Wednesday 19 February 2014

Fantastic coaching!

It is not, perhaps, a surprise that I am a fan of coaching.

But even I might hesitate to write a headline about fantastic coaching and proceed to write about my own practice.

In fact, what prompts me to write this piece is reflecting on the coaching I have received which has helped me bring my first business book from an idea to something approaching a result (though there is still work to be done).

In the first instance, it was informal coaching by Liz Todd at Newcastle University. She may not even have realised she was coaching me, but she was.  I think it is such a habitual part of her style - to enquire and to bring out the best in others - that she does it almost without thinking.  But she it was who drew my attention to the fact that I had something new and interesting to say about this, and she has encouraged and educated me several times along the way, too. 

Secondly, my long-time professional coach Ann Bowen-Jones, has always been an integral part of my professional practice. Both as the supervisor of my own coaching practice, and as a personal coach, she has been a source of inspiration and support; appropriately challenging and always there in the long dark nights of the aspiring writer's soul…

In the early days, when I was unsure how, or even whether, to begin, I was also helped by Lorna Macleod, an American coach at Creative Callings, who specialises in this type of project.

And most recently, Andrew Derrington has kindly read the whole of the first draft, offered some very valuable feedback, and helped me to identify (and to commit to!) the necessary next steps to improve it. Andrew's experience and skills, both as a journalist and an expert on academic writing, have been extremely useful.

With all this support, help and advice, there is a real risk that this project will come to a successful conclusion - and not only that, but it will be significantly enhanced by all the expertise brought to bear. 

Incidentally, I talk to three of these four coaches by phone or Skype.  Some people are wary of telephone coaching, but in my experience, both as coach and coachee, whilst it has a very different dynamic, it can be extremely powerful.

Saturday 8 February 2014

Twice Upon A Time

I have just met the deadline to send the completed first draft of That Book to a friend and colleague for preliminary reading and editing by the end of January, so am in a reflective space (whilst awaiting, with some trepidation, his comments).

One thing I have realised is that the working title I had adopted some years ago now seems rather tired to me.  That could be projection, of course!

I had been calling it: Freeing People to Perform - How changing their stories can transform people

However, over dinner with some canny folk from Cardiff University, I mentioned that, and it fell rather flat, so I also admitted that I was beginning to wonder if a better title might be Twice Upon a Time. They thought that was a much more interesting title, and so do I. So  I am toying with Twice Upon a Time: The Art of Multistory Development.  (However, a quick google search for images to illustrate this post suggests that the title has twice been used already, so I may have to re-think!) Thrice Upon a Time would also work for my purposes, yet some how feels less satisfying. (It has been used by Odette England as the title for an artwork, but not, as far as I can see, as a book title.)

I would, of course, be grateful for any feedback on that.

I have also been reflecting on the multiple, and competing, stories I have about myself as a writer, which in many ways exemplify some of the main ideas of the book.

Some of these stories are:

The Aspiring Writer
The Self-deluding Pretend Writer
The Successful Writer

These vie for dominance in my thinking, as I variously work on the book, procrastinate, and get positive feedback from others on drafts.

But also, I can choose to attend more to one (say the last) than the others, and seek out evidence to strengthen that story in my mind, and commit to delivering more evidence of its truth: and that is helpful.

That is also, in essence, what the book is about.


In discussion with my wife and co-Director, we have arrived at another possibility:

Twice Upon A Time: How Multistory Development can improve organisational performance.

That is designed to make it clear this is a work-related book.  Feedback welcome!

Saturday 1 February 2014

Will Power and Time Management

I have been thinking further about Will Power and Time Management: not least because I have finally completed the first draft of my long-awaited (and long-overdue) book, but also because I was working with a bunch of Post Graduate Doctoral Students yesterday, discussing these issues.

Let us, for the sake of argument, accept that will power may be necessary but not sufficient as a driver of our behaviour, and that environmental factors and habit count for a great deal (as suggested here).  The question that arises is, how do we set up the environmental nudges that help us to act on our chosen intentions.

One very practical example of this arose yesterday: one of the students said that he was very good at planning; he know each day what he intended to do that day, and so forth. But what continually sabotaged him was a failure to get out of bed at the right  time in the morning.

The will power approach - just do it! - didn't seem to be helpful.  But when we look at the environmental factors, we can come up with a range of other strategies.  The simplest is the old trick of moving the alarm clock to the other side of the room, so that it cannot be turned off without his leaving the bed.

The beauty of that is that it can be done at a time when the intention to get up on time is strong: it would then require a definite decision, the night before, to change that.  In the morning, when the alarm goes off, however much he may want to stay in bed, the damn thing will keep sounding until he gets up and turns it off.

It is a simple and elegant thing to try, and was arrived at by asking the question about altering the environmental cues, rather than increasing will power.  My hunch (and indeed personal experience) is that if that is sustained for a period of time, a habit is formed of getting up when the alarm goes off, and quite possibly will power is strengthened too.

So my time management tip for the day, is don't try to work directly on will power: instead, ask the question about how you can set up environmental cues that will nudge you in the direction of the decision you wish to take at the moment you will be facing that decision.