If you own a cat, and even if you don’t, I’ll bet you’re familiar with feline tactics for attention.  Walking, prancing and rolling on a keyboard is a  favored manoeuvre.   This morning, my cat was doing just that when she accomplished an extraordinary shift; I’m not sure which  keys she stood on, and in what sequence, but *viola!* the entire visual on my display screen turned 90 degrees. The whole screen.  I didn’t even know my notebook had such a  trick in it! I had to turn in on it’s side to view my screen.  It’s taken me quite some time to figure how to right the image.  The experience reminded me about a coaching dialogue technique — about how taking a 90-degree angle shift on something can shift our perspective. Whitworth et al, in their book Co-Active Coaching, set out this elegant example.  I hope it adds value to your thinking. 

Coach: I get the sense that you’re just going through the motions. Your energy is way down lately. I can hear it in your words—it’s like you’re slumped in your chair.

Client: I am

Coach: What’s that about?

Client: Everything’s going along like It should. It’s just boring, not very alive.

Coach: Kind of a Zombie Place?

Client: Right. Sort of plodding along.

Coach: So we’ll draw a circle and put a label on this perspective, “The Zombie Place”, right there on the top of the circle.  You’re stuck in the Zombie Place.

Client: Until things change at work, there isn’t much I can do. I’m just punching the clock.

Coach: Now I’m going to ask you to move over 90 degrees. What’s another perspective? Another way to look at your life right now? It doesn’t have to be the right one—just another perspective.

Client: It could be a plateau. I went through a lot of changes last year, maybe there’s more up ahead and maybe this is the plateau.

Coach: Like a resting place between changes. Let’s move another 90 degrees. What’s another perspective.

Client: It could be a transition period.

Coach: Good. What’s another perspective?

Client: This could be the place where the learning occurs.

Coach: Like a special place with a special message for you.  I could offer another perspective. Is that okay?

Client: Sure…like what?

Coach: This could be a successful place.  Could you look at life like it was successful right now?

Client: Actually, I can. Things are going according to plan—It’s just so different from all the excitement and activity of last year.

Coach: So the Zombie Place is just one way of looking at it?

Client: Right

Coach: What’s the perspective that’s the most powerful for you?    Which perspective would you rather choose?

Client: That this is the Learning Place for me—the time to catch my breath and catch up on the learning from all the activity and change.

Coach:  Let’s look at that for a moment. Now that you’re standing in that perspective, what do you notice?  What are you saying yes to? 

Client: I notice that I am being reflective, not just biding my time.  I’m thinking about what I’ve been learning. I’m saying yes to meditating. And to keeping a journal about my learning. Maybe starting to look at what’s on the horizon too.

Coach: Great. And in order to say yes to that, you probably have to say no to some other things. What would they be?

Client: I have to say no to going to work so early.

Coach: So you’d have to say no to going to work early. What else?

Client: Say no to late night TV so that I get a full night’s rest.

Coach: This is good. You’ve come from the Zombie Place to this place of learning and investigating—a more rested place, too, it sounds like.

And so the dialogue will continue into action plans…..

Perspective is one of the gifts that we gain through dialogue with a non-judgemental other.  Creating perspective expands the aperture through which we look at our life circumstances.  When we see things from only one perspective, we are less resourceful and victimized by the circumstances.  When we are able to re-examine our viewpoint, we are able to see possibility and change. 


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Photography by Marc Williams ©

Michelle Clarke is an Executive Coach.  She works with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to  develop strong, influential personal brands and to elegantly navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership . To learn more about her work please visit her website www.motivcoach.com, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates. If you enjoy Facebook, please join Michelle’s Business Page

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I work with only a select number of clients at any time. If you think we are a good fit, please email me on motivcoach@gmail.com