I’m a business/leadership coach. Can you give me an example of how using metaphors might help my clients? 

I had a client, who I’ll call John, who runs a business with eight employees. He wants his employees work together as an effective team, but two employees aren't communicating. Using metaphors and Clean Language questions, I facilitated his exploration of the situation.

My first Clean question: “And when you’re a leader, you’re like what?" John says he’s like a coach of a sports team, sharing values and goals with the team members. But further exploration reveals a fundamental problem: a sports coach is an expert in the sport. But this business man is not an expert in marketing or sales or human resources, etc.  John says this is the crux of his dilemma: how can he make decisions and give directives in areas where he doesn't have expertise?

So, I seek another metaphor: “And what kind of coach is a coach with an effective team when he's not an expert?" John's answer: a film director.  A director has the overall vision and determines the direction team members will take, but he's not an expert in acting, lighting, sound, set design, etc.  Still, he makes the decisions, and he is free to be creative.  John realizes that creativity is an important part of his role, one he hadn't considered before the session. And this is not unusual—discovering a new dimension that linear, logical analysis might never have uncovered.  

To read a transcript of this session and what happened in John’s follow-up session, see my book, Mining Your Client’s Metaphors: A How-to Workbook on Clean Language and Symbolic Modeling, Basics Part Two: Facilitating Change.