The Deeper Dimension of Change
We have all learnt that change is only as lasting as the motivation to change is deep. In my experience as a coach I have felt the same when you get down to coaching goals, strategies and action plans: is the coachee really going to change and for how long is the change going to last?
The trick I stumbled upon is to encourage the coachee to explore a slightly deeper dimension of the competency area chosen. For example, if the coachee has chosen delegation as a coaching area and has defined a goal, strategies and action plans, the idea is to encourage the coachee to explore the question “Why don’t I delegate?“. This deeper analysis also helps in not stopping at the diagnosis stage but going one step deeper and asking the question, why?
The conversations around this question and the answers may lead the coachee to explore early life, critical incidents, behaviours, or experiences that have shaped that particular belief, attitude, or behaviour. These conversations can be pretty unchartered and unstructured with the coachee connecting the dots in the process of exploration and discovery.
Very often the coachee does get to identify this root cause and both the coach and coachee find the experience very satisfying. In my opinion, this self-awareness is in itself a balm, because many coachees do not have an inkling of where the insight is going to come from. Also, given the level of intelligence of coachees, discovery quickly leads to change and commitment to the change.
My coachee is a bright, sharp COO, but is someone who has very little patience with his subordinates. In a meeting he would cut them off if they didn’t get to the point within 15 seconds. His subordinates also voiced this concern in the 360 degree feedback. We started the exploration of “Why am I impatient with subordinates?” and were making some progress when it happened!
At a coffee break in one of the sessions when my coachee and I were standing near the office gate, we saw a man in tatters who came asking for a job. My coachee directed the man to one of their recruitment centres down the road. I was seeing this side of my coachee for the first time and enquired about it. His reply was that these people were disadvantaged. My coachee also told me that he supports a lot of charitable activities for the same purpose.
The penny dropped for me and I suggested tentatively if he could consider a change of the frame of reference about his team members – could they be considered as ‘competency disadvantaged’? My coachee, being as sharp as he is, got the point! This exploration of why my coachee is impatient with sub-ordinates helped both of us to explore the dimensions behind the behaviour. The insights gleaned by the coachee thereafter helped to put things into perspective. He was able to better cope with his emotions and behaviour and got more committed to listening and not jumping to conclusions.
My experience is that such explorations by coachees and coaches are necessary to bring about deeper insights and sustainable change. This exploration should be encouraged in the coaching process and the discoveries will be plentiful and gratifying for both the coach and coachee.