A Coaching Power Tool Created by Michelle Cunningham
(Career & Leadership Coach, UNITED STATES)
Have you ever experienced a time or a situation where you were completely overcome by emotion or feeling? Where the emotion or feeling completely consumed your thoughts and actions? Where did it feel that there was no way out of the situation and the associated emotions and feelings?
For some, emotions and feelings like overwhelmed, frustrated, stressed, anxious, afraid, or depressed can be associated with this type of experience. In these situations, people often start a sentence with “I am…”
“I am frustrated…”
“I am stressed…”
“I am anxious…”
These are examples of “Being It”.
Consider a slightly different experience. Have you had a situation where you had strong emotions or feelings about a particular event or something happening in your life? Where you might be able to draw on other experiences in your life to help you overcome the current situation?
While the strong emotions and feelings are similar in these situations, the perspective is dramatically different. In these situations, people will often start a sentence with “I have…”
“I have so much frustration…”
“I have some stress…”
“I have anxiety…”
These are examples of “Owning It.”
When a client brings an issue to coaching, where he/she is being consumed by the emotion or feeling, a coach’s questions can help the client to reframe his/her perspective to one of owning the emotion or feeling. For clients, this construct can help them in overcoming an emotion or a feeling that is consuming their thoughts and actions and shift their perspective to one where they are in control.
For example: “I am anxious.” Vs “I have anxiety.”
In the first statement, “I am anxious,” the client is using “anxious” to describe themselves. By doing this, the client gives anxiety power over himself/herself. The client allows the anxiety to take control of his/her thoughts and actions. By “being” anxious, the client gives in to the anxiety.
In the second statement, “I have anxiety,” the client identifies “anxiety” as something he/she has. By doing this, the client takes ownership of and retains power over, the feeling of anxiety. This gives the client the choice to decide how and when the anxiety shows up in his/her life.
Think about this scenario – you are an employee of a company. As an employee, you most likely show up for work and do whatever tasks are given to you by your employer. You may not be in control of, or have the power to change, the set of tasks that you are required to do while at work. You must simply follow the direction set by your employer.
Now, what if you were the owner of that business? As the owner, you most likely would be making decisions for the company, setting the goals, and the direction. You would make the decisions on what employees work at your company, and what task they would be assigned.
Apply this construct to your emotions and feelings. As the employee, your emotions and feelings are in charge. They hold the power and direct you on how to think or act. When you own the business, your emotions and feelings become the employees. You have the power to decide which ones you want working for you each day, and what role you want each of them to play.
Don’t be the employee. Own the business.
- What emotions/feelings are you allowing yourself to “be”?
- What emotions/feelings do you own?
- What emotions/feelings do you want to take ownership of?
In a coaching situation, the client is likely to be experiencing strong emotions associated with the perspective of “Being”. In situations where emotions are running high, the coach may choose to employ some emotional intelligence techniques to invite the client to see the situation from a different perspective.
According to Six Seconds, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting people to create positive change[i], defines emotional intelligence as:
Emotional intelligence is a learnable, measurable, scientifically validated skillset that fuels better effectiveness, relationships, wellbeing, and quality of life — for adults & children.[ii]
One key component of the Six Seconds Model is the concept of Navigate Emotions. This concept is defined as “Assessing, harnessing, and transforming emotions as a strategic resource.”[iii] As coaches, we help our clients navigate their emotions by sharing observations and inviting them to explore additional possibilities or perspectives.
In his article “Navigating Emotions in the Six Seconds Model of EQ”, Michael Miller goes on to say:
Navigating emotions helps you take ownership of your life. By fulling integrating your thinking and feeling, you can make optimal decisions – which is key to having a successful relationship with yourself and others.[iv]
It is clear that by increasing one’s emotional intelligence, clients will be better equipped to explore different perspectives and navigate through emotional situations. This is extremely valuable when working with a client who may find himself/herself stuck in the perspective of “being”.
Let’s consider an example where a coach helps a client navigate the emotion of “being frustrated”:
Client: I want to do something about how I’m feeling or how I’m responding to my team meetings at work. We have a meeting every week, and I just find myself being so frustrated. By the time the meeting ends, I feel like not much as being accomplished at that time.
I don’t want to feel like that when I’m done having those meetings, but I’m not quite sure what I need to do to get over the frustration. I am just so frustrated!
Coach: You use the word “frustrated” multiple times just there. What does the frustration look like for you in this situation?
Client: I feel like “frustrated” is that by the end of the meaning I’m so ready to leave. A lot of times the meetings run over the scheduled amount of time. I’m a very structured person, and if we say we’re going to accomplish what we want to accomplish in the time scheduled, we need to stick to that.
And the meeting always takes longer than scheduled. I see parts of the conversation that I think “You could have cut that out and this wouldn’t have needed to take so long.” I just leave the meetings feeling so stuck, and not like any kind of progress is made or a better direction was given.
Coach: So how would you like to feel when you leave those meetings?
Client: Well, I’d like to feel inspired or like I know what’s going on. Sometimes I feel so lost. And I don’t think I’m lost because I don’t understand the concepts or the content.
I feel like I’m lost from a “When is this happening?” perspective. We have so many great ideas, but these rarely take off and we never start working on them. And then it constantly feels like we’re talking about the same things and no forward movement is being made towards these things.
Coach: What would you like to accomplish in our time together today to help you move away from this frustration and lost feeling to more of that inspired feeling that you mentioned?
The coach’s questions help the client identify which parts of his current situation are causing the emotion of frustration, which enables the client to find ways to navigate past “being” this emotion and to focus on was to “own” or take control of the situation and the emotion. This allows the coaching conversation to move forward in a positive direction.
- How do you model Owning It for your clients?
- What are some questions you could ask your client to create awareness around owning vs being?
- What are some behaviors that would demonstrate owning vs being?
While a client’s language may seem similar in both scenarios, the perspectives of “Being It” and “Owning It” are very different. “Being It” can be very disempowering for a client, where he/she is consumed by the emotion or feeling and cannot see a way out of the situation. The perspective of “Owning It” can be very empowering for the client. Here, he/she takes ownership of their emotions or feelings and has the ability to change the situation.
As coaches, we can share the observation of the client “being” an emotion and invite him/her to explore other perspectives that may exist, such as “owning” it. And, this will ultimately help the client to move forward toward his/her goals.