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Coaching to the Soul

December 14, 2018

This week, while Alison Whitmire takes time away from her blog, we welcome guest blogger Terrie Lupberger, MCC.

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We live in a fast-paced, increasingly complex world. We have immediate, 24/7 access to events as they unfold around the globe. Adding to the confusion, a multitude of competing opinions about what really did happen, why they happened, what they mean, and what should be done about them.  We feel overwhelmed with uncertainty and fear.

In response we, as a collective, have become short-sighted. We look to sound bites to help us navigate complexity. We put band aids on our problems. We want quick fixes. We look to the formulaic and familiar for solutions. We overly rely on the so-called experts, or at least those with the loudest opinions. We live in a mood of impatience. We want answers NOW.

End of an Era

But the view of many contemporary philosophers and great thinkers is that we human beings are experiencing the end of an era – philosophically, ecologically, politically, psychologically, cosmologically, scientifically, etc. They conclude that we are witnessing a time on the planet when there are no simple problems left to address, and that our worldviews, and ways of thinking about them, are outdated and inadequate for the task.

To more successfully navigate the world we find ourselves in requires the ability to be okay with not knowing, with taking action with no guarantee of success. It requires us to be comfortable with chaos and uncertainty; to hold paradox; to be able to, metaphorically, walk across the bridge even as it’s being built.

It requires us to “be with” what is happening in the moment, while simultaneously holding the vision of a different future. It requires us to manage our own doubts and fears, and not project them on to those we work with or lead. It requires the ability to be equipped, cognitively, emotionally, spiritually to face the complex issues of our times. It requires us to develop the ability to self-author our lives instead of being overly dependent on experts’ rules and values.

Quoting author Ralph Peters, “The great paradox of the 21st century is that, in this age of powerful technology, the biggest problems we face internationally are problems of the human soul.”

Perhaps this is one of the major reasons coaching emerged – to address the challenges that the human soul is encountering when all of our traditional knowing and understanding of the world is insufficient to navigate its complexity and volatility.

This briefly sums up the context in which we coaches also find ourselves in, as well. We’re swimming in the same turbulent waters, and are subject to our own blind spots, fears, shortsightedness, and uncertainties, threatening our opportunities to make an impact.

What We Change

Helping people expand their perspectives, move beyond their limiting beliefs, and grow their awareness for the sake of outcomes more aligned with what they care about is what we coaches do.

And, after 20+ years in this profession in various roles, my conclusion is that we are at risk of wasting a tremendous amount of effort, time and money. We may be helping others create change that isn’t getting to the real issues, or developing the abilities needed, to face the world in which we find ourselves.

After 20+ years of study, research and practice in what I call ‘the change business,’ I still see change agents doing much of the same old thing – wrapped in new models and words – and leaving a lot of potential impact and change on the proverbial table.

I see us overly rely on, and overly prescribe, information and theories. I see us rush to the actions – the “doing” – while skimping or skipping over the exploration of our clients’ inner worlds – their beliefs, assumptions, emotions, level of awareness, and worldviews that are driving ineffective thinking and behaviors, including what they say they want.

It isn’t for lack of great intentions. Most of the coaches I know care deeply about their clients and making a positive difference. However, we are in danger of limiting the impact we care deeply about making because we, ourselves, have our own blindnesses, limiting beliefs and lack of development and awareness as human beings.  We are, after all, products of the same systems as our clients are.

Old Beliefs

Going as far back in history as the Greek philosopher Socrates, the western world (especially but not exclusively), has held the belief that there’s an objective world out there that is understandable through logic and reason. We have held the belief that human beings are fundamentally rational, reason-able beings who, by gathering as much information as they can about that objective world, can use it to understand and navigate in it.

We are living in a collective worldview that believes that the world can be perceived transparently and objectively; that through rational, logical analysis we can all see the same world and problem-solve the issues presented. We largely believe that more knowledge is the missing link to success, and that once we have the knowledge, we’ll be able to take new actions toward our goals.

