Here’s a metaphor I use often when coaching people. It is called the lifetree and I use it as a tool to raise awareness of the resources of the past and the possible futures and to identify strengths and weaknesses and learning paths.
It has a lot of applications in career coaching and in coaching in general. In agile it can be used with fresh Scrum Masters and Product Owners who need to understand how to cope with their new roles.
This metaphor is intended to give the opportunity to the coach to ask solution-focused questions under a consistent umbrella, an overall framework for the session.
Imagine you are a tree!
A tree has roots, that represent your past.
Each root is important: it is an experience you made in the past, contributing to your current situation and it is a resource you can use for your future. You might decide to build on it or not, but it is there. You cannot change it, but you can decide when and how to use it – if at all.
And you have a lot of different roots that are feeding you: parents and relatives, friends, educations, previous jobs and colleagues, …: just stop and think for some minutes about them. You have collected a lifelong richness of experiences that brought you to where you are and can indeed help you in the future.
- How long are the roots?
- How thick? How solid?
- On what ground are they growing? Are they stable? Are they nutritious?
A tree has also a trunk: this is you now, with the strength given from your roots!
- How is the trunk? Small? Large? Stable? Flexible?
- How should it be different?
- What difference would you need in the roots to have the trunk you want?
A tree has branches and leaves: these are your possible futures and choices and directions you will choose.
As in any tree, what grows on top comes from what’s on the bottom, and you’re your own gardener:
- What could you grow from your roots?
- What other roots would you need to grow something different? And what would this something different be?
- Is there any branch bigger and richer than the others? What makes it so?
- Is there any branch that is dying? What is this branch missing?
- How are the leaves? How should they be instead?
- What fruits do you want? Are they already growing? If not, what’s missing? What needs to be different?
There is an amazing amount of explorations you can do just looking at your roots and your branches!
In order to fix the learning, ask the client to draw herself as a tree!
Though this is a tool regularly used in systemic coaching in Germany, I curiously could not find any reference in English: if you have any you’re welcome to post it here. For German speakers, here’s a description of the method.