Sunday, 12 August 2012

Celebrations, Winners & the Closing Ceremony

This blog post is not about the Olympics - sorry if you thought it was! However it is about recognising & appreciating positive practices to help you change… then doing something about it.

Celebrations & Winners
Prompted by a talk given by Sukh Pabial on Positive Psychology, I’ve been running a series of guest blogs on “Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring”.

It’s been an amazing series from quite different individuals all giving their distinct views on their positive practices. That the series has generated over 1250 blog views in just 5 weeks I think shows that many of you have enjoyed it just as much as I have!

So I’d like to thank & celebrate those guest bloggers for sharing so willingly their views on positive practices in coaching & mentoring... Thank you all!

I had mentioned there was a prize so you might expect as it's the Olympics that there could be Gold, Silver  & Bronze awards... nope.  Each blog & blogger is a winner in my eyes - they stepped up to share their own practices with all of us and that I think is a hugely positive thing to do.

So to gauge the two most inspiring blog posts, I approached someone with many years senior management experience who was not a coach or mentor and had not already read any of this series of blogs...

There were two posts which they felt particularly inspired by and in their own words "talked to the power of coaching". These were Meg & Phil's blog posts and both of you now have a ticket for Sukh's "Positive Psychology in Application" event on August 17th in London!

Closing Ceremony
It's the closing ceremony of the Olympics today and a celebration of this series of blog posts seems like a good place to end this Blogger blog...

Blogging has grown thing from something I was a bit scared of pushing out there to something I've incorporated into my whole life.  I'm still learning but I couldn't have done this without the support of friends, colleagues, other bloggers and above all readers of the blog. Thank you! Also, I love the fact that my young kids now use "blogging" as part of their diction - brilliant!

Yet, it's time for me to create some change... 

...there are things I'd like to focus more on and I need the impetus to make this happen. Stopping this Blogger blog is one way of creating this.

...I've learnt a lot and my blogging has matured. I now need to take this to another level with greater focus and challenge.

...I'm here to stay as a blogger but need a better platform.  Sorry Blogger but I've outgrown what you provide and I need to move on.

So above all, thank you for all the support here over the last 18 months.  You've given me the support & confidence to learn, change and progress. I'm ready to end this Blogger blog...

However, you can continue to read more blogging on all aspects of People Performance & Potential from myself and special guests at :
I think recognising when you've outgrown what you have and being willing to take on a new challenge is a positive practice. I hope you agree!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

The moon, a telescope, a waterbed and being centred

Our final guest post this week on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" comes from Phil Willcox.  Phil is a coach, consultant and facilitator of learning. You can find out more about his work on his company website E3 Training & Consultancy and find him on Twitter posting as @PhilWillcox.

Phil's post builds perfectly on the previous posts - I hope you enjoy!

The moon, a telescope, a waterbed and being centred
I will begin with a huge thank you to Mr Goddin for letting me guest blog and I feel truly humbled to be blogging alongside some really inspirational people.

This blog is going to build on the last one from Jon Bartlett (@ProjectLibero) and hopefully round off some of the other blogs too.

We will be going post-coaching today and will look at themes such as listening, attentiveness, concentration, being present (thanks Jon) and we will reference emotions. I LOVE emotions (and by the way I don't think love is an emotion) they are so powerful and pivotal that they will be included. Finally, we will reference the beauty and vitiality of reflection.

The positive practice that I want to share is one that I have done for a few years and I hope it of use.

The words in the title of this blog is taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn and to put them in context, he says:
"... If you were trying to look at the moon but you set up your telescope on a waterbed, it would be hopeless to even find the moon, never mind keep it in view and study it carefully."
This is what I have and continue to purposefully and deliberately think about after each and every coaching session. Why? I hear you ask. Well, within us all we have:

- evolutionary and learned emotional triggers
- knowledge, skills, experience and expertise.

When embarking on any conversation (including a coaching one) us humans will react to the stimulus around us (in this context the person we are coaching) and this response may be emotional and/or cognitive. It may be that I am able to stop the response gaining momentum and completely hijacking me and/or my conscious thoughts, or I may not. Either way, for a moment in time (often seconds) I was not centred.

If I add up all those moments in time over the course of a 30/60/90 minute coaching session, how much information have I missed? How vital may that information be? 

So, after my coaching sessions, I take a moment to acknowledge that during it there were things I was thinking and feeling. I will go on a step (and this is where the purposeful reflection comes in), I will:

1) Go back through the conversation and catalogue the topics and content of the conversation from start to finish in as much detail as I can remember.

2) Taking each topic and content piece in turn ask myself
  • What emotion(s) was I feeling when we discussed this?
  • How was I experiencing them?
  • What was the intensity?
  • What was the trigger?
  • How will I be more aware of that trigger next time so I can catch the response quicker?
  • What impact did these emotions have on the other person?
  • Did it help or hinder the conversation?
  • What thought responses did I have?
  • Where did they come from?
  • How did I hope my thoughts would help or add value?
  • What will I do next time to either interrupt those thoughts or do I need to share them?
  • What did these thoughts do to the quality of that part of the session?
  • Did they help or hinder the conversation?

3) I will collate my responses and critically analyse them to create an action plan for the next coaching session I have with that person. The desired outcome; that I can be more centred next time.

Interestingly, I have found that the emotional and thought responses are different depending on the person. So the same topic or content may cause different reactions.

After practice and refinement, it takes me 20-30 minutes to complete this process. At first i took over an hour each time.