This is a belief that has been running in the background of our collective thinking for a long time. It’s like an old version of a computer operating system that is limiting what’s possible and is in desperate need of an upgrade. It’s not that objectivity and rationalism are bad. Indeed, they have contributed to great advances in science, medicine, construction, technology, and many other fields.

But our over-reliance on the old computer operating system and our inattention to the human being – the soul that is operating the system – is where the next edges of our profession lie.

Our coaching must consider and reflect the deeper and broader contexts in which we find ourselves. It must help our clients embody deep awareness that includes, and transcends, our clinginess to rationality, the known and the observable.

We, as coaches, need to move beyond overly simplistic models of what it means to be a human being at this time in the world. We need to challenge ourselves to work with the human being – their consciousness, their way of being, their energies, their states, their stages of development, their worldviews and embedded / embodied beliefs. In short, all the forces unseen and less knowable, objectively and rationally, that might be shaping and impacting how they navigate their world.

This is the territory ripe for disruption in our work and in our profession.

Developing Two Capacities

This learning and development edge we are called to walk is a precarious one. There is no roadmap, the way is not clearly marked. We are entering the territory of the human being. It will require our own developed capacity to walk in the not-knowing – to experiment – to suspend our own beliefs that have gotten us to this point, but might likely be in the way of our next evolutionary leap.

In short, to have the impact that we all believe that coaching is capable of, we will need to develop two important capacities.

First, we will need to move determinedly beyond our own comfort zones of what we think we know and how we come to know.

For example, if our beliefs create our reality as many scientists and sages say, then what beliefs do you have that might be in your way? If everything is energy, as scientists and sages say, then how do you work with your own and your clients’ energy fields to better support them?

If everything is in relationship to everything else, as scientists and sages also say, then how do we think about and alter our way of relating for the sake of better outcomes for all? Where are we limited in our own level or stage of awareness / consciousness? These are but a few questions we need to wrestle with, or better said, to delight in, to move beyond our own comfort zones.

Secondly, we will need to welcome and embrace paradox.

As a coach, your ability to hold paradox – to simultaneously hold opposing beliefs or tensions – is one of your most powerful abilities and gifts. If you don’t have this ability, you won’t  notice them when they are presented. You’ll insist on your client choosing between their opposing truths instead of helping them learn from them; you will push them for clarity and certainty way too soon.

Your discomfort will become their discomfort. As Niels Bohr, Danish physicist and Nobel Prize winner for physics, so eloquently said, “How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress.”

The big issues we are facing in our organizations, in our businesses, communities, our world and in our own personal lives require more than new information or a better change model.

We are dealing with something no less complex and profound as the human soul.

Changing the Whole Self

The kind of change we want to aim for as coaches is the kind that requires a change to the whole self, not a piece of it. To the whole actor who is taking the actions. To the whole inhabitant of the awareness or consciousness that is trying to navigate this world.

To be successful, we need to move beyond our own fears and proven formulas of success. We need to stop playing at the surface, move beyond the transactional and enter the uncharted and real territories of human consciousness, soul, spirit – whatever word chooses you.

It’s time for we of the coaching profession to take the road less traveled (to quote an oldie but goodie).

That road less taken is where evolutionary leaps can happen for our clients and for ourselves.

Will you – with the rest of us – take that road less traveled?

Join the conversation.

 

ABOUT  OUR GUEST BLOGGER, TERRIE LUPBERGER: A Master Certified Coach and former CEO of Newfield, Terrie works at the intersections of leadership and coaching to elicit her clients’ greatest potentials. Together with Pamela Richarde, MCC, she also trains advanced coaches to challenge the myths, assumptions and beliefs that we coach and live by. The next online program begins in March 2019. For more information visit www.coachingreimagined.com,  Contact Terrie here..

We hope you enjoyed hearing from our guest blogger. We’re grateful to Terrie for sharing her invaluable insights! Thanks, Terrie!

 

If you have an idea for a blog topic or would like to be considered as a guest blogger, please email us. While we might not be able to accommodate all guest blogs, we certainly entertain all ideas!

