Friday 24 June 2022


Recently, I read Coaching Behind Bars, by Clare McGregor.  It tells the story of the birth, learning and successes of CIAO

CIAO (Coaching Inside And Out) works in prisons and with people convicted of offences or at risk of offending in our communities, as well as with their parents or carers.

It's an extraordinary story of Clare's curiosity and concern leading her to explore whether the kind of coaching that worked so well for her executive clients might be equally valuable for this group of people. 

From that exploration, CIAO has grown into a respected organisation, working alongside, but entirely separate from, the Criminal Justice system, and helping people to work on whatever they choose to work on. 

The offer is simple and quick: a limited number of sessions, to address some simple, but important questions: What do you want to change? Who are you? and How are you holding yourself back.

Perhaps the greatest testimony to their work - apart from the many individuals who tell very positive stories about its impact - is that in an environment where one might reasonably expect a degree of disenchantedness, if not cynicism, and certainly suspicion, all the people who engage in coaching do so on a completely voluntary basis, and nearly always because a previous coaching client has recommended the process to them.

What prompted me to read the book is the fact that I have just been recruited to join their team of supervisors: offering support, guidance and oversight to the coaches who are doing the frontline work.  As with all my supervisory work, I am sure that I will learn as much from the coaches I work with as they do from me.  In due course (and always observing confidentiality etc) I will share some of the generic, high-level learning on this blog.  In the meantime, do have a look at their work, and if you are a coach, and interested in supporting them, do get in touch.

Friday 17 June 2022

Mixed Messages

I was at a special interest group virtual seminar, about Diversity and Inclusion, this week. It was a closed group, not public: you had to give your identity, credentials and reason for attending in order to get the link, to ensure that relevant people attended.

One of the themes was about the subtle messaging that we can send, either deliberately or inadvertently, that others may read, that signals that we are intending either to include or exclude.

And the meeting was set up so that not only the Q&A stream , but also the chat function, were only visible to the host and the panel speakers.

The host, opening the session, mentioned that he realised that he was 'preaching to the choir' in his opening remarks.

All of which had the effect of making me feel excluded.

It is not, of course, that I think that either Diversity or Inclusion are Bad Things; but I do like to engage critically with such topics, and there are certainly questions about the particular approach that was being championed on this seminar.  

In particular, I think that diversity and inclusion are indicators; if either or both are missing, then it may be that an injustice or a lack of charity is being committed.  But it is justice and charity that are the primary values, not diversity and inclusion per se. Sometimes a lack of diversity, and exclusion, may be both the just and the charitable state of affairs. To take a topical example, men are rightly excluded from women's sporting competitions.

But the set-up of the event made me think that raising such questions would not be welcomed - it would be like the choir questioning the vicar mid-sermon, to use the host's analogy.

As a team I worked with many years ago used to say, if you can't walk the talk, at least try to stumble the mumble...


With thanks to Tim Mossholder and Eilis Garvey for sharing their photos on Unsplash

Friday 10 June 2022

How do you help others to think outstandingly well?

If your role involves helping, stimulating, supporting, challenging or provoking others to think at their very best, you may be familiar with Nancy Kline's work, published as Time to Think, More Time to Think, and The Promise that Changes Everything.  If you are not, these books are well worth reading and learning from.

At the heart of Nancy's approach, which she calls a Thinking Environment, is the belief that attention is generative; that is, the quality of someone's thinking, in my presence, is at least in part a product of the quality of attention that I give to them. (if you doubt this, consider the reverse: when you are trying to think about something and the person who is meant to be listening is clearly not attending... see what I mean?)

But in addition to a quality of attention that is in fact rare in most work contexts, there are nine other components of Thinking Environment; and there are various applications of these components that are suited to both group and one-to-one contexts.

Foundational is the Thinking Partnership: a precise but easeful approach to enabling someone else to think outstandingly well.  I have blogged previously about this many times, ranging from my initial exploration of the process with Nancy, through to its practical application in a coaching session. (Other posts may be found by clicking the tag Thinking Environment).

So I am delighted to be offering the Thinking Partnership Programme in the Lake District, this autumn and again next spring. This Programme teaches you the Thinking Partnership Session®, a uniquely powerful process for liberating the human mind. Through generative Attention and the building of Incisive Questions, this process produces breakthrough, independent thinking.

If you choose to join us, you will participate both as Thinker (considering topics of your choice), and as Thinking Partner (practicing this elegant expertise). Along the way you will explore all Ten Components of a Thinking Environment.

This course is a prerequisite for the Coach Qualifying Course, should you wish to take your practice to the next level.

More details are on my website, here; and of course if you wish to talk about the programme, or have any questions, I'd be delighted to hear from you.