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!