What can we learn from challenging assignments?

May 17, 2007

Sometimes the worst situations offer the best learning. In a gathering of colleagues recently we shared stories of some challenging consulting assignments. Yes, there were difficult clients and some harrowing stories, but each of my colleagues had reflected on their experiences, learned some lessons and allowed the learning to inform how they are in relationship with clients subsequently.
I extrapolated some of my learning from reflecting on my own practice and from participating in the above discussion and here are some of the questions I ask myself when the going seems tough.
• How am I being “used” here?
• In the service of who’s truth and reality?
• How is what’s happening to me relevant to my client’s dilemma?
• In what way is this situation my client’s experience?
• What have I contributed to the situation?
• What problem did my contribution solve for me?
• What’s useful about my dilemma?
What kinds of questions would help you reflect on your practice?

4 People reacted on this

  1. Hi Annette,
    I love your posts and look forward to reading them. So glad to have a colleague across the pond who is blogging about ideas I think about in my own practice. To add to the discussion, when I find myself in tough dilemmas with clients, in addition to the questions you ask, I also wonder about the leadership of the company and if the leaders are in alignment with the vision and direction of the company. Sometimes, some of the tough spots we find ourselves in as consultants, reflect tensions within the leadership team itself, which then trickles down through-out the organization. Also, I have found that company’s can be split or ambivalent about the consultation process, and we can get caught in the split or ambivalence. If we are able to discern this , we can use own experience as diagnostic information about potential resistance to change, or resistance to uncovering something that they may unconsciously want to keep hidden. And, it may also reveal information that we want to keep hidden from ourselves.
    Again, thanks for your posts.. they are great!

  2. Hi Sharon – welcome over there – it’s great to see another psychodynamic practitioner online. I agree with you about the mirroring and I really must think about a post on that subject one of these days because it’s such a rich source of intelligence in organisations. Thanks for the addition to my post!

  3. Great questions. Here are a few more that I use.
    ‘What does my reaction to this situation reveal about myself and my motives?’
    ‘What price am I paying by labeling this situation as difficult? How might I act differently if I viewed this situation as positive?’
    ‘In what ways am I becoming stronger? How can I get the support I need right now?’
    And if worse comes to worse….
    ‘What would Buffy the Vampire Slayer do?’

  4. Hey Cheri great questions (specially Buffy) I have a tendency to ask myself “what would Tony Soprano do in this situation” – after he’s seen his therapist of course 🙂 And another one I occasionally pull out of the hat when working with groups is asking them which of their favourite TV characters they think would be able to “solve” this issue? Makes for some very insightful moments..

Comments are closed.