So, you’ve been trying to reach your goals. Perhaps it’s your goal to find a new job. Or to attract new clients, new sales. It might be something personal, like finding a partner or conceiving a child.
But somehow, it isn’t quite happening.
If only you could push a little harder.
You think about what action you need to take next. You identify and plan your next steps. It all seems perfectly logical. Easy even – just a half an hour here, a quick phone-call there.
Easy, yes, but somehow it isn’t quite happening.
You’re not taking the actions. Or you’re taking action but not seeing the results.
The truth is, at the same time, you know you’re exhausted. Your head is full of “shoulds” and some part of you is resisting the sense of obligation that comes with “should”. The very thing you’re doing (or planning to do) precisely to make life easier, more comfortable, more joyful, more tailored to you is leaving you feeling exhausted, unable to rest, more joyless.
You feel the weight on your shoulders and you want to put it down.
Are you listening?
Recently, this was the experience of a client of mine.
Some part of her was pushing, assiduously, forward. Some part of her was yearning for rest. She wanted to make progress towards her goals but somehow she wasn’t taking action. She was yearning for rest but never felt relaxed. “On the one hand…” she was saying, “but on the other hand…”
Is this you, too?
We took time in our coaching to listen. We wanted to connect with the needs she was trying to meet and to explore possibilities for meeting her needs. The more we listened, the more we found that it is possible both to take steps to move forward and to take time to rest.
Actually, we found it was not only possible but also essential.
And there’s more.
As we found a way forward that she could sign up to – that all of her could sign up to – something else popped up.
“Maybe,” she told me, “I need to look at a larger question… not just my next career steps but also the whole of my life.”
In her struggle to carve out her next career move, a more fundamental need was not being heard. It was time to step back from taking steps to make things happen and to ask “What is it that I really want in my life as a whole?” This was a question about every aspect of her life – career, yes, but also leisure, family, location and more – as well as a question about the the weeks, months and years to come.
It was, in short, a time to stop doing and a time to start dreaming.
But how do you dream?
It may seem strange to some, but if you’re used to planning and taking action, it can be hard to know how to dream or even to know how to connect with the dreams you already have. I’m writing this post today because I’d like to offer some simple ways to get started:
Learn from your past (or someone else’s): Has there ever been a time in your past when you had a dream that came true? If you have past experience of conceiving, pursuing and fulfilling your dreams, you already know what happened and can look for moments in the present that are similar to your experience in the past. Did you see it in your mind’s eye? Or have a feeling that something was coming your way? Different people dream in different ways, so tapping into your own experience or getting curious about other people’s can be a valuable source of information about how you dream. The suggestions below are a reflection of the ways in which different people envisage a new and different future;
Taking stock: As a coach, I often begin a coaching assignment by helping clients to take stock using two “coaching-wheels“. The coaching wheel supports self reflection and can help people get started who find dreaming difficult. How content are you, for example, with your professional life? Or your personal relationships? A mark out of ten can be easy to assign and further reflection can help you to explore what’s working in your life and what more you want;
Tracking your emotions: How are you responding to the events of your day, week, month? When do you feel most joyful and alive? When do your energies feel drained. What possibilities excite you? What ideas are joyless and laden with “shoulds” and “oughts”? When you track your emotions in the here and now – when you really pay attention – you begin the process of understanding what you really want in your life;
Listening to the small voice within: Often, when I talk with clients they already know something is off track but are pushing this message away. They may even know what they really want but, because they don’t know how to make it happen, they carry on with life as it is. Sometimes, listening to this inner voice is as simple as saying “yes, I’m ready to listen”. Sometimes, it’s about carving out the kind of unscheduled downtime that allows these messages to come through. A day with no agenda. A walk in the countryside. Time curled up in your arm chair with a notepad and pen;
Cultivating gratitude: To cultivate gratitude is to notice those moments in your life when something meets your needs. It might be something you do, or something someone else does or, simply, something that happens. At first, you may want to dedicate a time to do this, keeping a gratitude diary, for example, which you write in at the end of the day. In my experience, over time, this has morphed into a constant alertness to those things in my life which are most precious to me. I say thank you to myself. I say thank you to others. My personal Facebook Page is now littered with status updates which reflect my gratitude. (These are the ones my youngest nephew thinks are terribly long.) To cultivate gratitude is to become more aware of those things that meet our needs and this, in turn, increases awareness of what we might want more of in future;
Visualise your dreams: A notice board, a notebook or an online application can be a great place to build up a visual image of the things you dream of. What do you see that catches your eye? It may be the different aspects of your life that you are starting to represent or more detail about a particular aspect of your life, from decorating the lounge all the way through to where you want to live or work. It may be photos that catch your attention, or phrases… find a place to bring them together so you can build up a picture of the life you dream of;
Drawing inspiration from others: Who do you most admire or envy? Who – or what – inspires you? Noticing your response to others can also help you to connect with everything that is important, inspiring, joyful or simply yes, that’s it! right for you. This can be about the content of the dream (the thing they dreamt of and made happen) or about their capacity to dream (how they did the dreaming and how they realised their dream).