It is hard work, it takes time, effort and energy and I will continue to do it for as long as I coach. Why? Because I:

Am of more help.
Give more and better support.
Listen more effectively.
Increase my self-awareness.
Make more of a difference (and if I don't, what is the .............. point).

This practice helps me make sure that I am on firm ground so when I focus my telescope on the moon, I can find it, keep it in view and study it carefully.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Presence versus present

Our next guest post on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" comes from Jon Bartlett. If you don't already know him, Jon is a professional coach, mentor and mediator. I can recommend taking the time to read his blog and in particular this post. Look out for him on Twitter as @ProjectLibero .

Jon's succinct post for me highlights perhaps the most important part of any successful conversation, not just as a coach or mentor...

Presence versus present
I think I must have been busy doing something when David chased me up about writing a guest post about the “most positive practice I use in coaching”. That’s my only excuse for my somewhat glib response “Pitching up is my most positive practice”.

Yet as I looked again at what I’d just typed to David it made a lot of sense.

As coaches it is incumbent upon us to create a conversation, a piece of time where anything can be discussed and examined. That’s not easy and it takes a lot of practice. We all talk about rapport and “holding the space” for the client, about active listening and open, empathic questions. We all know what we are meant to do but for me, there is a piece before that.

As a coach I prepare for each client in a similar way. I never schedule anything just before coaching and if I’m travelling I allow time to get over the journey first. I often listen to a piece of music to make sure that I’m in a good state to coach. Then I try to empty my head of anything else going on my life. That call I need to make to the bank? Forgotten. The invoice I need to send? Ignored.

You see it’s one thing to be in the room, it’s another to have truly arrived and be fully present. If my intent is to be fully in the service of my client then all my “stuff” needs to be locked away for the duration. Now that seems pretty obvious but have you been in a conversation where it’s quite obvious that the other person is mentally distracted? Now rerun that meeting in your head imagining the other person engaged, open and obviously focussed on you and the discussion you are having. I’m guessing it feels better?

So that’s my positive practice, don’t just be a presence in the room, be fully present.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Recently on People Performance Potential...

It's been quite an extraordinary few weeks here on the blog with our series of guest posts on “Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring”. In case you’ve missed any of them here’s a quick run down of each...

“Coach and Coachee: A Dance of Magnificence” by Clare Manning
Clare launched the series with a lovely reflective post examining how our regard for our clients makes a difference. Her post describes an approach she uses and its impact “where you actively hold your clients magnificence in your mind while working with them”. 

“It is ALL about the client” by Ian Pettigrew
In our second guest post, Ian shares his experiences and learnings as a coach. His emphasis on flexibility and humility in service to the client is well said and is certainly applicable beyond the world of coaching & mentoring.

“Developing my Practice and Staying Sharp!” by Julie Drybrough
Julies post shares her journey as a coach and how she expanded her coaching abilities and professional practice.  I won't spoil the ending for you but its message is something we all need to pay attention to!

“It’s getting on my wick!” by Kevin Wyke
We all like to have a whinge or moan now and then don't we?  The process of sharing negativity can be cathartic.  Kevin perfectly contrasts our natural behaviours with his practices of sharing his positivity whilst working with clients.

“Coaching – formalise your programme or just be brilliant at it?” by Perry Timms
Perry's post gives a sense of the both his passion and the power to be gained from the practical application of informal coaching. Perry might have positioned his 7 Steps as his theory, yet its resonance with other coaches I think shows it to be more than that!

Megs post beautifully deconstructed her own practice recognising the impact of receiving unconditional acceptance from others. I love the way she then illustrates how she has incorporated this into her own practice as a coach.

We're not quite done...
We've a few more guest posts lining up for you over the coming days but would be delighted to receive any further submissions.

You don't have to be an experienced coach or mentor. Your experience to share may not even have been recent.  You can post anonymously if you wish.

Just get in touch by email or on Twitter and we'll work with you to help share your perspectives and experiences.

Don't forget!
As part of this series we have 2 tickets to give away for the "Positive Psychology in Application" event on August 17th in London.

These will be given to the two most inspiring guest posts written and published here before Friday 10th August. Winners will be informed on Friday 10th August. In case you are not able to attend, the winners may choose to "gift" their prize to someone who would benefit and can commit to being at the event.

Of course any posts published after Friday 10th August won't receive such a prize but we hope to give you a great blogging experience anyway!

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Offering unconditional positive regard

Today's guest post on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" comes from Meg Peppin. If you don't already know her, Meg is an experienced organisational development practitioner, coach, group facilitator and organisation change agent. She has a delightful blog and can be found tweeting as @OD_Optimist .

Meg's post starts with a quote that resonates beautifully throughout her post - enjoy!

Offering unconditional positive regard
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world”
Mahatma Gandhi
I am lucky that I have had some active mentors in my life; some have been formal arrangements, some informal - often by happenstance. Whoever (they know who they are) and however - they have had one thing in common, and that is their confidence to express an opinion, thought or observation and - their absolute acceptance of me. Exploring this in terms of successful practices, here's my attempt at deconstructing this:

What's the old adage? Behaviour breeds behaviour. Being with confident people makes me feel more confident. More confidence means more chance that I'll jump, stumble, fall out of my comfort zone - landing straight into the depths of my potential.

When I say confident, what am I really saying? How I see it - confident people are those whose locus of control is within them; whose drivers are not shaped by extrinsic factors, but whose drivers are intrinsically shaped by what matters to them. Confident people like this have a genuine curiousity about others, life and themselves. They aren't afraid of how others might see them and they don't worry about potential consequences. They try things and know that some will work better than others. They're proactive. They're OK with - me, you and themselves.

