Using a Balance Sheet as a Vehicle for Change

 The accounting profession uses balance sheets to identify financial assets and liabilities of a company.  The greater the company’s assets relative to its liabilities, the healthier the company.  I borrowed the concept of a balance sheet as a method of assessing a coachee’s personal and work attributes.  A coachee’s balance sheet is a way of organizing attributes that either help or hinder a person from reaching his or her goals.

There are several methods of building a balance sheet.  These include:

  • Reflections of the coachee’s past experiences
  • Insights of the coachee
  • Behavioral  assessments
  • Insights gained from coaching sessions

Building a balance sheet is a continuing process.  It needs to be revisited and applied as an integral part of the coaching process.

Most coachees are not aware of their assets.  Even if they are aware of a skill or talent, they rarely understand how to effectively use their skill or talent to enhance their success.  Let me offer a personal example. 

I love analogies. I think with analogies. I use analogies to explain concepts.  I also used analogies to test both undergraduate and MBA students about concepts they were learning in my courses. I got complaints from some students who thought my analogy questions were unfair.  I discounted these complaints, thinking that the analogies were so simple that any student should be able to understand them.  What I was unaware of was that I had a way of thinking with analogies that others did not share. And, by using this way of questioning their knowledge, I was effectively setting them up for failure–not because they misunderstood the concept I was examining them on but because they were not able to understand the process I used to examine their thinking.  If I had realized that my use of analogies was not universally understood by others, I would have chosen another method of examining students.  My point here is that an attribute that could have been an asset if I used it appropriately was actually a liability because I assumed others had the same attribute. 

Understanding our assets gives us an opportunity to leverage them as a method of reaching our goals. Not understanding our assets can limit our ability to reach goals.  As an executive coach, I strive to help my coachees to become aware of their assets and learn how they can leverage them to become successful. 

From many years of coaching, I have concluded that people are more aware of their liabilities than their assets.  We seem to be conditioned to see our negative side.  It is important that we are aware of our liabilities. We need to learn how to manage these liabilities so they do not derail us in pursuing our goals.

Examples of liabilities are being overly critical, bossy, too direct, or being unaware of how others respond to you.  A few years ago, I coached a female coachee who was very competitive.  She had always been told that this was a negative attribute for a woman and she should learn to reign in her competitive behavior.  Indeed, this posed a problem for her.  She didn’t seem to fit in a large company environment.  It was a revelation to her that her competitiveness could be an asset as a business owner.   Rather than changing her behavior, she was able channel her so-called liability into an asset by redirecting her career.  Today, she is a successful owner of several franchise businesses.

This discussion of assets and liabilities leads to one of my major principles of executive coaching.  The role of a coach is to help coachees leverage their assets and manage their liabilities. By building the coachee’s balance sheet, the coach can create dialogue around how to use assets more effectively while managing liabilities to keep them from preventing success.  In my next blog, I will give examples of how the coachee’s balance sheet can be a vehicle for change.


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