The Coach Approach: The Power of Perspective

Next Generation Planner: January 2021


Saundra Davis, APFC®, FBS®
Executive Director, Sage Financial Solutions

When people ask, “How are you doing?” my standard response is, “I am many ways.” At first, they laugh, maybe thinking that I have more to say. Then, upon seeing that I have completed my statement, they usually pause and reflect on the truth of what I have said.

Most of us are feeling and experiencing many different thoughts, emotions and feelings simultaneously. While that may not be a comfortable way to approach a conversation, I suspect that—more often than not—this is our simple truth. As human beings, we are grappling with multiple decisions, challenges or opportunities, and it can be difficult to prioritize or address them all at once. Now, let’s step into the shoes of our clients.

Some clients come to financial professionals because they are stuck or finding it challenging act on the things that will help them achieve their goals. I believe that this has less to do with motivation or dedication and more to do with their ability to see themselves moving forward. Coaches have many ways (here we go again) to describe this debilitating and nebulous experience in the coaching engagement. We call the “thing” that gets in the client’s way a saboteur or gremlin or other spooky names to distinguish it from the client’s true being.

Examining the Gremlin

So, who is this “gremlin” and why do we care? Let’s take a closer look.

In his book, A Master Class in Gremlin Taming, Rick Carson says, “Your gremlin is not your negative thoughts and traumatic past experiences. He’s not your fears, regrets or self-limiting concepts. He’s the one who uses them—and more—to create elaborate cinematic works suited to your unique vulnerabilities.”

Most of us have limiting beliefs—or “gremlins”—that get in the way of our ability to live the life we desire, and you may be wondering what you can do in your client engagements to root out this destructive little pest. Coaches face the gremlin head on when it is getting in the way of a client’s flourishing life. I am particularly fond of Carson’s “Four Questions” as a starting point.

What's So? Assess the situation and find out what is real. It may mean gathering information or revisiting what you think you know. The key here is to remain open, so the coaching skill of curiosity is critical. Carson suggests starting with phrases like these: “I’m assuming that,” or “I’m imagining that,” or “I’m making believe that,” or “I’m scaring the hell out of myself by making up that,” to get clear about what is real and what is imagined.

So What? What are the imagined consequences? Write down all the frightening “what happens if…” scenarios that are roaming freely through your mind.

So What? What’s the bottom line of the situation and what impact will or can it have on the outcome you desire? This truth may not be appealing but it is important to know exactly what you are dealing with, so you can identify next steps.

What Now? This is where those planning skills of yours shine! Go ahead and make that list of options and don’t assess along the way. Just identify all the ways you can address the real (not the imagined) situation.

If we want something to be different than it is, we can change the situation or change the way we look at the situation. Of course, there will be things that we simply cannot change and that is where we can look inside and choose how to respond.

A strength of the coach approach is the intentional decision to remain an objective observer—inviting the client to see different perspectives, which may allow them to move forward to achieve that which they really want most.

Saundra Davis, APFC®, FBS®, is a financial coach, educator, consultant and motivational speaker. She is a past president of the Financial Therapy Association, founder and executive director of Sage Financial Solutions and a U.S. Navy veteran.