This Presupposition of a Brilliant Coach is important because there is often the feeling amongst coaches that you have to finish the process and make sure your client leaves with a solution rather than saying: “That’s your time up for today”.
This article was written 20 years ago and published in ‘Success Now’ issue 14, August 1999
Have you ever been in a business meeting with a colleague and afterwards commented on how well it went? If your colleague looked at you in amazement and said it was a complete waste of time you may have found yourself wondering whether you were in the same meeting. The NLP answer is that you were in two separate meetings, because you were each filtering the experience differently.
A basic principle of NLP is that everyone has their own unique ‘map of the world’, and that everyone’s map is equally valid. Put another way, our experience is filtered through our beliefs and values, memories, language and cognitive processes in such a way that the resulting perceptions are highly individual.
Imagine a person who regards himself as very objective, scientific and down-to earth. We’ll call him John. John believes that there is a ‘rational explanation’ for everything and that anything that can’t be scientifically proven is not true. Suppose John goes to a party and gets into a group of people discussing UFO’s and aliens. The person beside him turns to John and says, “I was abducted by aliens.”
How do you think John would react? Is he going to say, “How amazing! I didn’t think that was possible. Please tell me about it.” Or is he more likely to conclude that this person is lying, drunk, attention seeking or otherwise mentally defective? The latter seems more likely, doesn’t it? John will make sense of this person’s behaviour in the light of his own belief that what they are saying cannot be true.
So, what we believe tends to shape our perception of reality. The old saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it”, would actually be more accurately expressed as, “I’ll see it when I believe it.” Some people have more open minds than others and can challenge their beliefs, but we all have beliefs that we REALLY believe and would never think to challenge.
Often, when someone behaves in a way that we find unacceptable or incomprehensible, it is because we are attempting to make sense of that person’s behaviour using our own filters. This is often noticeable when dealing with people from other countries and cultures. Since common values can be expressed in diverse ways, we often find that people in other countries don’t do what we expect and it’s a common mistake to assume that they don’t share our values.
For example, time is valued in many cultures but the way the value is expressed can be different: In northern Europe, people demonstrate their value of time by not taking up your time. In southern Europe, people demonstrate the same value by giving of their own time. So, when a northern European businessman visits colleagues in southern Europe and is taken out for a long, leisurely lunch, he may conclude that they don’t value time because they are taking up his time with what he regards as an unnecessary activity. They may feel insulted if, when the return visit is made, he responds with cold sandwiches during a meeting. He is not giving his time and therefore gives the impression that he does not value his colleagues.
Sometimes, there are fundamental differences in the values. Last year I visited Singapore, to co-train with a friend. He had warned me that the temperature was 30 degrees, humidity was high and that I should bring my thinnest clothes. I was very surprised then, to spend every training day shivering with cold, because the air-conditioning was turned to around 18 degrees. It took me a week to figure it out; a week of going outside to get warm; of watching in amazement all the locals bringing sweatshirts to class. Finally I understood – if you live in a cold climate, as we do in Britain, you grow up with a fundamental value that warm = good. In hot climates the reverse is true, cool = good. It’s that simple. So when my friend comes to England to work alongside me, I shall be telling him to bring light clothing, because it may be cold outside, but our training rooms are warm – especially in the winter!
So, to understand the behaviour of others, it can be helpful to ask yourself, “What must that person believe, in order to behave in that way?” Or you could ask the person, but they may not consciously know the answer. So stay open to ideas, beware of forming negative judgements, especially in foreign countries. Give yourself a new filter – “Everyone has positive intentions” – and look at their behaviour in a different light. Above all, remember that even the person who grew up next door to you has had different experiences and developed different values. Fundamentally, everyone’s a foreigner!
One of the things I know from having been around a lot of coaches over the years is that it’s not uncommon for people to come to you with issues that have also been relevant to you. It doesn’t always happen when you’re in the middle of it – although it can do…
Do you have anything on your ‘to do’ list that you just can’t seem to get around to doing? Here is a method to get it done.
