By Lorraine Madden

Is the glass half empty or half full? What would you say? This well-known saying requires little explanation. Typically, even when we are looking at the same situation, we can see it or make sense of it in very different ways. These different ways of thinking, about problems, challenges and even people can all be described as examples of reframing.

Reframing is a useful technique that is used in social work (McCashen, 2005) and in coaching (Greene & Grant, 2003). McCashen (2005) defines reframing as follows:

‘Reframing helps people think differently about themselves and the problems they are facing. It involves exploring alternative perspectives on the same event, story or experience and enabling genuine choice of a preferred description. Reframing is aimed at creating possible positive descriptions’ (p. 63).

Greene and Grant (2003) describe it in the following way:

‘Reframing is about changing the meaning we give to events, not necessarily changing the events themselves’ (p. 41).

Both definitions highlight the potential of reframing in thinking about a current perspective in a new and different way. Reframing is also an opportunity to rethink the event or story in a more positive light. This is important because how we see a person, situation or challenge impacts on how we respond. With people we can either damage or strengthen the relationship, depending on the viewpoint we take. With situations, our perspective can stop us from taking action or alternatively, inspire us to take the first step towards reaching a goal.

Regardless of whether we are ‘coaching’ ourselves or someone else, reframing is a useful tool for thinking about and understanding people and situations in a different way or from a previously unconsidered perspective. For example:

  • Do we describe parents as ‘demanding’ or an advocate for their child?
  • Do we label children as challenging or having unmet emotional needs?
  • Do we see our peers and colleagues as not motivated, or motivated by something different to us?
  • Do we describe a relapse in making a change as a failure or an opportunity to celebrate progress to date and make some adjustments to the plan?
  • Do we reprimand ourselves for being nervous, or remind ourselves that being nervous might be a very normal response in a given situation?

Below is a list of statements with some possible reframing responses. Reframing responses can be statements, questions or a combination of both. You might also like to consider some different ways to respond.


Statement Reframe
“We have tried that already…” So we have a good idea about what doesn’t work. What can we do differently this time?
“It has been an absolute failure.” An absolute failure? Which bits did work? What can we learn from what happened? What might we do next time?
“We don’t have the time to do any of that.” What can we stop doing in order to make time? Which bits do we have time for?
“Just ignore it. That child is just doing that to get attention?” I wonder what the child is trying to tell us that we just aren’t getting? What do we need to do to better understand them?
“That parent isn’t interested in being involved. That’s just the way they are!” I wonder what barriers exist that might disable parents from participating fully?

Adapted from Greene & Grant (2003)

Why not brainstorm some of the labels, statements or perspectives that are creating barriers to successful relationships, positive changes or goal attainment, and think about what other understandings or viewpoints might be possible. Try to suspend judgments and remain curious about different ways to understand the person, event or challenge. You might also like to brainstorm ideas with colleagues or friends, before deciding on a new way of thinking, and potentially a new course of action.

And finally, back to the question of whether the glass is half empty or half full…. perhaps the glass is always full!


Greene, J. & Grant, A. M. (2003). Solution-Focused Coaching: Managing people in a complex world. Harlow:Pearson Educated Limited.

McCashen, W. (2005). The Strengths Approach. Bendigo: St Luke’s Innovative Resources.

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Written by: Lorraine Madden, Associate @ Semann & Slattery

There is a strong evidence base about the benefits of using strengths at work. Discovering and using strengths has been found to help people achieve their goals, increase positive emotions and wellbeing, and enhance workplace performance (Linely, Willars & Biswas-Diener, 2010). Click on the following links to read more about the evidence base for using strengths:

Linely (2008) defines a strength as ‘a preexisting capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking, or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance’ (p. 9). He also argues that ‘realising our strengths is the smallest thing we can do to make the biggest difference’ (2008, p. 47)

Clearly, the research is compelling. However, we can’t utilise our strengths if we don’t know what they are! All to often, when people are asked to name their strengths, they struggle to do so. Interestingly, they can be quick to name the things they are not good at, or their so-called weaknesses.

Don’t despair! There are a number of resources available to help you identify your strengths. One that is well utilised is the Values in Action (VIA) Survey of Character Strengths (Peterson & Seligman, 2004). The survey measures a person’s twenty-four character strengths. The results provide, in rank order, a person’s character strengths from 1-24, including their top five ‘signature strengths’. To complete the survey, go to Click on register and complete the free registration, prior to completing the survey itself. Allow yourself about 30 minutes to complete the survey.