Offering unconditional positive regard
Translating this into coaching and mentoring; well, it's about offering encouragement, confidence, belief into the process. I don't believe that the coach or mentor is neutral party; I see myself as instrument who influences and is influenced by my experiences. I'm a participator not an observer. What I value and cherish has to be brought into my work. 

David Myers describes Carl Rogers concept of unconditional positive regard as "an attitude of grace, an attitude that values us - even knowing our failings. It is a profound relief to drop our pretenses, confess our worst feelings, and discover that we are still accepted."

That unconditional acceptance, that positive regard that I have received from past and present coaches/mentors/friends/loved ones carries me when I need carrying, and propels and accelerates me when I'm flying. It's what I offer.

Putting this into practice? I strive to create a space where people to feel confident enough to really see themselves, and to find a way to accept their flaws, vulnerabilities and fears, and to help them move towards self acceptance, insight and growth. I offer my acceptance, respect and regard, unconditionally. It's OK to be angry, resentful, uncertain, or bored. I don't know the answers and I'm honest about that; I may have some experiences to share, but I know enough to know I don't know much. I offer real curiosity in my challenges and questions, I offer warmth and encouragement when they feel they've achieved something, I laugh at myself and with them when they feel foolish - I acknowledge their discomfort when they drop their pretenses. I notice and acknowledge mine. I am me, I don't play a role or adopt a different persona. I am just another human offering my unconditional positive regard. It's part of the contracting, it's part of the process, and it's part of the ending/beginning. 

When someone gets that moment where they recognise connections between thinking and doing and behaviour, where they are able to be truly aware in the moment of what they are saying and how it relates to obstacles/problems, that's the time where they can take responsibility for themselves and where the internal locus sparks up. Their regard for themselves may raise up a level; it's exciting.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Coaching - formalise your programme or just be brilliant at it?

Next in the series of guest blogs on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" is Perry Timms. If you don't know him already, Perry is Head of OD & Talent for The Big Lottery Fund, blogs here and should be followed on Twitter here. Watch out for his tweets and blogs on #PunkHR!

It's a delightful & informed post that resonated deeply with me when I first read it. I hope you enjoy you it! 

Coaching - formalise your programme or just be brilliant at it?

I love coaching. Not much doubt about the slant of this blog then eh? However, just because you love something, doesn't mean it's all heartbeat pounding, feel-good factor inducing that makes it all worthwhile.

Coaching is something I'm in year 8 with. So I've gotten over the 7-year itch.

When I look back though, I've always had a leaning to 1:1, conversational-based, positive outcome-focused "support". I just didn't know it was the building blocks of coaching. I've been trained, coached and upped my own levels of ability in this area inspired by people in lofty positions and people around me who amaze me. I now feel better about my coaching ability, and my love affair with it proves its strength.

So what am I intellectually, professionally and spiritually taxed by around coaching? I could say return on investment, I could say use of models and theory, I could say charlatan practitioners. And some of these do tax me.

What also taxes me is people's insistence on formalising programmes. And by formalising I mean this:
- set duration of time for sessions;
- appear on the calendar on the same day each month;
- a really tight agenda; and
- a slightly trance-like state of rolling through the GROW model in every session.

So here's my theory on how you can avoid the need to overly formalise your coaching programmes.

Step 1. Create an understanding in your client of when they NEED coaching.
Have them contact you as a coach, when they know they need it most. Not quite "in emergency press button" but more "something's coming up; would be good to get my thoughts straight on how to tackle it..."

It's my assertion that coaching isn't at its best when issues are stored up throughout the month and then offloaded and sorted out in that session. That seems dis-enabling to the client to me. Stuff happens and people being coached probably need solutions at the time it's happening. Fine that a lot of coaching conversations are about reflections on learning through that period, so this is where the monthly check-ins do work.

Step 2. Be available as that coach - someone who can flex and be situationally available for the "just in time" solutions.
It's tough whether you're in-house employed or running your own enterprise to be available precisely when you are needed, but I've found some of the most impactful coaching support has been provided when I'm able to flex, set some impromptu time aside and coach when the need is most acutely being felt.

Step 3. Agree how you do the "just in time" stuff.
It seems obvious but the channel is important, but some people prefer a telephone coaching session; for some instant messaging or email would do it; for others it'd need to be a Skype/FaceTime chat. Only pearls of wisdom are to make sure there's the space and time to do this. Coaching when distracted not good; on a train journey with signal outage - frustrating. Can be done but only in emergency situations. Skype though, fantastic for this.

Step 4. Be sincerely social with each other not just coach and client.
Having catch-ups and chats that don't always have to be coaching conversations is just a darned nice thing to do and builds a human rapport to show how as a coach and client you trust each other. It doesn't mean you have to be best friends or enjoy every aspect of social engagements but how can you help your client the best if you have no affinity or regard for them as a human being?

Step 5. Check your results.
This is probably all the evaluation you need. A quick follow up call - "so how did it go?" "what's next for you?". No forms needed.

Step 6. Agree how this is chargeable once you've had 3 successes.
Because I'm in a paid role, most of my emergency, informal coaching is part of my package. If you're a freelance coach, you could find yourself with all your call-time minutes and spare time taken up by coaching people in this fashion. So being commercially astute is needed. Agree with your client that you will try 3 freebies in this way and use them as bolt-ons for the overall "contract" you have with them. I'm sure they'll agree this is more powerful and beneficial than storing up for once-a-month sessions

Step 7. Write your own reflective blog/piece.
Once you have had some successes as a coach in emergency situations, you should take note of the impacts, approaches and stories. They will help your learning as a coach and commit them to retrievable situations to use in helping others with stories like "so this exec called me at 9:30pm about their press conference the next day..." These stories could be proliferated across the web and might help us as a coaching fraternity get over the "so what's the value in coaching?" questions the bean-counters ask of us.

