Tuesday, January 24, 2012

To Coach Is To Provoke

A prospective client had recently called me and wanted to know how and what techniques I used in my coaching. There are lots of fancy words, techniques, methods, and names of other leaders in the field that  coaches use in their conversations. When I first started doing this work, I wanted to use the most sophisticated language to describe what I did thinking that the more complicated and fancy it sounded, the easier it would be to impress a potential client and hopefully get them to become an actual one.

The past year I have spent a lot of time re-discovering the value of the coaching I practice. I have learned that in the most severe cases where a client is deeply stuck in whatever it is they are going through, it is my disbelief that they are truly stuck that helps them move forward. Simply, put, I don’t buy the picture they have drawn for me. I buy that that is what they believe they have, but the reality is far from the picture in their hands. In other words, I don’t go down the rabbit hole with them.

Let’s take 3 independent stories about procrastination as an example:

She wanted to come up with a plan to tackle the tasks at hand. She mentioned that she had been procrastinating. It sounded simple enough, typical coaching material. When we went deeper, she realized that she was procrastinating, because she was depressed, things were not going well in other areas of her life, she couldn’t tackle the tasks because she was standing on shaky ground.

Yet another client I worked with that same day, brought up procrastination. For her it was about “order”. She couldn’t do something before she did something else. And that something else could not be done until something else was taken care of.

Today I worked with someone who was avoiding an important project, something she really cared to complete, because she was exhausted from taking care of some other things in her life. She had no energy left to finish her project.

All 3 wanted to accomplish their tasks or projects, but something  (depression, belief systems or habits, other distractions, lack of confidence) got in the way. None of them had much energy or enthusiasm. These were three different women with 3 different scenarios, stuck and unable to move.

Procrastination isn’t just about putting things off and being late or finishing at the last minute. Procrastination can lead to severe inertia to the point of depression, anxiety or physical illness. There is a reason for why we don’t do what we want to do. It is not because we are lazy, or slow. Under all procrastination there is at least one other layer of muck.

I see this in my children, when they are excited about something or enjoy doing something, it gets done before they even come in the door and take off their coats. If the task at hand is not enjoyable or reminds them of something negative, they cannot be held accountable to getting it done. That’s when as parents we think of ways of motivating them or holding them accountable. But the adults I work with, are self-motivated professionals. They understand the importance of the tasks or projects they are procrastinating. They are definitely not lazy or slow. So what gets in their way?

It is not procrastination as we know it at all. They get stuck, energetically stuck in their circumstances. They are not procrastinating, they simply cannot move forward. Depending on what is going on in their lives, they are frozen in a still life photograph that they bring with them to our coaching sessions.

Like a scientist examining an artifact or amber with trapped particles, a coach’s job is to imagine the particle outside the structure she is trapped in. Holding that possibility that there is a vibrant, energized, and alive being pretending to be stuck is what helps melt the amber and liquefy the solid trap. That is the beginning of the coaching conversation. It always starts from the same place, I hold the space and the possibility that being stuck is an illusion and that reality is far different from this state of inertia.

So, what techniques do I use in my sessions? I provoke to create a different possibility, one that the client found unimaginable or unattainable in the beginning. Once the provocation has taken effect, the coaching follows.

If you are stuck in procrastination or anything else, you may want to consider working with a spiritual life coach so you can begin imagining a different reality for yourself. Contact me for a complimentary 30 minute coaching conversation to determine if spiritual life coaching is something you might be interested in pursuing.


Lynn Schaber said...

Hi Sherry,
What a great explanation of how a coach can help a client get unstuck. Your special touch can be seen in what you wrote.
Lynn Schaber

Sherry Bakhtian said...

Thanks Lynn!