By Barbara McAllister, PCC
Shifting the Client’s Focus: From Problems to Outcomes
When I begin a coaching engagement , my clients are often more focused on what and who they don’t like about their life, rather than on what they do like and want to create. This is normal. Clients often bring problems they want to fix, and the starting point is getting rid of these problems. From this vantage point, clients often find themselves “victimized” by their own thinking and problems. And when clients set out to “fix” their problems they often find themselves in a reactive mode rather than an expansive creation mode where anything truly is possible.
I enjoy the journey of supporting the client to shift their focus to what they DO want to create, from problem focus to outcome focus. They can then become creators of their life rather than victims of people, circumstances and problems. This powerful shift is beautifully described in David Emerald’s book The Power of TED* which I highly recommend. Here is an example of the kind of shift I might support a client to create: from wanting to eliminate debt (having debt is a problem) to creating financial freedom. What is powerful about this shift is that the action steps the client will choose to take will be very different if their focus is on creating financial freedom rather than getting out of debt.
As a coach, I support this shift from problem focus to outcome focus (from victim to creator) in many different ways. One way is simply saying,
“I hear what you don’t want, what do you want?”
Sometimes this simple inquiry is all that is needed for the client to make the shift. However, often this exploration takes time, particularly with the clients that are more practiced in speaking about what and who they don’t like in their life. This is where patience is required, trusting the client’s process, and powerful inquiry skills. A powerful question such as,
“If you could be, do, or have anything in your life, what would you create?”
can really support the client’s shift.
The client’s payoff when they shift from a problem to an outcome focus is potentially huge and transformative. Outcomes powerfully described and envisioned become the organizing principle for the client’s forward action. Our gift to our client is supporting them to become aware of where they are focusing their attention: is it on problems to fix, or outcomes desired that align with one’s purpose? With that awareness, we as coaches can invite our client to choose to shift their focus from problems to outcomes. And just like that, what once seemed impossible becomes possible.
Here’s a practice for you to apply these principles yourself:
- List three things you are currently experiencing that you DON’T like or DON’T want in your life.
- For each of these items, say out loud to yourself: OK, that’s what I DON’T want. What DO I want? Listen quietly for some part of you to answer. Write down what comes to you for each item.
- List at least three actions you can take to move you toward each of those new destinations.
- Take the actions on your lists!!
You can purchase The Power of TED* here:
To work with Barb, please contact us for your complimentary consultation.