One of the things I like best about coaching is that I provide a secure, confidential setting for clients to be themselves. Whether at work, home, socially or online, we constantly are performing the best version of ourselves. It’s always been true that we attempt to control the impressions that people have of us. Sociologist, Erving Goffman made the distinction back in 1959 that we have our “frontstage” behaviors – in which we’re performing for a particular audience, always conscious of being observed – and our “backstage” ones when we peel off the masks.
In 1959 there was no Instagram or Facebook. Now we’re expected to put on our “frontstage” behaviors constantly. We can’t even go on vacation without portraying it as the perfect vacation.
Leaders have double exposure. People are always listening and watching and taking their cues from the leader. And often leaders have no one with whom they can take off the frontstage mask. When they come into my office and sink down into a chair or log on to meet electronically, they get to let the frontstage mask drop. They don’t have to pretend to have it all together, personally, professionally, socially or emotionally. We can explore doubts, insecurities, beliefs and dreams. We can strategize about the future or solve problems in the present.
We all need a place where we can drop our frontstage persona and be ourselves. I am fortunate that so many leaders allow me to be their backstage.