Sue was feeling really stuck with feelings of inadequacy in her new role. Despite a string of qualifications and plenty of experience, she was fundamentally worried that she wasn’t up to the demands of her recent promotion. We used an exercise based on Clean Language and further developed by Tamsin Hartley, called Choose an Object.

I asked Sue to look around the room and choose something that engaged her and represented her situation in some way.  After a few minutes of deep creative silence, Sue pointed out a vase of flowers set on a table in the corner of the room. This is the gist of what happened next,

Coach: what was it that drew you to this object?

Sue: It’s something beautiful, set upon a table that supports it on four legs. It’s made of nice natural wood, skilfully worked. Oh, and there are some books on the table too.

Coach: Is there anything else about that?

Sue: it’s like, the things I can do when I’m working really well and not thinking about it, that is beautiful like the flowers. But I see they are contained in a vase, and I’m sort of contained in my professional network too….and the books make me think of all the knowledge I’ve gathered over the years, and I can see that’s important, but sort of lower down than the flowers, the beauty….like I need the knowledge, but the beauty is more important, it’s the outcome, the result of what I do.

Coach: is there anything else about that?

Sue: (after a few minutes’ silence) ….the table legs are also supporting the table top, on which everything stands….like the parts of my life that support me, my family, my friends, my hobbies, my dog…it’s ok for the flowers to be supported and upheld, and it’s ok for me too.

Coach: is there anything else about that?

Sue: …and the flowers aren’t doing anything to be beautiful, they are just there being flowers, and the beauty just flows….

Coach: And what do you know now?

Sue: I know I’m well prepared, just as that arrangement was carefully set up…and given that, I can just be there and do what’s in front of me…..

Coach: And what difference does knowing this make?

Sue: I’m probably going to be fine in this job, as I get into it. While I get used to that I will have a vase of flowers on my desk to remind me! And come out of the corner!

Barbara Bates is a personal and executive coach specialising in supporting Professional People Under Pressure to improve resilience, well being and effectiveness, particularly around the hazards of being an ‘accidental manager’, feeling overwhelmed, finding a new path, stress, assertiveness.