 

– Alison

 

Alison Whitmire

President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Receive our blogs in your inboxSubscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

 

P.P.S.As a coach, you know there’s value in your coachees’ stories. But do you realize how transformative those stories could be with your specialized guidance? Find out at our January podinar. Our guest is executive coach, speaker, author, and founder of the field of Narrative Coaching, Dr. David Drake. Interactive webinar Jan. 25, 11:00-12:00 PT. Register – free!

Not an EQ Profile practitioner?

Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

Special FREE Podinar: Conscious Leadership for Coaching

November 30, 2018

 

DECEMBER PODINAR: CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP FOR COACHING with Eric Kaufmann

Learning in Action’s Live Monthly Podinar for Executive Coaches
FRI. DEC. 14, 2018. 11:30-1:00 pm PT / 2:30-4:00 pm ET
CONSCIOUS LEADERSHIP FOR COACHING: Align Your Thinking, Caring and Doing for Meaningful Results
with guest Eric Kaufmann, coach, author, speaker, IOC Thought LeaderJoin Eric Kaufman and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for discussion and Q&A around conscious leadership for coaches.This podinar (interactive webinar) will cover topics like these:
– What conscious leadership is and why the world is hungry for it
– How to organize and influence people to achieve meaningful results
– The significance of aligning wisdom, love and courageAttendees will gain new ideas of how to coach for meaningful results.

*** Ask your questions when you register or during the live event. We’ll get to as many as we can! ***

ABOUT OUR GUEST:
Eric Kaufmann coaches leaders to become conscious leaders who make better decisions, think more creatively, and form deep relationships that uplevel their teams. He is the founder and president of Sagatica, and author of “The Four Virtues of a Leader: Navigating the Hero’s Journey Through Risk to Results.” Eric’s work is an unrelenting commitment to results fused with an unyielding regard for the human spirit.

ABOUT OUR PODINARS:
Learning in Action’s monthly podinars are moderated by Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action.

The intent of our podinars is to support executive coaches:
• To provide the best coaching possible for their clients
• To make a thriving, successful living as professional coaches

ABOUT LEARNING IN ACTION:
We offer individuals, teams, and organizations effective tools and methods for enhancing Emotional Intelligence in relationship, in conflict, in real-time. Serving leadership development professionals and executive coaches worldwide.

– THIS PODINAR WILL BE RECORDED. REGISTRANTS RECEIVE RECORDING and notice of future podinars. You can unsubscribe at any time.

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Posted in: Coaching|Podinars

Once Upon A Time: The Power of Story in Coaching

October 18, 2018

 

Last Friday, I was delighted to be joined by some amazing coaches for an impromptu meetup to discuss the power of story in coaching. (I was reminded of how very much I love this work we do, as well as this community we get to be a part of. 🙂 )

In this blog, I share with you some of what I’m coming to believe about the role of my coachees’ stories in our coaching. I’m no authority, and though I’m in the Narrative Coaching certification program, I’m a novice. So what I share here is what I’m coming to believe and integrate into my own work. And I offer it as an invitation for you to consider what’s possible and what might be available if you were to look at your own coachees’ stories in a new light.

 

How We Can Minimize the Value of Coachee Stories

When I was first trained to be a coach, I was taught the technique of “bottom lining.”  Bottom lining was a way of encouraging coachees to “get to the point” when their stories went too long. When a coachee showed up to coaching with a big, long, detailed story, we were to interject with a question like “What’s the bottom line to your story?” or “What’s the CNN version of your story?”  

At the time, bottom lining made sense to me. We coaches didn’t need all that detail. After all, we only have so much time. And long stories can take up a lot of it. We needed to achieve the coachee’s stated desired outcome by the end of the session to be successful. Right? So, helping the coachee “get to the point” in any way we could, was in the service of the coachee, in the service of the coaching.

But what if the story WAS the point?

