Creativity is defined as the ability to generate new ideas, solutions and possibilities. For something to be considered creative, it needs to be both original and effective in achieving a specific purpose. And while we expect ourselves to do all our work with Creativity, it’s easier said than done. Especially when our clients come into the session, bogged down by something, the last thing they’re probably conducive to doing is ‘thinking creatively’.
You would have often noticed client conversations sprinkled with phrases like: ‘I don’t know.’ or ‘I feel ‘ok’ just ‘ok’ ‘ or ‘I just can’t ‘visualise’. it’s almost like they’ve hit a wall in their thought process and can’t seem to move forward.
This is probably the reason why ICF defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process…” and it’s up to us as Coaches to pretty much work out a creative process to help them scale the proverbial wall.
Having said that, we Coaches are human too, and every now and then, we need some inspiration. In this blog, I’ve tried to put together some ideas that can spark a conversation, reframe a stuck mind and begin making a dent in the ‘wall’ that blocks the client’s progress.
Give a Visual Stimulus
Try a 2 x 2 matrix. This works especially well when you need to contrast options to help make a decision. For example, your client is evaluating new job opportunities but doesn’t know how to choose. You ask him which are his top parameters of choosing a job, say these are ‘opportunity to earn’ and ‘opportunity to learn. Peg these on the 2 axes and draw out the high to low lines. then ask him to rank the grids as per what is important to him, eg his priority would be to choose a job that has a high opportunity to earn as well as a high opportunity to learn. but which is his top 2 priority, high earn low learn or high learn low earn.
This kind of visual conversation will help your client ask himself questions that otherwise would push him to really do some soul searching and understand what he wants. He might discover something new about himself in this conversation.
Try Doodling. This especially works well when the client isn’t clear about what the future holds for her. Ask her to pick up a pencil and paper and on one side ask her to draw herself and her routine as she could imagine it 10 years from now. what kind of clothes she would wear, what car she would be driving, what her day would look like. Then ask her to turn the page and draw herself today. Ask her to contrast the two drawings and she might find out something new about what she wants to change in her life.
Studies have shown that when we draw, our brains release endorphins-the happy hormone. Furthermore, drawing helps build new connections and pathways; when drawing, we actively use both sides of our brain, the right for creativity, and the left for logical thinking, allowing us some opportunity for self-discovery.
Work Around Your Constraints.
Since the pandemic, Zoom has completely taken over all in-person coaching sessions. However, if you’re a coach who uses sensory stimuli to get the client’s creative juices flowing, online coaching sessions have their limitations. I recently heard an example of a Coach who used Russian Dolls to help the client discover what’s beneath the surface. To replicate this effect, she shared her screen with her client that had pictures of the Russian dolls set on the PowerPoint slide. The client could move around the dolls to ‘open’ up a doll to discover another one ‘inside’ right there on the screen. The stimuli helped the coach and client to dig and unpack what was beneath the surface for the client, despite not having the real stimulus in hand.
Old wine in a new bottle? Sometimes we as Coaches, feel fatigued using the same stimuli over and over again. The important thing to remember is that it is possible that the client has not used it before, or may not have used it in the way you have planned.
For example, we could use the ‘Wheel of Life’ tool to measure different aspects of a client’s life such as Stressors, Relationships or even life’s stakeholders. It can reveal to the client a subjective way to interpret an objective scoring of the issues in their life. Such a creative twist can help them make new discoveries about themselves.
Try Something Absurd
Sometimes doing something outrageous can help jog the client out of the ‘I don’t know’ fog that they have created for themselves. Check out the below exercises that might help.
‘What would you do if you had no head’ is an exercise that I read on a blog by Mark Mcguinness. Essentially what he purports is that when you find that your client is ‘overthinking’ an issue, you can jog him/her out of the vicious cycle by asking them to imagine that they have no head. No head means no thoughts, only feelings and sensations. Let the client imagine that he/she has no head, and further, that the options he/she is evaluating are in circles in front of them. As the headless body steps into each circle, they should try to recognise how they feel about this option in their body. What are the sensations? Heavy, light, tensed, relaxed, excited? Recognising these sensations might reveal to the client what he/she really feels about that option.
Eat your Elephant exercise. This works especially when the client feels she’s facing a huge insurmountable challenge. you ask your client to take a print of an elephant, and name the different parts of the elephant’s body as smaller chunks of the challenge, and then think of ways to tackle the elephant part by part.
While I’m sure it’s fun to read about creative ideas in coaching, you might even file away a few in your head for later use. I certainly can relate that it’s not easy being creative. First of all, it’s trying something new, and the second, bigger challenge is that the new thing you’re trying has to give results. You certainly don’t want to be in a position where you’ve spent a large part of your session trying a doodling/sketching exercise with your client, and at the end of which the client doesn’t feel like he’s discovered anything new.
Trying something creative takes courage. It assumes that you trust the opposite person to not judge you, it assumes that the opposite person will hold you in positive regard, even if you do something silly. It means really putting yourself out there.
But just think of it, our clients gather that kind of courage every time they sit in a session with us. So let’s gather some courage for their sake.
Try something creative and tell us how it went.