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  • Ruth Schocken Katz

Coaching Snippet: On Removing Barriers to Progress





We all have stories around work and how we work best. We often need external conditions to be right: our mood to be a certain way, to find peace and quiet, or create it and produce. Often, these conditions are really stories that we have been telling ourselves, that we can let go of.

In this conversation I worked with a client to playfully let go of such a story, and allow her to surprise herself. Often adopting a more playful adventurous frame of mind is easier when in conversation or collaboration with a colleague or a coach. It is interesting to think about the ways we can challenge ourselves to embrace a more playful approach to work and the narratives we have created around it.



Emma is erratically coping with the creative team at work which she is leading. She is working to a tight deadline of a big event, which may be cancelled anyway due to Covid restrictions. Her original participants are all over the world and some will not be able to attend. She is dealing with a lot of uncertainty, as do her team members who keep asking for clarity and support.


EMMA

They are all wanting answers from me that I cannot give them right now.


ME

Why is that?


EMMA

Because too many things are uncertain.


ME

And how does this feel?


EMMA

It feels stressful.


ME

How would you like to be feeling?


EMMA

Mmmm.... Agile! Light!


ME

What can help you to feel agile and light?


EMMA

I need to not take it so seriously, and make people laugh... so that they make me laugh!


ME

I hear you are talking about playfulness.


EMMA

Yes! And I need to help them.


ME

With what? In what way?


EMMA

There are a couple of them I really just need to write a brief for. A paragraph. That would clarify things for them. But I am just not getting to it.


ME

How long do you need for it?


EMMA thinks for a while.


EMMA

Two and a half hours each?


ME

How about we try this now?


EMMA

(Her face turns worried)

Now?


ME

Yes. I’ll give you two minutes. I’ll time you.


EMMA wiggles in her chair in disbelief and a smile is growing on her face. She is ready for the challenge.


EMMA

OK.


I am timing EMMA as she is writing furiously. She is deep in thought, often giggling in amusement and revelation.


ME

2 minutes have passed, but keep going and try to bring it to a close.


EMMA writes for another 3 minutes or so. Then she puts down her pen triumphantly.


EMMA

PHEW! I never thought I could do that!


ME

Why not?


EMMA

Because I always take much longer.


ME

So what was different just now?


EMMA

Well. I was being timed so I was naturally rushing. I had you in front of me and you challenged me. And I saw that I could do it without referring back and forth to other sources and documents, which is something I always do.


ME

Does that mean you trusted yourself? Your knowledge?


EMMA

Yes!


ME

And it was more playful. Like a game?


EMMA

YES!

(Her smile is endless)


ME

Anything else?


EMMA

Not sure.


ME

Can I add then, that you allowed for it to not be perfect. You allowed yourself to get things wrong, because you knew you’d be able to go back to it and fix it.


EMMA

Exactly!


ME

And how does that feel?


EMMA

It feels a little scary to think of all the time I am wasting in my usual ways of working. But also... very liberating!


ME

Anything else?


EMMA

That I can do a lot more than I think. Much more efficiently than I let myself believe.

ME

What else?


EMMA

It just feels... amazing!


*names and places have been changed to honour privacy


Illustration by Evie Fridel


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