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A leadership journey: There is no “I” in coach

Posted by: Mary-Jane Richards | Posted on: November 24th, 2014 | 0 Comments

Because I have always genuinely cared about the people who report to me, I thought it would naturally follow that I would be a very good coach. A recent coaching retreat gave me the insight that I’ve probably never truly coached a day in my life!

A telling exercise is to find a partner and listen to each other for 60 seconds. Without either of you saying one word! It is pretty uncomfortable, but highlights just how much chatter is going on inside your own head. You really cannot be actively listening when your mind is so full of your own noise. Now when I go into a situation that requires me to coach, the first thing I will do is empty my mind – this is actually not about me! (If I want it to be about me, I will have to seek out my own coach).

Insight is the crux of coaching. If you can help your coachee find some insight, there is a far greater chance they will change. Have you ever given any thought to what insight is? I hadn’t. One thing it is NOT is being told what to do, or being given fantastic suggestions of what might “help”. Insight comes from within yourself and is most likely to be the catalyst for real change when you come up with it by yourself.   As much as it might seem easier to be given advice, (or to GIVE it) it just does not have anywhere near the same level of impact. Let them have their own dopamine rush!

There is neuroscience-based research that says when we have an insight, neurons fire and neurotransmitters such as dopamine and noradrenaline are released. This results in increased attention, action potential, and even physical energy. This psychological change is very powerful in creating ownership, action and engagement, which leads to more sustainable outcomes.

In a nutshell, resist with all your might saying “If I was you, I would…” or “Do you know what I would do?”… Or “Would you like a suggestion?” As much as you might be bursting with great ideas to help solve the person’s problem or issue, refrain from sharing – it is far less helpful or likely to resonate with the other person than you (and your ego) might like to think!

Using models that have been proven to work is a great idea. There is nothing wrong with structure, especially when the outcome is likely to be great insights from your coachee. If you have heard of the GROW model, use it to frame your conversations. G for goal – “What would you like to achieve by the end of this one on one/ conversation?” R for reality – “What is happening at the moment?”… (This is the most important place to spend the majority of your time with the coachee – understanding their reality will drive their “A-ha!” moments). O is for opportunity – “What would you like to see happen?” And W is for “way forward” (or my favourite word –action) – “What can you do right now to start heading in the right direction?”

If you are like me, and just love to be where the action is, it’s very tempting to speed along the conversation and get to the way forward as quickly as you possibly can. It isn’t a race! It isn’t a competition. Let the coachee spend the time they need working out their reality, and options, to come up with their own way forward. Trust that it will come easily to them when they are ready. (And without me pushing for it!)

With any luck you’ll be feeling, like me, a tad more likely to leave yourself at the door the next time you take a coaching session. Use those wonderful open ended questions you have in your tool kit, and resist the urge to give advice. It’s more rewarding than you might think!

In the story of your life, are you the triumphant hero or the embattled victim?

Posted by: Emma Sanders-Edwards | Posted on: November 6th, 2014 | 0 Comments

How do you narrate your life? The stories we tell ourselves about our lives not only change our attitudes, but also the way we act.

Why does this happen? Stories drive our behaviours, and we can change these stories to improve our behaviours and the outcomes. For example, attributing failure on a test to not studying enough means that you try harder next time. Attributing it to not being smart enough means you are more likely to give up on future tests.

You can improve your stories either by:

  • doing things that drive better stories. For example, people that engage in volunteer work see themselves as kind people, who contribute to the community, and are generally happier.
  • editing to improve a story about a previous event. For example, re-thinking your failure on a test. Instead of saying ‘I’m dumb’, tell yourself that failing helped make sure next time you sit a test you will put in the effort to get the results that reflect your true ability.

So, how can we use this? The narratives that make you happy are those that provide both hope (for the future) and meaning (understanding why something happened). Use this to:

  1. Deal with change – viewing change as something that can give hope and meaning means you are better able to accept it.
  2. Edit your stories and help others edit their stories – so the narrative gives meaning to a situation and/or provides hope for the future.
  3. Do good, be good – say kind things, volunteer for things, accept other’s foibles with kindness. If you see yourself behaving well, you’re more likely to believe you are a good worthy person.

Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, by Timothy D. Wilson (2011)

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