A Coaching Power Tool Created by Melissa Bosomworth
(Wellness Coach, CANADA)
Since we cannot change reality, let’s change the eyes which see reality. ~ Nikos Kazantzakis
As we walk throughout our daily lives, our perceptions of the world, situations and ourselves is what guides our behaviour. We make decisions based on our emotions and how we perceive every moment of the day. Perception has been defined as
the way in which something is regarded, understood, or interpreted.1
This can be quite effective in living true to oneself, however it comes at a risk. Perception is quite subjective and situations can be easily misunderstood.
Reality is defined as
the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.2
Much like perception, basing your decisions and behaviour solely on reality can result in people viewing you as rigid and lacking in empathy. The emotional connection and aspects of the situation are not considered in decision making and action planning. They remain unaddressed creating a disconnect for your client.
It is important for people to find a way to align their perceptions and realities to remain grounded and balanced. When people are feeling in touch with a situation and have a clear understanding of what is happening, they can make sound decisions since all aspects will be explored and considered. If our perceptions and our realities are misaligned, we can veer off our path which is strongly rooted by our values. We then enter uncomfortable territory. Being in this uncomfortable territory can leave a client feeling stuck in understanding what is happening and they may not having a clear sense of what to do next. Clients may also be personalizing the situation and taking on more responsibility for the situation than what is necessary. Coaches can be a conduit for a client to become aware of what their perception is and what their reality is so they can have a greater appreciation for their impact on the situation. Furthermore, they can then design an action plan which is consistent with their values and integrity.
By helping clients recognize how their thoughts and behaviours are influenced by their perceptions, a client can gain more clarity into their unique circumstances. Through an understanding of the reality in a situation, a client can remove the associated emotions which then may allow a greater ability to problem solve and explore possible options and actions. An art in coaching is to hear when this misalignment may be occurring and help the client test their understanding. In doing so, the client opens their mind to new opportunities and insights to create an action plan to respond to the situation with more clarity.
Case Study: Part 1
Travis has been working on an important program for the past month and his boss is expecting it to launch in three weeks. To ensure his success, he has recruited several colleagues to work on it with him. He knows he can work well with these colleagues based on their past performances and projects. He is becoming increasingly concerned about one colleague, Sarah, who doesn’t appear engaged in the project. In the past, Sarah has always shown a strong work ethic and dedication to her projects, including this one. However, the last two weeks she has been distant, rarely contributing to team meetings and submitting the bare minimum amount of work. Travis has tried to engage Sarah and give her tasks she seems to have enjoyed in the past. His efforts do not seem to making a difference.
Travis shared with his coach that he was feeling Sarah was not being a team player and taking advantage of the rest of the team who was putting in more effort. He began to resent choosing Sarah for the team and questioning her integrity. Slowly Travis is losing confidence in his leadership skills and in his relationship with Sarah. In fact, he found himself beginning to avoid speaking with her unless it was necessary. Travis wanted his coach to help him develop a plan to get her engaged in the program.
During a coaching session, the following was explored. Travis’ perceptions about Sarah: lazy, disengaged, lacking in quality and quantity of work, selfish, maybe doesn’t like Travis, resentful Travis is the program lead, taking advantage of other teammates.
- How is Sarah’s disengagement shaping your behaviour?
- What is the experience you are hoping to create for your teammates?
- How, if at all, are you contributing to her disengagement?
- What part of what you just shared could be an assumption?
- If you could step out of this situation and look down on it, what would you think about Sarah?
- What is the benefit of her being engaged?
- What is the cost of her being disengaged?
- What is one thing you can do this week to help you better understand why Sarah’s engagement in the program has changed?
Case Study: Part 2
While processing the situation, Travis was able to separate his emotions and see how Sarah’s actions have changed from his past experiences with Sarah. He revisited why he chose Sarah for the team and the value of her work. Travis then changed his coaching agreement to develop a plan to communicate the importance of having Sarah on the team and his observations. When Travis put his plan into action, he learned that although he had evidence to support his perceptions of why Sarah was behaving differently, the reality was that her father had passed away and she wasn’t ready to talk about it in the workplace. This was impacting her focus and motivation in doing her work.
As in the case with Travis and Sarah, the client will often have factual data to support their perceptions. This is where the coach needs to be skilled at listening for inconsistencies and have confidence to challenge the client’s perceptions for greater clarity. It is easy to see how Travis was feeling because he didn’t have all the information he needed to truly understand why Sarah was not engaged in the project. By Travis allowing himself to open to other possibilities, he was able to approach Sarah in a supportive way allowing her to share her experience. Travis was then able to reframe his perspective and show Sarah more compassion and empathy.
Understanding the times in our lives when we need to explore this concept will help us see ways that we can support clients in reframing their situations.
- In which areas of your life do you find yourself reacting to perceptions rather than separating out the reality of the situation?
- Create a chart showing the facts of the situation, the emotions that go along with those facts and how they may be reframed.
- What are some ways you can challenge clients to assess the alignment of their perceptions and realities?
- How do your perceptions impact your work with clients?
Coaches must be present and actively listening for opportunities to invite their client into the process of exploring perception and reality. When beginning a conversation, a client’s perception is their current reality. The coach becomes curious when hearing the client become stuck in the emotional space of a situation. An exercise that a client may be willing to engage in is where the emotion and facts (reality) are separated. The things the client lists is valid and worthy of acknowledgement. The coach holds this space until the client is satisfied that all important aspects of the situation have been identified. The client then chooses how they would like to move forward now that they have greater clarity in the situation. The client guides the process from here into creating an action plan or further exploration.
- With this insight, how has your perspective changed?
- What do you feel the next step should be?
- How can the situation be reframed to feel more heartening?
- What is your takeaway from this part of our conversation?