Performance and potential are enhanced when people know they just need that extra something and where, when and how to get it. By themselves or inspired by others. Informal coaching gives you that.

So there's my thoughts. Don't overly formalise coaching as it becomes something too inflexible and frustrating about the wait. Don't loosen it so much it vaporises though.

I can honestly say I'm at my best as a coach when my most informed clients know how they use their "in emergency" button. Press on people..!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

It's getting on my wick!

Next in the series of guest blogs on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" is from Kev Wyke. Kev is a freelance Organisational Development Consultant, a relentlessly positive coach and an eternally optimistic facilitator who has yet to start his own blog but can be found lurking on twitter @kevwyke.

Once you've read his post below, drop by and give him a grin!

It's getting on my wick!
Why do we love to moan so much? It's getting on my wick!

Over the last billion years of working in and with teams it seems to have been one of the constants, we whinge to our colleagues, we grumble to our loved ones and we moan to our mates in the pub.

For (insert deity of choice)'s sake we even invite a moan as an opening to a conversation "what's up" a how many times has a meeting started with "what could we improve" "let's have a look at what went wrong" or some other euphemism for "let's all have a good old moan about how crap it is here and spend the next hour wingeing about all the spilled milk that's passed under the bridge 'cos a good old moaning session is cathartic isn't it."

It may well be cathartic, who knows, what I do know is that it never feels productive to me. The problem I find with starting with the negatives (whether they be the moans from the past or the difficulties of the future) is that it seems to lock you in to a negative mindset. The focus is on the things that didn't work, that we didn't do or the stuff that we still need to overcome or will derail us and sometimes (ok quite often actually) that stops us from moving a single step further forward at all.

So my scientific research proves that we all love to moan and naturally fall in to this 'mode' if allowed, what can we do about it? Well here's the thing, as a coach or facilitator we have a chance to help our charges change their focus and look at the world through a different lens. And this is where I love to be relentlessly positive, gushingly appreciative and wildly optimistic to help folk to see the world a different way.

This isn't easy and can get you labeled as some half-wit who doesn't understand the risks. But believe me it can help folk move forward and is so much more fun than being a grouch all day.

So when reviewing something I like to ask questions like "What went well?" "What are we proud of?" "What do we want to do more of?".

When looking to the future I want to know "What do we want to be famous for?" "What would you like to achieve?" "When it's brilliant in a few years time what's it like?".

When deciding on options "Which of these do you really love?" "Which one gives the best outcome?" "Which will work best for you?" "Which gives you most energy?".

And when making plans "What actions will make this work?" "What is the best thing that you can do now?" "What will help you move towards your goal?".

This relentless chirpiness takes a fair bit of energy and sometimes folk don't like it, they want their opportunity to let off steam and share their woes. But remember our role as coach or facilitator is not to collude in some whinge-fest or to let folk fester in their rut, we're there to help them move forward and leap further.

So I smile and ask them again "What went well? What are you really proud of? What do you want to be famous for?".

(HT to appreciative inquiry for all it has done for me)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Developing my Practice and Staying Sharp!

We're running a series of guest post on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring". You can read last week's excellent blogs from Clare Manning here & Ian Pettigrew here.

Today's post is brought to you by Julie Drybrough (@Fuchsia_Blue). As a consultant, facilitator and coach/mentor Julie has worked extensively in both private and public sector enterprises across the UK & Channel Islands for over 12 years. She specialises in leading and supporting organisational & people development, always striving to translate the learning intentions of the organisation into practical actions and outcomes.

I hope you enjoy her post!

Developing my Practice and Staying Sharp!

Reading Clare Manning’s post on Magnificence in Coaching this morning has left me inspired. I’m drawn to the notion of seeing magnificence in my clients – I always see them as resourceful, smart, capable, working hard through their stuff… but magnificence is special and I’m going to work to keep the concept of Magnificence in the room next session…. Fabulous.

Since David asked for guest blogs on Positive Practice in Coaching & Mentoring, I’ve been mulling on what my offering might be. What has emerged is a cross between my history as a developing coach and a call to supervision and support for all practitioners. It goes like this:

I came through the ILM 5 school of coaching – learning my craft through very practical advice about setting up the coaching contract, the process of coaching, some brilliant models and an encouragement to practice, journal, reflect.

For a long time, I stuck to the processes – using GROW and working with the client to identify goals and work through barriers. My reflection on this now is I was working a lot from my head at the start; being analytical of the client’s situation and language; remaining somewhat cool and detached from the person in front of me (check me: Professional Coach!) We had a hour and goals to pursue. Let’s go. From feedback, it was a broadly successful way to work with the client to unlock and unblock. I got repeat business, got recommended on. So it was OK.

Yet I had little scratchy voice telling me there was more for me and for my clients, somehow. I often had more “real” conversations with the client as we opened up or closed off a session. I felt more comfortable when I wasn’t worrying about whether or not we had explored Reality well enough… I felt a little stifled sometimes. This made me curious, so I sought Supervision.

As a person, I’m wired to be intuitive. I’m pretty in touch with my heart voice and my gut voice and I realised, through joining a peer Supervision group, that I wasn’t bringing my whole self to work. My original clients got Head-me……Clients now get whole me. My sense is that works a lot better for everyone.

