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The Outcome: Leaving the Comfort Zone


JC lures Dee from out of her comfort zone and softens her perceptions.

While I was making my notes from the session with Bill, Shelia came into the office with a message from Dee Browning (UK Sales Manager). “Dee has just called and asked if it was possible to delay her session for 30 minutes, she’s is in the middle of something?”

“That’s fine” I said, “Let Dee know I will see her in 45 minutes please,” I smiled. Shelia left to transfer the message to Dee, and I completed my notes.

I took the opportunity of a little extra time to take a walk and get some fresh air. There was a communal seating area between the office buildings that was nicely landscaped, with ferns and a small but well-kept pond. I took a stroll and sat down on one of the benches. The weather wasn’t exactly warm but it was clear and dry and not too cold to sit and enjoy the space and the peace.

I considered my meeting with Dee Browning. I hadn’t seen her since the group meeting I had facilitated as an intro to the process. In fairness, I hadn’t spent any amount of time with Dee since then, as she had not been available when I had been in for my familiarisation days.

I tried to recall why Dee had not been in the office during those days, but I couldn’t remember any specifics. I also realised that Bill had never talked about Dee as such, and nor had anyone else, including me. I realised that I didn’t really have a picture of Dee within the organisation at all.

I logged that thought into my head as an interesting fact but nothing more, just to ensure I didn’t go into my meeting with Dee carrying some preconceived idea about what that might or might not mean.

I had a few more minutes before I needed to head back, so I relaxed, made my mind quiet and enjoyed the peace of the surroundings. As so often happens, when you make your mind is still, the sounds of nature, which have been cut off from you, slowly rise in volume as if coming up from under the water. I immersed myself in the noises and relaxed.

I was sitting in the boardroom when Dee came in (having already stopped to refresh myself with another Cappuccino on the way). “Hello JC, thanks for delaying the meeting,” she said as I got up to shake hands with her. She had a noticeably firm grip and a short sharp shake.

She let go of my hand just as quickly as she had taken it, sat down in the chair, put her closed notepad on the table and said. “Do you mind if we get started, it’s just that I have a few things on the boil that I need to get back to as soon as we’re finished?”

“Not at all” I said, as I was prepared before she arrived.

I considered the body language and her tone. She certainly gave the impression that she had called our meeting, but didn’t have time for it. As if it was just a gap between her getting on with what was really on her agenda for the day.

“We haven’t had the opportunity to talk yet Dee, I haven’t seen you since the first group meeting. So tell me, what is it that you would like to get from these coaching sessions?”

“Anything that will help improve results,” she said. Her tone was not unfriendly, but had a slight essence of ‘pointless question’ entwined within it.

“Excellent” I said, “but I was thinking more of you personally Dee, what is it that you would like to get from these sessions? In what areas would you like to consider growth or development?”

I had phrased the question as carefully as I could, so Dee didn’t feel in any way threatened or uncomfortable, but I was not able to avoid the question easily.

Dee shifted in her seat a little as she considered her response. “I thought these sessions were about growing the business,” she said, “about sales and processes etc that we could employ to get better results.”

She said this in a friendly way, but with an authority that gave me the impression that most of Dee’s communications, only covered the ground she decided to look at. I needed to tread carefully with Dee, as she was obviously not comfortable at this stage with the coaching process, or having me as a coach, and was clearly on the defensive.

“You’re 100% right, that is their aim for the business. What I meant was the sessions I have with you are all about you. They are an opportunity for you to explore any area you want to. You may want to work on your strengths and find ways of growing the impact they have on the results. Equally, people sometimes use the sessions to work on areas they’re not so strong or confident in, and find ways of turning that around,” I explained.

“The key thing is that these sessions are for you, and totally confidential, so I want you to take advantage of that and get out of them as much benefit as you can personally.”

I had matched Dee’s body language and voice volume, speed and tone as I said this, although I had slightly softened the tone and leant forward a little as I spoke, using direct eye contact as the sentence ended.

I could tell by Dee’s eyes and shoulders (both of which softened as I was speaking), that she realised I was sincere and that whatever her concerns were about the session, they were now slightly reduced.

“Ok she said” her tone softening as well slightly. “Well I could do with an extra few hours in the day, so I would like to look at time management if that’s ok, we could all do with improving on that couldn’t we,” she said.

“I know I could,” I smiled to accept her truth.

“So tell me more about Dee, how long you’ve been here etc,” I asked.

“Dee relaxed visibly, as the conversation moved back into safe territory, sat back in her chair a little and started her story.

Key Points:

  • Always lessen the coachees fears as much as possible (without judgement.)

  • Do not draw people out of their comfort zones too quickly, as they will simply go on the defensive and then it is very difficult to recover that ground.

  • To lessen fear, allow the coachee to tell you their story, as this will re-engage their comfort zone, and share with you their significant impacts.


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