The Hierarchy of Thought
When interacting with clients as a cash flow coach, a powerful basis for your communications is understanding the ‘hierarchy of thought’ – the level at which the client sits in their thinking. At one end of this spectrum, is high-level, big-picture and abstract thinking. At the other are the details and concrete facts.
All clients will have a natural level. Some will tend to think at abstract levels, others like to focus on the details. However, all of us are constantly moving up or down the levels of the hierarchy of thought as we move through decision making or problem-solving exercises.
In terms of cash flow coaching and, as an example, a cross-section of a hierarchy of thought might look like this.
By recognising and understanding where a client sits in their hierarchy of thoughts, a cash flow coach can frame the conversation and the questions they ask, to suit the client. Do you need to take the client ‘upwards’ to a higher-level to help them see the big picture? – “Why am I doing this?” Or do you help them move ‘down’ to the details and specifics that will move them forward? – “what do I need to do to enact positive change?”
Your role as a cash flow coach is to assist clients to alter their way of thinking, re-focus their attitude and even find a better state of mind.
Chunking allows a cash flow coach to change a client’s perception by first understanding where they are in their hierarchy of thought and then using language patterns to move them in the appropriate direction.
Chunking up refers to moving from specific, detailed or small chunks of information to the big-picture, high-level ones. This helps with client’s motivation and belief and is used to: -
Obtain a clearer picture of the entire context of a problem, decision or goal.
Identify the drivers, motivators and values that underpin the actions. Cross-checking against value and belief systems is important in relation to a client’s sense of self-purpose and is beneficial in terms of stress reduction.
Think strategically and not get caught up in the minutia of fine details.
Chunking down is going the other way and looking for the concrete, actionable items that will assist the client to enact the changes that align with their goals. This helps a client focus on what needs to be done and addresses specifics such as: -
Which exact component or part to deal with?
What information or element has left out or not addressed?
Defining or unpacking what is meant by the big-picture statements
Expressing values in other ways and finding ways to achieve them
Using the example above, if a client’s commentary is around Cost Savings and their frustration is about having to buy less expensive grocery items, chunking up will help them appreciate the longer-term benefits of changing this habit.
Conversely, if they are communicating at a Security level and using phrases like “I want to know that my family is looked after and we have a secure future”, chunking down will move their focus to how this is to be achieved.
Whether you need to chunk up or chunk down, the best ways to move between the hierarchy of thought levels is through questioning.
If you want to chunk up from a specific item to the bigger picture, you could ask “What is the outcome of doing this?”; “What is it, that makes doing this important?”; or simply ask “What’s the big picture?”
Another language pattern that cash flow coaches use to chunk up, is to relate actions to benefits. “What is the benefit of doing this?”. Similarly, it can be related to purpose. “To what end or purpose does doing this achieve?”
The language becomes repeatable, using the same style of question multiple times to move the client up their hierarchy of thought. Once the client has provided an answer you can use that answer for the next question. “And what’s important about that?’. Using ‘And’ to start the next question provides a connection to the previous question, keeps things moving and on-track and even has a slight trance-like effect which comforts the client. It has been suggested that you need to build on the question up to five times to reach high-level thinking.
In doing this, it’s advisable to vary the question and use words and phrases that infer bigger-picture thinking. “What might be even more important than that?”. “What’s your highest purpose or motivation for doing this?”. The words ‘more’ and ‘highest’, challenge your cash flow client to think at an abstract level.
Chunking up and higher levels of abstract thinking are less likely to cause disagreement or dissension between coach and client. This is because abstract thinking is very personal and the same abstraction can mean different things to each individual. Having ‘a secure financial future’, as an example, maybe important for all clients, although how it looks could be very dissimilar.
And, chunking up moves the state of mind of the client. When we are talking about concrete things and details, we can form a picture or image of them. Things like shopping lists, cars, having a promotion conversation with the boss or a bank account statement are all things we have previously seen or can imagine. However, when we chunk up from these and turn the conversation to higher-level, abstract thoughts, like ‘freedom’, ‘happiness’ and ‘security’, your client will have to utilise their emotions and feelings to find their answers.
When chunking down you are moving a client from the trance-like realm of feelings and emotions back to the reality of what’s actually going on around them.
To chunk down you need to get to the specifics and details. “Tell me how you think you can achieve this?”; “What exactly will you do to get this done?”; “Give me an example of how that will work?”.
The skill of a cash flow coach is transitioning this softly and subtlety, because it can come across as quite aggressive and leave the client feeling like they have been interrogated.
And, chunking down to more details, can lead to a diverse range of outcomes and actions. Remember, ‘a secure financial future for my family’, is the same but different. For one client it may be a loving environment and providing the necessities of life. For another, it may mean funding university-level education and regular world travel.
When you’re chunking up with a client, they are likely to feel more motivated, better about themselves and open to the conversation. However, they may not be aware of the actions and details they need to enact. Chunking down will make the client more focussed on the task at hand and what needs to be done to achieve their goals. However, it can make them feel disheartened (especially if there are obstacles they are struggling to conquer) and it puts them under pressure to change and accept that the habits they have may not be aligned to the outcomes they truly want.
elevateB provides the training program as well as support and ongoing development for certified cash flow coaches. Individuals who choose to work with a certified cash flow coach are better placed to achieve financial independence and security. If you would like to make a difference and help everyday Australians be more financially prudent and savvy, consider becoming a cash flow coach today. Click here.