Home Tools and Applications Life Planning Life Shields: A Coaching Tool

Life Shields: A Coaching Tool

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Variations of this tool have been available for many years—ever since the concept of life planning was first introduced into organizational consulting work. It remains one of the most useful tools that can be used by a professional coach who is working with her client in the exploration and clarification of life and career values and aspirations. The life shields coaching tool provides clients with the opportunity to survey several different aspects of their lives (past, present and future). This tool is frequently the first one to be used in a coaching engagement that is oriented toward life planning, for it briefly covers most of the important aspects of life planning, including the values of childhood, images of the distant future and desired goals for the immediate future. Each of these topics, in turn, can be treated in greater depth during a later coaching session.

There are essentially three levels at which the Life Shields can be presented. At Level One, this tool can be introduced as a set of questions to be addressed verbally by the coaching client. This is usually the least threatening strategy to be employed by a professional coach. The Second Level involves a request by the coach that her client do some drawing—at least of the outlines of the shield (often called a “life space.” Typically, the Level Two shield if filled with a set of words representing answers to the questions being asked by the coach (same questions as Level One).

At Level Three, the coach encourages her client not only to draw the shield, but also to incorporate visual images on the shield that represent the values and aspirations inherent in their answers to the questions being posed by the coach. The shield usually generates little defensiveness when offered at Level One or Two. Some clients might feel un¬easy about the nonverbal aspects of the Level Three shield. This problem can be easily corrected by indicating to clients that, if needed, they should feel free to speak about their values and aspirations (Level One) or to express themselves in writing (Level Two). Once coaching clients have this assurance they often seem to feel less fearful about working nonverbally (Level Three).

All of most of the following five steps (depending on the Level) are taken in making use of this coaching tool.

Step One [Levels Two and Three]

The coaching client is given a sheet of paper of at least regular letter size; preferably full sheets of newsprint will be available. The client should also be provided with a felt-tipped pen. If possible, at Level Three, a variety of colored marking pens should be available, along with an assortment of crayons, pieces of colored chalk, construction paper, glue, paper clips and so forth.

Step Two [Levels Two and Three]

The coaching client is asked to draw a shape on his piece of paper which is to represent his “life space.” This shape can be of any form or size. It is only essential that it be closed, so that there is clearly an inside and an outside. You might wish to note in passing that some people will define their life space as very large, others as very small; some people will define an irregular space, others will draw a simple circle or square.

Step Three [Levels Two and Three]

After the life space or shield is drawn, the coach should spend several minutes talking about the two functions which shields have served in history. First, shields have been used as protective devices to ward off spears and arrows. Second, shields have been used to proclaim the values and aspirations of a specific family, clan or country; the design that was drawn on the shield expressed something about the person who held the shield. Thus a shield can serve both as a barrier and as a vehicle for disclosure. The coaching client might at this point be asked to examine and possibly even discuss the extent to which their current life space or shield tends to protect them from other people or helps them to contact and communicate with others.

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