The Provocative Edge

In a coaching session this past week, I used a tactic that sometimes gets good results.

[Sometimes. Whether it did this time remains to be seen.]

My client is a very smart, very talented, very successful guy who is in a leadership role in an industry that’s failing, in a company that’s panicked. From the day he started the job almost two years ago, he knew something was wrong. Something was off. And now he’s seeing all the bad stuff come to fruition. He’s exhausted, burned out and stressed. Yet he’s spending 80 hours a week stacking the deck chairs on what feels like a sinking ship, and there’s never enough time to do everything that could be done.

“But,” he asks me.

“But, at his level can you leave a job after less than two years in the role?”

“But, I”m a smart guy – isn’t it my obligation to make it work?”

“But, shouldn’t I have another job in hand before I leave?

“But, they’re paying me – don’t I owe them?”

I call this The Motorboat moment: But, but, but, but.

Which is no pleasure trip. It’s more like bumping through heavy chop in high winds. It’s no fun, and a little nauseating.

So I whipped out my best coaching stuff – I put on my figurative trench coat, dark glasses and beret – and I became The Coach Provocateur.

For every “but” he said, I said, “Go ahead, quit.”

For every reason he offered for staying, I offered a vision for what’s next.

For every “no”, I said “yes”.

Because time after time I have seen that when I offer a rather outlandish suggestion – “Quit today and move to Tahiti” – it allows the client to say, “Well, not Tahiti, but maybe Atlanta.”

And there you have it – Atlanta. A workable goal. A clear objective.  Something that feels pretty good.

But you only get there by considering the extreme potential.

My client’s homework is to consider what it would be like to leave in three months. What it would be like to take some time to recoup and renew – his soul, his body, his psyche. And he may come back with another solution than the one I offered. And that is perfectly OK – as long as it’s a solution he can use.

As long as it expands his comfort zone and gives him the relief he craves.

So, no doubt you have something you’d like to address.  To fix. To do better.

OK, what’s the most extreme, Lady Gaga-esque approach you can think of? Dream it up. Biggify it.

Then say, “If not that, then what?”

You may find that by considering that provocative edge, you’ll find your perfect solution.