My coaching practice is increasing grounded in Gestalt methodologies; working to pay exquisite attention to the person opposite, listening well, watching their responses and mannerisms. Part of the deal is I also use my own body, thoughts and responses as data for the client – co-creating a learning, exploring environment where I can reflect back that I feel stuck, or delighted, or that “I’m noticing a clenching of fingers when ever the new “lovely” boss is being mentioned….might that be significant? “

I work hard to stay curious about what I hear, see and experience. I am sometimes off-beam when I offer a reaction and I see my job then as being to explore more with my client. I am not the expert. I have expertise, sure, but only my client (in all their magnificence) truly knows what is real for them. I offer what is real for me and more often than not it is good grounds for discussion. These days I find we don’t just set and pursue goals, we redefine goals. How cool is that?

I’m mindful that I’ve written a lot here and I really could say a lot more….but a key point to all of this is what has consistently helped me and moved me forward as a coach and practitioner has been seeking out supervision, support…whatever you want to define it as.

I’ve had some 1-2-1 Supervision, I’ve worked in an informal peer “triad” in Edinburgh (which was amazing) and I am now in a more formal Group Supervision set with 5 other peers.

As coaches, I would say some of the most positive practice we could participate in is to ensure we are OK. OK as individuals. OK as people. I’d ask us to be rigorous and reflective about our practices; to stay open to new learning – to allow ourselves to bathe in our own magnificence, perhaps.

There are debates raging about Supervision and what is right and proper and accredited – I’m not getting into any of that. I focus on my need to stay sharp for my clients and notice when I’m in difficulty. I seek out peers and non-involved professionals to support me and that feels good. It’s part of my values and my practice. I go with what works. For me, it has been about addressing different needs at different times.

So my offer of positive practice to all magnificent coaches out there is pretty basic: look after yourselves first and you are ultimately looking after your clients well.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

It is ALL about the client

Our second guest post in the series on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" is brought to you by Ian Pettigrew (@KingfisherCoach) who runs Kingfisher Coaching with a mission to help people, teams, and organisations to deliver on their potential.

I love the way that the message here is applicable beyond the world of coaching & mentoring... Enjoy!

It is ALL about the client
I read a lot of blogs and I try to read broadly so that I don't just read things that support my own point of view. The downside of this is that I read a lot of things that worry me about coaching as a profession. I've read plenty of things suggesting that the only way to make money as a coach is to develop a product (like an e-book) that will generate a 'passive income' or to produce a new approach that you then licence to others. Of course, both of these approaches have to be supported by fairly aggressive marketing and they often seem to go down the 'success secrets' and the 'amazing, guaranteed results' road.

I don't want to come across as snarky and there are some good e-books and some very good approaches but the positive practice that I want to focus on is that 'It is all about the client' and I do worry that there is too much encouragement that 'It is all about the coach'!

If I think back to my first few experiences as a coach, there were two ways that I was very different to how am I now:

(1) Method: I remember being hugely prepared with 'my approach' and a little too fixed in my ways, having a preconception of how I was going to help my client.

(2) Ego: I recall a slight sense of desperation in wanting my clients to know how clever and skilled I was, hoping that they would tell others how skilled and clever I was!

The positive practice that I want to highlight is that it is ALL about the client. As coaches, this means that it doesn't matter how we label ourselves and what 'kind' of coach we are, we need a flexibility of approach, method, and style that is in the best interests of the client. And it means that we need to approach our clients from a position of humility in that it is not in any way about our own ego, but is all about the client.

If you are a skilled coach and your entire focus is your client, then I believe you will drive positive results for your clients and will be successful. You may not have ‘success secrets’ to sell, but working with clients with flexibility and humility will shine through over time.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Coach and Coachee: A Dance of Magnificence

Last week we broadcast an invitation to blog on "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring" with a view to sharing more widely the positive coaching & mentoring practices used or experienced by others.

Our first guest post is brought to you by Clare Manning, a Derbyshire coach and mediator. You can find her on Twitter here and read her blog here. Clare loves working with clients who want to reconnect with who they really are when they are most happy, calm and confident. She also firmly believes in the power of positive thinking... Enjoy!

Coach and Coachee: A Dance of Magnificence
Since David's invitation to blog, I've been thinking about positive coaching practice and reflecting on key things that happen in a session. It dawned on me that when I coach I think I'm trying to imbue my clients with a positive outlook and to get them to see themselves in the best light possible... Some of this is done on a subconscious level and some is verbalised and consciously practised by the coachee.

So, when I trained, I naturally took on board the concept that as a coach we must believe that our coachees have the answers to their own issues and are capable of reaching their goals. I embraced the NLP presupposition that 'people have all the resources they need to bring about change and success' . And this is all well and good but always felt a bit flat somehow, not really buzzing with positivity... And then I heard about an approach where you actively hold your clients magnificence in your mind while working with them and that made me sit up and take notice because this sounded wondrous and empowering at the same time. I've been practising this and have been warmed by the results. As a coach, it keeps you in a peak, positive mindset for the whole session and clients seem to read the subtle, yet powerful messages about belief and acceptance that flow through your body language and tone. This, in turn, shifts their mindset into believing that they are indeed capable of achieving anything they set their mind to. So for me, this is an exchange of positivity without words. It passes between coach and coachee at a subconscious level and is deeply powerful as a result.

