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METAPHORS@WORK

Images: visualchangeagent.com

 

"I like the approach you introduced about metaphors because I've noticed their extraordinary power. They act like a key in someone else's brain. It can unlock blocked situations, clarify concepts and repetitive patterns like wrong behaviours. I really believe in using such pillars in a methodology!"

Isabelle Burton, project manager Talents & Performance at CEN and CENELEC

“As new leaders, we need something concrete to develop towards. Most leadership concepts are too abstract. I have heard often enough I need to be “strategic”. That is quite abstract, I need something that is tangible. Having a metaphor gives me the anchor point from which everything starts… from here I dare to go into the non-comfort zone, knowing that I can return to my anchor any time. Everything orbits around my metaphor.”

Miguel Angel Prieto Arranz, Director Food & Feed and plastic additives at Cefic

 

LEADERSHIP METAPHORS

WHY WOULD YOU EVEN CONSIDER IT?

- Do you ever wonder: is this it?


- Do you want to get out of the rat race and finally find out where you're heading?


- Do you want to find your place in your team?


- Do you want your voice to be heard?


- Do you want to know what your unique added value is?


- Do you want to know how to best fulfil your new role?


Then a personalized leadership metaphor can help!

WHAT IS A LEADERSHIP METAPHOR?

A leadership metaphor is an image you choose to provide clarity on your leadership mission. Usually it consists of two parts.


The main component has a symbolic meaning and can be an animal, an archetype, a fairytale figure, a natural phenomenon ... This immediately evokes a number of character traits. For example, a druid immediately conjures up magical powers, wisdom, helicopter view, and so on. A hurricane immediately conjures up ferocity, strength, but also transformation potential.


The second part of the metaphor is an adjective that further describes this leader’s unique character. A mischievous druid is a very different leader than a strong-willed druid.

WHY WOULD YOU CHOOSE A METAPHOR?

The leadership metaphor is a means of finding your true added value. It offers leaders something to hold on to in order to navigate chaos with grace. I have used this figure of speech in my coaching sessions for over a decade now. It really brings home the question: “Who do I want to be in the face of change?” And on more than one occasion, I witnessed the “birth of a leader” right then and there in the session. Getting clarity on their leadership metaphor allowed certain managers to surpass themselves and grow into their full potential as a leader.

WHAT IS IN IT FOR YOU?

A clearer picture of who you really are for your clients, colleagues, partner, friends,...


If people know who they have in front of them, then choosing for what you have to offer becomes a no brainer.


For them, it provides quick recognition. What you see, is what you get. For you it provides a lot of extra freedom: no more straitjacket, no more pretending to be someone else. Just be yourself.

SO WHEN YOU'VE FOUND YOUR METAPHOR, YOU'RE DONE?

No, on the contrary… Once you have found your leadership metaphor, the growth process can begin. So your ideal metaphor leaves enough learning space for you to strive for. In this way, the direction of your further development becomes clear. Suddenly, it is crystal clear which job you have to choose or which additional training you still have to follow.


Choosing a leadership metaphor can be done in one or two sessions, learning to live by it takes a lifetime...

HOW DO YOU CREATE A LEADERSHIP METAPHOR?

During the coaching sessions we co-create your leadership metaphor through exercises and the use of images. Some metaphors already become clear after one session, others take a little more time. We pursue the search until you are proud of your metaphor. It both needs to describe your core talents and leave some room for further development.

DO YOUR CLIENTS KEEP USING IT AFTER THE SESSION?

I was also curious to know, so I contacted some of my coachees and was pleased to hear that their metaphor still helped them make difficult decisions. For instance, I received this email from an HR Executive Director: "My metaphor has served me well over many years. I recall well the coaching session where we framed it, although I can't quite remember the date. Must be around 5 years back. I certainly need it at the moment. I am now responsible for HR across the international region: Asia, the Gulf and Europe. COVID-19 is expected to hit our business very hard, so lots of tough HR stuff to do. The metaphor serves as a beacon."

HOW ABOUT A CONCRETE EXAMPLE OF SUCH A METAPHOR?

Examples from my practice range from a white wolf, a rugby player number 9, a mischievous druid, to a pink octopus, ... Each leaders with their own story. Curious about these stories? Keep an eye on my LinkedIn page, or subscribe to our newsletter metaphors@work via at the bottom of this page.

HOW DO I FIND MY OWN LEADERSHIP METAPHOR?

Either during a coaching session or by using our DIY leadership metaphor box.

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Listen to the podcast on metaphors

Podcast Different Views by Lili Matthijs
(in Dutch!)

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Debbie Baute, Confidant gcv, Biesboslaan 7, 1785 Merchtem
BE0847.714.672

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Photo credits: Jan Crab @Xpair, Elsbeth Neyens
©2020 by Debbie Baute