I was talking to another coach a couple of weeks ago when he asked me what my favourite coaching tool was. Coaches often talk about this as we have loads of tricks and techniques at our disposal and like to share knowledge, but this was such an easy question to answer.
I said it was doing a Warriors, Settlers and Nomads profile and helping the client understand it and use it well.
‘Huh? Warriors, Settlers and Nomads? What’s that?’
Not many coaches know about it, maybe because it’s more often used in therapy. But I love it and use it all the time in my coaching for fast, effective results. It’s perfect for working on confidence and self-belief. The power of it amazes me every single time.
Here’s some more about it:
Warriors, Settlers and Nomads (WSN) is, at its simplest, a behavioural profiling technique that allows us to identify our natural strengths. Practitioners ask a few simple questions and the answers to those questions allow us to understand what drives a client’s behaviour, to gain visibility of what’s behind their beliefs and attitudes. When we understand the drivers, belief and attitudes we can start to manage them.
The truth is that many confidence issues stem from an inner conflict. There are things we want to do, but we hold ourselves back. Maybe we just don’t think we can do something, but that’s sometimes an excuse. More usually we hold ourselves back because we’re fighting with ourselves about the right thing to do. You may recognise some of these:
- As children we’re often taught to keep people happy, look after others, be modest, don’t push ourselves forward, be ‘good’. This can trap us into patterns of behaviour that, as adults, are no longer very helpful.
- If we speak up people will think we’re aggressive so we had better keep quiet.
- If we charge a lot for our services clients will think we’re greedy, or getting above ourselves, so we had better keep prices low.
- We’re fed up with being taken for granted at work but if we ask for help, or a promotion or pay-rise everyone will think we’re getting cocky and not a team player so we had better just work a bit harder and hope someone notices.
Just think of all the time and energy going into and wasted on that internal conflict. If you ever want to do something but think you had better not because you might upset someone all you’re doing is making life hard for yourself. Why, because you may not be rocking the boat for others but you are creating for yourself a vicious circle of self-sacrifice, frustration, resentment, anger, humiliation and quiet seething at the injustice of it all.
The beauty of WSN is that you can get past all that ‘oughtism’ (things you feel you ought to be doing, the ‘shoulds’ that aren’t what necessarily what you want to be doing) and find a way to reconcile what you want to do with how you really want to be. This allows you to get to the real truth of what you want from your job, your business, your friends, life, anything and devise an effective, comfortable way of making it happen. Or it may be enough for you to understand why you feel the way you do and just accept things. Whichever path you choose, it puts you back in control of your feelings, reactions and behaviour and the inner fighting calms right down.
All of that sounds really heavy, and it is in the sense that we’re working on deep-seated attitudes, beliefs and problems. But the WSN process is great fun. Clients love it and we often laugh our way through sessions as insights happen and the realization dawns that it’s OK to be yourself. It really, really is.
So where did it come from?
WSN was devised by the eminent therapist Terence Watts, MCGI whose book ‘Warriors, Settlers and Nomads: Discovering Who We Are and Who We Can Be’ was published in 2000.
In the book Terence suggests that we not only inherit physical characteristics (eye and hair colour, body shape etc) from our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and their ancestors but we also inherit some psychological characteristics, ‘the biological memory traces of attitudes towards success and survival that are every bit as relevant today as they were then.’ (Watts, 2017). If we can identify and understand those attitudes and beliefs we can harness them and use them to ensure that we survive and thrive in all areas of our lives.
So we have ancestors who would have been Warriors. Warriors are strong and determined and fight for what they want. Think Vikings, Romans, Normans or any other warlike people. Our Warrior side is often decisive, forceful, assertive and goal-oriented.
We also have ancestors who would have been Settlers, peaceful people who formed communities, domesticated animals and farmed the land. They may well have been a pushover for the Warriors, but they could also have been a civilizing, calming influence. Our Settler side is often caring, quiet, and reluctant to change.
Our Nomad ancestors would have wandered from place to place, enjoying the good times and happily moving on when life got a bit harder. Our Nomad side is fun loving, creative and restless.
You can immediately see the source of our internal conflict. When we’re faced with a problem our Warrior side wants to fight, our Settler wants to calm everything down and our Nomad wants to run away! We are at our happiest and most successful when our Warrior, Settler and Nomad sides are in harmony, when a decision or course of action is equally acceptable to all.
