My fellow exoteric coaches have been writing about change, decision making, career development. One article recently appeared about the issue of staying in a current position or moving on—they’ve all been terrific and made me proud to be part of the group.
This is an important area for coaches who wish to help clients make this difficult decision, I have coached many through it with outcomes in both directions—meaning some have stayed in their current positions others have moved on. It’s a challenging and yet rewarding area of expertise for a career/life coach.
My rather radical approach is to open with just one, deceptively simple question: Are you happy? My new clients are often taken aback by that question (my on-going clients are used to it). Why does that surprise you I asked—the answer is usually some form of “I dunno I didn’t know that I was supposed to (usually means allowed) to be happy, or I’m not sure what that has to do with anything. That brings us to a learning discussion of that little committee, I’m careful before I name it for them (the itty, bitty, shitty committee) to test their tolerance for both the language and the concept. We go on to discuss how we came by that committee, who is on it, how they become a voice in our ear, and why it’s important to critically evaluate their advice. I’ve found you see that committee is a very conservative, old fashioned, non-happiness based phenomena. The committee also makes the distinction between our life, and the roles we are cast in. I’m an advocate for not considering ourselves simply the sum of the roles we play. Any way back to the committee. Parents and grand-parents sometimes find a seat or two, from there varies to school teachers, first bosses, siblings, other relatives, friends, or an idealized version of any of the above (idealized doesn’t mean their advice is any better). The trick for the coach is naming not blaming. Helping the client to see that it’s not those actual people who are or have given advice—but the translated, interpreted, filed and cataloged version they themselves incorporated as a life philosophy. Hard work, don’t take chances, keep your nose to the grind stone, you’re lucky to have a job, no place is perfect, no position has everything, the economy is risky. On and on but with the central theme of acceptance and responsibility trumps happiness, every time. I usually spend a couple of sessions on fleshing this out as a concept. I try to keep it simple and not allow it to get into the “go back in your history, find someone to blame and then do nothing” but I also want the client to have the advantage of really seeing what goes into their decision making about this critical issue. Beyond this I use a simple self-assessment to ascertain what the client sees as the issues around the unhappiness created by the job, how it impacts other areas of their life. We explore what would have to change to keep them in their current employment situation and be happy with the decision. Alternatively, what are the risk factors involved in changing positions. Once I’ve had an opportunity to evaluate the data I’ve been provided, I’ve added an additional step which might be worth considering. When you reviewed the simple conversational assessment with your client then in debrief, ask them to take their answers and ask themselves these questions about each area—Is that true, a simple two-part forced choice of “always, sometimes” will usually suffice to get to the next de-layering. For example, are there exceptions, what qualifiers should I add, have I separated out how I should feel vs. how I do feel. In other words, the coach can help the client dig down a few layers and begin to move to specific action items, consistent with their current mind-set. It also gives the client an additional order of confidence by helping them identify and understand the various emotions, beliefs, memories, learned behaviors, shared values that go into this decision. Helping the client identify who else is involved in the decision, vs. who is impacted, has the client looking at the non-financial costs of each branch of their decision tree. For example, to what extent is the workplace also the friendship base, what role does the position play in self-perception and how does it impact the perception of “significant other” groups and individuals. To what extent do grief and guilt or the avoidance of those feelings, play into the decision to stay or go-and does the client want to over-ride those emotions, why and how. Part of the coach’s job is to help the client avoid surprises that might derail their decision- making process or the decision itself. I offer a similarly structured coaching package for those in their pre-retirement decision making—I’ve named it non-financial retirement planning because once the financial planning makes retirement possible, that’s just one aspect of what should go into a successful retirement planning program. I use a modified version for clients making those decisions about career moves. Thank you, esoteric coaches you’ve provided a great start for anyone considering coaching an individual through such a life altering process as deciding when, why, and how to change positions. Potential clients: It’s also a process important enough to be coached through and you deserve to give yourself that support—as my tag line admonishes “You don’t have to do it alone-be coached”.