Why dream? Conceiving the impossible
Right now, my client may not know what she really wants, or how to make it happen. Nonetheless, realities start with a dream. So, as I close, I think of those who have dreamt and whose dreams have come true.
Some of them are clients of mine, men and women who have made radical career changes, who have found the sweet spot where work and family can coexist, who have realised the life they were leading was not for them and moved towards something that was more congruent or fitting.
Some of them have held dreams for society at large – dreams of inclusion and social cohesion, dreams of justice or peace, dreams for the environment we live in, dreams for our health, wealth or well-being.
All of them made something happen because, first, they imagined its existence.
If, like my client, your struggling to make something happen, could it be your time, also, to stop doing and start dreaming?
Hurt people hurt people. That’s how pain patterns gets passed on, generation after generation after generation. Break the chain today. Meet anger with sympathy, contempt with compassion, cruelty with kindness. Greet grimaces with smiles. Forgive and forget about finding fault. Love is the weapon of the future.
It has been my tradition to mark Remembrance Day here on my blog. This year is no exception.
I want to start by mentioning an experience I had recently and by talking through the learning that has been unfolding for me in the days and weeks that have followed.
One Monday morning, a few weeks ago, I found a response amongst my e-mails to something I had said to a colleague. It was clear from her response that my words had not landed well with her.
I wanted to reach out and open up the opportunity for connection, so I let her know that I was open to discussion if she wanted to talk things through.
A few days later, I reached out again. I sent her a personal message and asked her how she was. We had some exchanges. I asked her if she wanted to talk things through.
I wondered what to do next when the answer seemed to be nothing. I was not at peace.
On the end of a coercive style
I knew my colleague was unhappy with something I’d said and I didn’t know what. Equally, in the course of our conversations, my correspondent said and did a number of things that I found difficult. I experienced them as attempting to control my behaviour – to coerce.
If ever you’ve been on the receiving end of someone else’s attempts to coerce you, you may know how challenging it can be. Whereas some people make requests of you, the person who coerces does so from a place of believing he or she is right. You are told what you should do or should have done or, indeed, should not have done. Requests are made (or orders given) by implication. (Why ask “Would you mind doing…?” when you believe the other person ought to do something because it’s the right thing to do?)
You may also receive feedback from your correspondent to support his or her case. He or she uses labels, for example, to describe you or your behaviour. These are not used with the awareness that they are labels or constructs of the imagination. No, the speaker believes that they are an accurate description. Descriptions of behaviour are not neutral. The other person does not repeat the words that you said or accurately describe what you did. No, he or she tells you that you “spoke out of turn” or “deliberately crossed someone”. “You offended someone”. “You made a fool of yourself”. Anything that you did or said is lost in the midst of holding you responsible for somebody else’s response or beneath layers of judgement about whether or not you should have done what you did.
The fact that none of these descriptions accurately described what you said or did doesn’t matter to the person who is addressing you: his or her map is the territory. You may see that the other person has made assumptions and is treating them as if they were true. At the same time, the confidence of your correspondent that he or she is right is such that he or she has no reason to listen to anything you may have to say. Unless you can talk things through, it’s hard to correct misunderstandings.
How do you feel when this happens and especially when these behaviours are sustained (whether from time to time or on an ongoing basis)? For many people, they can trigger fear, anger, anxiety. Over time, they can undermine your confidence and make you question yourself. Perhaps you resist, asserting your right to choose your own behavour – and you do. You can even use some labels of your own to describe the person whose behaviour you have found so difficult.
Even so, it can be hard to feel at peace.
Good bye to bad rubbish
If you have read this far, you may think I am going to talk about the limitations of coercion. Regular readers already know I am a fan of research summed up by Daniel Goleman (in the article Leadership That Gets Results) which shows that when used inappropriately and excessively, the coercive style can have a negative impact on the way people experience their workplace and, in turn, on their productivity at work.
I promised to talk about my learnings in the midst of my experiences and this is what I am going to do.
I want to start with a path I chose not to take.
In the vernacular, there’s a phrase that is often used to describe one possible response when we are experiencing difficulties in our relationships with others: “say goodbye to bad rubbish”. This is the kind of phrase friends use to comfort loved ones after a relationship break-up, for example.
