Alex Rodriguez

Alex Rodriguez

The sports world (and much of the rest of the media) has been abuzz lately after baseball great Alexander Rodriguez revealed that he had knowingly used steroids earlier this decade.  Of course he didn’t just own up to using performance enhancing drugs in plain terms.  There was a lot of PR spin, most notably his oft-repeated phrase of having been “young and stupid” at the time.

Blaming his drug use on being young and stupid (he was in his mid to late 20’s at the time) has irked many commentators.  They see it as a way of taking the blame without really taking the blame. He wasn’t young and stupid, he was greedy and competitive – there is a big difference.

All this sports media buzz has me thinking about the power of words – specifically the power of words in revealing perspective.  The words we use for describing/explaining tell a lot about how we see the world and how our perspective might be askew.

As coaches, we listen closely to the words our clients use because those words reveal a lot.  And we can offer those words back to our clients as a way of helping them see more clearly how they see things.   With this greater clarity, they can choose to keep their perspective or shift it to something more useful.

A recent client was telling me about a major initiative  he was leading.  I asked him where things stood with the initiative.  He responded with, “Everybody is ready to go.”  I asked him what he meant by “everybody.”  That word (everybody) spoke deeply to him.  He said, “I don’t know why I used that word.  Maybe I wish everybody was ready to go, but that’s not true.  I’ve been acting as if it’s true, but it’s not so.”

After some reflection, he chose a new perspective, one that was more accurate and one that gave him a better sense of what was required of him.  He said, “Really, all systems are go – we have all the parts in place, but we still have to get some key folks on board.  And the reality is that some folks are not on board and will never be.  We cannot wait for them and I need to realize that.”

With a clarified perspective, this client now knew his course of action.  He needed to have some conversations with the key players who still were not ready.  He also needed to brace himself for some opposition.

A Chinese proverb says that the beginning of wisdom is to call something by its right name.  I couldn’t agree more.

What are you doing these days to help your clients gain clearer and more accurate perspective?