First of all, ask yourself, ‘what are the benefits to me of doing this?’
Next ask yourself, ‘what problems will it cause if I never do it?’
In many cases, the answers to those questions will motivate you do it. Great! Go for it!
If not, the next thing to check is, ‘do I know HOW to do it?’
Sometimes, a task that seems quite straightforward can be put off if you don’t have a strategy for getting it done. Often this problem arises with large tasks. If it needs two hours to do it, then you might keep putting it off because you only have half an hour at your desk between meetings. If it’s going to take 10 hours to do it, you’ll never have a big enough gap between meetings to get it done. The answer is to divide it up into manageable chunks and do a bit at a time.
Finally, check if there is some benefit of NOT doing it. For example, if there’s a lot at stake, you may be putting it off for fear of getting it wrong. If that’s the case, talk it over with someone else to build your confidence in your approach – or to amend it if necessary.
Above all, DO NOT assume that you must be lazy because something isn’t getting done. There is always a reason.
Have you ever been on a training programme that lasted a whole day, where there’s been a lunch break and and you notice, after lunch, that the energy in the room has dropped a bit? People seem a bit less talkative, a bit less enthusiastic and, in some cases, downright sleepy!
One thing you may not realise is that the post-lunch slump is more to do with the time you got up than the food you just ate…
In these politically correct times, we often disregard the differing attitudes of men and women in the workplace. However, those differences are real and any manager or coach who ignores them is missing out on vital keys to influence and success.
In their book ‘Why Men Don’t Listen and Women Can’t Read Maps’ Alan and Barbara Pease explain the difference between masculine and feminine brains better than I can here and also note that not all masculine brains are owned by men and not all feminine brains are owned by women.
In short, the primary purpose of communication is different for masculine and feminine brains:
The masculine brain is all about status, hierarchy and his place in the world
The feminine brain is all about building relationships and support networks
These primary purposes hark back to our primitive ancestors and the respective roles of men and women in tribal societies. Societies may have evolved, but the human brains (of both varieties) have not. So, the owners of masculine brains are often very conscious at work of their place in the ‘pecking order’ and when they meet someone new, they find it hard to concentrate until they discover the newcomer’s place in the same pecking order.
This is why a meeting consisting mainly of owners of masculine brains may devote the first few minutes to reviewing recent successes, introducing visitors and their credentials and deciding who will take notes and so on. It’s important that everyone understands their role and the hierarchy.
The owners of feminine brains don’t require this pecking order. They just want to work together and build relationships that will be the foundation of future trust and support. They don’t care what it says on your business card, they want to know what makes you tick.
As a consequence, many owners of feminine brains are unskilled at claiming their place in the pecking order. The owners of masculine brains sometimes assume they must be at the bottom of the pile because they haven’t staked a claim to any other position and sometimes they mistrust the owners of feminine brains because they don’t know where they stand.
It can be quite complicated!
When it comes to coaching relationships this is most relevant if you are a male coach with a male client. Early in the relationship you – the coach – will have to establish this sense of equality. If your male client is indeed the owner of a masculine brain, he will need to know your status before he can fully engage with you because as a man, you could be a threat to his personal status. Bear in mind also, that many senior women in organisations have masculine brains and will have the same need.
I have found many instances where it’s easier for a man who is high in the pecking order to accept a coaching relationship with a woman. He often doesn’t care so much where women sit in the hierarchy and may be used to confiding in other women in his life. Having a female coach presents no perceived threat to his status.
Even then, it’s not uncommon when I meet a male prospective client for him to spend the first 55 minutes of a meeting telling me all about his recent successes and the final 5 minutes explaining what he might need some help with. I can think of no better demonstration of the need to establish a position that will not be undermined by the admission of an unfulfilled goal or unsolved problem.
As the owner of a feminine brain, I’m content to enjoy this insight into what makes my prospect tick, secure in the knowledge that at some point he’ll feel safe enough to tell me how I can help.
