Recently, I worked with a client who was fearless in her ability to reflect and question her assumptions, beliefs and behavior. Her sassy style and dramatic flair moved me out of my safety zone. She invited me to experiment with a lively form of coaching, and take a chance or two with my input. I was spontaneous in return. It was at once fun and rewarding. We had a good time trying to figure out the mysteries of her universe. And we were really successful at breaking through some old thought patterns.
It also was a wake-up call for me, and made me reflect on how both coaches and clients can get stuck in prescribed roles and approaches.
In my previous career as an instructional design and training consultant, I analyzed organizational training needs and made recommendations for training programs. Then I developed, managed and implemented the training, and measured results.
The nature of the client’s organization and culture influenced the degree of imagination and daring in my recommendations, not to mention the level of effort I would apply in trying to sell them on the “brilliance” of my new ideas.
Often, I found companies were conservative and reluctant to take risks. This was understandable, as one doesn’t know if a new approach will work. And the more experimental the approach, the more time it takes to work out the kinks – which can add to costs. So, there was a tendency is to settle for the status quo. And to avoid risks. All the same, this conservative approach produced sound, dependable work.
However, on those rare occasions when I had the green light to advance a new idea, or when I was ready to risk presenting something fresh and new, I created some of my best projects. And these innovation-seeking clients were always pleased with the results.
I’ve discovered in coaching as well as in consulting the temptation to take on a perennially conservative mindset, and the reluctance to take chances. By that I mean stepping out of the coach’s prescribed role and:
My conclusion? I think we coaches can ask more of ourselves – and more of our clients – when we step beyond the norm. When we do, and unconventional works, the magic of insight and inspiration can far surpass the status quo.
If unconventional doesn’t work, everyone survives. And we always have steady, conventional professionalism to rely on. Come to think of it, you can’t really be innovative until you have a professional handle on the tried and true.
18/3/2015 03:39:30 pm
This is very well written and articulates the tension between out of the box/risk thinking and action and more conventional safety. It would be great to hear some examples of how individuals' or even you as a coach - what were the two paths and what was the riskier and what were the results of choosing it. I thought a natural approach of coaches was always to challenge so I am very interested in hearing your thoughts on this.
18/3/2015 11:38:39 pm
Thank you Brad for this comment. There are many ways that client and coach, may interact. And, questioning or challenging assumptions and beliefs is part of this interaction. I think my point was we can ask more of ourselves – and more of our clients – when we have the inspiration, the intuition and the green light to do so.
19/3/2015 06:23:53 am
Another fine blog !
23/3/2015 08:22:51 am
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My family, relationships, movement, nature, flexibility of mind, exploration of alternative perspectives & openness are central to my life.