Change – but the right change


I’m a Dilbert fan, primarily because among the often caustic comments, there’s always more than a grain of truth.

This one reminds me of my coaching practice.

Clients often come to me with the wrong idea about what they want to change. They’ve got an initial thought – it’s my time management, it’s my boss, it’s my job – but what I’ve found time and time again is that, deep down, this is not what they want to alter. What it is, is a presenting symptom.

The way I work drills down into what really should be different, which will make a long-term difference to the way they feel about themselves, about their role, their job.

For example, one client came to me recently saying that their CV wasn’t getting them the interviews they thought they deserved.

The CV issues were easily dealt with, but what was at the heart of the issue wasn’t whether to put a profile summary at the start of the document. What was at the heart of the change was the way in which the client felt about themselves after a disastrous experience when they were asked to do the impossible with no support. This ‘leaked’ into everything else, through the words on the page and doubtless into the way they spoke to new companies.

Working out what the change needs to be is at the heart of effective coaching.

It’s pointless spending time on something which won’t make a real and long-term difference. Often more than one coaching session is spent finding out what the client really wants to work on.

The second message is that if you want to achieve something different, you need to do it differently. Coaching is the most personal kind of change, and it requires effort to succeed.

While stopping everything you currently do might not be the answer, stopping some of the things you do will almost certainly be required. Part of the job of coaching is to be a cheerleader for the client’s success in doing this or to support them in making the changes.

But the key skill of the coach is to help people concentrate on the right things.