resources are restricted.
In civilian life, the rules are less cut and dry and you get to decide most everything; who you are, where you live, what type of work, when you wake up, how you will structure or organize your day. You decide resource flow and restriction, and no one orders you to do a task at work. It’s a brand-new world on the day of retirement/separation, yet your military training, habits, and expectation of being told what to do don’t suddenly go away. You will use them to navigate the civilian world until you consciously chose to learn new ones. It’s not uncommon for Veterans to feel overwhelmed by this sudden increase in freedom and lack of a rigid hierarchy because they’re not used to it. Learning to provide your own structure, plan and resources is a practice that civilian life demands and you do not have to do it alone. I support you to break the practices into bite-sized, manageable pieces and discover what YOUR goals, objectives, values, mission statement are. So telling you what to do only serves to reinforce the old behavior. The very same behavior you came to me about altering in the first place.
I see myself as piloting a harbor tug. I’m an expert at navigating these transition waters and have spent almost 15 years exploring them. You are the captain of your own ship coming into this bay for the first time. I always stay on my tug and pilot it along-side to point out shoals, advise, communicate. You are always in command of your ship which means you can choose to head in any direction you want, regardless of what I say. I will support conducting an after action review If you crash or get grounded on shoals. And celebrate with you when you successfully navigate a new stretch of water for the first time.
My goal is to help you get proficient enough at navigating the civilian waters that you no longer need the harbor tug; I want to work myself out of a job.
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Mike Coe. Transition, Creativity, and Leadership Coach