Tuesday 29 March 2016

That Book

The book is practically finished: ie it is now proof-read, and indexed. We are just awaiting the final graphics.

The cover may (will not - see Update below)  be based on either of these:

The publication date is 28th October of this year, and the publisher is Matador. The isbn will be 9781785893551, though I don't think that will do much for you yet... Fear not, I will be reminding everyone as soon as the book is actually available.

To help you while away the idle hours until you can get your hands on a copy, here is a link to the radio interview I did about the book with Karen Ainley, as part of the recent media training we were running together, about which I blogged here.

You may also choose to attend this years University Forum for Human Resource Development Conference at which I will be speaking about the ideas in the book on 8 June (15.40 in the Coaching stream).


The cover has been revealed (to me) and is much better than these early ideas! But I think I'll keep it under wraps for a little longer...)

Monday 21 March 2016

More Time To Think

I have blogged before about Nancy Kline's book, Time to Think, and its underlying philosophy. As I made clear in that post, I am enthused about her approach, so I have booked on to her Thinking Partnership workshop, which I am attending next week (with Nancy, not one of the other licensed providers). I will report back in due course...

In the meantime, I have been reading her sequel, More Time to Think. This expands on, and to some extent updates, the previous work; and in particular has a good section on coaching, including some suggestions for the initial exploratory meeting with a new coaching client.

I was particularly interested in this as I had already identified, through conversations in supervision, that I wished to improve my initial meetings.  Kline's approach is simple, as one might expect, but also profound, as one also might expect.

She rightly points out that the two topics of conversation are what the individual wants from coaching, and how the coach coaches. I had already got that far in my previous version of the initial meeting. However, I recently conducted my first 'Kline-by-the-book' initial session, and it was very much better than my previous ones. 

So what have I changed as a result of reading More Time to Think?  There are a few things.

One is that I asked each question (such as 'What are your goals for this coaching?') several times. Even when I was pretty sure, and indeed the client had indicated, that he had said all he had to say, I asked it one more time; and to the surprise and delight of both of us, more good thinking flowed.  

The second is that I did not take any notes. This was a bit of a wrench for me, as I mistrust my memory; but the benefits outweighed that: in particular the quality of attention I was able to give him, and the ease of the whole session for him and for me. I asked a total of nine questions (each one several times) and that part of the conversation lasted for about an hour and fifteen minutes, with him doing 95% of the talking. The results of that were much greater clarity around, and commitment to, both the overall goals of the coaching, and the milestones along the way. I also got a far deeper understanding of the client and his context.

The third is that I worked particularly hard on my listening. My listening is normally good, but I can be tempted to join in the conversation. Instead, I refused that temptation consciously, and apart from reassuring noises (yes, uh-huh, etc), two summaries and the nine questions, I kept quiet, and really focussed on what the client was saying with utmost curiosity and delight.

Oddly (or perhaps not) I find that I did not need my notes to remember the conversation (though I made notes afterwards of the key ideas).

The other big change was the way in which I described, and we discussed, my role as a coach. I have blogged before about the way I describe my work in this context.  This time, I went down the route suggested by Kline, and said that my role was to help him to do his very best thinking; that he would be able to solve nearly all of his issues himself, and my job was to provide the support and stimulation for that to happen; and that I would only offer information or suggestions when we were both clear that his thinking had taken him as far as it could, and that he wanted more ideas. I talked him through the ten components of a Thinking Environment, and the underlying philosophy; and also discussed the need for feedback and honesty between us.

One more change: I got him to complete the relevant parts of the documentation: coaching goals, how we will check progress, and so on. He thought that was obviously his role (prior to this, it is something I have done after the meeting, working from my notes, and then sent back to the client to check). His observation was that it made sense for him to write the goals, both so that they were in his words, and as a practical act of commitment to them.  And it saved me a job.

We ended with mutual appreciation; which again was easier than I had thought it might be, due to the quality of listening, and the subsequent degree of interest and energy, I had invested in the process. 

So that feels like a successful initial session; not least modelling the fact that ownership and airtime both belong to him, and what my role is. 

I will certainly be using this approach again in my initial meetings; as well as being more rigorous in my using the rest of the Kline approach in future meetings, when it is appropriate.

Friday 11 March 2016

Suzy Lamplugh Trust Update

For those who have been following the saga of my attempts to get the Suzy Lamplugh Trust to correct an (inadvertent, I am sure) error on their website, here is the latest instalment.

But before that, give me a second to bring new readers up to speed. I blogged a while back about the Mehrabian myth, the notion that  the words in a verbal communication account for  only 7% of the meaning we receive; the rest being voice (38%) and body language (55%).

I came across it again when being trained for the voluntary work that I do, and was told that the source of their (mis)information was the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. So I looked on the Trust's website and found  and they do not quote the figures there, but they do say  'The majority of communication is through body language, a lot through tone of voice and only a little through words.' (Their emphasis). I blogged about it here, including why it is so worrying in that context, and also wrote to the Trust.

In due course, I received a reply, which I thought might just be fobbing me off; so I resolved to re-visit the site after a while, and see if they had actually changed anything. They had not. So I wrote to the Chair of the Trustees, and this week received his reply.
Thank you for your email to me of 4th March. Having looked into this I really don't think that the information on the Trust's web-site is either misleading or dangerous. To the contrary, it is making an important and correct point: that body language is often more important than what one says and that it is important to be aware of one's body language if one is to defuse aggressive behaviour. As you have noted yourself, our web-site doesn't use the (often misquoted) Mehrabian percentages. Accordingly, I am satisfied that the responses you have previously received from the Trust's staff were appropriate and that they reflect the Trust's policy. I am grateful to you for bringing this issue to the Trust's attention. As a result of you doing so we have now reviewed this matter twice. However, we do not propose to review it again, at least not in the immediate future. Accordingly, we not intend to correspond with you further about this.
Beneath the formal courtesy, that sounds like a clear 'get lost.'  I note that at no stage has anyone from the Trust maintained that the statement is true, still less given any reference to support such an assertion.

However, never one to give up too lightly on helping people to learn, I tried one last shot:
Thanks for your email. I have no intention to waste your time, and do not expect a reply to this. 
However, I would point out that there is a vast difference between these two statements: 
 'The majority of communication is through body language, a lot through tone of voice and only a little through words.’
 'body language is often more important than what one says and [that] it is important to be aware of one's body language if one is to defuse aggressive behaviour.'
My only intention was to help you correct this inaccuracy - if you changed the wording on the site to what you wrote in your email, that would be telling the truth rather than telling an untruth. 
Perhaps it is my training as a linguist that makes this seem important to me. Try telling any student of a foreign language that 'The majority of communication is through body language,’ and you will see what I mean. 
I have little hope that it will do any good, but I will revisit their site occasionally, in the hope that the change will be quietly made.

And I continue to wish them well with the important work that they do.

If you agree with me that they should correct the site, you might choose to drop them a courteous line to that effect.  If you think I am wrong on this, you could drop me a line, of course.

Friday 4 March 2016

Graphic Reporting

This week we ran another of our series of workshops thinking creatively about developing the Strategy at Cardiff University. This was focussed on the Learning and Teaching agenda, and was a very successful event. The element I want to focus on was the work of Eleanor Beer, who was there as our graphic reporter.

I've only once before worked with a graphic reporters like this, and I was struck by how powerful and valuable this is. Eleanor managed to summarise both the plenary sessions and the output from eleven syndicate groups in one large, colourful and clear poster.

This will both accompany the more formal report summarising the proceedings, and also be available as a stand-alone reminder for those who attended the event.

All of which made me wonder why I didn't do it more often. And the truth is that I was a little disappointed the first time.  The work produced then was less graphic and more heavily reliant on words; it also seemed, somehow, less additive. That is harder to analyse, but it felt as though the reporter was just catching the headlines, where Eleanor was capturing the spirit as well.

So I am re-enthused about the approach; but would also recommend selecting your graphic artist with real care, to ensure that you get the quality of output you want, rather than something that leaves you feeling disappointed.