In a past chapter of my career life, I worked with managers to analyze and address performance problems with their employees. Mostly a big yawn for me, but as with most unwelcome assignments, suffering through those conversations yielded surprising gifts.
One take-away was a very simple question set that can shed light on any coachable issue or goal. If a coachee can't get traction, even with a clear and reasonable action plan, I picture them precariously balanced on a wobbly three-legged stool. Which leg, I wonder, might be shorter than the others?
Leg 1 - Do they know how?
Leg 2 - Do they want to?
Leg 3 - Does their world support them?
I set a goal in May to launch a blog by August 1st, and I notice I'm not moving at a "full steam ahead" pace. I don't want to be on the same slow boat I was stuck on when it took me ten years to build a respectable website! Let's use my blog goal to diagnose the unsteady stool I currently sit on.
Leg 1 - Do I know how?
No. Bloggers tell me it is simple and straightforward to get started, and I don't believe them. I've never, ever, ever had anything related to a computer come easy. I am straddling the top two rungs of the Ladder of Inference. I BELIEVE it is going to be a total hassle, and my ACTIONS (procrastination, reading other people's blogs, procrastination) reflect that belief. I am afraid to even view the on-line tutorials because I know I'll get confused and stressed. I could hire a paid professional to set it up and manage it, but I don't want to be dependent on another person for every whim and tweak I dream up.
Leg 2 - Do I want to?
Yes, I really do want to, for many motivating business and personal reasons, and that desire has only gotten stronger since I set my goal. But an equally true answer is "No!" I dread having another ongoing pull on my time and attention. Another fear is that I will spend tons of time setting up the blog and writing relevant and helpful content, and end up with three followers. Or worse, what if I attract three thousand followers who expect me to post twice a week and respond to every comment?
Leg 3 - Does my world support me?
Actually, it does. The influencing factors beyond my own skill and motivation levels are all positive. I have a reliable computer. I can control my calendar to make time for this new activity. I have colleagues who have blogs; I can get trusted advice and feedback from them. It is becoming the norm, not the exception, for coaches with independent practices to build credibility with a blog. I am blessed with a circle of clients, past and present, who will help me promote it. I don't have anything or anyone in my way.
If you organize your coaching questions around the three legs, you can determine together where the toughest resistance lurks. It might be present in each leg, but in my experience, one leg is always shorter* than the others. Once you know, you can build a plan that isn't just a logical set of sequential steps, but a strategy that lasers in on lengthening the short leg first.
Can you sit on a stool with a short leg? Yes, but it is uncomfortable. Can you reach your goal without each of the three legs--skill, motivation, external support--operating together in a fully functional way? Yes, but it's a much longer slog to success. The thought partnership of coach and coachee improves both the speed and accuracy of trouble-shooting. Coaching around the acquiring of skills is different from coaching around the busting of external barriers. It helps to know where to direct attention.
And for the record, coaching someone who knows how to do something, and is supported in doing so, but simply doesn't want to...may I say that those short second legs provoked the exhausting conversations I referenced in my first paragraph! Frustrating as it can be for coach and coachee, ambivalence about even the most compelling and persistent of goals is not uncommon. The profession of coaching emerged to resolve that tension in a way that training and consulting could not.
May you sparkle plenty this 4th of July!
*My short leg is clearly the "Do I know how?" leg. I can scare myself with manufactured fears about followers and follow-up, but I'm really motivated. Next month I'll report on how I climbed down the ladder of blogophobia, and include a link to my online creation! How's that for accountability?