Coaching and Staircases!

Coaching and Staircases

Author: gary churton
Categories: Coaching

Coaching and Staircases

Coaching and staircases!

What has coaching got to do with staircases? It might seem an improbable connection so let me explain. A friend of mine recently told me that she was tired of making bad choices – she said it was like continually falling down the same staircase. This set me to thinking about how we make decisions, and how our thinking can fall into patterns, which lead to unhelpful behaviours. So, let’s see if coaching can shed a little light onto ‘staircase’ behaviour, and show us a more productive way forward!

As a rule, we believe that we make decisions based on information, and perhaps on experience. ‘Big ticket’ decisions, such as those involving a job offer, a relationship, or an investment, attract our awareness and become conscious. However we make lot of our decisions without being aware of them. The experience that we bring to bear on such decisions can be unhelpful when it comes to choosing a good way forward. Some of the most influential factors can be messages we have received from other people some of which go right back to childhood. It may mean that we are cautious when boldness is required or reckless when we need to pause and reflect. While these influences remain at an unconscious level we will have difficulty recognising whether they are helpful.

One of the most powerful aspects of good coaching is being offered a different perspective that can awaken us to what is influencing our decision making. This is achieved by a coach asking sensitive questions that throw light onto our thought processes. I recently coached someone who was at a decision point in his career; he had a number of options, all of which seemed to have risks as well as benefits, and was struggling to choose a path. I noticed that he referred to the advice he had been given by various people all of whose opinions he valued. This seemed to be making things more difficult rather than helping him to decide.

In order to support the coachee in making his best decision, I reflected to him that there appeared to be a number of voices operating, and asked him which was the most important. His frank answer was ‘I don’t know Shirley,’ and I invited him to consider this question, explaining that I did not need him to give me an answer. By the next session, the question had become irrelevant, because the coachee had developed his thinking, to the extent that he knew exactly what he was going to do. He fed back to me that, by beginning to wonder about which voice was the most important, he had discovered that the absent voice -his own- was the one that mattered most in making a decision that was right for him.

We all have opportunities to become more conscious about our decision making; by stepping back and applying some cool analysis to our situation, we may be able to avoid those ‘staircase’ moments. Coaching can be a tool to support us in expanding our view, as summed up in one of my favourite sayings, “a good coaching question offers an irresistible opportunity to think”. 

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