In my last blog, I discussed how asking probing questions and challenging assumptions can reframe a coachee’s approach to resolving conflicts. In this blog, I will discuss two methods for how a coachee can reframe a challenge. The first is using an asset to overcome a liability. The second is redirecting tension to create change. I will use two cases to illustrate these methods.
One of my coaching clients received critical feedback from his CEO for not developing his team members. As COO, he was expected to groom his people for career advancement. His assessments indicated that he was very task-oriented and was challenged when dealing with the so-called “softer side” of managing people. His assessments also showed strong assets centered on responsibility and achievement. Knowing his assets and liabilities, his coach suggested he reframe the challenge of developing his people as a goal to be achieved. By reframing, the coachee, after consulting with each individual on his team, was able to create a developmental plan consistent with the expectations of his CEO. He used his achievement asset to reframe a liability—and with great success. This was quickly recognized by his CEO, and he was congratulated on his progress. In reflecting on his own change, the COO was surprised at how easy it was to change his behavior once he was able to rely on his existing assets to achieve his results.
In my book and in previous blogs, I emphasize the importance of tension in creating change. While tension drives the process of change, it does not give direction to change. Recently a coachee was confronted with a dilemma at work. His raise for the following year was lower than several other executives who had less seniority, lower positions in the company, and unproven productivity. Even with the potential to earn a performance-based bonus, his disappointing raise did not sit well with him. Coaching revealed that feedback he received from his manager indicated two liabilities. First, his performance over the past three years was below expectations. Second, he was perceived as having a weaker work ethic than his peers, as evidenced by his hours in the office and business-related travel. The tension was strong. He was upset and questioning his future with the company, but the approach he would take to relieve the tension was not clear. The company did not want him to leave, but his managers also wanted to deliver the message that they were not happy with his performance. Coaching helped him to explore his options. As he reflected on his strong desire to succeed in his current job, the dialogue with his coach shifted from frustration to how he could become more productive in the eyes of those who evaluated him. The direction of his effort became clear as he examined his needs. He stepped up his effort and is making progress toward a productive year. While he still feels he was treated unfairly, his tension shifted away from resentment and toward the challenge of proving his manager wrong about his value to the company.
Having liabilities can be a challenge. A coach can facilitate positive change by helping the coachee to reframe a situation. By either leveraging an asset to overcome a liability or redirecting tension toward satisfying an important need, a coach can facilitate positive change.