As a female coach, you may have to be prepared to ‘show them your hairy chest’ occasionally. It may not be important to you, but if your client is the owner of a masculine brain, he might need to know that you are his equal. Prepare a few testimonials and appropriate case studies in case you need to claim a place in the pecking order.Be prepared also to talk about your qualifications and experience. Name-drop a bit if you have to. Otherwise there’s a danger you’ll be written off as too junior.
If you are the owner of a masculine brain and your prospective client owns a feminine brain, you may find yourself prepared to explain all your credentials and claim your place high up the pecking order, only to be on the receiving end of some questions about the kind of work you most enjoy or how you recruit people to your team.
Sometimes, the kind of questions asked by the owner of a feminine brain can feel overly personal, even to the point of being intrusive to the owner of a masculine brain.
My intention is that by raising your awareness, you’ll be able to see any discomfort for what it is – an expression of the way our brains work – and not allow it to distract you from creating a productive working relationship.
I’d love to hear your insights and comments…
The idea of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) was first put forward by Daniel Goleman in the early 90s. This was the first time that anybody had paid attention to something other than intelligence as being an indicator of how successful somebody might be in life and in work.
Given that Emotional Intelligence and NLP are both about interacting with other people and self awareness, I’m often asked what the connection is and whether there’s an overlap. I believe there is and that they are two different sides of the same thing…
Sometimes people come to me and say: “I don’t really know what I need, but I know I need something.” Which is interesting – because how would you know that you need something if you have no idea what it is? And yet somehow we do.
So I got thinking about this and I believe there are some ways we can figure out – for ourselves – what our development needs are…
As I look around everyone seems to have such busy lives. Even schoolchildren have an endless round of after-school clubs, ‘playdates’ and parties. Business people race from one meeting to the next, with no time in between to think, plan or delegate tasks.
Small wonder that everyone seems to be reading email on the go (or in meetings). What did we do before we had smartphones?
Today’s problem is not about how to connect. Today’s problem is when to disconnect. We’re all overwhelmed with information, opportunities and requests. And many of us don’t have a reliable way of managing all this input. Marketeers tell us that in today’s world, most people scan an email, news item or reports initially to see if there’s a reason they can legitimately ignore and delete it:
“I’m on holiday that week.” “I’ve passed that project on to my colleague.” “I don’t use an iPad.” “I’m not a frequent flyer.” “I have to go to the dentist.” “I looked at this 3 years ago and decided not to pursue it.” “I’m self-employed.” “I’m a manager.” I’m too busy to think clearly?
While this kind of thinking can be helpful in scanning the ‘spam’ in your in-box, it can lead to overlooking or disregarding valuable opportunities.
That’s why goals are important. If you’re not clear about what you want to achieve, it’s very hard to decide what’s relevant and what isn’t. It’s hard to decide what to spend time on and what to avoid. It’s even harder to decide whether or not you’ve had a good day!
So, if you’ve got clear goals for the year, the quarter, the decade or your life that’s good. But is it enough to keep you focused and productive?
There is something else as well.
Maybe one of the greatest skills required in any job is being able to focus in on what matters and not get distracted by everything else. But a relentless focus on your goals can make you blinkered to other relevant opportunities as well as to the irrelevant distractions.
The latest neurological research shows that people feel most alive and are most motivated when they are learning something new. So closing down our field of vision in relation to our goals is counter-productive to that. It’s good to have focus, and it’s even better to balance that focus with times when you step back, look around and ask yourself, ‘what else?’
So as well as your current goals, how about allocating some time, space and energy to pursue something new, to take up one of those unexpected opportunities and to stop retreating into ‘I’m too busy’ when you can’t immediately see the benefit of doing something. You might be pleasantly surprised.
This 10 Question Problem Solver is for you if you’ve got some kind of issue going round in your head, you keep looping back over the same things, and you need to make some kind of progress.
I’ll ask the questions… the answers are up to you. Here we go…