Now, at a conscious level, a lot of my work focusses on building confidence with clients, working on their self concept, getting them to see and accept their own magnificence which they may have lost sight of over the years. And my sense is that, session by session, clients start to reveal little gems that they had forgotten about or overlooked. As a coach I feel myself catch these gems and hold them up for clients to observe, feel good about and to truly own. These can be achievements, skills, personality traits – anything which is unique and precious to them. By locking these into our self concept, our self belief and confidence grows.

And to pick up on 'uniqueness', I think there is something inherently positive in recognising who you really are, in those moments when you are completely happy in your own skin, content being you. For me, this is the big prize and as a coach, I work with clients to get them to reconnect with 'real you' because therein lies their strength, confidence and the ability to move forward with a positive outlook.... A client said to me recently that 'now I've tapped into the real me everything else seems effortless' and I thought that summed it up beautifully... Once we quietly accept our own magnificence, everything else seems to fall into place.

I could go on but I think I'll stop now and would love to hear your thoughts on how you bring positivity into a session and how you unlock it with your clients... What's your take on magnificence in a coaching relationship?

Monday, 9 July 2012

Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to see Sukh Pabial speaking at the EMCC London Network about Positive Psychology.

In case you've not heard of it, the EMCC London Network is one of around 15 such networks around the UK that operate as inclusive communities of practice. They are for anyone with an interest in coaching &/or mentoring including external & internal practitioners, trainers, supervisors, HR, L&D and OD professionals.

Positive Practices
Sukh's talk was very interactive and helped the audience understand more clearly what is meant by Positive Psychology. Perhaps more importantly, the discussions Sukh facilitated helped me appreciate the related practices that we already use or could use in coaching & mentoring.

It's since struck me that there doesn't seem to much blogging out there about the positive practices that we use when we coach &/or mentor others. The chances are we all coach & mentor to some degree or another and I'm sure we all use positive practices that we could share...

An Invitation to Blog
So do you have some positive practices in coaching & mentoring that you'd like to share? Well, here's your opportunity... Would you like to write a guest blog here?

No matter what your role is, if you have some positive practices that you use, have used or have been a recipient of during coaching or mentoring then I'd love you to share you practices & experiences by guest blogging here!

  • You don't need to be a "coach" or "mentor" by title - anyone with an experience of positive practices in coaching or mentoring to share can write here.
  • Your experience doesn't need to have been recent - any positive practice that has worked or left a lasting effect can be shared here.
  • You choose how much to write and how much to share - quality is much more important to me than quantity. If you desire or require anonymity then that's OK.  If you want to write more than one post that's fine too.

A blogging bonus!
And here's a bonus...  We have 2 tickets to give away for Sukh's "Positive Psychology in Application" event on August 17th in London!

These will be given to the two most inspiring guest posts written and published here before Friday 10th August. Winners will be informed on Friday 10th August. In case you are not able to attend, the winners may choose to "gift" their prize to someone who would benefit and can commit to being at the event.

What next?
Sound interesting? Want to write something about your experiences of "Positive Practices in Coaching & Mentoring"? Leave a comment below or contact me here or on Twitter (@ChangeContinuum).  Look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Purposeful Fun

Have you been following the recent series of guest blogs over at Trainers Kit Bag about "The best learning experience I ever had..."? If not, do take a look, there's some great posts and even a contribution from me!

Reading through these diverse experiences I'm struck by a common theme. Purposeful fun. It's not a phrase you come across that much in corporate life is it? Why is that?

Purpose + Fun = Memorable Learning

Initially, I wondered if perhaps the format of the blog series elicited a common theme... perhaps we all want to relay stories that are readable as well as meaningful to us so we tend to describe purpose and fun in the stories we like to tell...

Yet if I think about when I am most motivated it's when I'm acting with purpose and I'm enjoying it - having fun. When I think about the great teams I've worked with, both purpose & fun were key.

Beyond myself, if I look at my kids, they learn best when they are motivated, acting with purpose and having fun. It might be a creative history project, role play at school or even a weekend game of monopoly! For them purpose & fun creates learning.

I also recall Jon Bartlett writing over on his blog about "Acting on Purpose" and how memorable it is for us to experience others who have that heady combination of purpose & fun.

Similarly, I was lucky enough to hear Sukh Pabial talk recently about Positive Psychology, describing the fulfilment we can achieve when we look at different levels of purpose in our lives.

When we have purpose and fun we create memorable learning.  It feels right. 
What do you think?

Creating Purposeful Fun

So you may be aware that we've been using the "Property Trading Game" in our work. We're finding it to be a brilliant way to observe and develop both teams and individuals whilst engaged in purposeful fun. It's also hugely enjoyable to facilitate!

You can read more about it's impact, learning & reflections on these Trainers Kit Bag blogs here and here - be sure to read the comments on that last one!

For more participant perspectives then this post from Kate Griffiths-Lambeth "Winning Ways" is great. I  also wrote a "mini-series" here.

Funnily the photos and memory of our experiences "in the street" from last year still make me smile - purposeful fun at work again creating memorable learning!

Want some Purposeful Fun?

If the above has piqued your interest, then I think this could be right up your street...

We've partnered with Doug Shaw at What Goes Around and the folks at Trainers Kit Bag to create a " Property Trading Game Open Day on September 12th this year.

Working in teams you'll experience a day of networking, learning and purposeful fun where you can experience the " Property Trading Game " as a participant. Then enjoy dinner with us as we reflect and digest both the food and the day! For a modest sum we think you'll enjoy some purposeful fun, memorable learning and an opportunity to see what the "Property Trading Game" can do for individuals, teams and organisations.

If that sounds interesting and you'd like more information or to chat, then please contact me - I'd love to hear from you!

