Enhancing Professional Coaching with Metaphor

//Enhancing Professional Coaching with Metaphor

Performance is a big focus of professional coaching and behaviour is a big part of performance. A concept that stimulates a reflective dialogue about the impact of behaviour on performance is a useful interaction, providing it is done in a constructive manner. In coaching, there are a number of ways which metaphor can be used as it provides a creative mechanism to trigger novel ways to assess who we are and why we act the way we do.

Behaviour has a major impact on performance of individuals, teams and organisations, both positive and negative. If you learn how to understand behaviour and how to leverage the positive aspects whilst mitigating the negative impacts, you can greatly improve team dynamics, the working environment and performance generally (whilst reducing stress and negative political behaviours). Problems often happen when people do not talk about behaviour and “read between the lines” rather than ask and seek to understand differences. Differences in behaviour can be a major asset to be leveraged and metaphor provides a fun constructive way to stimulate conversations between people about the impacts of their behavioural environment. The Zoo Character cards and the free on-line profiler enable people to separate the behaviour from the person and depoliticise interactions. This helps people to build relationships rather than damage them through misunderstandings.
Some examples of the types of metaphor based activities that can be done in coaching sessions include:
1. Compare the outputs from the Organizational Zoo on-line profiler for the same person in different situations. Discuss the impact of deploying different behaviours when the context changes. Explore how success comes from being able to adapt to different circumstances and behaving in way that helps to deliver our desired outcomes. Discuss how behaving to control the environment is more productive than reacting to the environment.

2. Consider how your profile may be different if completed by others, a peer, your boss, someone who works within your team. How others perceive our actions and behaviours can be very insightful and their reality may be very different to how you perceive you act. The Organizational Zoo online profiler can be used to do 360o assessments to provide multiple anonymous perceptions of one’s behaviour. This can be very insightful and stimulate some rich reflections. The aim is to engage in a challenging dialogue to learn about behavioural strengths and weaknesses. The rich discussion is far more important than absolute accuracy of the profile. The value created for the coachee is not about right and wrong – it is the ability to understand how to further develop their behavioural capabilities and build more effective relationships. Ultimately, the more we understand each other (those we like and those we don’t) the better we know how to interact in the most optimal manner.

Can we ever truly accurately “categorise” a person’s behaviour? Humans are complex and often unpredictable, especially successful people. Many profilers categorise to simplify a person’s character, which is highly dangerous. People should be taken out of the box, not tried to be put into the box. The Organizational Zoo metaphor enables us to be the animal (behaviour) we need to be in order to achieve our desired outcome (as opposed to judge ourselves unable because we fit into a certain box). If you want your coaches to be more powerful and more successful (and perhaps even more liked), get them to understand what animal they need to be in each situation to get the best mutual outcomes.


  • As a Newbie, I am always searching online for articles that can help me get further ahead.

    • This article achieved exactly what I wanted it to achieve.

      Zavrina 30.07.2011
  • fantastic post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector do not notice this. You should continue your writing. I am sure, you’ve a huge readers’ base already!

    Hilton Ebbesen 15.08.2011

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