 

The Hero’s Journey

In 2013, I organized a TEDx conference. In the formative stages of conference planning, I was struggling to articulate a theme that conveyed the message I hoped for the conference to share.  I wanted it to be about reaching our full human potential and becoming fully expressed. But it all sounded so “woowoo” and trite. 

Then, my husband sent me a link to the trailer for the film, Finding Joe, based upon the work of Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey. (Somehow, Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey had escaped my attention for 50+ years.) And, when I watched the trailer and later the movie, I knew I had my theme. (If you aren’t familiar with The Hero’s Journey, watch the two-minute film clip linked above. It’ll do a better job of explaining it in a shorter period of time and more interestingly than I will.)

So what does the Hero’s Journey have to do with coaching?

I’ve come to believe that The Hero’s Journey reflects the life journey we all are on. We are on the transformational journey of becoming – becoming a full expression of ourself, our potential.  And the integrational story of our return to our core essence – of overcoming our patterns of adaptation (like those captured in the EQ Profile). A journey of discovery of self and a returning home to self. A journey of transformation.

If the findings of Joseph Campbell, based upon his extensive research into the world’s legends, myths and folklore, are true, (and I believe they are), then perhaps our stories are more than just stories. Perhaps our stories are a vehicle to our transformation. 



Storytelling is Organic

My coachees show up telling stories in our coaching sessions. I don’t ask them to bring their stories, they just do. I used to ask them to bottom line it or I’d get frustrated because their stories were getting in the way of the goals they said they wanted to achieve. Recently, I’ve begun to believe that my coachees’ stories are their conscious and/or unconscious way of revealing their true desires.

Also, I’ve noticed how frequently my coachees show up with stories that possess all of the pieces of the solution they are seeking. And when I listen long enough and closely enough to their stories, and simply mirror back what they are saying, they often experience a kind of “Eureka” moment. They see how the dots of their stories connect to form the picture they were searching for.  

So, if storytelling itself is a process of becoming, of self expression, of return to core essence, and if coachees naturally show up to coaching with stories that possess the seeds of their solutions, perhaps our role (or one of them) as coaches is to facilitate the organic transformation and integration that has already begun in the form of the story. To assist the story in doing its work. 

How do we do that?

 

The Power of Story in Coaching

Within the story itself and within the coachee’s experience of telling the story are the clues to what the story is wanting to do. And by attending to the experience of the coachee as they are telling the story, and to the characters, metaphors, and language in the story, and to each stage of the journey of the story, we can guide the coachee to the resolution their story is seeking. 

 

Coachee Experience

Noticing and exploring the coachee’s experience as they are telling the story can sometimes reveal more than any questions we might ask. We are all taught this in coaching school and it’s easy to forget – how much a sigh, a change in posture, a glistening in the eye can clue us to shifts in the coachee’s internal experience.  

When we notice these subtle shifts and explore them with our coachees, they can notice aspects of their experience that were previously missing – feelings or sensations that might be suppressed or outside of their awareness. (If you are interested in reading an example of how this plays out in a coaching session, read more here
.)

 

Characters, Metaphors, Language

Our coachees’ stories provide a rich cache of resources to help them “slay their dragons.” The characters in the stories have wisdom and perspective for them. The metaphors in their stories suggest the tools that will help them navigate challenging terrain. The language they use reveals the lens through which they are seeing their challenge/opportunity.

Playing with characters, metaphors and language can be really fun and invigorating for both coach and coachee. And these approaches to coaching are simple to apply and can create surprisingly fast and robust outcomes. Here are links for examples for playing with charactersmetaphors and language.

 

Stage of the Journey

Just like in the Hero’s Journey, our coachees’ stories have stages. And helping our coachee experience and identify each state in the journey provides its own form of wayfinding for the coachee.  

Questions the coach can be asking themselves as they work with their coachees’ stories include:

  1. What is the coachee’s experience as they are telling the story? (What is the unfulfilled desire?)
  2. What is the purpose of the story? (What is the unexpressed intention?)
  3. What is the challenge in the story? (What is the unexamined identity?)
  4. What is the invitation in the story? (What is the undemonstrated behavior?)
  5. What is the resolution to the story? (What is the unapologetic outcome?)


