Shifting Perspective

If you own a cat, and even if you don’t, I’ll bet you’re familiar with feline tactics for attention.  Walking, prancing and rolling on a keyboard is a  favored manoeuvre.   This morning, my cat was doing just that when she accomplished an extraordinary shift; I’m not sure which  keys she stood on, and in what sequence, but *viola!* the entire visual on my display screen turned 90 degrees. The whole screen.  I didn’t even know my notebook had such a  trick in it! I had to turn in on it’s side to view my screen.  It’s taken me quite some time to figure how to right the image.  The experience reminded me about a coaching dialogue technique — about how taking a 90-degree angle shift on something can shift our perspective. Whitworth et al, in their book Co-Active Coaching, set out this elegant example.  I hope it adds value to your thinking. 

Coach: I get the sense that you’re just going through the motions. Your energy is way down lately. I can hear it in your words—it’s like you’re slumped in your chair.

Client: I am

Coach: What’s that about?

Client: Everything’s going along like It should. It’s just boring, not very alive.

Coach: Kind of a Zombie Place?

Client: Right. Sort of plodding along.

Coach: So we’ll draw a circle and put a label on this perspective, “The Zombie Place”, right there on the top of the circle.  You’re stuck in the Zombie Place.

Client: Until things change at work, there isn’t much I can do. I’m just punching the clock.

Coach: Now I’m going to ask you to move over 90 degrees. What’s another perspective? Another way to look at your life right now? It doesn’t have to be the right one—just another perspective.

Client: It could be a plateau. I went through a lot of changes last year, maybe there’s more up ahead and maybe this is the plateau.

Coach: Like a resting place between changes. Let’s move another 90 degrees. What’s another perspective.

Client: It could be a transition period.

Coach: Good. What’s another perspective?

Client: This could be the place where the learning occurs.

Coach: Like a special place with a special message for you.  I could offer another perspective. Is that okay?

Client: Sure…like what?

Coach: This could be a successful place.  Could you look at life like it was successful right now?

Client: Actually, I can. Things are going according to plan—It’s just so different from all the excitement and activity of last year.

Coach: So the Zombie Place is just one way of looking at it?

Client: Right

Coach: What’s the perspective that’s the most powerful for you?    Which perspective would you rather choose?

Client: That this is the Learning Place for me—the time to catch my breath and catch up on the learning from all the activity and change.

Coach:  Let’s look at that for a moment. Now that you’re standing in that perspective, what do you notice?  What are you saying yes to? 

Client: I notice that I am being reflective, not just biding my time.  I’m thinking about what I’ve been learning. I’m saying yes to meditating. And to keeping a journal about my learning. Maybe starting to look at what’s on the horizon too.

Coach: Great. And in order to say yes to that, you probably have to say no to some other things. What would they be?

Client: I have to say no to going to work so early.

Coach: So you’d have to say no to going to work early. What else?

Client: Say no to late night TV so that I get a full night’s rest.

Coach: This is good. You’ve come from the Zombie Place to this place of learning and investigating—a more rested place, too, it sounds like.

And so the dialogue will continue into action plans…..

Perspective is one of the gifts that we gain through dialogue with a non-judgemental other.  Creating perspective expands the aperture through which we look at our life circumstances.  When we see things from only one perspective, we are less resourceful and victimized by the circumstances.  When we are able to re-examine our viewpoint, we are able to see possibility and change. 


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Photography by Marc Williams ©

Michelle Clarke is an Executive Coach.  She works with Leaders, Executives and Executive Coaches, helping them to  develop strong, influential personal brands and to elegantly navigate the complexity of 21st century leadership . To learn more about her work please visit her website, and be sure also to subscribe to this blog for future updates. If you enjoy Facebook, please join Michelle’s Business Page

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10 responses to “Shifting Perspective

  1. Great post Michelle. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Michelle, Love it!!!! Warmly, Jenn

    Jenn Shallvey Intuitive Coach

    m +61 414 256 401 Skype jenn.shallvey e w

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  3. Angelique Kalam

    Love this post on perspective! Angelique

  4. Hiya,

    Question: “How does the coach know if the other perspective (chosen by the client) is weak, poor or incorrect? ” i.e. the coach says

    Coach: Good. What’s another perspective?
    Client: This could be the place to wait and do nothing and see what happens”

    Does the coach ‘know’ what the other perspective should be or does the coach just accept whatever the client says?

    • Thanks for commenting Jacques. I can answer from my own coaching philosophy and approach relating specifically to this post; I never have an agenda beyond helping the client to learn about themselves and by implication, their situation. My role is to help a client expand awareness and perspective by expanding the choices available to themselves. Often clients feel only one choice is available until a coaching dialogue unearths more. Armed with more possible avenues, a client is empowered to either affirm their original choice, expand it, or change it to something they now feel is more aligned (with their values, motivation, future vision etc). Do I challenge my client to shift perspectives? – sure! But do believe I have the best one for them and know what it should be? – no!

  5. Kevin McCaughey

    Hi Michelle

    Hope you had or having a great time in Thailand .

    A great article , I am finding that I must challenge myself continually , otherwise I end up in a one dimensional phase and with a narrow perspective , the consequence is frustration and irritation (LETS GO BACK TO THE NOTES) . You just reminded me to keep a journal , that I have not been doing the last two weeks . Busy reading the book and transitions and finding it enlightening . The three phases of transitional change have been an eye opener , especially the first phase , the ending , that is the first and harder phase to over come . Realized I am still only shifting furniture around .

    I am finding that life is less complicated and less stressful , now that I am not being judgmental and principled .

    Going on my camping holiday to the Kalahari on the 26 of this month , can’t wait . Landrover kitted out and ready to go !!!!!!

    Would love to catch up again in June when I get back .

    Life is no longer conflict , loving the negotiations . …….

    Thanks Michelle


    Kevin McCaughey

    • What a gift your feedback is to me Kevin. I am deeply grateful that you shared, and that you have allowed me to walk a short path of your journey with you. I am so excited to hear about your trip to the Kalahari! Enjoy. Be in the moment. The moment we call life 🙂

  6. Wow, love this post and the 90 degree angle shift!
    This was a great post and great comments… learning so much.


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