A Coaching Power Tool Created by Daisy Tse
(Leadership and Creativity Coaching, UNITED STATES)
What images came into your mind when you think of the word Precision?
For some, it could be a Tag-Heuer watch, where excellence and precision is reflected in the design and workmanship of this time-telling piece.
For others, it could be an image of a brain surgeon in an operating room, where his skills require the utmost precision in order to save lives.
On the other hand, when you think of the word Vague, what images appear in your mind?
For some people, it could it be an impressionistic painting by Claude Monet which worth millions of dollars. For instance, his painting Sunrise 1872, which gave impressionism its name, were used by Eli Siegel, founder of Aesthetic Realism, to describe Monet’s work in a landmark radio interview:
Monet made the vague, the uncertain, the trembling triumphant.
For others, it could be an image of an absent-minded old lady who murmurs in vagueness, not really focused on what she is saying.
The dictionary definition of Precise contains the words such as
definitely or strictly stated; being exactly that and neither more nor less and carefully distinct
Whereas the definition of Vague, contains words such as
not explicit; imprecise; indistinct; not clearly or definitely established or known and demonstrating lack of precision or clear thinking; absent-minded are used.
It is quite clear then that these two meanings are opposite to each other, carrying opposite concepts or ideas. Whether we like it or not, we constantly live in the midst of these two opposing concepts. We need precision in order to function, yet more often than not, we find ourselves being vague and lack of precision.
When we look at our everyday life, we will notice that we often rely on others to be precise. Let’s look at a few common examples:
- Catching a train to work – we rely on the train to arrive at our train station on time. If the train time table states that the train will arrive at 7.40am, we expect it to arrive at approx. 7.40am, may be give or take a few minutes.
- Baking a cake with a recipe – we rely on the recipe book to tell us step by step how to bake a cake, with precise measurement on the use of ingredients, such as “pour 250ml of milk into the mixture” .
- Building a house – we rely on our architect to design our house with precision. To produce a floor plan with precise measurement.
Now, imagine if the people we rely on in the above examples are being vague or unclear:
- Catching a train to work – The train time table states that the train will arrive within 2-3hours from 7am. So the train may come at 7am, or 10am.
- Baking a cake with a recipe – The recipe may say, pour milk into the mixture. Is it a cup or a litre of milk?
- Building a house – The architect provides a sketchy draft of our floor plan with no measurement and give it to the builder.
No doubt, when we look at the context of these three examples, we are certain to think that it is vital to be precise, definite or clear in order for outcomes to be achieved, such as arriving to work on time, baking a cake successfully and building a house according to your requirements.
Now, let’s have a look at a classic example when being vague and lack of clarity are present.
Examine the dialogue below between a mother and son:
Mum, I am going out said Steven
Oh, where are you going? asked Mum
Oh, somewhere… replied Steven
Who are you going with? asked Mum
With someone…replied Steven
OK…..when will you be home? asked Mum
Sometime after dinner replied Steven
Let’s consider this scenario from both parties:
(A) Steven’s Mother – How do you think she may feel?
Possibly, she may feel –
- Lack of clarity
- Out of control
- Not being respected
(B) Steven – What was the intent behind giving such unclear responses?
May be, he wants to –
- Be flexible
- Have freedom
- Easily change directions
- Be free from being accountable,
- Avoid being blamed
- How would you prefer it to be? Living a life where others are being precise, or being vague?
- How often do we catch ourselves or others communicate in the same way as Steven?
- What are you committed to change in terms of –
(a) being vague
(b) being precise
How does being precise or vague affect our coaching relationships?
Imagine for a moment, when you ask your client what time he wishes to commence the coaching session, and he replies
sometime during the week.
How would that affect your thinking towards this person?
Further on into the coaching process, when you ask relevant, powerful questions, and your client is unclear or vague in his response, how does that affect your coaching relationship?
Similarly, if a coach is being very vague about what he or she could offer to the client, how would that made the client feels?
When we work with our clients on key coaching elements such as creating vision, setting goals, developing an action plan and matrix to measure outcome, what differences would it make to the effectiveness of our coaching when our clients use
- clear and precise wordings and
- vague, muddied wordings ?
There is evidence throughout the ICA training where the importance of being clear and precise are emphasised and encouraged. Modules such as values and life purpose, visualisation and creating action are some examples.
In coaching, it is vital that we encourage our clients to give clear and precise wordings to their vision statement, goals and action plan.
This is because being specific, clear and precise will give our clients:
- Clarity and understanding
- Motivation and empowerment
- The feeling of “in control”
- A sense of achievement
Selene is a corporate high flyer who quit her job in a large global company to start her own bakery business. She partnered with a few friends and they started their business from scratch. They worked on all aspects of the business, from creating the recipe to designing the bakery shop.
There were excitement and fun and teamwork. They feel that they can take on the world.
Somewhere along the way, something went terribly wrong for Selene. She felt frustrated, stressed and unhappy each time she went to work in her business. She dislikes the daily routine and business administrative work that a small business brings in. She is starting to have arguments with her business partners about which supplier to use due to price issues.
Selene came to me for some coaching sessions. When we started our coaching session, she explained that she is struggling each day wondering why she is so unhappy. She thought that her dream of becoming an entrepreneur would bring her happiness, and that doing what she is doing now should feel satisfying.
When I asked her, what does she want out of life? She paused for a while, and she could not tell me. She always thought that running her own business is what she wants out of her life. But now, she could not agree with that idea anymore.
What happened was, Selene’s dream was vague. She wanted to be an entrepreneur, but what were lacking in her dream were details. Without thinking through the specific or the precise nature of what type of entrepreneur she wants to be, she launched into whatever opportunity came her way that feels right at the time.
When I asked her what made her choose the business in bakery, it took her a while to articulate the reasons. But after much effort, she told me that she loves to bake and bringing delicious baked goods to little children with healthy ingredients was what sparked the idea to start a bakery in the first place.
So, we finally agreed that her dream was to bake delicious, healthy baked goods to little children all around the world.
The new found clarity of Selene’s dream has helped her to identify why she is unhappy. She has come to the conclusion that running a small bakery is not what she wants.
What happened next?
Selene sold her share of the bakery business to her partners and started to create another business. This time however, Selene created a clear goal and a precise action plan. Selene started to write a recipe book that contains all her delicious and healthy recipes, got it translated into 7 different languages. The recipe book even comes with a password to access her online cooking demonstration video on her website. She found a global publisher who would work with her to market her books all over the world. People in her local community can order birthday cakes and treats from her website and she will bake and deliver to their home. She even got invited to go on talk shows to promote healthy eating for kids!
I ask Selene how she is feeling now.
I am a happy person now, doing what I love. I have turned my dream into reality.
If being precise, clear and specific gives us such benefits, why do people still feel they should be vague?
It appears that we humans like to hide behind vagueness, we think that by doing so, we can be free; free from commitments, free from keeping promises, free from being accountable. Some of us may even feel a sense of “heaviness” when we think of living a “rigid” and “clear cut” life.
For some of us, we may feel that being clear and precise is a costly way of living because we live in a world of constant change, being vague is a survival skill we must master.
However, let’s pause for a moment and look around us, look back into history and look into the future. Can you see the human excellence, beauty, goodness and achievements that ”Precision” brought about in the world of sports, engineering, architecture, medicine and classical music? These are but a few examples where precision triumph.
- How can you support your client when you find them unclear about what they want in life?
- What are some of the tools you can use to help your client to be more precise in their thinking?
- How can you inspire your client to be precise rather than vague as you help them to shape their future?
Claude Monet— Does Art Answer the Questions of Our Lives? – By Marcia Rackow