In the workplace, we may not have the option to walk away from a relationship and still, covertly, we say goodbye to bad rubbish by holding to our view that our colleague is out of line, has values that stink, is totally incompetent and more.
On a global scale, we look at our neighbours – neighbouring countries, religious groups and more – through the eyes of judgement and disbelief. This is the kind of disbelief that asks “How could they possibly do X?” without ever really seeking to know the answer. It may even be the kind of disbelief which asks this question of others whilst overlooking the times when we, too, have reacted in haste and, in doing so, have behaved in ways we would rather forget.
I am not saying that anyone should seek to make a best friend out of someone they find difficult. Men and women in abusive relationships are well advised to walk away. In organisations, we may want to work effectively with someone whose behaviour we loathe and still, to look after our own wellbeing. At the same time, as much as we want to gravitate towards and hang out with people whose company we enjoy, many times, we will encounter people whose behaviour we find difficult. Do we really want to walk away from them all?
On being human
Synchronicity is a wonderful thing. Just as I was grappling with my experiences, I decided to listen to a recorded conference call with Miki Kashtan (who is a trainer of some repute in the field of Nonviolent Communication) about collaboration in the workplace. I did not expect to take anything from her call which would help me with my colleague, but many things she spoke of landed with me.
Firstly, she described an instinct we have to withdraw when we encounter difficult behaviours. In this way, we protect ourselves from further harm. Even though I was only half listening to her as I did other things, I realised there was a message for me in this. I did want to withdraw and protect myself from more of the same. Yehuda Berg puts it this way: “Hurt people hurt people”. When we meet behaviours from people who are triggered, consciously or unconsciously, we want to protect ourselves from being hurt.
In her discussion, Miki pointed to something else. It can be easy, as we withdraw, to fall into judgement. It’s so easy that we do it without even realising that we are doing it. Their behaviour was difficult. It didn’t meet common professional standards. It clearly wasn’t rational. When we come from a place of wanting to protect ourselves, these judgements escalate a cycle of distance and mistrust so that the people whose behaviour we have found so difficult also want to step back and protect themselves.
This is the escalating cycle of pain to which Yehuda Berg refers and which is present in our most intimate relationships. And because I write this posting on Remembrance Day, I think it worth adding that the same pattern that causes us difficulty in our relationships with friends and family is also present in our relationships with our colleagues. And as much as it’s present in our relationships with colleagues, it is also present on a much larger scale in the relationships between nations or religious groups. If we follow this pattern, take the “goodbye to bad rubbish” approach, we can only look forward to conflict at the local and the global level.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
It happened that, a little while before I had the experience I have described above, my friend and colleague, Tamara Laporte, had a hot date (okay, conducted an interview) with Byron Katie, author of the book Loving What Is. I’d been meaning to watch this interview and I knew that now was the time.
Part way through this interview, Tamara asked Byron Katie about an incident that had taken place in her life, when she found herself face to face with a young man with a gun. Her response in the moment blew me away: she was able to connect with what might be going on for this young man, without in any way losing her composure.
Byron Katie was able to respond with composure because she has worked extensively to catch her own thoughts, to question them and to turn them round. By transforming her thoughts – her “story”, if you like – she is able to transform her emotional experience both in the moment and across her life as a whole. She calls this process of enquiry “the work”.
You could say that Byron Katie’s work is the manifestation of Mahatma Gandhi’s often-repeated invitation to “be the change you want to see in the world”. This small change of focus can bring huge results. It was as a result of her extensive work prior to this experience and of her ability, in the moment, to do her own work that she came away from this experience alive.
The mother of all things I want to learn to do differently
Sometimes, lessons are humbling. Not least because, at times, we have to learn them again and again until they become second nature to us – or perhaps return us to our primary nature. As I sit here and reflect, I wonder what three things I would most like to do going forward.
Rupture and repair
The first thing I take from this experience is a reminder that, in any successful relationship, there is a process which another friend and colleague, Melanya Helene, calls “rupture and repair”.
This is not just what happens in our most difficult relationships.
Rupture and repair is what happens in our most intimate relationships. We experience some misunderstanding and draw away. But we also value the relationship enough to want to reconnect. It is this desire to reconnect that motivates us to do what we need to do to overcome misunderstanding and repair our relationships.
Bringing this desire to overcome difficulties is also what allows us to transform our most difficult relationships into relationships of trust. In her densely-packed teleconference call, Miki Kashtan talks of spreading around goodwill when you most feel distrust. On a much greater scale, the process of truth and reconciliation in post-apartheid South Africa came from this intention to repair what was broken.
When rupture happens, in whatever form, on whatever scale, I choose to be open to repair.
