The Cleveland Consulting Group


Don't miss another Issue!
Join our
Mailing List


Pause, Reflect, Choose (PRC): Providing Coaching Tools for the Client

Herb Stevenson, CEO
July 7, 2013

Over the last several years, a tool I’ve shared with all of my executive clients has been to measure their response to almost any situation through the use of a natural process of pause, reflect, then choose (PRC). In the course of a recent coaching engagement, the executive asked for clarification of the reflect stage of the PRC process. This question led me to realize that there was more involved than simply to reflect, but to reflect on an appropriate response consistent with the individual, the situation, and the executive’s desired outcome. While considering the numerous examples of how to reflect on these three aspects (of the process), I realized that I was actually indicating a more complex process. Specifically, the act of reflecting takes the executive out of the habitual response mode thereby enabling him/her to take into consideration whether to acknowledge, inform, direct, recover, or to repair.

The Habitualized Responses

As the executive instantly assesses an individual and the situation that surrounds a conversation, the typical response is quick and likely to replicate similar circumstances from numerous other experiences. The desired action is rarely a conscious decision as it tends to be consistent with the executive’s prior successful decisions. When I am brought in to support the executive, it is often because his/her style has become problematic. In short, the habitualized response is no longer effective.

Application to PRC

As I considered this executive’s request for clarification, I realized that the process of reflection addressed the dynamic of executive engagement. The reflective pause creates an immediate opportunity to decide whether to acknowledge, inform, direct, recover or repair depending on the situation. In other words, much of PRC is related to the executive’s engagement style.

Figure 1: Pause, Reflect, Choose (PRC) Process

Pause, Reflect, Choose Diagram

(Click here for larger diagram on website)

Executive Engagement

A recent article by Cuddy, Kohut, and Neflinger indicated that to effectively influence, an executive must first connect with others before moving into areas of expertise and competency. (Connect, then Lead, HBR., July-August, 2013). To fully appreciate this dynamic, a correlation between the degree of warmth (personal engagement) and the executive competency was created. It revealed that there are four reactions to the executive style of engagement (or presence) based on this dynamic that include— active engagement, passive support, active harm, or passive harm. Active engagement suggests that the executive pauses to acknowledge and “see” the individual before moving into the active conversation of the situation at hand. Passive support suggests moving quickly into engaging the situation without acknowledging the individual beyond a quick greeting. Passive harm suggests that the executive does not engage the situation with competency nor the individual with any acknowledgment as a person. Active harm suggests moving directly into strong problem solving to the exception of the person and could include outright condemnation of the individual.

An underlying aspect of connection with the executive is the instantaneous assessment of the situation by the employee. He/she quickly determines “can you be trusted to hear and understand him/her” or if it is an “us versus them” situation. It is common for clients to have less understanding of this process resulting in the “us versus them” mentality when in decision-making mode.

For example, as noted in the research article mentioned above, connecting is a critical aspect of the overall perception of all peers and direct reports. PRC creates the opportunity to first acknowledge the other person, and then to determine if this is an opportunity to inform or provide direction. In the event that the individual has brought a startling situation to the executive’s attention, the pause can be used to recover from the shock and to proceed to gaining a better understanding. If the conversation involves addressing prior confrontations that resulted in poor relations, the executive can move towards the repair process. As a self awareness and self monitoring tool, PRC has proven to be quite effective.

Coaching Tool

As coaches, we utilize PRC all the time and tend to model it for our clients. Doing so requires a desire to witness how the clients engage others and to slow down and shift from a habitualized, highly efficient mode to a conscious, more effective mode. This distinction is critical for the client to appreciate and integrate. Their habitualized processes are well honed decision-making skills that have likely resulted in their success. Nonetheless, these same skills are often what is causing the dissension with direct reports, peers, and likely the board of directors; ergo the less effective results that led to a coach being hired.

An Example

One of my clients struggled with PRC for an extended period of time. After many attempts, we took the time to examine how the razor sharp decision-making style served and dis-served him. He liked the adrenal sensation of fast-paced, important decision-making. It provided a sense of significance to his day. As he examined the impact of some of his decisions, we reviewed how his decision-making style was impacting the individuals, situations, and the organization. Based on the feedback provided, it was revealed that his approach often felt like a tidal wave that crushed everything in its wake. Not only was the style washing over the person involved, it often left no room to clarify that the decision had no relevance to the actual problem/situation. This tended to lead to misdirection of action or resources or was a means to bypass the decision as nothing was done until another opportunity arose to get the real issue.

