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Paradox Coaching – a method which incorporates a highly

accurate assessment tool and special coaching exercises to help

clients balance key traits.
For coaches who like to use a diagnostic tool for structure and feedback
whilst also being creative in their choice of interaction.
Paradox coaching is the term we use to describe a specific approach to executive
coaching which incorporates an online questionnaire, a framework, a set of coaching
guides, and a variety of proven NLP techniques for change.

How Paradox Coaching differs from other coaching styles

There are many ways a coach can interact with a client to help the client progress to a desired
state. Even a brief overview of the approaches available would produce an exhaustive list, but
there are some comparisons which can be made to the general approaches, and this is where I
will focus my attention for this orange paper.

Paradox Coaching gives the coach a proven method for coaching executives. It uses the 1Harrison
online assessment to provide a framework for coaching sessions, and includes change exercises
and coaching guides. Whilst this may delight coaches who like their work to be structured it also
gives the more freewheeling coaches freedom to choose whatever processes they feel are
appropriate for a specific client.

So let’s begin with the term

Quadrant 1 paradox. A paradox can be thought
= of as a contradiction in terms. For
Balanced example, how would you
Versatility demonstrate frankness when
communicating whilst also being
diplomatic? If I’m totally open and frank about
everything how could I also be diplomatic?
Diplomacy suggests a degree of tact or discretion in
the use of words. So if someone is so frank that
they are perceived as blunt, a coach may
encourage diplomacy as a replacement for
bluntness. This is where Yin and Yang come in to
remind us that you cannot have one thing without
also having its opposite. Yin contains Yang and
vice-versa, and so the coach can encourage the
client to recall examples of being successfully
diplomatic. The context which the client draws
Figure 1 from for this experience doesn’t matter – all the
client needs to do is identify a place and time
where he was being successfully diplomatic and the coach can introduce an NLP procedure to
help the client transfer the diplomacy trait from this context to wherever it is needed. Bluntness
has the sharp edges taken away by an injection of natural diplomacy. The term given to this
balance is forthright diplomacy and achieving it gives the communicator balanced versatility.

If you remember that Yin and Yang are always at work, even a trait which is considered a
weakness can have a positive result somewhere, sometime. So in Paradox Coaching the maxim is
not right/wrong or good/bad, but ‘every trait can be utilised for a positive outcome’ – you just
need to decide where and when.

If a trait has not been useful in achieving a desirable outcome, it may have been acting as a
barrier. So in our example being blunt too often could get a client a reputation which may inhibit
their prospects for promotion. It could also be a hindrance to cooperation, creativity and of
course to being an effective leader. But there may be times when bluntness is required, and so
the Paradox Coach will not encourage the client to be less blunt, rather to compliment this trait
with diplomacy. So no trait is ever diminished – rather the job is to gain a more appropriate
balance, and achieving balance increases flexibility of behaviour.

Frankness and Diplomacy are 2 pairs of seemingly paradoxical traits. There are a further eleven
pairs in the paradox report which is arranged on a grid that includes:

On the vertical axis: A 4-step process (what managers and leaders do)

1. Initiating – generating ideas and making decisions

2. Motivating – motivating yourself, and getting buy-in from others
3. Implementing – getting new ideas moving, harnessing the power of teams
4. Maintaining – keeping things moving and checking ongoing contribution to the strategy

On the horizontal axis: The ‘how’ of the 4-steps above

• Interpersonal – how you communicate with self and others

• Achievement – how you get things completed
• Leadership – how you think strategically and lead others

