Perceptions of arrogance

I was at a coaching CPD day today and we were doing some work on Emotional Intelligence. One of the exercises involved one of the coaches being “hot coached” by the rest of the group about being confident without appearing arrogant.

I asked “what does arrogance look like to you?” to which the coach replied, “like the look on your face when you asked that question.” I was somewhat surprised by the answer, as I have been accused of many things in my life, but being arrogant is not one of them!

I asked the original question because I believe that arrogance means different things to different people, and this is borne out by a story Ian Rush told when I attended a charity evening he was at. Rush had scored 49 goals for Liverpool and had won the European Golden Boot as top scorer in Europe. He was then transferred to Juventus where he finished as the Italian 1st division’s 3rd top scorer. He explained how the Italian media hadn’t warmed to him and were quick to criticise him if he didn’t score.

Ian explained that when he did his first press conference he should have told them he was the greatest striker in the world and he was in Italy to score loads of goals for Juventus, as the media would have loved him and forgiven him anything. He didn’t because if he had said that at Liverpool he would have been ripped to shreds by fans, team mates and the press alike.

At Liverpool it was drummed into him that football was all about teamwork and modesty about achievements was the order of the day, whereas in Italy it was about the individual and was more gladiatorial in approach. In Britain what would have been viewed as arrogance would have been lauded as supreme confidence in Italy.

In today’s session the only other question that the coach appeared to take umbrage to was when she was asked “How would you define arrogance”. The answer revolved around the “obvious” nature of arrogance in that it is rude and not nice behaviour.

So what prompted the accusation of arrogance from the coach today? One possible explanation lies in the different fields we work in. The two of us who questioned her definition of arrogance work almost exclusively with business clients, and both come from a sales management background, whereas the volunteer coach is looking to specialise in personal coaching.

The clients I speak to look for a coach who will challenge them and ask the “difficult” questions in order to stretch them and make them challenge themselves and their belief systems. Coaching in the business world requires you to demonstrate support, understanding, empathy, listening skills etc but you also need to have a “hard edge” to allow you to push and challenge when necessary. I don’t think the question I asked today was particularly challenging, but it would appear I made the mistake of mis judging my audience, which is a cardinal sin in itself, or perhaps she was right and I was just being arrogant!

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One Response to Perceptions of arrogance

  1. The man who has made up his mind to win will never say “impossible “.

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