A Coaching Power Tool Created by Ingrid Kuehtz
(Leadership Coach, GERMANY)
There are extraordinary people in this world, achieving spectacular adventures explicitly because they have chosen to do it alone, without help in that moment.
Steve Fossett became the first balloonist to travel round the world in a hot air balloon on a solo flight. 15 days after the launch of the balloon in Northam, Western Australia he landed again July 4th 2002 back in Australia at a longitudinal farther to the east than where the journey began (1)
Reinhold Messner, championed in 1978 the summit of Mount Everest without supplementary oxygen, saying that he would do it “by fair means” or not at all. This was the first time anyone had been that high without bottled oxygen and proved what certain doctors, specialists and mountaineers thought impossible. He repeated the feat in 1980, during the monsoon season. This was Everest`s first solo summit (2).
Why did Steve and Reinhold choose to go for these endeavors, which are per dangerous even life threatening without any help? Why was it important for them to go for them in a solo attempt?
There might be many different inner beliefs driving such a choice
- Experiencing oneself at the edge of life
- Fear to lose
- Proof to be able to do the impossible
As observers we might judge on this elsewise like
- Extraordinary courageous
- Simply stupid
Obviously the examples of Steve Fosset and Reinhold Messner are extremes. Nevertheless every one of us can easily come into a situation to decide if we go for it alone or not. Doing so and achieving the result wanted leaves us with a powerful feeling of strength, independency, energy and proud. Everything looks doable; we are overcoming any fear of limitations.
On the other side, these feelings are usually not sustainable, do not last for long and can end up in a rather lonely path.
.. means choosing to ask someone else, an expert, a friend, family, boss etc. for advice and help. This might lead to some different effects.
An expert e.g. a doctor has more knowledge and experience in treating an illness, so chances to recover are higher. Friends and family think usually in our favor, their help can add new aspects, better timelines and of course taking over some of the tasks of what we want to do. Getting support from a boss might even be a tactical wise choice, some of them like you more when you have included their advice into the solution.
Asking for and getting the right help at the right time can leave us with the feeling of having done the right thing. It leads to joy and sharing of success with the ones who helped and fosters openness, trust and community.
Still there might be a strong feeling of making ourselves dependent from thoughts, pace and willingness of others – is it not more easy to just go by ourselves?
Peter is a middle manager in a big cooperation. He likes his job and since a couple of years exceeds the expectations on his performance without big effort. Throughout his career, Peter is now 53 years old, he used to achieve the next level without any support of his boss, a mentor or HR. He was able to get promotions by just applying and going through the interview process – always managing to get the jobs he applied for by himself.
For some time now the wish to move up again is manifesting in Peter`s mind. With his past experiences the way was clear. Peter chose his well working solo-attempt to find and apply for attractive jobs bringing him up to the company`s executive management level.
Surprisingly after one year he had to realize that in all four applications he failed to get the position. What was wrong here? Several things came into his mind and he challenged them in respect to their probable effect on his disappointment.
- Age – is 53 too old for another step in the career
Not necessarily, Peter knew a couple of colleagues older than him being promoted lately
- Skills – did he apply for positions and did not have the skills
No, Peter chose the positions carefully and was at least in the past very good at selling his skills as a fit to the offering
- Performance – is 5 years of exceeding expectations not enough to earn a promotion?
Maybe but this does as well not fit to Peter`s experience from the past
- Network & Support – is it important for this next step to have support from other managers belonging to that or even a higher level Peter wanted to get in?
Yes, this is what Peter heard from others which were successful
Obviously this was the point Peter did not take care of in his latest attempts. He never did that before in his job. Thinking about it Peter realized that as well in other efforts he used to try first and as long as possible to stay independent from the help of others. Peter could even recall a couple of bad, unsuccessful events for which he did seek for help. Therefore driven by successes out of solo-attempts and failures from relaying on others – his intuitive choice is to go for it alone. It filled him always with pride and increased his self-confidence.
Peter discussed his situation with a good friend and came to the conclusion that this time he needed to act differently. Peter started to involve his current management, put some efforts in meeting other managers e.g. for lunch and reached out to HR to open up his wish for change. It took him quite some overcoming of his fears to be dependent, but with his clear intent and conscious decision to change behavior this time he accomplished it.
Three months later a new offering, actually the perfect fit came up. Peter applied and immediately asked his network to put in a good word for him – he got the job.
In coaching we strive for support our clients to grow. Increased self-awareness, self-directed learning and self-decisive activities are steps towards adding or changing. The client might already know in which aspects he wants to make moves or aims to get better understanding of the underlying behaviors, inner beliefs and asks for support to adjust according to his decision.
I have chosen for my power tool a change of perspectives from Solo attempt vs Seeking help because it can be applied in coaching in a direct as well as an indirect measure.
- Direct coaching application: Solo attempt vs Seeking help
Like in Peter`s example he figured out clearly the fact that he needed to get help from his surrounding to make a next step in his career. He knew that this was a challenge for him. With the support of a coach Peter
Can get more clarity form whom, how and when he would need help, discover the supporting resources and develop an action plan to achieve all of it.
Typical coaching questions her would be:
- Which exact help do you consider successful in getting a new position?
- Who could put this help in place?
- Which other resources do you have in mind to achieve your goal?
- Please describe how you will apply with these people to get their help?
- How can you judge on the effectiveness of the offered help?
- Which plan will you put in place to get the most effective help?
- How will you hold yourself accountable to fulfill this plan?
Will create a higher level of self-awareness of his objections to loose self-dependence. This will then help him to make conscious decision when to accept this and when to stay with it.
The coaching process for this could include the following
- On a scale of 1-5 how high do you rate self-dependency in your life?
- Why is it important to rely on your own skills and performance?
- Which impact on you does it have asking for help?
- Whom do you know who is better able than you in seeking help?
- Which degree of self-dependency does this person still has?
- In case you agree that both attempts can exist in parallel, what would you need to make a situation based decision?
- Indirect coaching application: Solo attempt vs Seeking help
In this scenario a client does not yet know that he has challenges to either go for him alone or ask for help. He might want to be coached on any topic out of business, career, life balance etc.
However during the coaching process the client discovers some negative experiences of having chosen the one or the other direction. Even more difficult lays open that he is usually not able to decide which one to use and therefore holds himself back and does not move at all. Both ways uncover a certain level of indecisiveness and uncertainty, maybe even fear of failure – and or now the topic to be worked on in the coaching.
This is how they could be addressed
- Please tell me your most impressive experience with having done something on your own.
- And now in contrary a similar level of experience with having actively asked for help.
Please give me a couple of adverbs which best describe the impact of these experiences on you.
- How does uncertainty visualizes for you.
- Which advices would you give someone to cope with uncertainty to choose between solo attempt or seeking help
- How will your success look like when your are able to decide between these two ways?
Which resources can you put in place to achieve this success?
When will you start to use these resources?
Coaching is all about support the client in his growth of self-awareness, self-decisiveness and self-directed activities. All of this sounds pretty much going into the solo-attempt direction, right. On the other side coaching is the help clients are seeking for to achieve these attributes.
The coaching process applies powerful listening and – questions, acknowledgment, trust, commitment, energy and accountability and many more competencies. The one on top is the attitude of the coach to help the client to achieve by himself the right behavior in the different situations in his future.
- Which situation have you been in where you needed to change your usual attempt of either going for something alone or asking for help?
- Which impact did this change put on your emotions and energy
- How much flexibility do you think we need in our life’s for both ways
- Observing the one or the other way, what is your judgment on their effectiveness
Ecclesiastes 4, 9-12, The Holy Bible