Two of a coach's skills are to connect the dots and to provide perspective. This results in insight, but the insight isn't always the client's - sometimes I haven insights of my own, and a recent experience reminded me of the basics of life coaching.
We help our clients get from where they are to where they want to be by helping them to either create their dreams or articulate them. We then, help them to pursue and achieve those dreams by taking one step at a time and building the required capacity.
In an initial coaching conversation, 'Peter' told me that he was somewhat of a doormat to his superiors, and some of his colleagues, in his corporate employ. They asked the impossible and expected miracles without consideration of time or practicality. Peter was worn thin, disheartened and lacking job satisfaction. He health had taken its toll and he was generally beaten.
In a subsequent conversation with Peter, he described a meeting in which another project was being deployed. He listened to the brief knowing that it was technically impossible to deliver, but said nothing. I asked him why and he replied that such an action could result in a confrontational rally and he didn't think that he would be quick enough with his words to look good in front of everyone else.
I asked him how he thinks he could create and own the time in which to respond in a controlled and effective manner. He suggested that he could delay his response, for example, "I have made a note of that and will respond at the end" or he could make notes throughout the meeting and make his comments at the end, engaging the rest of the team as support. He could even save his comments for an email to the group after the meeting has disbanded. He could introduce his thoughts as, "Thank you for the brief, which is excellent. I'm just wondering how you think we could practically deliver it within the given time frame, considering the following technical hurdles..."
My suggestion was that he ask questions rather than make statements. Have the other person substantiate his timelines and justify his tall order. Doing that in front of the team will level the playing field and encourage everyone to move in one direction at the same time.
Peter felt like a doormat because he let people walk over him. Speaking up doesn't mean that you need to be heavily armed in a battle of the wits - it just means that you need to ensure that everyone is working toward the same goal and everyone's contributions are equally respected.
Peter has been working on his ability to speak up for a month now and it has fundamentally changed his working life, and as a consequence, his work-life balance and his health. He can now focus on the next step to achieving what it is he really wants, one step at a time.