Stereotypes and context

Coaches use a variety of assessments. In my experience a coach is likely to use with their clients
the assessment which they have experienced themselves. Some instruments have an inherent
danger of stereotyping the client as ‘this’ or ‘that’ type of person. Whilst the raised awareness
can be useful to a client, it can also act as a barrier to change. Think how often you have heard
someone say, after taking an assessment, ‘I’m a yellow creative’ or ‘I’m an ENTJ’ as if the
statement substantiates the behaviour. This is not a useful place to be when your desires and the
demands on you require you to change your behaviour. A simple test of any questionnaire based
assessment is to ask ‘so what?’ of the report. If the report is unable to offer or connect with ways
of changing behaviour, then it is at best a self-awareness tool. The
disadvantage of having no ‘tools for change’ is that the assessment
personal gives the client a language to describe their behaviour which often
development serves to reinforce what they already knew.
It may be important at this juncture to state that personal
behavioural development is behavioural change. Without it self-awareness
change becomes self-consciousness. Those with plentiful will-power may be
able to find their own ways of changing, but generally we need

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either a significant life event, or some expert support via coaching to get us into the ‘I am
already changing’ frame of mind. Without some degree of shock to the system well established
behavioural routines dominate.

Some instruments have an additional flaw or weakness in addition to having no change tools. They
assume certain behaviour regardless of context, whereas we know that people can behave very
differently across contexts. For example, a person disorganised at work can be very organised at
home. To label a weakness is counter-productive to positive change as people often seek to fulfil
the category they fall within, i.e. a person who emerges as a ‘red/blue’ may be prone to
confirming that this is indeed what they are, and who they are.

In contrast, the Harrison Paradox assessment avoids resistance to change because it has no
general labels with which to categorise and qualify your behaviour. Instead it gives you a
graphical view of how you apply yourself at work across 12 pairs of traits. So you are guided to
where imbalances occur. Specific instances are used to generate change through balancing, a
process which is assisted by the Coaching Guides (which have been specifically written for
Harrison Paradox Graph) and special NLP techniques.

Paradoxical traits

The 12 pairs of traits on the Paradox Graph are:

1. Certain Open/reflective
2. Analytical Intuitive
Download a free sample
3. Risking Analysing pitfalls Paradox Graph report
consisting of the 12 pairs of
4. Self-acceptance Self-improvement
traits plus a description of
5. Self-motivation Stress management how to interpret the results.
6. Enforcing Warmth and empathy Click the link below …
7. Frank Diplomatic
8. Persistent Experimenting
9. Authoritative Collaborative
10. Assertive Helpful

11. Organised Flexible

12. Optimistic Analysing pitfalls

The traits in red are yang (strong) traits. The traits in blue are yin (gentle) traits. The objective
for the client is twofold: 1) to gain a high scoring balance in the traits which are hindering
progress the most, and 2) to look for ways of maximising existing strengths. Such is the high
accuracy of the Paradox Report clients are able to easily connect a difficulty or problem with one
or more trait imbalances.

Harrison Paradox is used on the 2Real Leadership programme. It provides aspiring leaders with a
framework they can relate to and act upon. It is an ideal executive coaching assessment since the
traits are common to anyone wanting to succeed within an organisation consisting of people and
resources. It is also consistent with leadership thinking as portrayed by 3Collins and Porras in their
research into successful organisations ‘Built to Last’. One of the key tenets ‘tyranny of the OR,
genius of the AND’ describes a way of thinking which fits the yin/yang of Harrison Paradox.
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Getting into the detail

A coach knows that to help a client you often have to get beyond the generalisations frequently
used by clients to describe their predicament, e.g. ‘I hate doing 1:1 appraisals’ or ’I’m so
indecisive’. You get into the detail so that you can describe an actual behavioural example. Then,
when you know exactly where and when of the predicament, you can begin change work and
reinforce positive generalisations such as ‘I can learn to enjoy appraisals’ or ‘I am becoming more
decisive by the day’.

The Paradox report helps you get to the detail. For example, if a client has scored low on
certainty you might ask ‘how do you become uncertain?’ This line of questioning, which comes
from the NLP Meta model, is included in the 4Paradox Coaching Certificate course. Once you get
to a specific description and demonstration of the presenting state you can use further linguistic
patterns to assist the change process.

Underpinning the Paradox Coaching method is the yin/yang philosophy reminding us that
everything contains its opposite. So even the most uncertain person will be certain about
something or other, and if a client can be certain about some things they can learn to be certain
about others.

