Thursday, February 18, 2010

Trading Places

CJ Fitzsimons brainstormed with me about his client Hans, an Enneagram Eight.
CJ: Hans was livid that his superiors had decided to send him to their Assessment Center (AC), and if he passed he would lose much of the freedom he enjoyed in his job.

I asked Hans to assign different places in the room for two roles, Hans today and Hans in his new job after the AC. I interviewed him in each for a few minutes, then asked how he felt in his new job. "Not half as bad as I expected," he replied. We agreed to a half-day session before the AC.
People with Hans' personality style have the either/or belief, "either I'm strong or I'm vulnerable." Thus Hans saw the AC as a place "where they torture people for several days by observing how they respond to stressful situations." He assumed he would be at the mercy of the assessors, a vulnerability that triggered his personality's toggle-switch thinking ("If they're not with me, they're against me").

CJ wanted to coach Hans into both/and thinking, which he did quite well, yet in a different way than I might have done. I told him I help clients identify the "X" and the "Y" that are apparently incompatible, explore the underlying objectives, then ask themselves, "How could I do both X and Y?"

Hans did reframe his belief that perceived vulnerability meant he was out of control, but CJ accomplished this with a technique from his training in psychodrama, inviting Hans to do a role switch (similar to the Gestalt empty-chair technique).
CJ: I knew Hans was concerned the assessors would "seek out weaknesses and bore into them," which offended his need for fairness. As I wrote our agenda on a flip chart, I invited him to move to my chair and to imagine himself as his AC assessor. I interviewed the "assessor" about his approach, how he'd treat Hans, what he'd look for in his assessment – keeping the questions and tone light.

Hans relaxed visibly, his body going from hunched/defensive to laid-back/open. He grinned, "It’ll be OK. He’s not out to get me. He’s only doing his job."
My conversations with CJ is a fine example of why we need colleagues, how we learn from each other. I helped him see how both/and thinking can reframe a client's underlying beliefs; he showed me the effectiveness of psychodrama with a business client.