You can’t change the others
My experience with my colleague reminded me of another essential truth: the work of repairing difficult relationships begins at home.
It begins at home because we can’t change the others, we can only change ourselves.
It begins at home because our instinct to pull away from difficult relationships, our lack of trust, is itself a barrier to creating positive and healthy relationships, because it causes us to behave in ways which compound the problem.
As long as our focus is on how things should be, for example, we will struggle to deal effectively with how things are. In her conference call, Miki Kashtan describes one thing as under-rated in our society, and I agree: that thing is mourning. She talks about how much we need to experience our grief, our sadness, our disappointment, that this is how the world is – to feel this crushing disappointment all the way. All the thinking we do about how things should be leads us to harden our hearts as a protection from everything we know, deep down, to be true. Mourning helps us to maintain an open heart and it is this open-hearted softness that keeps us open to the other, even when we find their behaviour most difficult.
Both Miki Kashtan and Byron Katie invite us to examine our thinking about the other person. Indeed, Byron Katie’s work is all about examining our thinking. How are we thinking of this other person? (Our friends, our colleagues, our neighbours at local or global level). The biggest story we have to catch is that because there is something we find difficult about this other person, they are somehow, fundamentally, not okay.
The more we can catch ourselves in the midst of this story and question the thoughts we are having, the more we open up new possibilities in our relationships with others. We begin to see that whilst we find some behaviours difficult, other behaviours support us in meeting our needs. This means we can express our appreciation for those behaviours that nurture us and this, in turn, begins to change our experience and the experience of the other.
So, my second choice is this. I want to examine the stories I tell myself about myself and about others, especially when my attachment to that story is strong.
The healing power of empathy
The more we can catch our story, examine and transcend it, the more we can come to a story that opens up the possibility of a different forward path. This requires us to understand that, no matter how others behaved, they acted with positive intentions. Kashtan points to this: that the fact that someone behaved in ways we found difficult probably means that there is something we did or habitually do that they perceive as standing in the way of them fulfilling their needs. Empathy helps us to understand this and to connect with the other person and this opens up the possibility of a dialogue which, in turn, helps us to build a cycle of increasing empathy and mutual understanding.
It’s possible, too, that we need to meet our own experience with great empathy and understanding. Beneath the judgement of the other, for example, there is often a judgement of ourself or, at least, the fear that self-judgement may be justified. For yes, we, too, are human and react, at times, in ways we abhor. When we can bring self-empathy we can hold our positive intentions with great care and mourn, rather than condemn, our own behaviour. This leads us to greater honesty with ourselves, opens up the possibility of transforming our approach over time and, in addition, makes us more forgiving of others.
So, my third commitment is to recognise both my own and others’ need for empathy. I want to bring empathy even to the most difficult of relationships.
Implications for world (and office) peace
Why does any of this matter?
There are those in my life who have encouraged me to step away from any relationships which might be described as abusive, toxic or bullying and I certainly do not seek them out. I’m sure Byron Katie didn’t go looking for the young man with the gun.
At the same time, there are times in our lives when we do have regular contact with someone whose behaviour we don’t enjoy. Perhaps their emotions are frequently triggered. Perhaps their behaviours are unpleasant. He may be a colleague. She may be a family member.
We can, of course, move jobs, change friends, walk away from family. But new jobs bring new people who may also behave at times in ways we don’t enjoy. And it’s my experience that people yearn for a sense of connection with their family members even whilst walking away from situations where they can find no possibility for that connection to occur.
On a much more global scale, condemning “the other”, whether we are talking about men and women of a different political persuasion, national identify or religious group brings us no closer to finding ways forward which support everyone in meeting their needs.
Our relationships at work require us to find ways to connect with the people we most fear or despise, to move beyond our fear and hatred and to come to a place of empathy and understanding.
On Remembrance Day I want to add that this, too, is what is required of us. This requires us to understand that, in war, the most appalling acts are carried out with good intentions. This requires us to recognise that “appalling acts” are not the unique preserve of enemy forces. Looking into our own history, even our recent history, we find that our own countrymen and women have committed appalling acts. We need to recognise that we, too, are capable – as much today as we ever were – of committing appalling acts. Only when we can face this truth can we begin the long walk towards peace.
Hurt people hurt people.
I want to be one of the people who is no longer hurt. And when I feel hurt, I want to respond rather than react.
I offer thanks to my colleague, to Miki Kashtan, to Tamara Laporte and Byron Katie, to Melanya Helene and to many others who have provided the inspiration to write this posting and whose thinking has also informed the content.
I thought of Carrie again recently. I’ll come back to the “why”. First though, I want to touch on something that coaches, and their clients, constantly grapple with:
Pondering what return you’ll get from your investment in coaching?
When you make an investment in coaching – time, money and more – you want to know that it will be worthwhile. This is true whether you are seeking coaching for yourself or sponsoring coaching for someone in your team.
Will coaching help you with the immediate issues that have made you consider coaching as an option in the first place? You want to know.
Will coaching lead to benefits in the long-term that make the investment worthwhile? You want to know.
At the same time, coaching holds no guarantees. There’s no guarantee that coaching will deliver the solutions you are hoping for. There’s no guarantee that coaching will deliver any solutions. Coaching, as an “act of faith” remains an expensive option.
What proof is there of the long-term benefits of coaching?
Coaches, too, grapple with this issue.
We look for studies which demonstrate the impact of coaching. They’re out there but they’re not always easy to find and, quite quickly, they can look out of date.
Sometimes, I prefer to let clients speak about the results over time from their investment in coaching. Carrie told me at the time what benefits she had from her investment in coaching with me. In recent days, she’s been kind enough to add a few words about the long term impact of coaching.
This is what she had to say:
When I first started working with you, I was working flat out and trying to make myself available to everyone – clients, team members and others – all the time. Paradoxically, the more I tried to make myself available to people, the more I was starting to resent people for stealing my time. Also, I was riding the roller-coaster of other people’s emotions. A client would be unhappy (or just express something in a way that brought us all down) and I would dive down. A project would go well and the world was a sunny happy place. I was feeling exhausted and I knew the approach I was taking wasn’t sustainable.
Like many people, I’m a bundle of sharp contrasts – they conflict all the time which causes wasted energy/effort or even pain. With Dorothy, I learnt to unpick these. They all want something good for me. If I can identify how each is trying to serve me, I can end the conflict. Now I understand, for example, what dangers my desire to be available and my concern to protect my time are warning me against and how they’re trying to help me. And I can set and communicate boundaries that don’t cause inconvenience for me or anyone else.
Another massive lesson for me was to take responsibility for myself only – one I share with other people all the time. Clearly defining what I’m responsible for and what I’m not (you need to keep doing this ALL the time!) changes the energy completely and removes the emotional weight of running a service business. Dorothy enabled me to disentangle myself from all of this and establish what I am responsible for which helps me focus effort on what I can actually change and lift the weight from my shoulders of other people’s responses which are their choice.
I didn’t think it was possible to learn something completely new or to massively grow in an area of little experience. For me that was coaching and developing others. I had limited beliefs about what others were capable of so I neither thought they could transform nor that I could help them do it. I learnt by doing that actually, I could change/develop/grow/learn and that opened up a new world. All these people in my extended team could also develop amazing new talents and I could help them do it! And that’s exactly what happened.
The work we did together had a massive impact on me at the time. Learning to coach members of my team meant that they were able to fulfil their potential more fully and I could delegate to them. My role changed quite quickly. I went from being key to the provision of services to take on a leadership role and, quite quickly, to become CEO. This opened up opportunities to do other things, such as lecturing for the University of Cambridge Judge Business School and founding 50th Generation, an incubator for meaningful, growing businesses.
It’s easy to say that, as a result of our work together (and other learning with other learning partners), I became a different person. I think it’s more truthful, though, to say that our work together helped me to become a more effective, fun and joyful version of myself.
Entrepreneur, business grower, investor, communications specialist, guest lecturer
Investing in your life and career
I thought of Carrie because I am currently putting together information about a coaching group I will be offering in the next few days for people who want to make their next career move – people who are seeking promotion within their current organisation or seeking to move from one organisation and another. If you want to find out more, about this, click here.
Carrie’s experience demonstrates the kind of progress people make as a result of investing in their personal development. Her testimonial exemplifies the kind of things people learn in coaching. It also exemplifies the kind of results people can look forward to in the short-, medium- and long-term.
There’s a curious thing, too, about coaching.
Carrie’s testimonial is a reflection of just how extraordinary she is.
At the same time, in my experience, successful coaching demonstrates just how ordinary it is to be extraordinary.
On Wednesday, I announced on this blog that, beginning on 14th July, 2013, I shall be offering coaching at the Lewis clinic, 1, Harley Street, on Sundays. My lead time – from my first announcement to my first clinic – is short and I know I can’t do this all by myself. I’ve been overwhelmed by offers of help.
Now, I must confess, I’m learning relatively late in time just how to ask for help and what to ask for. It’s an ability I cherish all the more for being hard won. I’ve also noticed just how much I love it when one person’s need meets another person’s natural gifts and warm heart. I love it when I can do something easily for someone that makes a huge difference to them. I love it when someone does something for me with ease and joy that supports me in a timely way.
So, I’ve been asking friends, family, colleagues and clients to help me get up and running with the Lewis Clinic. I have made some very specific requests and, well, I’ve been deeply touched by their responses. Here are the requests I’ve made – in case you can help and also in case they inspire you, too, to reach out for just the help and support you most need right now:
If you’re on Facebook, please follow this link and ‘like’ this page. You’ll see details of any announcements I make and your friends will also see that you’ve liked the clinic. I notice how much it has gladdened my heart just to see how many people have been willing to do this. I am enjoying the sense of community – for me and for others – that is starting to build on this page;
I’ve made it financially very easy for anyone who wants coaching right now to become a client with a ‘pay what you want’ special offer which you’ll find on my Facebook page. Maybe this is something that’s perfect for you right now. Maybe you know someone else to whom this might be of interest. One friend was so excited about this opportunity that she contacted two people she knows for whom it might be timely to let them know about the offer. A client gave my details to someone who might be able to refer people to the Coaching Clinic on a regular basis – and, I should add, vice versa;
A third request I’ve made is for comments and testimonials from people who know me – and my coaching skills – well. I know that some people who have read this blog on a regular basis have also become great supporters. If you feel moved to say a few words by way of recommendation to potential clients, please do. These could range from ‘congratulations, Dorothy, this is a great way for you to offer your skills in the world’ to ‘I really benefitted from coaching with Dorothy and I would really recommend the Coaching Clinic to anyone who would like help and support’.
I look forward to hearing from you and receiving your love and support. Equally, I wonder what support could you request of others right now that would make your life easier or more joyful?
Yesterday, I shared news of a new Sunday Coaching Clinic which I’ll be running at the Lewis Clinic at 1, Harley Street, beginning on 14th July 2013. I’m excited about starting at the Lewis Clinic at 1, Harley Street, and want to get off to a flying start! For this reason, I’ve decided to extend a special ‘pay what you want’ offer for any coaching which takes place or is paid for in July, August and September 2013. This is how it works: A minimum fee of £50.00 applies per 50- or 90-minute coaching session. To secure a session please contact me to arrange a time(s) and pay this minimum fee. I will hold a date and time provisionally for a maximum of 4 days and provide details of how you can pay. I will also confirm your session on receipt of payment. The minimum fee is a contribution to the costs of running the clinic. I welcome any additional payment you would like to make either before or following your sessions. How much you pay and when you pay will be up to you. I am happy to discuss fee levels with you. You can use this offer for a one-off session or for a longer term coaching relationship (up to a maximum of one year). In this case, I will ask you to confirm dates and times of each session and to make payment for each session as your way of confirming your coaching. If you want to change dates and times I will be happy to do this, subject to availability. If you wish to draw your coaching to a close ahead of our agreement, I will refund your minimum fee payment provided I am able to fill your coaching slot or subject to one month’s notice. This offer is subject to availability and applies only to coaching I provide at the Lewis Clinic, Harley Street on Sundays. If you want to take advantage of this offer please e-mail me in the first instance to signal your interest at Dorothy@learningforlifeconsulting.co.uk with the heading ‘Harley Street pay what you want offer’. If you have any questions please post them here or contact me directly. I look forward to working with you.
I’ve been in the midst of a decision in recent weeks and it’s been a test of my own decision-making. You know the kind of thing… one part of me says x, another part of me says y… In this posting, I want to put aside any discussion of making decisions per se (though I’ll come to that) and, instead, to let you know that, beginning on 14th July 2013, I will be offering a coaching clinic on Sundays at the Lewis Clinic, 1 Harley Street, London W1G 9DQ. This will be a place of help and support for people who want to release struggle and to find greater ease and joy in their personal and professional lives.
Over the years, working with men and women in leadership roles, I’ve often found that, beneath the surface agenda – whatever that might be – lie questions of personal and professional well-being. The Lewis Clinic is a place where people can work with me who want to focus on questions of well-being away from their place of work. I am expecting that some of my clients at the clinic will be those I am already working with: leaders who want to take the hard work out of achieving results. I am also expecting others to come to the clinic for personal and professional coaching who may not be in leadership roles.
In the months ahead I’ll be completing a project which is already in progress – revising my website to create a resource for past, present and potential clients, including clients of the coaching clinic. I’ll let you know when the website is launched. In the meantime, though, you can learn more about my work at the clinic via Facebook, where I have set up a Facebook page for my work at the clinic.
Honouring the tradition, at the end of the year, to look back on the year just gone and to look forward to the year ahead, I offered questions on Wednesday to help you reflect on the year just passing. In this blog posting, I offer questions for you to enrich your thinking as you look forward to the year ahead.
I invite you to make time and space to look forward to 2011. This is an opportunity to notice what is beckoning you in the year ahead: both to create the year of your choosing and to be conscious of the year that is choosing you. This is an opportunity to connect with and celebrate your needs, and to imagine the ways in which you can meet your needs in 2011, including your need to make a positive difference in the world. This an opportunity to build on the year you had in 2010 in order to create a year in 2011 which speaks to who you are and to the power and potential you have. For some, it may be time to let go of old ideas to create a new life or a new – more authentic – you. I invite you to put aside doing in order to be present and curious, a time to invite new wisdom and insights.
As you reflect on the questions below – or choose other questions that beckon to you at this time – allow yourself to be guided by your own inner wisdom and spirit, noticing the pictures you see, the words and phrases offered by your unconscious mind and the sensations you feel as you reflect.
As you look forward to the year ahead, what stands out? What feelings come up for you as you survey the year?
As you try on the year just coming, what is your experience of the year? Are you looking forward to ease or struggle? Are you looking forward to progress and success? Or to failure, inhibition and “stuckness”? How is for you to look forward to the year in this way?
Who are you becoming as you move towards 2011 and who do you yearn to become? How would you like to connect with, nurture and express your true, authentic self in the year ahead? How do you want to communicate with and relate to others in 2011?
What needs do you have that you would like to meet in 2011? What are the met needs that already enrich your life? What needs would you like to meet more fully in 2011 and how? What attention would you like to give to your needs in 2011?
What are the riches of the year just passing that you would like to take forward into the year to come? What successes have you had that you can build on? What new learning and insight are you bringing to the year ahead? How can you use these experiences to enrich your life in 2011? What further support do you need?
And as you imagine the year to come, what will it mean to you to experience the year as you imagine it in advance? How will it meet your needs? How will it support you in contributing to the needs of others?
And as you reflect on these questions what other questions are coming up for you? What else do you need to step powerfully into 2011?
It is a tradition, at the end of the year, to look back on the year just gone and to look forward to the year ahead. For some, the famous “New Year’s Resolutions” are flights of fancy, quickly forgotten because they were never the object of our full commitment in the first place. For others, taking time to look back and then to look forward holds a sacred place in our lives. For any readers who would like to observe this ritual and to maximise its contribution to their lives, this blog posting offers questions for you to reflect on as you look back on the year now passing.
I invite you to make time and space to reflect on 2010. This is an opportunity to celebrate and mourn: to celebrate the people, experiences, learning and achievements that have met your needs and enriched your life; to mourn those times when your needs have not been met as a result of your own actions, the actions of others and events beyond your control. This is a time to notice what you want to take with you and what you want to leave behind. This is a time to put aside doing in order to be present and curious, a time to invite new wisdom and insights.
As you reflect on the questions below – or choose other questions that beckon to you at this time – allow yourself to be guided by your own inner wisdom and spirit, noticing the pictures you see, the words and phrases offered by your unconscious mind and the sensations you feel as you reflect.
As you look back at the year just passing, what stands out? What feelings come up for you as you survey the year?
What has been your experience of the year? Has life been easy or a struggle? Have you experienced progress and success? Or failure, inhibition and “stuckness”? How has it been for you to experience the year in this way?
Who have you been this year? Have you been authentic and true – with yourself, with others? Have you been divided within yourself? Or even hiding behind some constructed mask?
How has your experience of yourself affected your communication and relationships with others? When have you been conscious of your needs and the needs of others? When have you been unconscious – lost in the doing, for example? How has it been for you to live your life this way?
When have your needs been met and how? How has it been for you to have your needs met in these ways? When have your needs been unmet? How have you experienced your unmet needs?
What are the riches of this year that you would like to take forward into the year to come? What experiences do you want to celebrate? What new learning and insights have enriched your life?
What is it time to let go of and leave behind so that your forward path can be more rich and fulfilling? Who do you need to forgive, for example? What beliefs have had their day? What actions do you need to take to complete this process of letting go?
And as you reflect on these questions, what other questions are coming up for you? What else is needed so that you can honour the year just passing and clear the way to move on?
Just as I pause to ask myself the question “what next?” an e-mail lands in my in-tray from fellow coach and writer Len Williamson about Arnold Beisser’s Paradoxical Theory of Change. Len offers a brief description of the theory and explores the implications for coaching.
Beisser was a contributor in the field of Gestalt and this is amply reflected in his theory. Still, with or without any exposure to or understanding of Gestalt, it strikes me that Beisser’s theory has the ring of truth. With Len’s permission I offer his brief description here:
Arnold Beisser wrote an article in 1970 entitled ‘The Paradoxical Theory of Change’. In it he stated ‘that change occurs when one becomes what he is, not when he tries to become what he is not’. It is paradoxical in the sense that a person can change and start to become something he is not only when he truly knows what he is. It is a lynchpin of the Gestalt approach and one of the clearest descriptions of an idea originally set out by Fritz Perls. I will here reflect on what this means in a coaching relationship and invite you to add your own thoughts. An individual who seeks coaching will often state their requirement as a need to change for some reason. It could be to work better with colleagues, gain a promotion or take a new direction in what they do. The role of the coach is to help the individual achieve the change he wants. The Paradoxical Theory of Change tells us that the most powerful way to do this is to help him describe exactly where he is now. By doing so the client gains insight and understanding about the attributes and characteristics he currently exhibits and begins to see how these might get in the way of the change he wants.
In many Gestalt coaching sessions a client will begin to realise that many of the obstacles to the progress he wants are present within who and what he is at that moment. When this occurs it is a great and helpful discovery as the client can be shown that he has control over changing things that are going on inside him. In fact he has much more control over this than he has over the often originally perceived idea that it is something or someone else that is getting in the way.
The other aspect of interest in this theory is the constant flipping of the client between a state he ‘should’ be in and the state he ‘is’ in. Invariably the client is in neither state but hangs somewhere in between. Making the shift to a clear description of what ‘is’ will give the client a powerful grounding from which he can then consider changing.
Finally it is noticeable that the ‘problem’ or ‘need for change’ cited by the client up front is often not the most important thing to fix for the growth and development of the client. It is always related to where the client actually is in that moment. The role of the coach is to help him describe this in as much rich detail as is possible.
Len asks for thoughts and I notice I recognise a great deal of what he says both as a client of coaching (and other approaches) and as a coach. Maybe my thought of thoughts – simple as it is – is that many approaches are in search of the same truths.
I notice that this in turn raises a question for me – how come we find it so hard to stay with these truths, even though they’re there to be had?
In the lingo of education, I view the evaluation of coaching as a formative (rather than a summative) affair. In other words, when you start to explore outcomes from coaching you are likely to have an impact on the outcomes from coaching. I’m sure scientists have had plenty of opportunity to notice how the act of observing something has an impact on the thing being observed. Today I reflect on this as I respond to a query about evaluating coaching:
We are an organisation that has recently embarked on using coaching as a development tool for our senior managers. As you would imagine we would like to evaluate the effectiveness of the coaching and are looking for any resources that will help us do so. Your experience of what works will also be really useful.
I take a few minutes to share my thoughts and decide to share them here. Broadly speaking, I use three (sometimes four) complimentary processes:
The first is the process whereby I contract with the commissioning client where there is one (i.e. the manager commissioning coaching for one of the people he or she manages) and the person seeking coaching (or coachee). At the outset, I facilitate a three-way meeting with the commissioning client, coachee and me to explore the manager’s reasons for commissioning coaching and any expectations the manager has of the employee. Depending on the length of the contract I will then facilitate three-way meetings on an interim basis and at the end of the process to review progress;
The second is the process I use with the coachee. Even when there is a three-way process (above) I also explore with the coachee what he or she wants from coaching and seek to agree clear goals. These can be the same as the goals agreed with the commissioning manager but may be different, e.g. when a manager requires xyz changes from an employee which cause the employee to question whether or not s/he wants to continue in a job. For the manager making the changes may be the goal. First though, the employee may want to get clear on whether to sign up to the goal. I’m sure that many coaches will tell you they include ongoing processes of evaluation in their coaching – asking clients what they are taking from each session, for example, as well as holding review sessions. I typically hold two-way review sessions periodically and prior to three-way review sessions (above). I also include some evaluation of coaching as part of a final “completion” session at the end of a coaching contract;
In addition, I also have a reciprocal arrangement with a number of trusted coaching colleagues who conduct an interview on my behalf. I started by using this at the end of coaching contracts and increasingly use it periodically with clients who choose to work with me over extended periods. Originally designed to support my learning and development as a coach, I have found the questionnaire I use for this immensely valuable to my clients who are able to reflect on the outcomes from coaching. Where we are still working together, it helps to re-focus – review goals and ways of working together to increase the effectiveness of our work together. Where the coachee is happy to share, I am always delighted to share this feedback with the commissioning manager;
Finally, there is the question of how you evaluate coaching across a team, when the coaching might be seen as a “team” coaching project. I have worked on projects where we have included team discussion – contracting and review.
Whatever the situation, given my conviction that evaluating coaching has an impact on the outcomes from coaching, it’s my aim to design all review processes in ways which facilitate further progress.