If you are "game on" and need nothing further then excellent - please book your place(s) HERE!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Watching over us

The phone rings and my wife dashes to answer it. I overhear her talking to someone I know is familiar to her but it’s not a friend or relative. I hear her saying “thank you” as the tears and crying come. As I rush to find her in the kitchen she finishes the call and breaks down. 

Monica was her mother and she died peacefully in her sleep on the morning of 21st June last year. She was an amazing woman. Not only for the love she gave but also for all the hardship and pain that she had endured from an early age. You never knew everything about her or her upbringing but she gave you glimpses of her life now and then. 

Perhaps that’s the role of a parent… to share enough to guide your children but not everything. Besides, what mattered more than anything else, for all of us, was the grandmother she could be to our children. 

The joy our children and “Granny Mana” brought to each other was clear. On a gloomy day they would lift her spirits and spontaneously share their unconditional love with her. Every single time. Similarly, no matter how bad a day she was having she would also give her love to them without condition. 

She was such a part of our family that it felt that we were a unit of five - Granny, Mum, Dad and the two boys. Basil the dog was also a huge fan of Granny and would often sit close to her, protectively, but always being careful not to sit on her toes! 

It’s been a year and now there are four of us. The huge gap left with her passing seems to have been filled with the sense of her presence with us in so many places. Fond memories but also a sense of her still watching over our family and being the grandmother she could be. 

The next clear night we get, we’ll look up at the sky with the boys and find her star, as we do with Grandad and thank them for keeping watch over all of us.

As with all things the above only relates one persons story - my story.  Here is another more personal story.  A "letter" from my wife Paula to her Mum written to accompany this post...

To my Mum
It is one year today since you died peacefully in your sleep. You got the end you deserved Mum and I am thankful for that.

I think of what you would be doing were you still here... You would have enjoyed watching Euro 2012, maybe not the Irish matches, although you would certainly have appreciated the fans singing. I miss seeing your happiness at spending time with us and particularly with your two special grandsons. 

I love you and that has never been in any doubt but I have constantly struggled to come to terms with your mental illness. I have felt anger that my mum was taken away from me when I was seven and replaced her by a mother who struggled to retain her identity throughout frequent bouts of illness. 

I will always carry a child’s feelings of guilt that my love for you could not save you or make you better. There were far too many goodbyes at the end of numerous visits to psychiatric wards and hospitals, hurrying to get back to ‘normality’, away from the chain-smoking patients sitting in their drug induced torpor or from those that were more worryingly clearly agitated and disturbed. 

As a child, witnessing people battle with mental illness was an overwhelming, confusing and frightening experience. Although you were struggling with your own illness you tried to protect us from that as best you could.

However, far worse than our fear of others ‘insanity’ was our conflicting guilt at leaving you there and the relief that we didn’t have to cope with you at home. As I got older I could sense your fear and sadness at those partings, although you always did your best to try and hide it from us. As a mother myself I feel such pride and admiration that throughout it all you still tried so hard to be a loving, caring and supportive mum. 

So now you’re gone. I don’t have to worry anymore whether you are taking your tablets, or to try and convince you to go to bed after days with out sleep, during one of your more manic phases. I won’t quietly sit with you anymore listening to music, your place of refuge from the world of delusion and paranoia that you often inhabited. 

You always had that keen Irish wit and appreciation of a good laugh. Many a misdemeanour could be forgiven for someone with a sense of humour. I miss your ability to laugh at life, even though you walked a harder path than many of us. 

So Mum, although there were times over the years that I wished an end to it because it was just too hard, I wish with all my heart that at this moment we could be sitting together listening to music and sharing a laugh. 

All my love always 
Paula x

Friday, 15 June 2012

Something Special

If you look to the right of your screen you'll see what you've done for the past 500 or so days... found it?
That's it... you've read this blog over 10,000 times! You probably didn't realise but in doing so you've done something quite special for me. This 80th blog post explains... 

Your reading
I write my blogs "in the moment". Sure there's sometimes a bit of rework and sometimes I delete a draft. However, I write when I feel the energy for a subject. There's not a stack of drafts cooking slowly in the background or a schedule of pre-written blogs. What you read is me, now, right or wrong.

So when you read my post you are listening to me right here right now. I really appreciate you taking that time to listen to my thoughts, ramblings & opinions. It's something special to me. Thank you.

Your Comments
I write my blogs to stimulate discussion and debate around the subjects posted. What we do thereafter is up to us. So when you share your perspectives and comment, you make the blog successful. Particularly so when we have the good debate!

What I didn't expect a year or so ago is that our dialogue on these posts would move away from the "comments box" and onto Twitter and the real world. I think it's wonderful and something special! Thank you.

Your Feedback
I still feel I have a lot to learn about blogging. I don't mean about how to manage a blog although I think that's constantly evolving. I feel I have a lot to still learn about myself blogging - in particular my writing, my thinking, my areas of interest, even my motivation. I believe blogging is supposed to be that way. There's meant to be a slight and constant tension.

Publicly and behind the scenes, lots of you have shared with me your feedback on how I blog. The support it provides is amazing. That feedback is such a gift. It's something special to me. Thank you.

Your Contributions
Many of my blogs have started from a conversation elsewhere. Whether you know it or not, you have quite probably contributed in some way to a blog post here!

However, the blog was always meant to be a vehicle for others to contribute so I'm delighted when someone posts a guest blog here. It provides such different perspectives and even better writing!

I've had some very special contributions from Guest Bloggers so here's your own very special Blog Roll. Thank you!

