We cannot create what we cannot see.
Since our choices are always limited to the options evident to us, one way we can powerfully impact people is to show them what they can’t see.
For example, if your client’s two considered options are (A) raise funds to start a business OR (B) stay in corporate job, then they are limited to just two paths in their life. Here are some other perspectives:
(C) What if you were to boil down your business to a single, simple service? What would that service be? What if you just started DOING that thing for people, one person at a time, on the side of your corporate job? What if DOING that created momentum that you could grow into your business?
(D) What if instead of you needing $1M to start your business, you only needed $100K? What would that look like?
(E) What if you could work your corporate job from home just 3 days per week instead of 5, keep the same salary and then use the other days to work on raising funds?
The moment one sees new possibilities, they have new options. With these new options, they can make different choices. With different choices, they are empowered to create a different life – a life they did not have access to before.
* But Doesn’t the Client Have Everything They Need Within Them? *
You may have heard the idea that to be a powerful coach you don’t need to bring anything to the conversation other than an ability for people to look inside themselves and find new solutions and insights.
I think this is true. This can be powerful. However, it can be even more powerful to bring perspective to a conversation that is well outside of the realm of the person’s imaginative likeliness.
For example, imagine a coaching conversation happening before the invention of the wheel. The client is building his business of sleighs that camels pull across the desert and he wants to improve his business. The chance that a context-free coaching question may lead him to come up with the idea for using a ‘wheel’ is pretty unlikely.
However, if that coach had seen a wheel before – if she had the perspective of movement using wheels – then she could share that perspective and impact the client in a way he may have never been otherwise impacted.
As much as I appreciate the power of having people reflect within the context of their own perspectives, bringing additional perspectives can undeniably be even more powerful coaching.
* How to Have Different Perspectives *
1. Seek Diverse Experiences
In a talk promoting her new book ‘Big Magic’, Elizabeth Gilbert tells a story of how her mission to help people find the one, single, burning passion to commit their life to was misguided because they are missing the fact that many people are not here to do just one thing their whole life. Instead, she says, they are here to be like a hummingbird. In the same way the hummingbird goes from flower to flower, taking a taste and moving on, the mission of some people is to do lots of different things and to gain lots of different experiences. Just as the hummingbird creates more beauty in the world by cross-pollinating flowers, these people create a more beautiful world through the blending of all of their diverse experiences.
Perspectives are the gifts of diverse experiences.
The more ways we experience the world, the more ways we get to see the world. Anyone who has travelled far from home knows this to be true. The way you see everything when you return is richer and more complex. If you want more perspectives, seek more diverse experiences.
One of the best places to get new perspectives is from other human beings. Yes, we can get perspectives from books and videos, but through human dialogue we access possibilities that fit our unique circumstances and we can access them much more quickly. Have lots of conversations with people from lots of different worlds.
I remember the famous UK magician once writing that his ability as a magician really improved when he stopped hanging out with magicians and started spending time with actors and artists. I have taken this same approach with my life in that I spend a lot of time in conversation with people who are not coaches.
2. Be an Outsider
Another way to have different perspectives is to serve people who have a different background and live in a different box than you.
For example, one of the things that empowers me to serve business leaders who have teams of employees is the fact that I have NOT spent my entire career managing teams of employees. I do not live and work inside the box that they live and work in and so I can share perspectives with them from the ‘box’ of my world – a box they have never been in and do not have access to other than through me.
3. Change Perceptive Positions
Every perspective we have emerges from the perceptive position we take. By ‘perceptive position’, I mean the assumptions, worldview and stance we are in when we hold a particular perspective.
This picture is a physical example –
From afar, it looks like a human skull. From this perceptive position we might take the perspective of fear, providing the options of ‘scary’ or ‘not scary’.
From up close it looks like a painting of a woman looking in the mirror. From this position we might take the perspective of beauty, proving the options of ‘beautiful’ and ‘not beautiful’.
Depending on our perceptive position, different perspectives become available and obvious to us.
Having a number of ‘perceptive positions’ helps me to generate fresh, new perspectives. I try to take note of these as I recognize myself standing in them. In fact, many of the over 200 videos on my YouTube channel contain descriptions of these perceptive positions.
Here are some of the perceptive positions from which I find I am able to generate the most powerful perspectives for my clients.
(1) Going ‘Meta’ – Talking about the conversation explores ‘higher level’ perspectives, which paradoxically can take the conversation deeper.
(2) Embedding – Create what you are talking about, right then and there. For example, role play the actual conversation your client is talking about having.
(3) Distinctions – Look for subtle differences within the familiar. Create new perspective by contrasting these differences as distinct. (*A creator of distinctions, I believe, is one of the MOST powerful perceptive positions for a coach.)
(4) Likenesses – Consider where there is already proficiency and competence. Create perspectives that parallel these things to the challenge at hand.
(5) Opposites – Consider the exact inverse of what you (or they) have been doing as true and see what perspectives arise.
(6) Breaking Rules – Acknowledge the constraints within which you are working and then generate perspectives intentionally beyond them.
(7) Yielding to Fear – Consider fear to be a warning that self-interest is too high. Yield to that fear by switching your focus onto others. See what perspectives arise through being other-oriented.
(8) Inconsistency – See consistency as a lie. Come from a place where truth is that everything always changes. What do you see from this position?
(9) Wholeness – See autonomy as delusive and consider yourself as part of a greater whole. What perspectives do you have when you are not separate from anything?
(10) Illusion – Adopt an active nihilist perspective. Acknowledge that all meaning in the world is made up and thus any meaning can be created.
(11) Emergence – Move from a linear, causative framework to a non-linear, correlative one. Allow for results to be dependable even when you cannot connect the dots.
(12) Obstacle as Path – Have what stands in the way become the way. (A’la the stoic philosopher Marcus Aurelius)
(13) Vision as Path – Boil down the essence of your end vision and have the thing be the action that creates it.
** Coaching Questions to Ask Yourself **
– How are my diverse experiences contributing to my impact as a coach? What other experiences could I have that would add to my ability to take and share perspectives with my clients?
– Where have I been considering my lack of experience as a limitation for my clients? How can the fact that I am an ‘outsider’ actually be an asset to them?
– Which of the above perceptive positions do I already take? Which could I try taking? What perspectives arise when I do?
[ NOTE: I actually began expanding on each of the above perceptive positions with examples of perspectives that might emerge from them, but it made this article far too long, so I’ve left it out. If you’d like me to explain or expand on any of the above perceptive positions, comment below telling me which number(s) and I will happily do so! ]