Coaching, Feedback Effectiveness

What Am I Missing?

Coaching Helps Discover the Blind-spots

When we are involved deeply in a complex and messy situation, it can be hard to untangle the threads of the issue in our minds. This is why we often talk it over with a friend or a colleague. Then we may get all sorts of advice and suggestions, but the way forward may still not be clear.

Decision-making questions are powerful aids to untangling the issues. Let me suggest another powerful self-discovery question to add to your usual checklist: “What am I missing?”

When you think you have sorted out all the possible issues, it is worth the time to pose this question to oneself. Ask this question and then do the following steps. For ease of memory, here is an acronym: P.A.C.E.

Pause:
Slow down and step back. Intense issues often come packaged with stressful emotions, which typically narrow our vision. Our attention gets fatigued and we miss things – often crucial aspects of the situation. For many years I took one day each month to get away for quietness, reflection, prayer, during which I reviewed the month gone by and considered issues ahead. I usually found that stopping for quietness allowed my deeper awareness to kick in and I gained perspective.

Ask others:
Who needs to be consulted? Who else could help? You may have to reach beyond the usual gang of helpers and look for a fresh perspective on this issue. What expertise or information do you need that you may have neglected so far?

Contextualize:
This step pulls us back to see a wider view on the problem. Each of us has a default approach to resolving issues and our brains cut the decision grooves that we tend to follow. Turn the problem around and look at it from fresh angles. Is there another way to look at it? What opportunity may be hidden inside a problem? Each challenging issue can be placed in another frame of reference, and it may look quite different as a result.

Engage other cognitive modes:
Einstein said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant”. We know that our decision-making is a blend of rational processing and intuitive, unconscious hunches. The phenomenon of the creative unconscious mind, that can come up with a brilliant solution when we are not concentrating on it, is well-known. This surprising fact shows us that we can use our brains more creatively, switching to other cognitive modes. There is potential in deliberately switching to a fresh way of thinking about an issue. I have found that my brain frequently tries to warn me that other parts of my processing are missing a vital matter. I wish I would listen to my brain more closely!

How does having a coach help us discover our blind-spots? The coach will ask us to stop and consider the situation from different perspectives. He or she will prompt us to find resources from others to help us and may suggest tools to help. The coach will invite us to look around at bigger contexts for the decision and ask us to dig down for other angles that are dimly lurking in the back of our minds. The coach will challenge us to approach the issue with a different mind-set and cognitive mode.

The coaching relationship itself will support the client in non-directive ways that will help us discover resources and perspectives that may be missing.

By Ralph Bowles

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