The questions I referred to at the start of this article allow us to understand our own unique mix of Warrior, Settler and Nomad traits and beliefs. Once we know this, we can then learn how to use our innate strengths to help us succeed and find ways to manage the unhelpful thought patterns and behaviours that may sometimes trip us up.
Here’s how it has helped some of my clients. These approaches may not work for you, or anyone else. Don’t get hung up on any doubts you have about whether this solution would be right for you. The point of WSN is that you find a way of managing problems that suits your unique situation and style, that feels right to you. When I am working with you I spend a lot of time helping you identify what the right way for you is.
These stories are shared with the permission of the clients involved but names and other details that may allow them to be identified have been changed.
Sue wanted to make a major change to her career but felt trapped and unable to do what she really wanted. She was unhappy and ready to move on but something was holding her back. We prepared her WSN profile and worked out why she felt so unhappy but was unable to change things.
Her Settler side was really upset at the idea of such a massive change, the upheaval it could cause to the colleagues she liked and respected as well as the financial insecurity it could bring. Her Warrior side was more than ready for fresh challenges and her Nomad side was desperate for some fun and a change of scene, something that would allow Sue to be more creative. But Sue’s Settler was digging its heels in saying no to everything her Warrior and Nomad wanted to do.
Over the course of a few sessions Sue was able to come up with a plan that would minimise disruption and insecurity but allow her to do something different. A year later she is thriving and happy in her new career.
Paul was promoted and started having trouble with a couple of members of his new team. He didn’t feel they were taking him seriously and he was losing his confidence at work. He had started looking for a new job. He had been with the firm for a while, liked it and really didn’t want to move on but felt he had to.
We discovered that Paul’s Warrior side had stopped trusting itself to manage people effectively, egged on by his Settler who wanted his new team to like him. Seeing the problem, his Nomad side, which was very strong, just wanted to run away! We found a way to more closely align Paul’s Warrior, Settler and Nomad and I also taught Paul some useful management techniques. He is now happy and settled in his new role and has been praised as an effective manager.
Mary is a coach who is very good at what she does. However she really disliked having to sell and was struggling financially because she also didn’t think she could charge much for her services.
We discovered that Mary’s Settler side was very strong, made more so by her upbringing, and that it could also be negative and judgmental. She had firm values around service and helping people and felt she shouldn’t be charging for what she did, especially as she enjoyed it so much. She also believed that selling was taking advantage of people and making them spend money they didn’t have.
We did a lot of work on those beliefs and Mary realised that they had been distorted by some of her father’s attitudes. Mary’s Settler came to understand that she offered real value to her clients and although she felt emotionally rewarded she also needed to earn money to eat, pay the mortgage and live.
This was a major breakthrough. Mary’s Settler was suddenly comfortable when her Warrior side took charge of sales conversations, as long as they were ethical and client-led her Settler. It’s a work in progress but she is finding it easier to talk about what she does, price appropriately and her conversion rate has improved substantially.
What about me? I have always been a good girl. Chores done, homework in on time, looking after others, polite, never in trouble. I am the oldest of 6 children and for various reasons always had to be sensible and responsible. At 18 I went off to London, got a good degree, qualified as an accountant and had a successful career in international finance. But every now and again I would go off the rails a bit. Ditch the duty for fun, or just say fuck it and walk away. That could get me into trouble and once cost me a 6-figure retention package when I just couldn’t hack the politics and game playing of one particular role any more.
Reading all that, it’s obvious I’m predominantly a Nomad. But I would have said I was a Settler, with a bit of Warrior thrown in. WSN helped me strip away all of the acquired behaviour and really understand myself. My Nomad’s sometimes needy and irresponsible and can still go a bit mad sometimes but he’s a lot happier now I’m running my own business, answer to no-one and have lots of freedom. It helps that I can indulge my creativity every day by writing things like this, or creating webinars and courses. My Settler side is satisfied by the good work I do with clients as well as the pro bono mentoring I do in the community. My Warrior keeps both of them on track and in line. I’m more content than I have ever been, understand myself better and make sure I’m well taken care of.
So, why is Warriors, Settlers and Nomads my favourite tool? Simply because it changes lives. And that’s what coaches want to help their clients do.
To find out more about how understanding your Warriors, Settlers and Nomads profile can help you be more confident, successful and relaxed book a discovery call here.
Watts, T 2000 Warriors, Settlers and Nomads: Discovering who we are and who we can be, Crown House Publishing Limited, Camarthen.
Watts, T 2017 WSN pre-course training. Available only to Essex Institute students on the 2017 WSN practitioners course.