I recently began the John C. Maxwell Certification Program to help me become a better coach and leader in our organization. One aspect of the training jumped out at me immediately: the reminder that everyone has their own view of the world, shaped by their personal history and beliefs. As a result, every individual looks at a situation through their own filter.
Perhaps the fact that people see things differently seems obvious, but here's a difference between saying or hearing that and really understanding it — especially in the context of coaching others.
Your perspective is how you see the world. It comes from your personal point of view, and it's shaped by your life experiences, values, current state of mind, assumptions you bring to the situation, and many other things.
Your perspective is your reality, but it might not be the reality for the person you're coaching. For example, say one of your direct reports turns in poor-quality work and does not respond to your attempts to coach them to perform better. From your perspective, they're not committed to the job. They've checked out and are unwilling or uninterested in changing.
But what's reality from the other person's point of view? Maybe they feel like they haven't received enough training to handle the assignments they've been given. They're trying their best but are worried that they'll be seen as incompetent if they admit to not understanding the work.
Which perspective is right? When you enter a coaching conversation with this person, do you consider your perspective as reality? Or recognize that you might not have the full picture?
Here's how you can use this knowledge before, during and after your coaching conversations to have better results.
Before: Remind Yourself
Before having a coaching conversation with someone, take a few moments to remind yourself that the other person has a point of view. Your perspective isn't necessarily closer to reality than theirs.
You might even try a perspective-taking exercise. Imagine yourself taking the point of view of the other person. If you were them, what would you want? What would you fear? Your perspective-taking exercise might not get you fully centered on their perspective, but it will help you see that your own perspective is just your personal point of view.
During: Ask Questions
During your coaching conversation, ask questions not to guide them to your perspective but to understand theirs.
If the other person is upset about feedback that you thought was neutral, ask why it upsets them or why they see it as negative. How they react to that feedback doesn't define who they are. They may react a certain way to protect themselves.
Ask open-ended questions like:
What do you make of this situation?
What course of action do you think is best?
How does this look to you?
What if it doesn't work?
Could you help me understand that better?
Will you elaborate?
What other ideas do you have about it?
If you had your choice, what would you do?
Through these conversations, you may not reach an agreement, and that's okay. You don't have to agree, but you do have to respect each other's perspectives.
Don't take it personally. Just try to diffuse a negative situation and focus on the actual problem rather than their reaction.
After the conversation, follow up with the person to confirm your mutual understanding about what comes next. This helps to clarify expectations and ensure that emotion and differing perspectives don't lead to further disagreements.
For example, say, during your conversation, you agreed to have another employee provide one-on-one training on a task they're having trouble with and meet again in two weeks to discuss how it's going.
Confirm that in an email after your meeting. Again, this confirms each person's understanding of what they're going to do. You can get on the same page about the next steps, even if you don't agree about how you got here.
Our work lives are fast-paced, and we rarely take the time to step back and understand the perspectives of others. What would be different in your firm if you were more generous in your interpretations of other people's perspectives?
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As the Solutions Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Deanna works to help clients and prospective clients identify their dangers, opportunities and strengths. Once these are identified, she works to develop a personalized game plan for their firm to focus on the area, or areas, they need to improve on most. These areas are critical to a firm’s success and future-readiness; Leadership, Talent, Technology, Process and Growth.