Coaching Guides

There are 12 Coaching Guides consisting of a series of questions and statements designed to
encourage the client to take alternative perspectives and balance a particular pair of traits. They
can be used effectively over the telephone or to support a face-to-face coaching session. The
idea is not to rattle off a list of questions; rather the coach will choose one or two questions
which are likely to have the biggest impact on the client.

The guides have been written for specific use with the 5Harrison Paradox Graph and the questions
and statements are constructed from NLP language models. It is possible to use them as self-
coaching tools, although they are designed primarily for coaches to use with their clients. They
can be used purely in conversational style, and also to reinforce any techniques you may prefer to

There is a coaching guide for three of the four quadrants which make up each pair of traits (refer
to figure one on page 1). In figure 1 there are coaching guides for each of the three quadrants:
blunt, evasive and avoids communication. As there are 12 pairs of traits there are 36 different
coaching guides available as sets of 3 per trait pair.

Advanced NLP techniques

Paradox Coaching is all about helping the client to discover and grow their own inner resources
using the central principle of Yin and Yang – that the possibility for an opposite position is always
present. So a weakness becomes a strength as the traits are balanced. Using the Paradox Graph as
a reference point, a good conversational coach with an understanding of yin yang can get
excellent results.

However, the variety, speed and duration of change can be increased using a set of advanced NLP
techniques. Even with a deeper awareness of certain traits behavioural change can be
bamboozled by a limiting belief. An experienced coach might spot a limiting belief, or sense one
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and know how to sniff out its roots. To do this you need good sensory acuity; you need to be able
to notice signs of incongruence in body language, and know what questions to ask to gain extra

Once spotted there are a number of ways you can help a client change a belief they have been
hanging onto for too long. There are specific 6language patterns and visualisation exercises which
can change beliefs quickly, on the assumption that the client has decided he wants the change,
and has a clear outcome in mind.

If you have been trained and are confident in using advanced NLP techniques, you might select a
submodality change procedure to disconnect a negative emotion from the memory which has
been causing it, and then design a new thought process to create a positive emotional state and
positive behavioural change.

Using NLP techniques it is possible to carry across resources from one context and put them in
another. This is one way to release hidden potential. In fact it is never hidden as such, rather
forgotten about as it wasn’t deemed significant enough at the time.

Working with Paradox gives the coach a way to keep coaching sessions positive, good humoured
and focussed. Whilst the outcome is client-centred, the framework ensures that the organisation
also gets value from the process. If you are a coach you can download a sample Harrison Paradox
graph for free from, or why not take the online
questionnaire yourself and receive your personal Paradox Graph plus narrative? If you do, we
welcome all feedback on accuracy and utility.

Orange paper written by David Molden, Chartered Fellow CIPD, NLP Master Practitioner and
Trainer, Director with Quadrant 1 International, author of Managing with the Power of NLP,
and NLP Business Masterclass, co-author with Pat Hutchinson on Brilliant NLP book and audio
CD and How to be Confident using the Power of NLP, co-author with Denise Parker on Beat
Your Goals, and co-author with Jon Symes on Realigning for Change.

Harrison Assessments, Hong Kong, is a widely used assessment in Asia, Australia and the USA. It consists of an online
questionnaire and a comprehensive set of recruitment and development reports. At the time of writing Harrison has not
yet been marketed widely in the UK, but is gaining recognition because of its accuracy and applicability.
Real Leadership from Quadrant 1. Website:
Built to Last by Collins and Porras, Harper Business Essentials, ISBN 0060516402
A 2-day course covering: 1) use and interpretation of Harrison Paradox, 2) use of the Coaching Guides and the NLP
concepts and techniques behind them, 3) NLP language patterns Milton and Meta models.
You can download a sample Paradox Graph and report from
Read Brilliant NLP by David Molden and Pat Hutchinson, Pearson, ISBN: 0273714937
Submodalities are what we use to represent our reality, through images, sounds and feelings. A procedure which works
with submodalities basically utilises image and sound to change the feelings associated with a past or future experience.

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