I had a very interesting coaching session with a client recently, who we’ll call Jane, as that’s not her name. She had found it very easy to identify a rich and powerful unhelpful story about her current reality, and to give it a name. However, she was struggling rather more to identify a more helpful story that she could believe in: everything that she came up with immediately gave rise to several objections and caveats.
As we talked, Jane mentioned that she was due to attend a conference the following week, and was part of a panel discussion. Two of the other panelists were real experts on the topic, and she was feeling rather over-awed. Although she had been invited at the suggestion of one of the experts, as she too has some niche knowledge and expertise on the topic, she was worried that in comparison with them, she would be a Waste of Space. So we explored that story a bit, and decided that Waste of Space was a good name for it.
Jane was clear that she would be a waste of space if she failed to do two things on the panel. One was to translate the somewhat theoretical and esoteric, or even philosophical, contributions of her fellow panelists into more practical and down-to-earth language and ideas that non-specialists could understand; and the other was to contribute some cutting edge ideas from her own, very specialised, area of interest.
That, of course, also helped Jane to identify the more helpful story for this particular situation: if she did that translating and contributing, then she would be a Top Contributor. Again, we discussed that story and agreed that Top Contributor was a good name for it; and I checked that she preferred the Top Contributor story to the Waste of Space story.
So then we spent a little time enriching the plot of Top Contributor. Jane said that some proper preparation over the weekend, focused on the two areas of contribution she had identified, would help make Top Contributor come true, and that was within her power. She also recognised that neither of the other panelists would be surprised (or displeased) if she were a Top Contributor. That was very helpful in demonstrating to her that it was not a mere fantasy for her to aspire to be one: these respected experts fully believed that she could be - and indeed were likely to be supportive of her being one, as it was in all their interests for the panel discussion to be positive and vibrant.
And we agreed that if the Top Contributor story delivered a good result, Jane would do more reflection on her larger more helpful story, that she was struggling to identify at the start of the session.
So I await our next conversation with interest, and may report back here in due course.
UPDATE: I got an email from Jane telling me that she had indeed been a Top Contributor (and recognised by others as such!)