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How Ontological Coaching Can Transform a Team & Organization
October 19, 2018

My partner and I were recently conducting a two-day Strategic Planning session with an 8-member Executive Leadership team. The session was going very well; there was a great energy in the room.

Within two hours of the session, the CEO became emotionally triggered by some critical information that was shared and proceeded to engage in a very negative rant for two minutes.

You could visually see the high level of intense discomfort throughout the entire team. Body language turned inward, arms crossed, smiles faded, and heads nodded down.

There was a very noticeable shift in the room. Suddenly the atmosphere went from productive and friendly, to very unsafe, which caused everyone to shut down, stop being vulnerable, and everyone stopped speaking openly.

Seeing this discomfort, I asked the team to close their eyes and breathe deeply. While they were breathing I requested that they ask themselves one question to become grounded,

“Is this experience right now a threat or an opportunity?”

I asked everyone to open their eyes and I went around the room and asked them to respond to my question.

During the first round, everyone responded with, “it feels like a threat to my career right now.” I thanked everyone for being authentic and honest. Then I asked them to close their eyes again and asked them the same question,

“Is this experience right now a threat or an opportunity?”

Then I added one more insight for the team to ponder – “Is your CEO scared right now or is he a jerk?”

When I went around the room to get everyone’s insight, their answers were unanimous – Our CEO is scared right now and what he needs from me is my support not my judgement.

This example is a great illustration of the power of Ontological Coaching, which is the ability to shift another person’s “Way of Being”.

Your Way of Being is your reactions, behaviors, perceptions, and your mindset.

How you perceive a situation, leads to how you react to it, which leads to how another person receives and processes it.

The ability to reframe your communication is important because the way you communicate has a large impact on how your communication lands for another person.

The mindset shift that occurred above was asking the question – is this a threat or an opportunity and getting the team to look at the situation differently (reframing) and to perceive their CEO differently when he is expressing anger. The CEO’s anger was a reaction to fear but came out in a negative way and therefore triggered a negative reaction.


Leadership Challenge:

The next time you get triggered, ask yourself, “is this a threat or an opportunity” and see where the answer takes you.

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