A Coaching Power Tool Created by June Hogan
(Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
The inspiration for my power tool came from my reading of Brene Brown ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ and Debbie Ford ‘The Dark Side of the Light Chasers’. I also refer to ‘The Pursuit of Perfect’ by Tal Ben-Shahar.
My coaching model is based on the philosophy of embracing all aspects of ourselves and this power tool is linked to these principles. I believe there is space for both these perspectives and each quality can serve the individual in different ways. Being able to help a client see both perspectives can lead to a new awareness of how each perspective might be serving them or getting in the way.
Every aspect of ourselves has a gift … Instead of trying to suppress our shadows … we need to own and embrace the very things we are most afraid of facing. Debbie Ford, ‘The Dark Side of the Light Chasers’
This power tool is not intended to ‘change’ a client and get them to see perfectionism as a bad thing, for some clients in some situations this has it’s place. My power tool is designed for a coach to increase a client’s awareness about a different perspective and then inviting the client to embrace it in a way that feels right for them.
I don’t think some people are perfectionists and others not. I think perfectionism exists along a continuum. We all have perfectionist tendencies. Brene Brown, ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’
We learn to walk by falling, to talk by babbling, to shoot a basket by missing and to colour inside of a square by scribbling outside the box. Those who intensely fear failing end up falling short of their potential. We either learn to fail or we fail to learn Tal Ben Shahar, ‘The Pursuit of Pefect’
Perfect will mean different things to different people, hence we all have a unique perspective. Perfectionism and the fear of failure can restrict us from trying new things, can make us stuck and prevent us from achieving personal growth. When we strive for perfection we can lose sight of our achievements, see set backs as failure and feel like we are not successful. Our perfect ideals and expectations can be suffocating and prevent us from moving forward – “if I’m not perfect then I won’t give it a try”, “how will I ever be able to do this”, “what if I fail, what will others think of me”, “how will I compare” ….
Understanding where our desire to be perfect is coming from will help to inform who we are, then we can better understand our perspective and the ‘perfect’ lens through which we see things. When we are able to let go of who we think we should be and accept who we are we can become more authentic and embrace our uniqueness.
Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are … The choice to let our true selves be seen Brene Brown, ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’
Being more authentic doesn’t mean we should let go of our ambitions and dreams or never move forward, instead we need to explore what perfect means and if this is true to ourselves or imposed on us by others or the world around us. I believe there is space for a ‘perfect’ perspective and becoming more authentic doesn’t mean we need to let go of this, instead we need to understand our perspective and the motivation, values and beliefs that underpin it. Being more authentic is about being able to be kind to ourselves, recognizing and having the courage to accept our imperfections and embrace them as part of our life’s journey.
I came to realise the power of how perfection can get in the way when I was coaching. I remember a session during my observed coaching where I wanted my coaching to be perfect. Without realizing it I allowed this pursuit of the perfect coaching session (which I’ve since come to realise there is no such thing!) to get in the way and as a result I came out of the session feeling like something was missing and the feedback from my mentor coach reflected this.
Since then I’ve reflected on this and used my peer coaching sessions to explore what was getting in the way. I now embrace a style of coaching that works for me and not a style of coaching that I felt I ‘should’ be using. I still want each coaching session to be my best so I can give my best to my clients, however it does not have to perfect and I now regard each session as a learning opportunity. I haven’t stopped striving to continually improve my coaching and to reflect after each session, however I am more relaxed and comfortable with my style and feedback from peer and mentor coaches has been really positive. Realising that my perfect perspective was getting in the way and hindering me really was a light-bulb moment and I now feel my coaching improving with each session. I have embraced my own unique and authentic coaching style and it feels good!
How to apply this power tool
Here are some questions to ask a client who you feel is chasing perfection which can help them see an alternative perspective and how their perfectionism could be getting in their way:
- What is the motivation for this goal?
- Where does that motivation come from?
- When did you decide this was an important goal?
- What is important to you about this goal?
- How realistic is your goal?
- What have you tried so far to achieve it?
- How committed are you to achieving it?
- What would it mean to you to achieve this goal?
- What do you value about this goal?
- How would it feel to achieve your goal?
- How will you know when you’ve achieved your goal?
- What do you think is getting in the way?
- What could be holding you back?
- What would it feel like to let go of your goal?
- When you think about not achieving your goal, what comes up for you?
- If you could hold your goal in one hand and step back, what would you see / how would you feel?
- What does the future look like when you have achieved this goal?
- What skills, talents and resources can you use to help achieve your goal?
I would suggest using some, not all of these questions to dig deeper and understand who the client is in this situation. The use of questions, power listening and observations will help the client see a different perspective.
A client who is a perfectionist need not to let go of perfection, simply by understanding how embracing authenticity can also get them to their goals and accepting how perfectionism serves them or not will be powerful. I believe perfection and authenticity can exist side by side, the significance each one has for the client will be unique to them. A bit like a recipe – some clients may find authenticity with a touch of perfection thrown in is their formula for success and others will approach things half and half, or indeed change their recipe depending on the situation and the significance in their lives, remember this is all about the client and whatever works for them.