As a coach, your job is to help people reframe things; to help them in seeing things differently as they make their way along life's journey.
And, reframing is all around us. It's part of humor . It’s part of all growth.
“Seeing Things Differently”: A Personal Example
Back in 1969, I went through a two-year program with Time/Life Magazine for high potential executives. And, because I wanted to travel internationally, they sent me to Amsterdam, London and Paris. I was in charge of documenting their circulation statistic system.
At the end of those two years, all my buddies were getting fantastic jobs with Time/Life - you know the kind, where all you need to do is entertain yourself and other people in the company. In the positions they were landing, they didn't really have to deal with anyone outside the company. Sometimes they even got a car and a driver as part of their gig.
This is something that I was going after as a young man of 23 -- going for the brass ring, you might say. I got all kinds of bonuses, rewards and promotions in those two years with the only criticism being that I wasn't always at my desk when the higher-ups called. You see, when I was in the building in Chicago, if I had to talk to somebody, I would go see them rather than just calling them on the telephone. Others called this “managing by walking around”.
One day, I was called in to see the boss and I was so excited because I was supposed to get a promotion as well as finding out where I´d be placed in the company.
The Last Thing I Expected To Hear
To my surprise, things didn't work out like I thought they would. Instead of praise, I was told they didn't have a place for me.
That was the last thing I expected to hear, especially after the bonuses, promotions and rewards I ́d been getting. Instead of a job, they gave me some money and let me go. And, when I asked for a reason, all they would say is that they just didn't have a place for me.
At the time, that's all the explanation I got. Later on, I found out that I hadn't gone to the right schools. Nor did I wear the right clothes or talk in a way that was sophisticated enough for my fellow executives. I just wasn’t part of “the club”.
That early lesson was a really tough one to learn.
On The Bright Side
Being let go was the catalyst to me seeing things differently in my life.
Roughly six months before they let me go, I ́d begun teaching myself to play the guitar.
As a child, I had dreamed of becoming a singer. When I was about 10 years old, I’d go to movies starring the operatic tenor, Mario Lanza. I was fascinated by the power and the beauty of the human voice.
Within a month after Time/LIfe let me go, I was playing and singing at an open mic at a friend’s pub near Downtown Chicago when a guy came up to me and said, “Do you know enough songs for a whole evening?”
“When do we start?” I said. “About three weeks,” he said. I told him I'd see him then.
With that came the realization of a childhood dream that started me down a path that took me from Chicago to New York, where I played in soap operas and had parts in Broadway musicals.
I even auditioned for The New Christy Minstrels where I was offered the center man position. But the Big Apple was calling and I turned that down to take part in a musical in New York.
So, there you have it. Reframing, in action.
Trust In Life´s Wisdom
When I think back on it, I believe that was the best thing Time-LIfe could have done for me. If they hadn't let me go, I might have stayed in corporate America and succumbed to those golden handcuffs of money and prestige I had so desperately wanted at the time. Yet, within a few short months, life in all her wisdom led me to be and do things that I might never have attempted on my own.
With reframing, you assume things are going to be one way but, if you look at them differently, they turn out to be quite another. And, that’s how we help people reframe situations.
We guide them in seeing things differently.