By Phil Valentine
Every time I facilitate one of our trainings, I listen to people describe working environments that demean, devalue and diminish the recovery coach role. It’s not everyone, but I’m beginning to think most recovery coaches are working under fear-based management. State systems, managed care organizations and long established clinical addiction treatment providers are exerting their influence on the emerging field of recovery coaching. The influence is not always positive and often based in fear. For example, four themes always surface regarding employment of recovery coaches. They are…
- The insistence on recovery coaches being in recovery. Read about this in these previous posts - Peer? Rejected and My Lived Experience.
- The requirement of a specific time of continuous recovery (A Crock of Clean Time Crap).
- The need for a credential (The System Does Not Define Us).
- Being supervised by a clinician who is unfamiliar with recovery coach roles and boundaries.
Gleaned from my discussions with recovery coaches, supervisors and administrators from across the country, I offer you my Top 10 list of indicators of fear-based management.
- Mistrust. Fear-based management does not trust their employees to do their jobs effectively. It also suspects that people are doing something wrong most of the time; that employees are “getting over” on them. Suspicion weaves it’s way through their culture.
- Micromanagement. Nothing speaks more about mistrust than seeing over every detail of another’s job. As part of micromanagement, an administration will pursue finding faults in another’s behavior and/or performance while neglecting success.
- Control. When management attempts to exert complete control, the belief is it can eliminate risk. It imagines that the tighter the control, the more safe and secure the work environment. Yet, this rarely translates into a healthy work environment. Often the culture is heavy and oppressive.
- Objectifying. Fear-based management tells personnel what to do, when to do it and how to do it. It leaves little room for individual creativity. For more on objectifying read Bright Shiny Object.
- Superiority. When management mistrusts, micromanages, controls and objectifies, it believes it is superior to those beneath it. These organizations take hierarchy to extremes. Great power is attributed to the leadership. Often these managers use their own personal fear to cultivate fear within the culture.
- Separation. Fear-based management separates itself from others. It stands alone, isolated. It feels only they can accomplish their mission. It is the expert. It resists outside influence and sets itself up to compete with others in the same field.
- Competitive. Fear-based management does not collaborate. It looks at every scenario as win/lose where it must win, sometimes with no regard to the cost. Win/win scenarios are rarely implemented.
- Hoarding Information/Data. Information is for internal purposes only. Management’s data is management’s data. It refuses (or is reluctant) to share results. It declines to assist their “competition”. It builds thick walls and is not transparent in their operations. It is not willing to contribute to the growing body of knowledge.
- Tradition. Beware when someone says, “we’ve always done it this way”. This conveys a message that management is not open to innovation. Change frightens it.
- Hyper Policy Development. When something unwanted or difficult happens, fear-based management creates policy to assure that the same thing won't happen again. What was created with protection in mind often has an opposite effect down the road. It may get in the way of doing the right thing. It seeks to eliminate risk when management of the risk is the better solution.
All of the above would create a culture not in alignment with recovery principles, wouldn't you agree?
For me, being fear-based boiled down to a decision. Fear drove my addiction to alcohol and cocaine. I lived in fear for way too long. Through recovery I choose faith. Faith motivates me. Yet, on rare occasions, fear still creeps in. Early in my executive leadership role, I made a few management decisions for CCAR from a fearful mindset. When that happened, things didn't turn out too well. So, I’m raising this topic to expose a leadership style I want to avoid.
“We teach best what we most need to learn.”
Today, I aspire to lead from a place of faith. In my next post, I’ll take a stab of what I’ve learned about faith-based management.
Doing my best to live in the solution.
In 2015, I finished a thruhike of the entire Appalachian Trail, a trek of 2,189.2 miles. It took 189 days and 6 pairs of boots. During all that time alone with my Creator, my purpose in life became more precisely defined. I am, simply, to coach recovery. Recovery saved me from an early demise and brought purpose to my tattered life. I have learned that I’m a coach to my very core. I am blessed to put the two together. I started work at the Connecticut Community for Addiction Recovery (CCAR) in 1999. I became the Executive Director of this recovery community organization in 2004. I have trained the CCAR Recovery Coach Academy© dozens of times and have a hand in modifying, improving and adapting various recovery coach curricula. I’m old enough now to start considering my legacy. This is a way for me to share things I have learned in my recovery, in my role as Executive Director and a trainer. I find that when I speak I present the same messages over and over. It’s time to write them down.
Phil “Right Click” Valentine
Recovery established 12.28.87