It’s fair to say that most people go through life with little or no awareness of the essential life skills that enable them to get along well with people, thrive in difficult times, and live successful, productive, even extraordinary lives.
If you are a coach working with people to change the quality of their lives and work, you have an incredible opportunity to teach them some key distinctions about the way they are living, and to give them the gift of understanding themselves in a new way so they can start to make changes for the better.
Just remember that everything you suggest or offer should be done from the heartspace of wanting to serve and to add value to your client’s life.
Here are five coaching principles I learned from a multi-millionaire business owner, trainer, coach, author and philanthropist.
First, identify and break through boundary conditions
Your client’s thinking patterns have three levels: things that they know that Ihey know, things that they know they don’t know, and things that they don’t know they don’t know. The ‘edge of thinking’ is what we call the line between what I know I don’t know, and what I don’t know I don’t know. At this edge or boundary is a ‘boundary condition’, a belief or set of beliefs the client is clinging to that if bridged, will enable your client to change his thinking, his attitude and his behaviour, and produce a positive outcome in the way he lives his life around a particular issue.
Your job as a coach is to identify your client’s boundary conditions and take him over the line on at least two conditions to the other side.
Why is two the recommended minimum for effective transformation? Think of it this way. If your client breaks through one boundary condition, he has made some change. But there’s always the risk that he might fall back into his old ways out of fear of change. However, if he has broken through two or three boundary conditions, he would be able to see for himself the tremendous transformation that he has said yes to. Don’t you agree he will be more motivated to sustain this new way of thinking than go back to his old pattern of thinking and behaviour?
So how do you identify your client’s boundary conditions?
There are four indicators or clues you can gain from noticing how your client responds to your questions.
One is where the client keeps saying “I don’t know”. The second indicator is confusion. The third is looping, where the client keeps going around and around skirting the edges of the issue but not answering your question directly. The fourth is silence.
So how do you help a client break through his boundary conditions?
Here are some great questions to get the client thinking differently.
You could say to the client who uses “I don’t know” to avoid committing himself: “If you did know the answer, what would it be?”
You could say, “Make it up”.
You could ask, “What’s in it for you?” or “What do you gain by (doing/not doing this)?” or “How is this working for you?”
You could invite him to brainstorm by asking “How can you (the action)?” and “How can you do (the action) even more?” The latter is powerful because it contains a presupposition that the client is already doing the right thing.
You could challenge him with: “What are you pretending to not know?”
Second, living ‘at cause’ vs. ‘at effect‘
There are two kinds of people, people whose lives are ‘at cause’ and people whose lives are ‘at effect’.
People who live ‘at cause’ take 100% responsibility for what happens in their lives. They believe that they are the cause of what happens in their lives. They actively co-create their outcomes by using their power to make choices and decisions that will contribute to the quality of their lives.
People who live ‘at effect’ are forever blaming external factors for the poor quality of their lives. Stuff happens to them. The economy. The government. Their parents. There’s no choice. It’s not their fault. And so on.
If you have a client who is living ‘at effect’, your job is to show them how they actually have choice and that they have more choices than they think.
Third, the map is not the territory
The human brain can only take in between 3 and 7 chunks of information at a time before it experiences information overload. You know the feeling. How much are you taking in of the information that is coming at you in an average day? You skim, read headlines, look at the first line of each paragraph, pick out keywords that seem important or relevant. You are constantly filtering information in and out using your internal criteria of what is worth retaining and remembering. This internal criteria includes things like beliefs, values, experiences and defining moments.
Your client is doing exactly the same. To cope with life, he deletes, distorts and generalizes what happens so that it fits in with how he sees himself and the world. In the process, he loses some information that may be valuable and useful. Your job as a coach is to help him recover what he has conveniently deleted, reverse or undo what he has distorted and become aware of what he is generalizing. This is done by entering respectfully into your client’s world with one aim: understanding him and understanding his map.
Fourth, what we focus on is what we get – to the exclusion of everything else
Have you noticed that when you are expecting, you suddenly see babies and pregnant women everywhere? Or when you decide that your dream car is a Toyota Camry Sportivo, every other car you see on the road is a Sportivo?
Your client is doing the same thing. He is completely absorbed in his current reality: his problems, challenges, feelings of helplessness. He is doing overwhelm. He is not aware that he has filtered in things that are unhelpful or untrue or both, and filtered out things that are helpful and beneficial.
So your job is to help him recover those deletions, adjust his filtering system and change his perception of reality. Help him see that he has the power to choose, and that he has more choices than he thinks.
Fifth, there is no such thing as failure, only feedback
When one thing doesn’t work, your client may perceive that he has failed. If there has been a pattern of failure, he may be inclined to feel that this is a waste of time and he should just give up. Worse, he associates not achieving a goal with a personal sense of failure, and his self-worth takes a hammering.
However, if he is taught to view success as a progressive realization of a worthy goal, he begins to see that success is a series of small steps rather than about achieving a goal in one huge effort. He also sees that he will get more value out of his effort if he sees feedback as a way to verify if he is moving towards or away from his goal, without getting too personal or emotional about the result.
Another way to make this key distinction work for your client’s benefit is to explain that failure is ‘at effect’ thinking, and feedback is ‘at cause’.
I trust that these five success principles help you add value to your coaching sessions and enable your clients to take those crucial transformative steps forward.