As coaches, leaders, and individuals, we focus a lot of the time on what we need to do. Better inspiration and motivation come from realizing what we want and why, personally and more universally.
A conversation with Patrick (an alias): “I’m stuck.”
Patrick, a retired military officer who works for a defense contractor in a senior director-level position, had been my client several years on a short coaching assignment. He had just been promoted, was excited about his new responsibilities, and came across as confident, brilliant, competent, and dedicated at this time.
The man sitting in front of me seemed like a deflated version of that person.
He said, “It feels like everything has stalled. I have new management, all in another part of the country. They don’t know me or my business. I should have been promoted again by now, but somehow I’ve been sidelined.” We talked changes within the organization and how he had been affected. He felt he’d become invisible and lost his motivation.
“So,” I asked, “How can I be helpful?”
As clients often do when I asked this, Patrick began to recite a list of all the things he thought he needed to do. He needed to be more visible, needed to improve his communications with faraway team members, needed to network better, needed to show how his business and team contributed . . . at which point I stopped him.
“Patrick, I can’t work with ‘need.’ It’s too darn heavy. Every time you tell me what you need, I feel like a bag of mud has been dropped on my shoulders, dragging me down. Doesn’t it feel that way to you?” He said it did, which was one of the reasons he was looking for a coach to help.
I then asked, “Instead of telling me what you need, tell me why. What do you want, personally?”
Patrick then told me more about his hopes and aspirations. “I want to be seen as the reliable expert who communicates in a way people can hear and act on. I want to have the promotion I know I deserve. I want to make more money. I want my people to succeed. I want to feel proud of my work again.”
I said, “Don’t those wants feel like better drivers than all those mud-bag needs?” He looked relieved. “We can work with those. And, from now on, anytime you start telling me what you need to do, I’m going to stop you and ask you ‘Why? What do you want?’”
Then I said, “If you get all those wants, you’re going to have some great results for yourself and for your people. And . . .”
I continued, “What is the larger impact? If you do your job right, what happens? What happens for your clients, your organization, the world because of what you do?”
“If I do my job right, then I, my team, my clients, and the company are more successful.”
Could it be bigger? “What else?”
He thought for a good 15 seconds. “If I do my job right, Cindy . . .” He looked at me like a bright light had just turned on, like the guy I remembered from before. “If I do my job right, soldiers come home safely.”
I got chills when he said that, as I do when any of my clients tell the larger truth. We stopped and stared. He said, “If I get nothing else out of this coaching assignment, that was worth the price of admission.”
“What, therefore, needs to be done?”
The list of needs remained about the same. But Patrick’s energy around them shifted when they were in service to the wants and the larger impact. While he hasn’t been promoted (yet), all those need-goals have moved forward.
Most people want to think about their higher purpose. If you get clients thinking in those terms, it is easier for them to motivate and inspire themselves and others to change.
Purpose creates an emotional hook to pull people forward.
When they tell you what they feel they need to do, ask:
- Why? What do you want, personally?
- If you do your job right, what happens? What’s the larger impact because of you?
- What, therefore, needs to be done?
From a coaching perspective, when my purpose is equally aligned with the coachee’s, the outcomes are more effective and personally satisfying.