This column is provided by an IAC Coaching Masteries®-Licensed School or Mentor.
New Answers to an Age Old Question
by Deborah Williamson
"So, what do you do?"
Often this is the first question we hear when meeting a new person.
Snap judgments are made based on answers to this question. But truly, we are not our jobs, and to tie self-worth and self-image to a job title is both limiting and lonely. When we begin to associate solely with our job titles, losing track of our bigger purpose and contributions, it's easy to feel unhappy, both on the job and in social situations.
How does this apply in coaching?
You may notice that your clients shy away from this question entirely or manipulate the answer for a more impressive reaction. An example, "I am CEO of a large hospitality business and have hundreds of people under me. We have hundreds of locations around the world." At first listen, this does sound impressive, and we form an impression that is largely colored by our past beliefs around what it means to head up a large, international company. But do we really know anything about this person from this information? And have they really answered the question, "What do you do?"
I don't think so. Let me explain:
I have a very talented and well-known friend Josif, who answers the "What do you do?" question quite unexpectedly. I've been with him on multiple occasions and watched him interact with new people and his response has directly impacted how I coach my clients. The interaction generally goes something like this:
New Person: "So, what do you do?"
Josif: "I give people new confidence and find their inner and outer beauty."
New Person: "Wow. So, what is your job?"
Josif: "I listen to my clients and inspire them to be creative and passionate with everything they do."
New Person: "Yes, but what do you do for work?"
Josif: I support people's biggest dreams by teaching them to believe in themselves all over again."
New Person: "Okay, but what is your job title?"
Josif: "I am a hair designer, educator, inventor and yoga teacher."
Josif always responds first with how he changes the lives of the people around him. While his job titles (hair designer, inventor, educator, yoga teacher) may change over time, what Josif does and who Josif IS will not change. He has tapped into his unique way to contribute to the world. Wherever he goes and whatever he does, he will listen to people and inspire them in their own creativity, confidence and passion. He will help them to create the reality that they want to see.
This is especially useful if you are coaching a client who hates their job. Often they hate the job because they believe that what they do doesn't matter. To help my clients find their underlying contribution and greater vision, I ask them this two-part question:
(1) How do you contribute to the lives of people around you?
For example: I teach people that they can learn new skills and do anything they set out to do. I help them see resources and opportunities they might not have seen before, that will make their lives brighter and better.
(2) What is your current vehicle for doing this?
For example: I am a career counselor.
I recently had participants at a certification training use this exercise to introduce themselves to the group. I was amazed (and so were they) at how this simple shift in focus affected their perspectives and self-worth. The biggest collective realization was that "the vehicle" or "the job" may change many times over the years, but the underlying passion and contribution will remain once it's been identified.
This is where the Coaching Masteries® (engaged listening, perceiving, affirming, expanding, etc.) really come into play, as you help clients see the very big impact they already have on the people around them. Everyone makes a difference in some way; from stay-at-home moms to high-ranking CEOs. Helping clients to see this can dramatically shift their relationships and careers. Job haters might find new joy in their old job, regardless of whether or not they eventually transition to another.
We are not our jobs. We are social beings who derive health and joy from interacting with and helping others. To name how we do what we do is invaluable. And it will be for your clients too!
Yoga Life Coach™ and Master Teacher Deborah Williamson travels the world to teach, speak and coach with humor and deep humanity. Debbie's signature brand of Yoga Life Coaching™ evolved from over 20 years of coaching and wellness industry experience. Visit www.deborahwilliamson.com for upcoming Yoga Life Coach™ Certification Programs and more.