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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.   

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– 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.

 

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.

Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

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