Friday 8 May 2015

Learning from experience

I have long been an advocate of learning diaries and similar reflective writing as a stimulus for learning. Today I had an interesting experience of the power of using them.

I try to write a reflection at the end of each week: whatever has caught my attention, raised a question, left me happy or unquiet... 

Some weeks it seems fairly banal, and I wonder about the value of it. Last week was one such week. All I could think of to record was a particular coaching session, in which I was not sure I had been as effective as I could have been.

The issue was that I had been talking with someone who was very unclear what he wanted to discuss in this particular session, so after a little probing, I had referred back to the original objectives we had agreed and asked which of them we might explore further. He had chosen one, and then again had little energy for exploring his experience and hopes around it (the poor chap was jet-lagged after an inter-continental flight). So I ended up giving him an overview of some of the theoretical stuff concerning the topic, and he then discussed how that made sense of some of his previous experiences, and how he could think - and act - differently in the future. He said it was a very helpful session.

But what was niggling with me was the degree to which it had been directed by me, rather than client-led, which many experts, (such as John Whitmore) insist is the better way.

It wasn't a big issue, but it was, as I say niggling. And because it was niggling, I noted it down. And because I had noted it down, I discussed it with my coaching supervisor. 

We discussed a number of things: the degree to which I had in fact involved him in the decision of what to discuss, what he learned from it, and how he might apply it - it was not a completely coach-led session; the fact that over the series of coaching sessions, most of the discussions are coachee-led  not coach-led; the fact that I don't agree with non-directionality as a philosophy, merely as an approach which is often helpful (ie if I have useful information, theoretical knowledge etc to share, it is sometimes helpful to share that, rather than try to draw everything out form the coachee); and the fact that he did find the session helpful, which is a primary consideration (though again, we also discussed how that is not the sole criterion, along with issues such as dependency etc...).

So that proved to be a very rich and thought-provoking session, leading to a much more valuable reflective note in my learning diary this week. QED.

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