Reframing is the process of changing the lens through which a situation is viewed. In my experience working with CEOs and senior managers, their challenges are often obscured by their biases.
This was the case of Bill, who was upset because his brother, who had entered the family business 10 years after he did, was competing for control of stock ownership. Bill felt he was the rightful majority owner because of his seniority and leadership as the company president. His brother ran a smaller department that was struggling. Bill was building resentment toward his brother, and this bothered him. Guided by probing questions from his coach, Bill revealed that the tension between his brother and him had been created by their father, who was gifting stock in the company to his younger son. He further revealed his belief that their father’s rationale was to treat each son equally, and the gift of stock was intended as a compensation for the younger son’s lack of seniority and leadership role in the company. What he did not know was his brother’s desire to share control of the company. Realizing that the approach to dealing with his father was very different than with his brother, Bill decided to confront his brother to find out his intentions. It turned out that his brother was not interested in owning more stock in the company. He really wanted to do his own thing. The two brothers subsequently approached the father to explain their different career goals and attitudes toward owning stock in the company.
Bill originally viewed his brother as wanting equal ownership of the company and that he was therefore influencing their father to gift him stock. This created competition and tension between Bill and his brother. Once Bill realized his brother was not interested in ownership of the company, the tension shifted from his brother to the father. This led to a plan to confront the father and ask him to change his stock gifting plan for the brother. From a coaching perspective, Bill reframed his view, allowing him to engage in a much more fruitful approach toward a resolution of his problem.
Bill’s case is an example of how a coach can help a coachee to reframe and shift tension from one object to another. Through the coach’s questioning of Bill’s assumptions about his brother’s motivation, Bill was able to approach his brother for a frank and open conversation. This led to the reframing and subsequent change in how Bill and his brother approached the father’s plan for ownership succession.
In my next blog, I will offer alternative ways of how coaches can help reframe situations to lead to change.
Reframing is an excellent way to get coachees to see their perceived problem differently. I would agree that biases often skew reality and can lead to bigger unnecessary problems. The coaching relationship provides a safe place for reflection and exploration of what the “real” issue may be. In the long run leading to more productive outcomes.