Going to the Root with Awareness Coaching

by | Jan 18, 2016

Practice Awareness Coaching

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How awareness coaching helps change behavior

I hear many leaders and coaches say they use a solution-based approach in their conversations. Although everyone seems happy when a solution is found, there are too many times the problem will erupt again in another form, especially when dealing with someone’s ineffective behavior. I learned years ago that when you want to solve a problem for good, you have to do a root cause analysis to deal with the source of the problem. [Tweet "Going to the root level requires you practice awareness coaching."]

Solution Based Approach

A solution-based approach focuses on the problem and what options there are for solving it. The approach of awareness coaching focuses on the person.[Tweet " What is stopping this smart, resourceful person from solving this problem on his or her own? "] Generally, capable people can find their own solutions unless there is a belief, fear, or conflict that is blocking their view.

Can you help them see what is getting in their way? If you can, then they will often realize exactly what they have to do to solve the problem for good.

Behavior changes

For example, I coached a manager who disrespected her peers in meetings. Instead of trying to get her to commit to better behavior in these meetings, we talked about her concept of leadership and her responsibilities in her role. When she realized her ultimate goals was to motivate change and to be seen as an inspiring leader, she realized that her complaints and suggestions were pushing people away. [Tweet "She created disrespect instead of admiration."] She then suggested ways of working one-on-one to repair her relationships so when she changed her behavior in meetings, they would trust her intent.

mindful communication

Another client I had was an executive who claimed she needed help prioritizing. She was an accomplished professional who didn’t really need to go over steps in prioritizing her work. I said, “You are a leader in this large organization. Before this, you were a successful attorney. I have to think that you figured out how to prioritize a long time ago. I want to know what is stopping you from prioritizing now.”

After a long pause, she answered, “I’ve lost my vision.” The problem turned out to be her lack of vision was impacting her motivation. Once she revitalized her vision for her future, she knew how to align her goals with the company objectives. [Tweet "She knew what was most important to work on."]

Personal Transformations

[Tweet "Personal transformations begin with a shift in perception."] People need to see themselves differently in relation to their problem before they will see what they need to do differently. They need a new awareness. Conversations that expand what people believe about themselves and the world around them lead to sustainable, positive change.

5 steps to start this process:

  1. Create a safe space. You have to set a positive emotional tone for people to open up to you. Feel hopeful and caring. Be curious and open to their ideas. Don’t judge. They need to feel seen, heard and respected to risk thinking and acting differently.
  2. Start with being curious about how they see the problem situation. Start by asking for their perspective of the challenges they are facing. Listen and summarize their assessment of their behavior. Ask how they know their assumptions and beliefs to be true and if anything else is possible. Ask what is stopping them from moving forward. Ask why they think they can’t solve this problem right now. Ask what they are afraid will happen if they do what they think is right, or if they do nothing.
  3. Don’t focus on what went wrong. Have them state what they want the desired outcome to be. Then you can look at what is getting in the way of them achieving this end result.
  4. Be patient. [Tweet "Self-reflection and grasping a new way of thinking takes time."]
  5. Be comfortable with negative reactions. If you stay present, grounded, and caring they will process through their emotions. Give them a chance to learn and grow before you stop or save them.

You can use this awareness coaching approach with teams as well as individuals to go to the root of a problem. Be sure everyone agrees on the desired outcome they want, then you can together look at what is in the way of achieving this outcome. Then seek solutions to resolving the blocks instead of finding ways to relieve the symptoms.

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Marcia Reynolds Contributor
Dr. Marcia Reynolds, president of Covisioning LLC, is author of The Discomfort Zone: How Leaders Turn Difficult Conversations into Breakthroughs. She weaves together three areas of expertise: organizational change, coaching and emotional intelligence to help leaders have powerful conversations.
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