When it Comes to Assumptions, What if you're Wrong?? by Julie Johnson

19 Jan 2022 10:11 AM | Anonymous

by Julie Johnson Julie Johnson

There we were, actively discussing the next career step for my coachee, a seasoned and talented leader. She had decided she wanted to start fresh in a new organization in order to push herself out of her comfort zone.

That said, she was ‘down in the mouth’, concerned that she would not be an attractive candidate in the open job market.

Here were some of my coachee’s negative comments, which I noted:

  • “I’m too old at 45 – they are looking for younger people.”
  • “I’m too specialized in one industry – other industries will not consider me.”
  • “I’ve got broad interests and would consider many different opportunities – they will see this as indecisive and will prefer someone with a clear focus.”
  • “I can be very down-to-business which will show during the interview – they will prefer someone more social, with some chit chat up their sleeve.”
  • “I’ve been in the private sector too long –the public sector will not consider me.”

And on and on. I noted each such statement, saving them up in a ‘pile’.

Then there was a pause, and I could almost touch the negativity hanging in the room.

“I’m noticing something,” I said. “Would you like me to share it with you?”

“Yes, please.”

“A few minutes ago you said: ‘I’m too old at 45 – they are looking for younger people.’ That’s an assumption. What if you’re wrong!? What if some organizations would actually prefer someone with more experience and gravitas?”

“Ok.” [long pause] “Fair enough.”

Then I asked, “Would it be useful to look at several other assumptions you made and challenge them?”

My coachee replied, “Let’s give it a try.”

We agreed that I would read her original statement, and she would replace it with a counter statement that would address: “What if you’re wrong?”

So, “I’m too specialized in one industry – other industries will not consider me.” – became – “Some organizations will be looking for someone from a completely unrelated industry, in order to get fresh insights.”

And, “I’ve got broad interests and would consider many different opportunities – they will see this as indecisive and will prefer someone with a clear focus.” – became – “Some organizations will prefer people who are curious, with a broad range of interests.”

And, “I can be very down-to-business which will show during the interview – they will prefer someone more social, with some chit chat up their sleeve.” – became – “Some companies will prefer someone who can ‘cut to the chase’ and get to action quickly.”

And finally, “I’ve been in the private sector too long – the public sector will not consider me.” – became – “Some public sector organizations will be looking for candidates with a for-profit, business-like mentality.”

My coachee concluded by stating that she had been harboring sweeping and limiting assumptions that were often incorrect and not doing her any good.

When we coaches see our coachees getting stuck and making limiting assumptions, we can challenge them with “What if you’re wrong?”, and then get them to rewrite their story!

Julie Johnson

https://www.julie-johnson-consulting.com

Coaching is an Art


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