As coaches, we each have our own views on the issues we face. But what choices would we make if we were offered different outlooks to play with?

By Alister Scott and Neil Scotton

Our perspective shapes how we think, and what we then experience and do. For example, a few years ago I met a churchgoer whose view was that their week started on Sunday. “It’s wonderful to begin the week in such a relaxed way, with time to be thoughtful, connecting with the deeper things, having a conversation with God,” they said.

Sunday wasn’t about rest and recovery, it was: ‘Start as you mean to go on.’

Their Monday wasn’t the usual frenetic rush – it began with a smile; the week already had shape, meaning, purpose, perspective. A small difference that makes a big difference.

And at the ICF conference in Madrid a few years ago, Ernst Lazlo said: “A lot of people say we’ve got to get into space… Where do they think we are?” He then followed that with: “We are all living on a spaceship. But we’re not behaving as though we’re living on a spaceship.” Makes you think, doesn’t it?

In his influential book, Synchronicity (1996), Joseph Jaworski describes extensive multinational dialogues in the late 1980s and early 1990s, listening to different perspectives, to provide scenario planning for Shell. His team provided two such scenarios in 1992. The first, ‘Barricades’, described the fissure between rich and poor countries, where “the rich fear the turbulent politics of the poor world. They see its spill-over effects in refugees, lawlessness, the drug trade, and environmental damage, and they want to insulate themselves”. Sound familiar? The second scenario, ‘New Frontiers’ described “a basic rethinking of the growth paradigm. Quality of life becomes a primary issue. Growth for its own sake is no longer sufficient”.

We can look at the same thing, see it through different perspectives, and make very different choices.

So, in terms of some of the big issues facing us, let’s play with a few different ways of looking at things. Try on each of these for size. What changes for you when you shift between perspectives?

As a coach my views and values have no place: it’s the client’s agenda that’s important. As a coach, the client has chosen me, and I’m kidding myself if I think my values haven’t influenced their decision, and don’t leak through how I listen, ask, speak and share.

Clients know what they want. Clients don’t know what they want. Clients are trying to find out what they want. I’m trying to find out what the client wants.

Contracting is understanding and agreeing what the clients wants. Contracting is a two-way street: I’m not simply selling time and professional skills – this is my life too and the client gets the most from me when I bring myself fully into the work together.

My work changes performance. My work changes lives.

I care about the invoice; about the client; about the client’s organisation, and about what our work together creates in the world.

Everything is separate. Everything is connected.

There is scarcity. There is plenty.

It’s a wonderful world. It’s a mad world. It’s a friendly world. It’s a dangerous world. The world is a reflection of who I am being.

Coaching can change my client’s world. Coaching can change the world. None of us can change the world. Anyone can change the world. We’re all changing the world just by doing what we’re doing. You don’t have to change the world – just make your bit of it better. We can be the change we want to see in the world. The world is changing – the question is how do we wish to respond?

  • Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton are cofounders of The One Leadership Project, working together with those who are making big change happen.
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