Though difficult for him to swallow, the client agreed to use PRC by responding and asking the simple question, “can you phrase that differently—or can you say more— to insure I understand the issue?” Another response was for him to paraphrase what he understood then pause to ask if what he said was that correct. Within a week, the impact was noticed by all. A sense of being heard and understood began to permeate the organization. In addition, the executive noticed that people were beginning to engage him differently—more openly and forthcoming with information. He realized that his style of engagement had preempted open conversations. Most importantly, a tension seemed to lift in most meetings. Instead of a sense of forbearance, decision-making became more consensual and dialogic. Employees felt like better decisions were being made by the team instead of being-force fed by the leader.

Developing Empathy

In this case, we were able to further develop the client’s engagement style by examining empathy and the need for affiliation. Empathy is implicit to PRC as it requires a sense of witnessing oneself and assessing how to affiliate with the individual and situation. Often a lack of empathy in the client is due to a lack of awareness that affiliation in the form of a sense of belonging is critical to all organizations. If there is no sense of affiliation to the executive, the individual and the organization quietly suffers loudly1. Instead of synergy through alignment, there tends to be fragmentation into turf wars and ducking the real issues in the form of silos, stove pipes2, and foxholes3. As the client understands and practices PRC, empathy, the capacity to understand the feelings of others, develops. As a result, individuals and the organization over time tend to relax enough to begin to build deeper understanding that leads to better decisions and more effective implementation.

Caveat Executive

In this specific situation, the executive asked if he should beware of himself and more importantly how can he be effective in a crisis. I answered that the executive that is consciously self-aware tends to be the most effective because he is considering the individual, situation and the desired impact; hence there would be no need to beware of himself. I added that being consciously self-aware does not mean that the executive should neuter himself. A critical aspect of PRC is to know when to take direct action, such as in a crisis. However, the distinguishing aspect of the use of direction is that it should be done after a pause, reflection, and clear choice for what is most effective based on the individual, the situation, and the organization. When PRC is used, the leader is able to connect and therefore appropriately influence the individual, situation, and organization.


1 It is common for the “unsaid”, “unspeakable”, and “undiscussable” to be considered quietly suffering loudly. Many marriages struggle with this issue. It also is found within Abilene Paradoxes.

2 A siloed/stovepipe organization is one where the structure of the organization largely or entirely restricts the flow of information within the organization to up-down through lines of control but inhibits or prevents cross organizational communication. Wikipedia.

3 A foxhole is dug in preparation for an imminent danger. It is designed to get below ground and out of the line of fire.


Gestalt Coaching:
A Journey into Advanced Skill Building

October 13-18, 2013
Punderson State Park, Cleveland Ohio

Gestalt Coaching: A Journey into Advanced Skill Building is a “coming-home” experience for those seeking to build upon their existing Gestalt skills. It is an in-depth experience steeped in personal growth through self awareness and professional development through a refinement of your gestalt coaching/consulting skills.


Gestalt Coaching: A Journey into Advanced Skill Building is an intensive experience that requires a commitment to expand your knowledge and practice. This translates into an extensive manual of original writings from my 30 years of executive coaching and consulting. In addition, 30+ supporting articles that influenced the writings will be available to further deepen your practice knowledge. These supporting articles will be from prestigious publications such as the Harvard Business Review, MIT Sloan Management Review, Strategy & Business, Ivey Business Journal, and the McKinsey Quarterly.

Know-Do Gap

Robert Sutton coined the phrase, the “Know-Do gap” to explain that to fully embrace new learning it requires increasing the knowledge base (know) and then directly applying it through various practical experiences (do). As such, the workshop will be a mix of learn-a-little then do-a-little.

Maximizing Your Experience

Many Gestalt experiences are viewed as learn-a-little from the teaching at the workshops and do-a-lot, with the emphasis on not reading in advance. Attendees are strongly encouraged to complete the readings in advance to maximize the experience by eliminating the Know-Do gap. If you decide to skip the readings until after the workshop, it will reduce your overall experience, but not be a gamechanger.

Foundational Assumptions

We will be working in a field of energy. Hence the field phenomena will constantly impact every one. As gestaltists, as we become more present, our capacity to have a refined form of “seeing” the various models will occur. Being open to new ways to perceive is an important aspect of the program.

We will also be impacting each other. Hence, we will be practicing the learn, apply, learn, do, learn, apply aspect of action learning/research. This can cause some discomfort, however as gestaltist, it's assumed that to learn, we must lean into our discomfort.

Taking Care of You

Each morning there will be the choice to do a walkabout on the beautiful land of the Punderson Park or to do Yoga or to do a quiet reflective time near the lake. It is imperative that you grant yourself the time to rejuvenate while at this workshop. We encourage you to unplug from work if at all possible.

