Tuesday 22 February 2011

Half term

Half term is upon us, so today we went for a walk: Hartsop, Boredale Hause, Angle Tarn and Hayeswater, for those who know the area.  Largely walking through cloud, but a great time had by all. Matters philosophical and cinematic (and many others) discussed in depth and levity...  Jane, Mike, Liz, Lulu and me...  This is probably why I'll never be rich or famous, but it's the path I choose.

Monday 21 February 2011

Essex Futures again

Thursday and Friday were spent with the Essex Futures crowd.  On Thursday we were discussing how to develop an academic career, with contributions from Cam Donaldson of Glasgow Caledonian and Nigel South of Essex, who discussed their own careers and the learning they could draw from them.  Sue Endean, the HR Director, helped keep the focus very practical with an exploration of the promotion process and a case study based on that, and I offered some provocations around the theme of time and priority management.

In the evening we went to see E!%'s production of Dracula, directed by one of last year's EF participants, Chris Main - and a good show it was too!

The second day was more focussed on research strategies, with Rob Massara and a team from the REO sharing their expertise and offering practical advice; and the day culminated in a Dragon's Den exercise, with participants pitching ideas to our visiting Dragons, having had minimal time to prepare the ideas or the pitches: but as ever they rose to the challenge, and came up with some great interdisciplinary ideas, and some compelling ways of pitching them.

And along the way we picked up snippets of how well their projects are going, and also heard some personal successes in the Action Learning Sets.

Another stimulating event with this very energising group!

Unpacking the chair a bit more...

On Wednesday we had the second day of the Unpacking Your Chair programme for (relatively) new professors.

In advance of the day, participants had collected the expectations of others (within and beyond the University) of the role of the Professor.  Sharing these expectations was a fascinating exercise, and quickly made us all realise that one individual could not possibly meet all these expectations. So we discussed and agreed that part of the role was to negotiate the role and the expectations others placed on it - and part was to discuss with the professoriate within one's discipline how, collectively, they could meet the expectations.

We were then joined by the Faculty PVC, Charles Harvey, who completely ratified that approach, and also shared his own experiences - and his values, approach etc in a very human way, which spoke to the participants.

We also discussed how to get things to happen in the University, with Gerry clarifying the importance of the informal relationships in making that easier; and then we spent some time thinking ahead to what we would like to have achieved as leaders over the next few years.  Again, that provoked a very rich range of responses, which we shared and discussed in some depth.

As before, the attitude and commitment of the participants made this a very successful - and enjoyable - day, and I'm already looking forward to the next one!

Thursday 3 February 2011

Walking writing...

I blogged a while back about walking coaching and how valuable that can be.

Yesterday I was stuck on a chapter on coaching in the book I'm writing, and instead of sitting industriously, virtuously, diligently at my Mac, I put on some waterproofs and took Lulu for a walk.

To assuage my (rather weak) pangs of guilt, I slipped my voice recorder in my pocket to record any inspirations.

By the end of plodding through muddy fields, doubled up against the gales and rain, I had recorded a few good insights and in particular had found a new way into the chapter: starting it from a quite different perspective than I had originally intended.

So the risk now is that I spend tons of time walking the dog in my carefully preserved 'writing' slots in the diary.  Will have to monitor that, but if yesterday is anything to go by, that could be very productive.

Wednesday 2 February 2011

GROWing pains...

According to the Coaching Academy: 'The GROW (Goal, Reality, Options, Will) model is the most common and widely used coaching tool. It empowers the coach to structure a coaching conversation and deliver a meaningful result.'

I have a number of questions concerning it, at least as presented here and generally used and taught.

At one level it seems so obvious and helpful, but I think it implies a lot of things that are not helpful.

Consider, for example, the statement: It empowers the coach to structure a coaching conversation and deliver a meaningful result.

Is that necessarily a good thing? It implies:

a) that it is good for the coach to be empowered

b) that it is good for the coach to structure a coaching conversation

c) that the coach takes responsibility for delivering a meaningful result.

All of these, I think, are open to question.

And one good question is, what is it that we think we are doing when we are coaching?

And then the model itself:

Goal: how straightforward is that? It is all to easy to invite the person with whom one is working to 'set clear (achievable/relevant/challenging etc) goals'. But in my experience, people need time and space to discern what is truly important to them in the future, and it may not even fit the shape of a 'goal', or the very language of 'goals' may limit their thinking. From Peter Block, I have learned that the presenting problem is rarely the real problem (though that language also has implications one might wish to query.) And there is the whole question of being or doing....

Reality: this is another question-begging word. Given the multiple subjectivities of our experience, inviting people to articulate or even explore 'reality' may be less helpful than it sounds.

Options: I believe in these, I really do! But sometimes they are best generated as a by-product, almost, of other processes, not least profound listening, curious exploration, fantasising about the (seemingly) impossible, surfacing of deep values, and so on. Maybe it is the context that makes it sound so clinical and sterile, but something about the sequence Goal, reality, options... just does not resonate, neither with my philosophy of coaching nor my experience of what people with whom I work find helpful.

Will: again I understand what they are getting at, and maybe have fewer concerns about this word than the others - except it is the last word, and that I do find problematic. There is so much more that a rich coaching conversation could explore than is, seemingly, allowed by these four words.

Having said all of which, GROW may be useful as a primer for the busy work-based coach (say a supervisor) just wanting to break the habit of telling people how to do it... But as 'the most widely-used coaching tool' (and that word too is loaded!) I do have real concerns about it.