My car spun out on the Gardiner on a snowy winter night. When it stopped turning, I faced the Boulevard Club. My heart thudded painfully. I asked myself, “What am I doing?”
I had left our young kids with a friend and drove to work downtown late in the day because I had to calculate bonus payouts on a tight deadline. Around 11 p.m. I closed shop, exhausted, and left.
Each lane of the Gardiner had grooves created by car tires with snow almost a foot high in between. I had to change lanes to exit the highway. As I shifted from one lane to the next, my sedan “floated” on the snow and began spinning. I felt terrified. I could only pray that no one hit me from behind or beside. Thankfully, no one did.
But now I was parked sideways looking at the Boulevard Club.
In coaching, a client presents a query or discussion point at the start of the session for which he/she wants clarity by the session’s end. This is the little “a” which is shorthand for “agenda.” The presenting problem becomes the topic of the session. By the end of the session, the client creates a plan of action or gets homework related to further reflection.
Big A refers to the overarching agenda of the client. It is the main reason they wanted coaching and usually represents some greater understanding they seek which will result in self-awareness and growth. In career coaching, this takes the form of finding their career purpose, creating a leadership style, or improving their productivity and/or business skills.
Big A and Little A in action
Let’s say a client had a difficult interaction with her boss and wants to review what happened and how she could handle it differently in the future. That’s the topic of the session, the little a. The big A for her is developing leadership skills as she wants to move into a more senior role.
Here are three ways we might address the little a in a session:
- We may investigate her saboteurs and how they affected the interaction;
- We could conduct an exercise to view the topic from different perspectives before brainstorming some new solutions;
- We might explore the feelings that came up in that interaction to release them and regain lost energy.
We address the client’s Big A on leadership by using little a as an example. She may come to realize her Judge saboteur emerges when she feels threatened or that her negative view of her boss affects her interactions with her or that she bottles up her emotions at work.
All these viewpoints are valuable in understanding leadership. With awareness of how she reacts in this situation, she can find better ways of responding in future situations. Ways that identify her as a leader.
The Boulevard Club
That snowy night was a come-to-Jesus moment.
I was spinning my wheels.
My Little a was what happened on the Gardiner. I realized the current working scenario was unsustainable. I quit the next day.
My Big A was prioritizing what was important. I thought I could have it all. What I learned was, I could have it all … but not all at once.