Friday 14 December 2018

Tango and Coaching

I have blogged before about Tango and Leadership, after a session run in 2017 by Sue Cox for Cumbria Coaching Network. Today, she led our CPD session once again, and it was as enjoyable and thought-provoking as last time.

This time, however, I was focusing more on how the lessons applied to coaching, rather than leadership. And there were many.

One of the points that Sue emphasises is that dance - or at least the type of dance she is interested in - is not about the steps, but about co-creation and relationship.  Whilst knowing some steps (or coaching models) is useful, what really works is the moment by moment interaction between two people, in the service of the dance.

Then there's the preparation: turning on your core. As well as the obvious physical meaning of that (and being physically ready for coaching is worth attending to) the metaphorical meaning - connecting with your values and intentions as part of your preparation for a coaching conversation - is also powerful.

Likewise, we attended to being grounded. That combination of being led by your core and being grounded enable authentic movement - both for the coach and the coachee.

At the heart of this style of dance is co-creation: invitation and response, attention to the other, to the context (other dancers, for example) and the ever-changing environment (the music....) Such co-creation requires real engagement with each other, and a shared intent.

The role of the one leading the dance (though that word and many of its implications don't sit happily with this type of tango - see my previous post) is to create the space for the other to shine: what a wonderful perspective for the coach! Indeed, when the dance is going well, it is often impossible to say who is leading and who following: the roles interchange, the dialogue is on equal terms. 

So an excellent, practical and thought-provoking session by Sue, leaving me with lots to think about and seek to apply in my coaching practice.

Saturday 8 December 2018

Scars not wounds

I read somewhere recently (I thought it was in Behind Closed Doors, but can't find it there now) that when a coach decides to share some personal experience with a client, the coach should be clear to choose 'scars, not wounds.'

That made intuitive sense to me: both the temptation to, and the risks of, talking about something that is still emotionally charged and live for the coach seemed evident; whilst sharing an experience that had been properly processed was likely to be a more considered decision, and also not to risk turning into a therapy session for the coach.

I think the phrase caught my eye in particular because it touched a raw nerve.  Just the day before, in a coaching session with Steve (not his real name, of course), I had shared something quite difficult that is current and unresolved. My belief was that it was an interesting example of the kind of thing Steve was talking about, and I could illustrate a different approach, by outlining how I was dealing with it, but without claiming that was the 'right' way, as the outcome remains unknown.

However, on reflection, I wonder if the reason it came into my mind is precisely because - being unfinished business and rather difficult - it was not far from my mind all the time: a wound rather than a scar. 

On the other hand, Steve did find it a useful and interesting example to discuss, that opened up more options for him.

So I took it to supervision as a question to explore. And of course, although that was a rich and thought-provoking discussion, the question remains open - worthy of further exploration.

On the one hand, there are risks as I had identified; it is important to make a conscious decision that such an intervention really is in the interests of the coachee, not the coach.  On the other hand, we discussed how much more live and authentic an unresolved current issue is, than an old war story.

So my interim position, whilst I think further about this (and will doubtless raise it again at supervision, as and when it arises again) is that I will be cautious with wounds. I will add it to my pre-coaching preparation, to remind myself to be aware of what is emotionally charged or challenging for me personally at the moment, and be on guard against it simply popping out of my mouth during a session.  On the other hand, I won't have an absolute rule against sharing such issues; if I have considered, and decided that it really is for the coachee's, rather than my, benefit, then I will disclose in this way.

And afterwards I will certainly discuss the decision in supervision and see what further learning I can glean.

Saturday 1 December 2018

Models as lenses

Last week, I blogged about my Idiot's Guide - a sort of vade mecum or reminder list of various models, theories etc that I have used over the years.

Chatting about this with the ever-perceptive Jane, we discussed how experience, reading, good supervision and reflection, etc help one to choose, almost intuitively,  the right model or theory to apply to a particular situation. Then, more interestingly, we discussed the value of applying the wrong model.

If one is dealing with a difficult negotiation, for example, it is hard to better the Harvard Model. But perhaps it would also be useful to look at it in the light of, say, the Drama Triangle, or the Conscious Competence Model.  Either of these might prove very enlightening, suddenly - enabling one to consider quite different aspects of the situation.

The metaphor that we quite liked for this was a lens. Looking at a problem through the correct lens can bring it into sharp focus, and that is really useful. But perhaps looking through a different lens - say a coloured one, or even one that blurs the focus, might enable us to see something new and fresh, that is of real value.

And the other thing that the lens metaphor highlights, of course, is that we are almost always using lenses, or models, to structure our thinking; and it is valuable to be explicit with ourselves about that, or we risk not noticing the interpretations we are putting on reality, and falling prey to unconscious bias, confirmation bias and all the risks that they imply.