The Practice of Coaching & Mentoring 2: Challenge and Difference

What do you use to challenge your clients to think about difference?

To challenge their assumptions by supporting them to take that step outside of their model of the world that brings a new perspective? Following on from the last blog one of our Programme participants shares a ‘golden oldie’!

Would it be a fairly safe assumption that you’ve worked with a client who you think is different to you. Different in values, beliefs, cultures, feelings, thoughts, attitudes, behaviours . . . ? A little bit different, or perhaps hugely different? And also that you use your skill as a practitioner to work with, rather than against, those differences to support people through issues and difficulties.

But what about when those differences faze you?

What might you do if faced with someone whose language, tone and non verbal communication screams at you different, unexpected and maybe even aggressive?

My most notable experience of difference was coaching someone who was highly introvert – a stark contrast to my off-the-scale extraversion. Our conversation went like this:

Me: “How long have you worked here?”

Client: “10 years. WHY, DO YOU THINK THAT’S A PROBLEM?”

Can you imagine how much this felt like a capital-letter-shouting-moment? My immediate response was panic and confusion, especially when they leaned in towards me for further emphasis. But somehow I managed not to leak my emotions, I recovered enough to continue, and then in quiet reflection afterwards tried to analyse what had happened.

It was simple: my client was different from me!

Yes, I hadn’t expected their response, but I later understand that it wasn’t about hostility or belligerence or confrontation. And when they revealed in a subsequent session that their MBTI profile was the polar opposite of mine (their ISTJ to my ENFP), things fell into place.

What might you have done next? I madly read as much as I could about our personality types to work out how I could best understand, and occasionally step into, my client’s preference to support them appropriately. And then I used that knowledge to encourage them to think further about themselves – and how might they come across to others?

So what do you use to challenge your clients to think about difference?

For me, beyond healthy discussion of MBTI, preference and personality type theory, I find myself often returning to a golden oldie, a model that’s 50+ years old and which I met again on my Optimising Coaching programme: Luft & Ingham’s Johari Window . . .

I always check its relevance and currency before I use it with any individual, but when we delve a little deeper into the model, a light bulb moment often occurs.

So, what might you challenge using Johari?

Here are some questions you might like to use:

  • What feedback have you had about yourself in the last 12 months?
  • How do you solicit feedback (as opposed to just waiting for it to happen)?
  • What does it feel like when someone tells you something about yourself that you previously didn’t know?
  • What are your opportunities for working together more (with someone/your team)?
  • What do people know about you?
  • What might be helpful for you to reveal?
  • What are you comfortable sharing (about you)?
  • What can you do to open up your open area? What might that feel like?

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