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Memory is Memorable: Coaching and Remembering

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I would propose that effective (and powerful) coaching and consulting in a contemporary organizational setting might best be described as a short-term excursion of the ball/organization into foreign valleys: into valleys that can be anticipated, valleys that offer alternative perspectives on the valley in which the leader is now traveling, or alternative valleys that might better serve the leader and her organization. As interventionists, we help our clients enter these foreign valleys not by chance, but by choice.

One other point. As my colleague, Jeremy Fish, has recently noted, this metaphor of a warped plain can easily be reframed as the putting green on a challenging gulf course. The green is uneven (warped) and the golf ball moves in strange and unpredictable directions. How do you get the ball into the hole—and how do you lead your organization on this warped plain?

Language

There are some linguists and anthropologists who suggest that the way in which we view the world is strongly influenced by the language we apply in attending to and seeking to understand this world. Led by the work of Benjamin Whorf (2012), the case is being made for the influence of language on our perception of reality (“weak Whorf”) or even the determination of reality (“strong Whorf”) (Bergquist, 2019). At the very least, language plays an important role in how we consolidate short-term memories into long-term memories and how we form schemata.

Given the weak or strong Whorfian hypothesis, we might attend to the use of language in our coaching practices. What are the ways in which written language can make a difference regarding that to which our clients attend and that which they are likely to remember (and use). Letters, words and names can all serve as powerful mnemonic devices that can be used effectively in our coaching practices.

Letters: For instance, we can provide a series of word that start with the same letter. I make extensive use of a problem-solving model that centers on five words that all begin with the letter “I”: Information, Intentions, Ideas, Initiation and Insight. My clients tend to remember these five words (and what they represent) as do readers of my books where this problem-solving model is presented. If they don’t remember all five words, then they can mentally sort through words that begin with “I” and will soon arrive at the right word. This will enable my clients and readers to retrieve, in turn, the content related to this word.

Acronyms: Even if the words don’t start with the same letter, their starting letters can form a meaningful word. This is known as the construction of an acronym. Our field of coach (and related fields of leadership and management) are saturated with acronyms – ranging from L.E.A.D. to P.R.I.D.E.. In my own work with Agnes Mura, Richard Lim and Mirasol Delmar, extensive use is made of a planning models called DRIVE (Bergquist, Mura, Lim and Delmar, 2021)

D IRECTION WHAT DO YOU WANT TO CREATE?
R EVIEW WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON?
I NVENT BRAINSTORMING POSSIBLE IDEAS, PATHS
V ENTURE A COMMITMENT TO BOLD ACTION
E VALUATE WHAT HAS CHANGED, BASED ON THIS CONVERSATION?

We trace out the implications of each step in this model with our coaching and consulting clients (and with the leaders who attend our workshops). The steps are easily remembered given this “chunking” acronym.

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