Are you Coaching your Clients to be Meaning Centred or Goal Centred?

3rd July by Anthony Eldridge-

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Are you Coaching your Clients to be Meaning or Goal Centred

For people that want change, one of the greatest challenges that people face is actually getting change to happen... and stay happening.

Most of us are good at getting started. The tough part is keeping it up and making it something that does not absorb all our energy and then grind to a halt. This is especially challenging a person is primarily motivated to change through fear or anxiety (which if they are presenting a problem is usually the case). No one wants to stay anxious for long and making changes to situations such as being anxious about your career or role at work or trying to save a relationship or get over a health problem seems a like a good idea. The trouble is that once the problem, and the emotions associated with the problem, have gone away or been solved, then the emotional momentum for change dissipates.

Goals are valuable as they contain positive emotions even if they start off being founded on negative ones. 

A goal or series of goals built around avoiding something undesirable happening are goals that will usually cease to have a reason to exist. For example, a client is severely overweight, their health is suffering and they are at a health risk. Scared by doctors warnings they decide they have to change. They set weight loss and exercise goals. They start a process of change driven by the main incentive of avoiding the consequences of not changing. Makes sense. Except, as they move towards these overall goals, they move further away from the looming problem. Health improves and so their anxiety lessens and dims. Eventually they are eating well and exercising.

Another example is that a senior employee is struggling with performance targets and their position is at risk. They need to make some changes to up their game and performance. It is of course right that we engage as coaches with this first situation but when we work with the person to build changes that will move them back towards their targets we need to recognise that this is only going to be a temporary solution for them. Their job secured and the threat lessening they will be less likely to stick to their new behaviours.

In both examples a larger picture of motivation and how crucial understanding what the driving emotions are, is vital for long term success.

A simple three step executive coaching approach helps enormously when developing actions in response to any given problem that a client has anxiety about:

  1. Explore the current emotion of the situation.
  2. Explore the future anticipated meaning of the situation once it is solved. Explore what will be possible for them once they have solved the problem. What can they fulfill in their lives if they have great health, have job security etc? Focus on the positive emotions that are present.
  3. When creating goals ensure they contain meaning and its associated positive emotions as it's the primary motivation emotion. This makes the most important element the meaning and the goal serve that meaning. Remember this for your clients and make sure you help them to stay connected to it. It is these positive emotions that make the goal worth doing over and above solving a fear problem. The positive emotions will still be there when the fear has dissipated.

This approach works for any executive coaching situation. We humans are emotional much as many of us like to pretend we are not! And we are all much more driven to live lives that are predominantly full of positive feelings. We all find goals that are compelling because they make us feel better than ones that move us away from fear.

AoEC is running in partnership with the Foundation for Recovery and Wellness Coaching International (FRC) the Executive Coaching and Health: Coaching Skills for Wellness, Recovery & Performance programme.