Note: These questions are taken from Dr. David Drake’s Narrative Coaching.

When we as coaches are curious about these questions, we will allow for deeper and deeper levels of awareness of the unconscious role of the story for the coachee.

———————————

I hope you try out some of these techniques with your coachees. Our coaching can sometimes be so linear and/or so cerebral that it can be fun and healthy and energizing to try something new and see what happens.  

Sure, it takes courage. But hey, you’re a coach. We already know you have courage!

What are your thoughts and experiences in trying these techniques? I’d love to know!  

Be one of the first seven people to comment on this blog and we’ll send you a DVD of the Finding Joe film.


Join the conversation.

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about what the languaging used in your coachees’ stories can tell you? Join our virtual video course, Insight Mapping – or get the unedited recordings of the course afterward! Click here for details and to register.

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching

Five of the Most Useful Narrative Coach Tools, Concepts, Frameworks

October 4, 2018

Who doesn’t love a simple, yet powerful, coaching tool?!

I’m always looking for fresh approaches and elegant frameworks for helping my coachees navigate their personal journey. And the WBEC’s Narrative Coach (NC) program with Dr. David Drake provided a virtual treasure trove of tools, conceptual constructs, and frameworks for working with coachees and their stories in a unique and insightful way. I’ve seen an enormous number of tools in my 15 years of coaching, and the one’s I’ll share here, I’ve found to be easy to understand, extraordinarily clarifying and simple to implement.

This is the third and final blog post related to my reflection on the NC Program. In Part 1, I shared the insights I gained about myself as a coach while experiencing the program. In Part 2, I shared the assumptions about coaching that have shifted for me. Here I’ll share the five pieces of content from the program that I found most valuable, and why I believe they are so useful.

Note: 100% of this content was created by Dr. David Drake and should you choose to share this with clients or create your own version (as we coaches love to do), please ensure you give proper credit to Dr. David Drake and Narrative Coaching. Also, I did my best to distill the essence of the tool without taking too many liberties or short cuts. And for the exact words, questions and context, buy his book and/or take the course.

You’ll discover that all of these simple tools and approaches meet the coachee where they are and focus on their story as a generative aspect of the coaching. Many of these tools may feel familiar, and you’ll notice an emphasis on the coachee’s present moment experience, the stories they tell and the identity of the coachee in their stories.

 

Rewinding Your Story

 

This is my fave of all of the tools because it links so beautifully with the EQ Profile. When we are preparing a coachee for the session in which we’ll debrief their EQ Profile results, we ask them to recall and bring to the session 2-3 specific stories of interpersonal conflicts. We use the narrative in the coachee’s stories to map to the patterns revealed in their EQ Profile. The EQ Profile reveals patterns of thinking, feeling, wanting, sensing and focusing that are vestiges of adaptive strategies spawned by our lifetime of relationships and experiences.

These default patterns become a common denominator of many of our interpersonal conflicts until we become aware of them, and create new, more conscious ways of being and behaving.

This simple, yet powerful tool supports the coachee in reflecting on the stories they tell about interpersonal conflicts and the patterns which may be inherent within them. Further, it facilitates the development of a new, more intentional pattern that supports who and how the coachee wants to be.

Here’s a simplified version of the tool and how we might use it with ourself or our coachees:

 

Reflect on a conversation or situation you find challenging:

 

1)      What did you observe? (Describe your experience as a reporter would.)

2)      What were you telling yourself at the time? (What was your internal narrative or story?)

3)      What does this say about how you see yourself? (How does it support your identity?)

4)      What did you do as a result? (How did you behave?)

5)      What happened in the end? (What was the outcome?)

 

Rewind the story to achieve a different outcome:

 

1)      What would you like to have had happen in the end? (What outcome would you wish for?)

2)      What could you have done differently as a result? (How could you have behaved differently to create your desired outcome?)

3)      What would need to shift in how you see yourself to achieve a different outcome? (What would your identity need to be to behave in alignment with what you want?)

