I love surprises. Some people prefer predictability and consistency, but I thrive on not knowing what's going to happen next. In coaching, the best surprise comes when you ask questions with genuine interest and no hidden agenda, to see what will happen. Both you and the client can be surprised by what comes out as the answer, and it can take the coaching session - and the client's life - in a totally new direction.
"But I've tried everything."
A recent client has had good success in his career at a globally-recognised organisation. He is bright, ambitious and extraordinarily well connected. But he wanted a new challenge in his life and was uninspired by his current role. He needed a change.
But that's easier said than done. He had spent the last 12 months actively looking for his next career move. It had to be a big role in a big company, to make the move worthwhile for him. As a well-connected person in his field, he had spoken to some of his industry contacts, met with recruitment agents, was receiving daily vacancy emails and was watching some key companies very closely for new job posts.
He felt he had tried everything.
The killer question
At the point where even I started to worry we would get stumped in our coaching session, I asked him a question. I had no motive behind it other than to see what he would come up with, and the answer surprised us both.
"If you knew you couldn't fail, what would you do?"
Without even blinking, he said, "I would be an actor!" We both paused, looking equally shocked at what had come out of his mouth. It was one of those good surprises that neither of us could have anticipated, and that I certainly couldn't have foreseen in my questioning.
Unpicking the answer
But just because it was his immediate answer, that doesn't mean he should give up his career tomorrow and become an actor. Further questioning revealed what it was about acting that gave him energy and passion. He explored ways to find that through evening acting groups and other outlets, and he was able to confirm that the original career move was his sole ambition.
So I rephrased the question:
"So going back to your current job search, what would you do in that area if you knew you couldn't fail?"
This then opened up some brave options that my client had resisted exploring in the past. We started with big, scary options that filled him with dread. He brainstormed options that he would never think of trying. When he thought we'd finished developing options, I asked him to make the existing ideas even bigger:
"If that brave idea you just mentioned is a 10/10 in terms of scariness, imagine it is now only a 5/10. In this new world, what would be the next 10/10 scary idea?"
This opened up even bigger options for the client to review, after which he pulled back all the options to settle on actions that felt more suited to him.
He left the session buzzing, and itching to get cracking on his new actions. He has now secured a brilliant position with a global brand.
Why it works
Asking your client what they would do if they couldn't fail is hugely effective for a number of reasons:
Give it a go next time your client feels they've tried everything else. You - and they - will be surprised by the results.
Last year, on 10th December 2016, The Coaching Academy hosted its annual Awards Ceremony to celebrate coaching success and some of the formidable coaches working in our industry! Christelle Maignan was the well-deserved winner of International Coach of the Year. Christelle has been spreading the coaching message amongst the translation industry with her work specialising in coaching freelance translators and interpreters. Here's her winner's Q&A.
As someone who is committed to making a positive and lasting difference myself, the topic of making a change and leaving your mark is one close to my heart. Being a change maker isn't limited to a special handful of people; we can all go out and make a difference in our own special way. Having had the pleasure of working alongside so many fantastic Coaches and Trainers over the years I've noticed some common behaviours that have assisted them in leaving their dent in the universe.