Sitting Comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
I’ve chosen chairs as a theme for my blog. Want to know why? Sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin…
I have chosen chairs as a theme because I have sat in the same career chairs as many of my clients: HR / Learning and Development, Executive and SME Owner. Another reason is that ‘Chair work’ is a fantastic tool to use in coaching.
It’s simply setting out a number of chairs and sitting in them, to see things from different perspectives. It’s also useful in management coaching and role play – addressing chairs as if the person you need to engage was actually sitting there, enabling you to explore hypothetical conversations. In my experience, it helps in setting your goals, becoming unstuck, devising your plans and building commitment.
There are many ways to use it; here are a few fictional examples:
An executive coaching client was not speaking up to their Chairman, which meant they were experiencing pent up resentment that was affecting results. I invited them to imagine their Chairman sitting in a vacant chair, and invited them to tell the Chairman what was on their mind. If that person were in that chair now, what would you say to them? Or, think of your most confident friend, what would they say? Sometimes, just saying it to the empty chair is enough, but for this executive coaching client, it allowed them to rehearse their words, giving them the chance to polish their delivery so that it was effective, assertive, spoken with confidence and poise, and ultimately avoided a career-limiting slanging match.
A recent HR client was grappling with a potentially disruptive grievance issue, that threatened to hit the headlines. They found fresh insights to resolve this via chair work. After exploring their own perspective sitting in one chair they then moved to the “manager’s chair”, and then to the chair of the person raising the grievance to explore how the situation might strike them. Adding a perspective from the chair of an uninvolved third party led to a successful plan of action. It’s an effective psychometric tool for both leadership and career coaching.
I’ve also used two chairs to help an SME start – up owner weigh up whether to take action, helping them to become unstuck. The client sat in two opposing chairs to lists cons and pros. A tip is to go for the cons first, and support resistance. “If you support resistance to change, little resistance will be encountered and change will take place” Zinker (1994).
Try it: ‘Chair work’ is useful to think things through by yourself.