June Newsletter – Look Up!
Every now and then you come across a video that strikes a chord, and gets you to stop and think. This one was by Gary Turk and called “Look Up”. He has put some inspiring poetry together with some poignant music to craft this memorable video about how non-social, social media actually is.
This reminded me how important face to face conversations are, and why those who undertake coaching receive immense benefits through the simple process of conversing. In any coaching assignment there are always the agreed objectives that are set out at the beginning and are worked upon, but time and time again it’s the opportunity to have a conversation that has a big impact.
As Gary Turk puts it “when we open our computers it’s the doors we shut”, and as a result we sometimes forget how to listen and express ourselves verbally so the other party to the conversation feels heard and we feel understood. This doesn’t only pertain to work but to life in general.
We are social beings and if we have no one to have a real conversation with it’s pretty damn lonely.
The Coaching conversation
Why does a really good coaching conversation have such a big impact? For years coaching conversations have yielded fantastic results but we have never really known why. We are now getting a better picture as to why this is the case.
Picture the brain as thousands of rooms with lights at differing intensities. A good conversation does two things. One it turns up the intensity and creates light bulb moments – a sudden realization about something. Secondly it promotes neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity or brain plasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change as a result of an experience. New pathways are created in our brain. To come up with a resolution to a previously unsolvable problem is an example of neuroplasticity.
Think of it like this, our brain loves patterns, doing things the same way over and over – we call them habits. Cows have habits, they will follow the same trail to their food even if there was a quicker way. These cow trails are what exist in our brain when we approach an issue. Our brain wants to conserve energy and do things the old way – follow the same trail.
Of course we all know that if we want a different outcome we are going to have to do something differently. A coach facilitates this process and enables us the space to rewire or create new pathways so we can approach or solve a problem differently. This involves asking questions, listening and understanding the effect stress has on our cognitive ability.
So the next conversation you have, think about its impact; are you creating new trails or reinforcing old ones?
A salesman was returning from a very successful trip feeling on top of the world when suddenly, he got a flat tyre.
He looked in the trunk (boot) and realized that he didn’t have a jack. He thought, oh well, I passed a gas station a while back, I’ll just walk back and get a jack and be on my way.
As he started to walk he thought, I am in the middle of nowhere. They will probably charge me for the jack. Oh well, I made good money this trip. It doesn’t matter.
Realizing that he was in the middle of nowhere, he thought they will probably over-charge me.
As he continued he got madder and madder thinking they could charge him anything they wanted. He was at their mercy.
Finally he arrived at the gas station, the attended asked, can I help you?
He yelled back, “Keep your &&&& jack, I don’t want it anyway.”
The moral of the story is if you believe something strong enough, you will react accordingly.
Dr. Rob McNeilly on Engaging the Client, Strategies and Reframing
Engaging the coaching client
The majority of clients who ask for coaching will be “customers and will readily respond to our coaching conversation, moving satisfyingly towards their desired outcome.
There will be some who are sincere in wanting to shift their experience, but express impediments to change which are outside their field of influence such as the economic situation or the mood of the organisation they are part of. These “complainants” require some preliminary work to engage them in the coaching process before we can even begin to explore resources and relate these to possible outcomes, we will first need to connect them with their own resourcefulness by acknowledging their perceived difficulty, and affirm their assessment that the block is real and really beyond their control, and then find a way of offering them a sincere compliment, affirming their self-worth, the legitimacy, the importance of the difficulty to them as a concerned human being.
These steps have the effect of predictability diffusing any of the perceived blocks to movement, and small gradual changes can be encouraged, perhaps giving even more importance to minimising the pace and intensity of the change process.
Some clients will be sent by another – a manager, spouse, or colleague – informing us, if we have ears to listen, that they are asking for coaching because so and so said it would help. Such a client is letting us know they have minimal investment in the process, and are alerting us to the necessity of agreeing with them if we are to avoid a conflict, and exploring, very sensitively, what that recommending individual had in mind or what that person’s expectation might have been in recommending coaching. Then and only then can we begin to tentatively explore what the smallest and easiest step might be if we are all to be spared a long and boring coaching process. Sometimes the hope for avoiding coaching, a client will give a little and hopefully this will be sufficient to set some other changes happening in the system so the dilemma which had precipitated the request for coaching would have dissipated.
Exploring how someone has achieved success previously can open ways of connecting with similar processes again. If a client is wanting to become more active in designing their career, we can ask them how they have made other good decisions in the past. Do they write down the pros and cons, did they ask a mentor, did they toss a coin – what did they do, that might be able to repeat
It is also valuable at times to outline the specific steps, even if the details might seem petty. Clarifying the micro steps can transform a fake amorphous squish into a series of doable actions which can be acted on immediately.
Adding in extra elements can also assist in disrupting any unhealthy activities. If procrastination interrupts a client getting on with a project, we can prescribe a set time for procrastination – we can insist that they prepare themselves for the task, and intentionally refrain from beginning for exactly 5 minutes, 95 seconds or some other interval which is sufficiently disruptive to the procrastination behaviour. We might ask them to ring a mentor or a colleague and inform that person exactly what they are not doing.
Strategies can bring a lovely mood of play out like this to previously heavy session.
Because human beings are concerned beings, when some important concern is threatened, we will experience some introduction to our experience. This concern can appear as a problem, it can also become apparent as a desire to achieve a goal, to enhance our performance.
To articulate this concern has a predictable outcome of affirming the beginning of the individual, and so, calls for more of who they are and who they can become, to everyone’s benefit. When a client says that they want to improve their performance, the fact that they want to improve it, allows us to feel safe in saying ‘performing well is important to you’ and although this could be heard as a truism, given that it is more or less a repetition of their own statement, it has the effect of clarifying the concern by articulating it, and affirms their wanting to improve is worthwhile.
Executive Coaching. We are getting some fantastic results by using Heart Rate Variability analysis in our coaching sessions to pinpoint stress. Sessions are either 6 or 10 weeks long and in addition to addressing the clients’ issues we share ways of de-stressing and turning pressure into performance.
The presentation strategy and design program the Extreme Presentation Method is now available on- line on the website. It goes for 5 weeks, is self-paced with weekly live chats with myself. A full outline is available under a tab by the same name.