4)      What could you tell yourself next time this happens? (What is the new story you could tell yourself that would support your identity and desired outcome?)

5)      What would you observe if ‘this’ were the case?  (What would your new experience be?)

 

I hear an echo of the Ladder of Inference in the first half, to be sure. And the second half is a kind of walking back down the Ladder. And adding the question about identity amps up the insight that’s available here. It takes this set of questions from simply an examination of the stories we make up to who we are that we make up these stories.

The second half starts with classic Covey, beginning with the end in mind (but how often do we actually do that in the middle of an interpersonal conflict?). And this begins the intentional process of re-patterning our seeing, thinking, being and doing to align with what we want.

Circling the Tree

 

One of the big differences I’m noticing about Narrative Coaching and how I’ve learned to coach is the bias toward examining the coachee’s present moment experience. (Of course, that’s an aspect of most all coaching, and my sense is that Narrative Coaching gives it more weight and returns to it more frequently).

Circling the Tree is an example of a tool that moves the coachee forward simply by staying with, and exploring, their present moment experience. Here’s a simplified version:

 

Circle One

1)      What happened?  (Just give the facts.)

2)      What do you think about it? (What’s your narrative of what happened?)

3)      How do you feel about it? (Notice and name the feelings you have about what happened.)

4)      What is important about it to you? (Talk about your values.)

5)      How has it affected you? (Share the impact on you and what that means for you.)

 

Circle Two

1)      What is true and important for you now?

2)      What is your motivation to do it differently?

3)      How will you remember this new story?

4)      What else do you need to get started?

5)      How will you know you have been successful?


Notice how all of the questions in Circle One are about the coachee’s present experience (about a past experience). There’s nothing about what the coachee wants to be different or where they want to go or what they want to create – all aspects that are often at the front of so many coaching models.

Notice how Circle Two stays with what’s present for the coachee to organically generate what new wants to emerge.

While I love this tool, a question is missing for me in Circle Two between 2 and 3. I think I would add: “What would be a new story that would support what you want for yourself?”

Circling the Tree is actually a lot like the Rewind Tool. Both give our coachees a way to examine their internal narrative relative to what they want for themselves. And the Circling the Tree stays more with what’s present for the coachee now.

 

Inquiry Cards

 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this NC game of ‘serious play.’

1)      Bring a stack of 7-10 index cards to a coaching session.

2)      Invite your coachee to talk about her issue or question.

3)      As she does, write the words or phrases that carry the most weight or energy on to the index cards.

4)      Give the cards to the coachee and invite her to place the cards in the order represented by the story.

5)      Then, invite the coachee to move the cards to a new configuration and notice what comes up.

6)      Invite the coachee to continue to experiment until the resolution becomes clear.

7)      Invite the coachee to imagine what it would be like and what it would take to live from this place.

8)      Invite the coachee to talk about the implications of the outcome and anchor it as needed.

 

I can’t wait to try this. Sounds like fun.

 

Vectors of Change: BEAM

 

This is probably the first tool I started using almost as soon as I learned of it. It feels simpler and more inclusive than many other models of change I’ve worked with. Again, this is a simplified version:

As your coachee presents a challenge they are having, work with them to identify what they want and articulate their old story about the challenge. Then work with them to create a new story that surmounts the challenge.

 

1)      What is their Aspiration – what they are wanting ultimately (What would make them proud?)

 

What is the Coachee’s Old Story – Rooted in their Mindset, Behavior and Environment related to the challenge

 

2)      What is their current Mindset  – what do they think, feel, believe about themselves, others, the situation

3)      What is their current Behavior – what are they doing or not doing that is contributing to the challenge

4)      What is their Environment – what systems, structures, people, processes are contributing to the challenge

 

What can be the Coachee’s New Story – Aligned with their Aspiration

 

5)      What Mindset aligns with the Aspiration – what do they believe about the situation that feels both true and aligned with their aspiration

6)      What Behavior aligns with the Aspiration – what might they do that aligns with their Mindset and Aspiration

7)      What Environment aligns with the Aspiration – what systems, structures, people, processes will support the coachee’s Aspiration

 

I’ve seen a number of similar models and this Vectors of Change model feels more complete and integrated than any I’ve seen. And it’s so simple.

