Some recent coaching prompted me to think about how a manager might use the concept of discounting to provide feedback in as effective a way as possible.
Apart from a discussion about the relative benefits and disadvantages of using Functional Adult ego state, which might sound too logical, versus Controlling Parent ego state, which as a behavioural option is appropriate when we want to appear to be firm (rather than overdoing it and sounding authoritarian), I was prompted to produce the following notes about how we might use my model of steps to success.
1. Talk to them neutrally about what you have noticed in terms of their behaviour, so that you can check that they do realise/accept that you have observed them accurately. It may be that they have a different perception of what they are doing or there might be some other explanation that you are not aware of, or you might be being selective and not noticing other things that they do. Letting them tell you about the other things does not mean that you cannot continue to talk about the aspects that are a problem – it just means that they can't justify to themselves that you just don't know what they are really doing.
2. Talk to them, again neutrally, about why the way they are behaving is leading to problems. If you can get them to identify the problems the following steps will be easier. If they are discounting the problems, then you will need to describe the results of their behaviour in a way that shows how the outcomes are not useful for the organisation. Perhaps it means that their relationships with colleagues and customers are not good enough, or is costing the company money. You need to be able to state some definite and significant negative outcomes arising from what they are doing – if you cannot do this, then maybe you are just objecting to the way they behaved because you don't like it. Again, they need to accept that the problems are there and that the problems are significant. You are 'walking them up the steps 'so that they are no longer discounting.
3. If you cannot get them to agree about the steps 1 and 2, you need to revisit them. Once they have accepted the same perspective as you, then you can move on to step 3 and start discussing solutions. It is obviously better if they can come up with the solutions but beware of assuming discounting when someone really does not know anything different. You can check this out – if you offer a tentative solution, do they consider it or do they play Yes but. Be ready for them to object that they do not have the skills or that the solutions will not work – this at least means that they are no longer discounting the situation and the significance of it.
4. Hopefully by now you can be talking to them about whether they have the skills needed for whatever options are required. You may need to help them realise that they already have the skills, which they may have demonstrated in some other circumstances and may genuinely not realise are transferable. Alternatively, maybe they need to learn some additional skills, so they need to be offered some training or coaching.
5. Having sorted out the skills, the next level of discounting is usually that the person feels that they cannot put together any plan of implementation. For example, they are too busy to start with this new way of working now, or it would need additional resources that they do not have, et cetera. This step is about working out the strategy, putting together an action plan that is measurable, manageable and motivational – in other words, that passes the test of Parent, Adult and Child ego states – the outcome can be measured in some way, it is realistic for them to achieve, and there is something worthwhile to the individual about the outcome. No vague statements about doing more of something, no expectations of outcomes that they do not have the skills or resources to achieve, and no expecting them to put effort into something from which the outcome has no value to them – or even worse, will just cause them problems somewhere or with someone else.
6. The final step might be called Success but might also be labelled Sabotage. This is where you might prompt them to consider how they can make sure that they implement the plan. What support will they need, from whom can they get it, and particularly what stroking will result when they start to behave differently – at this point, you should already have worked out how you will ensure that they receive strokes for the changed behaviour. This is particularly important because other people are likely to be giving them negative strokes in an unconscious effort to keep them behaving in the same old way that other people expect. This is also the step where you might help them realise that we all sabotage ourselves sometimes, maybe through limiting beliefs, so that they might recognise their own unhelpful habits (or where you might realise that their personal/professional issues are such that they need counselling).
© 2017 Julie Hay
Julie is a fan of open access publishing so feel free to reproduce any of these blogs as long as you still attribute it to her.