By far the most frequent feedback I receive from readers pertains to the nature of the approach to problem solving I advance.
This comes in a variety of flavors, positive (makes so much sense) and negative (more of the simplistic claptrap you see everywhere). From my perspective, both ring true, and get to the essence of the difference between advice and coaching.
As you’ll know if you’re familiar with Coach’s Corner, the first step to understanding any situation is to know your own place in it. We all carry beliefs and biases that influence our understanding. Moreover, we can develop patterns of interpretation based on our past experiences that limit our ability to develop new solutions. When we take time to step back, we can then open ourselves to new possibilities.
It’s not just about thinking; there is also a physical aspect. If you hold tension in your body about a situation, it’ll be more difficult to find solutions. This is where breathing comes in. When you’re preparing to think through a situation, take time first to concentrate on your breath. Imagine your breath moving in and out, not just through your lungs, but anywhere you’re holding tension. You’ll see that your shoulder can breathe, and the experience can bring you deep calm.
All this is just prep — the core of the approach comes in thinking through relevant factors, whether it’s about the internal or external realm. And this seems to be where people love it or hate it. Here’s why.
Taking ownership of issues and making things happen is hard work. The steps seem simple, so it’s very easy to gloss over the effort that is required. Think about the simple question: “What are you afraid will happen?” If you read the column quickly and breeze by that, it’ll seem simplistic. If you explore deeply, you may achieve profound insight.
That also leads to the difference between advice and coaching. As a coach, I can’t possibly know your concerns, strengths, vision, all the characteristics that are embodied in you. Hence, I can’t answer these questions for you. All that coaching — either in person or in the newspaper — can do is hold a flashlight for you so that you can find your own answers. In contrast, advice will likely include the dreaded word “should,” and may or may not fit your needs at all.
In the end, you’ll get what you put into any type of reflection and problem solving. It’s most helpful for me when I’m willing to think about things that make me uncomfortable so that I can move past them. That’s my year-end wish for you: that you’ll be open to growth and find a year full of great inner and outer adventures.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, a credentialed coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.