The perspective of the coffee machine

The great thing about being a mentor and coach trainer is that I learn so much from my participants and mentor coaching or coaching supervision clients! This ingenious coaching move comes from Marleen, a participant in our German Coaching Fundamentals course.

But before I tell you about the coffee machine, let me tell you another story from 20 years ago when I was just learning to coach. I was coaching an external client in my coach training in Basel. The client had been trying (rather unsuccessfully) to get motivated to write cover letters, CVs, all the things that you need to find a new job. Good student that I was, I went through the Solution Focused coaching moves:

  • Kirsten: “Suppose this session was useful, what would be different?”
  • Client: “I would be motivated to start writing and applying for jobs?”
  • Kirsten: “And suppose you were motivated, who would notice?”
  • Client: “No-one”
  • Kirsten: “Really, no-one?”
  • Client: “Nope”
  • Kirsten: (drawing a blank)…. (drawing more blanks) “Suppose you were writing, what would your computer notice that is different?”
  • Client: “Ah — it would notice that I am working for longer stretches, there are more regular taps on the keyboard…”

In this example, the external perspective on an “internal” word, “motivation”, serves to invite the client to describe in detailed observable behavior what would be different if their preferred future was already happening. Very often clients answer in descriptions of behavior that they could already do today, even if their preferred future was not already there. It is much easier to start sitting at your computer, typing away than generating some “internal motivation” (I have no clue how that is done).

“The coffee machine, what about the coffee machine! Don’t make this about you, we want to hear about Marleen!!” I hear you say. Ok, ok. I just wanted to start with the general idea of perspective change and introduce that you can actually use ANY perspective: the computer, the fly on the wall, the security camera…. AND the coffee machine!

What is so ingenious about Marleen’s coffee machine? Marleen’s idea was to have the coffee machine observe the interactions of two or more people that will be different in the preferred future. Normally, the coffee machine is located at a strategic place in any work place. People congregate, move past, speak to one another etc. The questions might go something like this:

  • Coach: “Suppose your team was getting along better, what might the coffee machine notice?”
  • Client 1: “I think it would see us chatting more naturally.”
  • Client 2: “Yeah, and there would be people getting more than one coffee because they are taking one to their colleagues”

Such a lovely idea to use an everyday object to describe interactions in the positive future!

If you want to discuss, have fun, speak about cases, theory, and just be in the presence of a lovely bunch of colleagues, why not join us for one of our regular coaching meetups and exchanges:

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