 

Five Perspectives

 

This simple tool is useful when a coachee is stuck and unable to see their situation in a new way. It allows them to try on someone or something else’s perspective of their situation. I often suggest “characters” from my coachee’s stories to offer their perspective. This tool goes something like this:

 

1)      Listen attentively when your coachee shares a challenging situation. Explore the coachee’s thinking, feeling, wanting and believing about themselves, others and the situation.

2)      Ask your coachee, “What is another perspective you could take?”  Explore what that perspective enables them to see, feel, think, believe.

3)      Continue asking “What is another perspective you could take?” Don’t be afraid to be creative here.

4)      Unpack each perspective by asking questions like:

  1.       Why this way of seeing things?
  2.       How does seeing it this way impact you?
  3.       How else could you see it?
  4.       What do you gain from seeing it this way?
  5.       What keeps you from considering this possibility?
  6.        What do you lose by seeing it this way?
  7.       What might you gain if you did?

 

I integrated a version of this into my work pretty quick. Here’s a brief example of how I’ve used this:

 

My coachee was expressing doubt that she was the best person to be running her company. As we explored her situation more deeply, she talked about her husband, her family and God. When she felt complete with her story, I asked:

“What would your husband say to your question about whether or not you’re the best person to be running your company?”

She said that he believes in her and her ability to run the company completely. I went on to ask:

“What would your family say?”

She reported that they felt much like her husband. And then I asked her:

“What would God say?”

and she began to cry.

The bottom line is that simple questions about the perspectives of people and entities important to her helped her fill in what was missing in her own perspective so that she could see her situation and herself more clearly.

I hope you find these tools as useful as I have. I’d love to hear what additional questions or comments you have. And if any of this needs more context, let me know. I’ll do what I can to provide it.

 

Do you have favorite tools you love? If so, let me know. If I get enough interest, I’ll do another blog on favorite tools.   

Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

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P.P.S. Do you struggle to understand your coachees sometimes? Do they struggle to express themselves in ways you both understand? The answers are all in their languaging. And there’s a course for that. 🙂 Join us for our virtual video course, Insight Mapping. Learn how to listen for the clues that are right in front of you. (And no, neither you nor your coachees need to know anything about the EQ Profile – although this course will enlighten those who use it, too!)  Click here for details and to register.

 

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What Learning about My Coachees’ Narratives Taught Me about My Own – Part 2

September 20, 2018

What are you sure you know about coaching? I thought I knew a lot about coaching after 15 years and over 5,000 hours of experience. And in the past year or so, I’ve realized that a lot of what I thought I knew, my assumptions, were horse S#$%.

In my last blog post, I shared Part 1 of a reflection assignment due as part of the WBECS Narrative Coach (NC) Program with Dr. David Drake. In this Part 2, I share how what I thought I knew about coaching has been turned on its head by my experience with Narrative Coaching.

Five Assumptions about Coaching That Have Shifted For Me

All of my coach training prior to the NC Program has been in a largely co-active approach to coaching, firmly grounded in ICF core competencies. And while Narrative Coaching certainly doesn’t throw the ICF competencies out the window, it takes a very different approach to coaching than what I’ve learned in the past.

What I’ve learned about coaching that I’ve had to unlearn (or assumptions I no longer make) include:

  • Coaching starts with a contract/agreement. Early on in my coach training, I learned that the first thing to do as a coach is figure out the contract or what it is the coachee wants. The problem is, in my experience anyway, the coachee almost never knows what they truly want until it’s uncovered by the coaching. And when I’ve focused early in the relationship or early in the coaching session on getting to what the coachee wants, I’ve ended up chasing a red-herring, spending time at the surface and/or on the wrong thing.  I’ve learned that what the coachee says they want is only one aspect (and maybe a small one) of their larger, deeper desire, which is only ultimately discovered through the work.

