The power of metaphor in the hands of a master:

Some months ago I was tucking into a delicious roast lunch in the venerated dining hall of Rutherford College at The University of Kent. At the same time telling my very good friend and host Dr Peter Klappa; who also happens to be the master of Rutherford, about how I planned to launch my new business.

The key to great coaching is the ability to ask the right question at exactly the right moment, causing the other party to seek the answer from their inner frame of reference or subconscious mind. And the brilliance of metaphor is the masterful and purposeful delivery of what might seem an irrelevant recounting of just about anything to the same effect.

Peter is a first-rate coach, and he’s capable of some pretty fancy footwork when it comes to NLP language skills. He is above all, a great listener.
On this day I thought he was concentrating more on his pork crackling than on my story. So when without warning he asked me “so what’s different this time?” I was taken aback; the question directed me to consider how I was to ensure my new venture did not meet the same fate as its forerunner.

Peters question directed me to consider my plans and to refer to my inner frame of reference, which in turn led me to the realisation that actually nothing was any different, and the uncomfortable truth in that I knew why.

My new venture needed effective social media within the marketing mix. Now, I’m not fully cognisant of the dark art of SEO and social media. I had to face the uncomfortable truth that I was rather fearful of my inability, and believed I was incapable of acquiring the required skills.

I began to make excuses to Peter. Stressing my hefty workload and need to complete the new website and get the new school onto the market ASAP. I continued to bleat on by saying “I know I need to incorporate an effective social media campaign, but I don’t have the time to stop and learn how to do it myself, and I don’t have the funds to outsource it, and anyway I can’t possibly be all things to all men.” Whinge, whinge. His response was to tell me this story: “A man walking through the forest came upon a forester striving to fell a tree. The tree feller was making huge efforts, striking his axe against the sturdy tree with great force and yet the axe made no significant impression on the tree trunk. The walker asked the forester about why his efforts, though mighty were having so little effect on the tree, to which the forester replied ‘it’s my axe it’s become blunted’ the walker then asked him ‘well, why don’t you sharpen your axe?’ to which the forester responded “I don’t have time to stop and do that now, I have to get this tree cut down before dark.”

I know that many of you will have heard this tale before, and if not, then on reading it here you did of course preconceive the outcome way before you completed the reading. I did too, and even though I knew the story and the message therein, it still had hypnotic effect on me. And that’s because it came as a surprise, out of context, a pattern interrupt which changed my conscious state. It connected directly with my sub conscious mind where I had to make sense of it, and in so doing brought about a searing ‘light bulb’ moment for me. It all became blindingly clear. I was forced out of my tunnelled thinking and my comfort zone.

I would have to address the matter of modern day marketing if my new product was to have any chance of succeeding. I had to sharpen my axe and keep on sharpening it to keep my edge.

There are many lessons in the foregoing and one of them is; I was not offered advice; my brilliant coach did not position himself as the expert or of having greater wisdom. Instead he was empathic, acutely observant yet presented as kindly & respectfully curious, he asked the right question at the right time and shared with me a story… it was a masterful delivery of great coaching and the employ of metaphor.

The pertinent delivery of even the simplest metaphor is profoundly powerful in creating rapid state change, clarity of thought and a super fast track to realising solutions to meet the challenge.

Needless to say I am now properly addressing matters of SEO and social media. As well as completely rethinking the whole enterprise. My thanks go out to my friend Dr Peter Klappa.

I know you will understand when I tell you that I have to go now, because I have an axe to grind.