A Journey into the Valley of the Stuck

Here’s a great article from a colleague coach, Teresa Pool, which was recently published in a North Texas Coaches newsletter.  You can read more about Teresa at her website:  http://www.transitionsforbusiness.com

A Journey into the Valley of the Stuck

By Teresa J. Pool

Help! I have no idea where to go next with this client. They
are totally stuck and neither one of us seem to know what to do about it. I
feel like I’m failing to help him. What am I missing? Where do I go from here?”
Steve’s concern, blurted out at the start of our coaching session, mirrors a
common challenge that every coach experiences at some point during their
career: what do I do when nothing seems to work? At this point, I have to be careful
of not sounding too excited for these coaches, as the mental leap from failure
to excitement is a bit much to take in all at once. But I know that they are
about to discover the incredible power for change to be found in that stuck

The sensation of being stuck comes from a lack of
perceivable options. Clients remain in their current situation or state of
thought because nothing else seems possible. The coach may find himself joining
them in the Valley of the Stuck when every tool in their kit fails to light the
way out. It is an uncomfortable place to be. Sometimes the coach takes on
blame, “If I was a better coach, I’d know how to get us moving again.”
Sometimes the frustration is laid at the feet of the client, “This client
doesn’t really want to change.” When either happens, stuck becomes struggle and
the coaching relationship often ends shortly after. What a shame, since amazing
growth is waiting just on the other side of that stuck place.

I encourage coaches to explore stuckness (not a word but it
deserves to be) with fascination. Wallow in it, be curious about it, find joy
in it, poke fun at it. Always treating it as a temporary resting place before a
major change, like a vacation spot for the mind before it embarks on a big
journey. Make it a safe place for clients to be until they are ready to leave.
Because deep in the heart of Stuck Valley is the option that they want. Notice
I said previously that the sensation of being stuck comes from a lack of
perceivable options. The mind’s actual purpose for being stuck is to avoid
something unpleasant, usually around the option that they really want.
Obviously, the clients are the only ones who know what their difficult options
are, and they don’t even know they know it. The coach’s job is to help them
find awareness in the stuck place. Awareness is the bridge out of Stuck Valley.

Recognizing Stuck:

  • Observation method: The client states a strong
    desire to move toward his or her goal but makes little actual attempt to get
  • Exhaustion method: The coach finds consistent
    resistance to all questions and suggestions.
  • Easy method: When the client is asked, “Are we
    stuck?” he or she responds with, “Yes.”

Embracing Stuck:

  • Present “stuck” as a normal stage in the change
    process, fertile ground to explore.
  • Remove all pressure to figure out why they are
    stuck and what they need to do about it.
  • Let clients know that they are free to stay
    there as long as they like. Ex-press confidence that when they are ready, they
    will naturally move on.
  • Encourage clients to talk about the benefits of
    being stuck right now. If nothing else, it’s a break from all that action!

Exploring Stuck:

  • Compare history. Ask the client if he or she has
    ever experienced this same stuck feeling before. What was that like? What
    caused it to end? What happened next? How is this situation similar? Different?
  • Gather resources. What kind of skills, data, or
    assistance might be help-ful while in this place?
  • Embrace learning. What are clients learning by
    being here? What else do they hope to learn?
  • Future view. What can they see on the other side
    of being stuck? What will it be like once they get there? How will they be
    different? The same?

By recognizing, embracing and exploring the client’s
stuckness, you begin to build the awareness needed to move on. So the next time
you are taking a trip to Stuck Valley, enjoy the ride. You never know where you
might end up!

Teresa J. Pool, the President and founder of Transitions For
Business, helps her clients achieve their full potential. A human behavior and
communication special-ist, Teresa’s work as a coach, consultant, speaker,
strategic facilitator, and work-shop leader has motivated thousands to achieve
their personal best. In addition, she inspires change through her published
articles, television and radio appear-ances, and two leadership guides: Focus
in the Midst of Chaos and Communication DISCovery. Teresa is an executive coach
in UTD’s Executive MBA program and serves as a coaching supervisor and examiner
in their Executive Coaching program. Teresa is dedicated to serving the
coaching community as a former President of the ICF North Texas Chapter. She
also helps the sight-impaired achieve their full potential through her work as
a volunteer puppy raiser for Southeastern Guide Dogs and IMPACT director for
the FMC Carswell “cell dogs” program.

© 2009 Transitions For Business. All rights reserved..