"Working With People" by an anonymous HR professional
"Ironic or is it?" by Jon Bartlett (@Projectlibero)
"The Coaching Journey" by Karen Locking (@karenlocking)
"Mapping the Mind" by Bev Holden (@stickythinker)

The Future
The blog and it's readership has grown & developed beautifully. So to a large extent I'd be very happy if the future brought more of the same. However, there are a few areas of development that you can expect...

Personally, I think my earlier posts didn't hold enough challenge. So over time I've been more deliberate about creating greater tension & challenge - expect more of this! A big thanks goes to Natasha Stallard (@StirTheSource) for helping me express this (#mindtheedge).

I've not been particularly deliberate about blog subjects, always writing where I found the energy. So the tags to the right of your screen quite pleasingly reflect much of what I do and want to write about. Ironically, the most frequent topics include Coaching, Leadership, Learning and even Social Media but not Change... We all have blind spots sometimes but expect a few more blogs on Change in the future!

The Guest Blogs have been rewarding in different ways but always bring in perspective or experiences that I don't have. I love it and want to encourage more people to guest blog here - regardless of experience. If this interests you, no matter how unsure you are, then just reach out to me publicly or privately.

Thanks for reading & helping make this blog successful.  I hope you continue to enjoy it!

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

At risk of being coached?

I met someone earlier this week and we were talking about coaching. The conversation turned towards how some practitioners take a very purist stance towards coaching and how others don’t. 

In this instance, a purist stance would be what is often termed “non-directive”. That is to say that the coaches role is purely to ask open questions without directing the client, using the clients own language... The main principle is that the coach does not in any way provide advice or direct the clients actions. 

To be pedantic there is no such thing as “non-directive” in any human interaction but that’s another blog! 

Whose Risk? 

I’m not knocking the spirit or the practice of “non-directive” coaching. However, this isn’t always what a client wants. In an organisational setting it’s not always what a client needs. So who decides? 

Take for example a manager who is having trouble performance managing members of staff. The purpose of the coaching & the contracting with the coach is focussed on improving the managers ability to deal with performance situations. 

In the coaching conversation, the manager decides to take a course of action that to an informed outsider would clearly put them & their organisation at risk – say unfair dismissal. 

If the “non-directive” coach, identified the risk how could they intervene and remain “non-directive”? It’s a perfectly reasonable & professional practice in any form of coaching (or mentoring) to seek permission to “take off the coaching hat” to offer thoughts or reactions. However, for a purist coach to do this in some way would seem to undermine the whole purpose of being “non-directive”. 

Here’s another perhaps more important issue. What would happen if the “non-directive” coach didn’t appreciate the risk being taken. After all this is not what they were employed to do. Could they become complicit with reinforcing the clients’ agenda and decision to take a detrimental course of action? 

Who decides what a clients wants and what a client needs? Whose risk is it? 

The ill advised need sound advice 

Coaching is not about giving advice. However, it is about care for our clients. 

Fundamentally, no amount of “non-directive” coaching will help the ill advised follow a safer course of action. In fact, the above example shows that “non-directive” coaching may even enforce their stance. 

In any other walk of life, it’s hard to imagine a paid professional sitting across from their client and letting them pursue a course of action that would put them at peril without raising their own concerns. 

Perhaps this is why organisations tend to “buy” coaches with industry & leadership experience rather than purely coaching qualifications. 

Does purist coaching make sense in organisations? 

I can’t say never, but I have a long standing concern...

Even though we always strive to help our client determine their own agenda and actions, coaching is a human interaction. Human interactions require us to give of each other and see each other - @Projectlibero puts this very eloquently here.

In organisations, we are working in systems where potential risks and consequences of our actions can be amplified. If we don’t share our care and concerns do we potentially put our clients at risk? 

What do you think?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Always there...

I can't imagine losing either of my children. It's perhaps a deep seated fear in all of us but it's something I just can't contemplate. Whether you have children or not I'm sure you know what I mean.

My children have been poorly - we nearly lost our youngest in childbirth - but there have always been medical professionals & emergency services on hand to help. I know we are privileged in the western world but it's easy to take such things for granted isn't it.

I don't remember exactly when I "met" @RobertWeeks on Twitter. I do remember when I read about the sudden death of his daughter Sophia, at just 11 weeks old. I can't imagine his family's heartbreak but reading about Sophia and what Robert shares on Twitter has moved me deeply.

The only thing I can do to help is support Robert and his family's fundraising.

Walking the Three Peaks
A few months ago my good friend Matt suggested we walk Yorkshire's Three Peaks together before he & his family emigrates to the USA. We'll stay in touch across the Atlantic but it's possibly the last opportunity we'll have to do anything like this together in the UK.

A few weeks ago, I asked Robert if he'd mind if I tried to help his fundraising efforts whilst doing the Three Peaks walk. Possibly a strange request from someone he only knows through Twitter but bless him he came straight back with his full support.

Inspired by little Archies Walk, it felt right to help support Robert's fundraising for Great Western Air Ambulance @GWAAC. I don't need to tell you how important Air Ambulances are for providing urgent help - it just amazing how such critical charities are entirely funded by private donations.

You Can Help
Whether this is the first time you've visited the blog or you're a regular reader; whether you know me personally, through Twitter or not at all; you can help too. 

Firstly, thank for you for reading this far. I hope you've been able to take the time to read about Robert and his family's fundraising and Archies Walk.

Now for the price of a cup of tea or more if you'd prefer, I'd love it if you could help me raise money for @GWAAC. Just click here...

Thank you.