Even in the Advanced Coaching Program I took, we spent a great deal of time and energy around securing the coaching session agreement by checking the boxes of Topic, Desired Outcome, Meaningful Underlying Issue and Success Measure. And I bought into that at the time, and to an extent, I still do. Only now it feels more like an artificial structure placed on an organic process. (More on that below).

  • Coachees will do what they say if we’ve designed the actions right. Maybe your coachees are different, but mine almost never do what they say they are going to do after the session. While this didn’t take me long to figure out, I assumed I was doing something wrong. I wasn’t designing the action specifically enough or ensuring the client had enough support or addressing enough of their obstacles or holding them accountable enough or making the actions S.M.A.R.T. enough. Well, I now believe I was doing something wrong, I was just wrong about what it was.  😊

Now, instead of designing actions for the coachee to take after the session, we do it in the coaching session (as much as possible). (If you read Part 1, you know that this is a cornerstone of Narrative Coaching). Early on in my coaching, I did a lot of role play with coachees, but it was discouraged by my mentor coaches (not clear now why), so I stopped. Now, I’m doing a lot more acting out, role play, experimentation during my coaching sessions so that my coachees can repeat/replay outside the session what they are experiencing and learning inside the session. (Here’s an example of something I tried recently.)


  • The coach provides the structure and the process. The coachee provides the content. To an extent, I still believe this – and now I see it differently. I used to feel responsible for figuring out the most robust and efficient series of questions that would bring the coachees the insights, clarity and resolution they were seeking, based upon what they said they wanted. Now, that feels to me like an artificial construct placed on a natural process.

These days, I see coaching as the facilitation of an innately organic process. I believe that our coachees are all almost always, consciously or unconsciously, working to resolve what they bring to coaching (that’s what brings them to coaching). And my role isn’t to lead them down the path of questions that will ultimately get them to their answer.  My role is to be present with them, see them, explore with them where they find themselves and then remain alert for the indications of where, why and how they are wanting to move from where they are to a new state of being.

  • Better questions make for better coaching. While I believe this is true to an extent, I’m no longer so focused on how to figure out the right, best questions. Because when I focus on figuring out the questions, I’m in my head and not with my coachee. I’m not present. I now believe that it is greater presence that makes for better coaching. The more present, the more in the moment, I can be with my coachee, the more I can attend to, encourage and facilitate the coachee’s own organic progress.
  • Coaching is a dance with the coachee…. and the coach leads. No one ever told me this. It’s just what I “learned,” especially in my early years, through coach training osmosis. In recent years, I’ve observed that the traditional co-active approach to coaching is placing greater emphasis on partnering with the coachee. That feels like a welcome and significant shift from what I first “learned.”

That said, my understanding from those coach trainings has been that even though we want to partner with the coachee (just like in a dance), the coach is still supposed to lead. And the way the coach leads is through their questions. And where the coach leads is where the coachee says they want to go. But if the coachee doesn’t truly know where they want to go…… where are we leading them?

In my prior coach trainings, as if to emphasize the importance of partnering with the coachee, the coach trainers would recommend frequently checking in with the coachee to determine if the coaching is on track and/or where they want the coaching to go. That made sense to me at the time.

But here’s the deal: In my experience, not only do my coachees not consciously know what they want, they are often resistant to directly confronting the challenge ahead of them. And if I ask them where they want to go, they will often avoid exactly where their organic process is taking them.   

So what’s the answer?  If we are not leading and we are not partnering, what the heck are we doing?

For that, you’ll have to wait for Part 3 (and hopefully in the next week, I’ll figure it out).  🙂

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

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P.P.S. Are there more blank spaces on your coaching calendar than you’d like? Join Chip Carter, Senior Advisor at the Institute of Coaching, and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for September’s interactive webinar of discussion and Q&A around your coaching capacity and how you can fill your calendar in a number of ways, including coaching for organizations who need you!  Register here – FREE.    

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence