Thursday 25 May 2017

An unexamined life...

According to Plato, Socrates said at his trial that the unexamined life was not worth living. Socrates' approach, Socratic questioning, helping people to discover or make explicit the understandings that they already know implicitly, is foundational to any coach.

Yesterday, I was talking with a coaching client about the practice of meditation, and the benefits thereof. 

And that made me reflect, subsequently, on my own experience.  Some time ago I posted some reflections about meditation, here. That was after making a public commitment to a regular practice, back in 2014, here. I am in no doubt that this practice has made a substantial and positive difference to my life, particularly in my capacity to deal with disruptive emotions and distractions.

But in this post I want to draw a distinction between meditation and reflection. The meditative practice is focused on the present moment, and the conscious direction of one's attention in the present moment (in my case, practicing a Christian form of meditation, that is on a passage of the Gospel which I am meditating on).

Whereas reflection is focused on the past, and to some extent on the future. On the past, to learn what I can from my experiences, and on the future, to consider how to apply that learning. 

So they are two distinct practices, meditation and refection, but they also support each other. The regular practice of meditation means that when I assign time to reflection, I use it for reflection and do not get distracted; and the practice of reflection is a way of collecting any insights gained from meditation (and indeed checking that I am still dedicating time to it). And I find it important to record the results of my reflections in writing, and to review them from time to time.

The only other thing I'd say on this is: don't overdo it. There is always the risk of becoming so self-absorbed and self-centred, that it is frankly irritating to others and comes across as narcissistic. But to over-react to that perceived risk, and refrain from any self-examination... well, what Socrates said!

Sunday 21 May 2017

An uncomfortable simile

It was the final day of the Professors' Programme at Lancaster, last week. The day went well, and the comments as participants reflected on the whole programme were very interesting. As so often, a lot of the value came from the new connections established with colleagues around the university, and the learning generated by discussions amongst participants. But the other aspect that was particularly well received was the whole Thinking Environment approach, and in particular, the co-coaching that was a regular feature of the programme, built on the work of Nancy Kline.

One of the professors said that the co-coaching was very uncomfortable, but highly valuable. In fact, he said, it was like having an enema when you are constipated: not pleasant but extremely worthwhile. 

I wonder if I should use that in my marketing...

Friday 12 May 2017

In which I need a fig leaf...

We got a letter this week from the procurement department of a University with whom I do some work, to say that ‘Our investigation has concluded that the revised IR35 legislation will apply to any future payments made to you. This means that the value of any invoices will be paid net of income tax and national insurance contributions but you should receive credit for this deduction as part of your annual self-assessment tax return.

A quick check reveals that I do not fall foul of the IR35 rules on any count: I could field a sub, my work is not under direct control, we are clear on the MOO front, and so on. My inside source at the University concerned tells me that Procurement are targeting all those suppliers whose business name matches the name of the individual. So because I trade as Andrew Scott (and for no other discernible reason) they issued this unilateral decision.

All of other Universities with which I work have accepted that my employment status is clearly independent of them.

Needless to say, we have got back to the university concerned, and I am sure we will resolve the matter sensibly and amicably. 

But I am wondering if I would have saved us a lot of hassle if I had named the business Fig Leaf Consulting Limited…

Sunday 7 May 2017

The Power of Listening

It happened again. The other day, towards the end of a coaching session, my coachee said: ‘Thanks, what a great idea!’  I had to say: ‘I think it was your idea, actually…’ as indeed it had been.

But it was an idea she had never had before, about a topic that she has been thinking about for some time.

It reminded me of a comment by Andrew Derrington some time ago, to the effect that he often found that he had great ideas either during or after our coaching sessions.

And it all hinges on the power of listening; of providing the space, time, attention and questions that help someone to take her thinking further than she had ever taken it before. 

Last week, I got a lot of academics to do this for each other as part of a time management workshop: to listen to each other thinking out loud about their time management issues and what they might do about them, without interrupting, for thirty minutes. As one reported: I thought I’d said all I had to say after five minutes; but then, being listened to for another twenty-five meant that I said more things - and some of them were valuable, new thoughts I had not had before.

As Nancy Kline would put it, all it takes is giving people time (and the right environment) to think.

So simple, so powerful… and so rare.