Optional Direct Application

The workshop is intensive. Hence, we will use evening to further your experience; however, it is optional. These evening sessions will focus on your personal development as a coach. For example, on Monday night, a self assessment that must be completed prior to arriving will be used to support self-understanding while applying the gestalt paradoxical theory of change. On Tuesday night we will delve into an understanding of how anxiety and fear play into your coaching both as the coach and in understanding your client. Wednesday night we will explore space and time as a tool to determine where you (and your client) are stuck and unable to take advantage of being fully present to create the life that you seek. Thursday night will be an examination of how parallel processes can impact the coaching relationship. Each of these optional sessions are designed to deepen your understanding of yourself as a coach and how the models can be implicitly or explicitly used in your coaching practice.


There are several assessments that will need to be completed prior to arriving. The first is a detailed reflective process that will support your understanding of how you are coming into the workshop. If you do the Monday night optional class, it will be an absolute necessity. In addition it will be part of the Sunday night opening of the circle. You will also receive a intercultural conflict style instrument via mail which will be used to support your understanding of how cultural conflict styles can be addressed in your coaching practice.

You will also be provided information for competing the MBTI Step 2, Form Q, the Thomas Kilmann Conflict Instrument, and the FIRO-Business. These are important as you will use class time to build your individual development plan to be implemented when you return to your practice.

Professional Requirements

Participants must have completed a Gestalt coaching certification program or one or more intensive Gestalt OD experience(s) that is at least 15 classroom days in length prior to coming to this workshop. The basic gestalt concepts will not be reviewed in this intensive program. If you are unsure, please contact us for clarification or complete the application from which a decision will be made.

Limited Size

To maximize your experience, the class is limited to 16 gestalt advanced participants.

Punderson Manor Lodge


Punderson Manor Lodge DiningThe workshop will be at the Punderson State Park near Cleveland in Newbury, OH 44065. It is located on rolling hills overlooking the Punderson Lake with many hiking trails. There is a wonderful restaurant and bar for dining and after-hours enjoyment.

Room Reservations

Rooms have been reserved for this workshop. Please indicate “Gestalt Coaching Workshop” to get the reduced rate of $145.39 per night including breakfast buffet and a lite lunch for your room in the Manor. For those wanting time with friends, there are cabins for 2-4 people at $163.39 per person including breakfast buffet and a lite lunch. Contact Punderson directly at (440) 564-9144.


It is approximately a one-hour trip to Punderson from either the Cleveland Hopkins or the Akron/Canton airports. Rental cars are available at the airports or there is an excellent Limo service. Contact SHIMA LIMOUSINE SERVICE, INC., 7555 Tyler Blvd #12, Mentor OH 44060. Phone: 440-918-6400, Email: I suggest coordinating and sharing rides.

Professional Requirements

Participants should have completed a Gestalt Clinical Training program, a Gestalt, Ontological, or Present-centered coaching program or one or more intensive Gestalt OD Experience(s) prior to coming to this workshop. The basic gestalt concepts will not be reviewed in this intensive program. If you are unsure, please contact us for clarification or complete the application from which a decision will be made.


The fee for Gestalt Coaching: A Journey into Advanced Skill Building including all materials is $2900.00. There is a $400 discount if paid in full by September 1, 2013. Make checks payable and mail to Cleveland Consulting Group, Inc., 9796 Cedar Road, Novelty Ohio 44072-9747.

An application fee of $200 may be submitted to hold your place. The balance owed will be $2,300 if paid by September 1, 2012, or $2,700 if paid after. The balance is due before the workshop begins.

Register Now


Herb Stevenson will facilitate the workshop.

Drinking from the Gestalt Well

Due to the highly talented nature of the participants, we will draw upon each other to deepen the learning.

Course Topics

The following articles will be used in the program:

  • A Gestalt Approach to Coaching: Ground Building
  • Coaching at the Point of Contact: A Gestalt Approach
  • Coaching Perceptual Patterns: Finding the Real Issue
  • Coaching the Urgency/Priority Paradox
  • The Impact of Culture on Coaching
  • The Impact of Organizational Culture on Coaching, Part 1
  • The Impact of Organizational Culture on Coaching, Part 2
  • Gestalt Contact Styles
  • Gestalt Understanding Space & Time in Coaching
  • Anxiety and Fear in Coaching
  • Coaching the Narcissistic Personality
  • Paradoxical Theory of Change
  • Parallel Processes in Organizational Situations


To Top