When you get your results, some of you may be tempted to focus on those ‘strengths’ at the bottom of the list. Certainly, there may be some instances in which you may want to develop strengths lower down the order. However, where possible, look for opportunities to maximise the use of your signature strengths. Linely and his colleagues argue that in some instances it can be helpful to pair a top strength with a lesser one, in order to reach a goal. They also propose using a team approach, working with colleagues to utilise their strengths, together with your own, to achieve a desired result.

As a word of caution, Linely and his colleagues advise you take care not to overplay your strengths. Of course it is appealing to use what comes naturally to you, you are good at, and find energising. However, take care to ensure they are appropriate to the situation, context and people involved.

Why not make an appointment with yourself today (or this week) to complete the VIA Survey of Character Strengths. Suggest your colleagues to do the same so you can compare your results, remembering this is not a competition, as all strengths have value. Reflect on how you are currently using your signature strengths, both individually and collectively, and look for opportunities to ultilise them more frequently.

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Written by Lorraine Madden. Associate, Semann & Slattery

Everything you always wanted to know about coaching and were too afraid to ask!

What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘coaching’? Most probably the answer is sport! Certainly, coaching has connections with sport, and draws on theories and research from sports psychology. It also draws on business consulting and management training, education and psychology (Grant & Greene, 2001). In recent years there has been increasing interest in the potential of coaching to enhance learning, performance and personal growth, and promote positive change personally and professionally. Increasingly, coaching is seen as a viable alternative or complement to professional development programs.

So what exactly is coaching?

Coaching has been defined in various ways in the professional literature. A study by Hamlin, Ellinger and Beattie (2009) investigated 36 definitions of coaching as part of a study to examine the range of meanings and understandings given to coaching. More recently, coaching has been defined as:

A collaborative endeavour between a coach and a client (an individual or group) for the purpose of enhancing life experience, skills, performance, capacities or wellbeing of the client. This is achieved through the systemic application of theory and practice to facilitate the attainment of the coachee’s goals in the coachee’s context (Standards Australia, 2011, p.10).

Put simply, coaching is a goal-oriented, solution-focused conversation between a coachee and coach, which promotes the learning and development of the coachee and supports them to create positive changes in their lives.

Coaching and mentoring – what’s the difference?

Sometimes the terms ‘coaching’ and ‘mentoring’ are used interchangeably. This can create confusion as to how they are different and when you might use one over the other. Typically, at the beginning of a coaching engagement, the coach will give an overview of the way they will work with the coachee. This provides an opportunity to define such terms, ensure there is a common understanding about what will happen in the coaching sessions, and clarify the roles and responsibilities of the coachee and the coach.

Mentoring typically involves someone with greater experience and expertise supporting a mentee to gain the skills, knowledge and expertise required in their new position. This is done through a combination of showing, telling and guiding. In coaching, the coachee sets the agenda, according to their purpose or intention in seeking coaching. In addition, while the coach will bring a particular set of skills, experience and expertise to the coaching relationship, this does not need to be related to the occupation or experience of the coachee (Greene & Grant, 2003).

Why coaching?

There is a growing body of evidence of the benefits of coaching for individuals, teams and organisations. This includes greater commitment to the goals set in coaching, and increased success in attaining those goals. It also includes increased well-being, hope and resilience (See Grant, 2003; Green, Oades & Grant, 2006; Spence & Grant, 2007; Greene, Grant & Rynsaardt, 2007; Grant, Curtayne & Burton, 2009).

These findings are supported in the outcomes of a project conducted by Semann & Slattery in 2011 with leaders and aspiring leaders in the early and middle education sector in Western Australia and the Northern Territory (Slattery, 2012). Participation in the project involved attendance at three professional development workshops and engagement in three individual coaching sessions. The focus of the program was to equip leaders to increase positivity in the workplace through increasing their own levels of hope and optimism. Results demonstrated increased levels of hope, optimism, work engagement and workplace wellbeing and reduced levels of stress. In addition, the majority of participants (89%) reported that they had very positive experiences of coaching.

Why not coaching?

Do you have a commitment to ongoing learning, enjoy challenging yourself, and are ready to create positive change? If the answer is yes, coaching might provide an alternative or addition to more traditional methods of learning and development such as conferences, workshops and/or professional reading.

Coaching is one of a suite of professional services available at Semann & Slattery. Contact our office for more information and a professional quote by phone (02 95571460) or email (

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