Deeply held perceptions can hinder progress

Forgive me for being a master of the obvious. But it seems to me that the results of any good coaching are personal or professional transformation.  These results are both for the client as well as the environments in which they operate in. In my mind, there is a razor’s edge that we walk on the way to creating the transformation our clients seek. After all, it is often an air of discontentment that brings individuals and teams to coaching in the first place. Behind these places of discontent, there are deeply held perceptions about one’s reality that undermines and often interrupt the opportunity for personal transformation.

If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences
                         The Thomas Theorem, W.I. Thomas and D.S. Thomas

Hearing Internal Perceptions

How often have you heard, “I can’t?” “I can’t” is the easiest phrase that indicates resistance. If you believe you can’t, then you can’t. No matter what your ability, strength, or skill. And, one will find and seek resistances, which prove their theory right.  As coaches, it is only natural that we place great emphasis on opening up the possibilities for potential futures, along with the stepping-stones to making those opportunities a reality.

However, if a client is stuck in “I can’t,” there is no amount of rational action steps that will move them through this place. When we are faced with these ingrained perceptions that are so intense that our efforts to shift perspectives seem to fall short. Where are we to turn?

What moves our client’s forward?

Transformation on any scale can only occur once present realities come to the forefront of awareness. In fact, I would argue that not only must we be aware of these current realities, but we also must be able to embrace them with a gentle understanding and appreciation for a shift in reality to occur.

Acknowledging What We Resist

Our experiences are full of the duality of attraction-resistance, pulling ourselves toward our goals, resistance when we get too close.  Coaching gives spaces to explore what we avoid, looking at what is underneath the surface. Clients discover what is underneath these places of resistance at their own pace. This is where holding the client’s agenda becomes so impactful, as we create a safe garden to dig around, pick something up look at it, and put it back down if they so choose. As self-awareness becomes clearer, the client may discover a deeper sense of self-compassion for the lens which they are looking through and where these beliefs come from.

Shifting the Environment

Especially in working with teams, perceptions and beliefs bump into those of other team members. The contagious bad day is the perfect example. When internal cyclic patterns weave with the interactions of others, miscommunication, disagreements, and frustration can occur more easily. It is natural to see what “the other” is doing wrong. Yet, we can’t change the actions of others, which enhance these places of friction. Here, the tools of refining awareness around our own patterns allow us to listen from a less bias perspective while acknowledging the perspectives of other people.

As coaches, we are in a position where on the one hand, we recognize and hold our clients to the wholeness and potential that they are capable of, and, on the other hand, we need to honour the lens through which they perceive reality in this very moment.

And, holding a lens of dual perception is a skill that takes continuous refinement.

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Barton and Megan Cutter are leadership coaches, disability inclusion experts, and national speakers. They combine their experience of living with a disability, uncompromising wit, and professional background in leadership development to support corporations and businesses. Owners of Cutter’s Edge Consulting, they work with human resources, hiring managers, and leadership teams to leverage the talent of all abilities within their organizations through inclusive program design and coaching. Authors of Ink in the Wheels: Stories to Make Love Roll in 2012, they inspire transformation. Their blog, resources, and inspiration can be found at and discover daily inspiration on Twitter at @inkinthewheels.