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About Emotional Nakedness

Posted By Francoise Orlov, Francoise Orlov Coaching, 20 November 2017
About Emotional Nakedness ‘Getting Naked’ (2016) – Dr Pat Williams Book review written by Dr Françoise Orlov – November 2017

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Tags:  Best Practice  Emotional Intelligence  Energy  Leadership  Presence 

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About Emotional Nakedness

Posted By Francoise Orlov, Francoise Orlov Coaching, 20 November 2017
About Emotional Nakedness ‘Getting Naked’ (2016) – Dr Pat Williams Book review written by Dr Françoise Orlov – November 2017

Tags:  Best Practice  Emotional Intelligence  Energy  Leadership  Presence 

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Whats in it for me?

Posted By Robert Thompson, The Coaching Revolution, 21 July 2017
Updated: 21 July 2017
I had an interview recently for a voluntary role, why did I do it? Why do we do it? All is well and I have enough to be getting on with but ... well it about new challenges, new learning and new opportunities I think. And what about the interview panel, they were volunteers as well giving their time and expertise, and in some cases fellow members of the organisation. We humans are really social animals and thrive on meeting new people in new situations, and this is coming from an introvert! It's about relevance as we can all associate with a cause or a movement or a club. It’s surprising the commitment one is prepared to make regardless of return in some cases, monetary or otherwise and preparation for the event is no less stringent. Having a common outlook, interest or goal brings people together genuinely creating real conversations and connections. Networking is so overused and misunderstood these days and has such a negative 'what's in it for me' connotation that meeting with like-minded people gets over that hurdle. How about, 'how can I help you’? Giving a little can pay dividends later. I am not talking about getting back. If that person you help does somebody a good turn, that's enough. The world is full of unsung heroes, join the majority! That interview, well I have been a member of that organisation a long time and it feels right to put some effort into giving instead of taking. The people sitting on the interview panel are already giving. Sometimes that's just what its about.

Tags:  networking  opportunity  relevant  volunteer 

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A Coach for all Seasons

Posted By Margaret Walsh, Margaret Walsh Consulting Ltd, 05 July 2017

What does it really mean when a Coach says I bring my ‘whole self’ into coaching? 

For me, as well as using well-respected tools and frameworks, this means that I also have highly- tuned awareness of the impact that the Coachee has on my thoughts and feelings in the coaching relationship.  My experience of coaching over fifteen years is that it is a dynamic relationship, with both conscious and unconscious processing, and includes many choices for the Coach to make on ‘where to tap’. 

Working at a deeper, more psychological level reflects my own approach to coaching.  In my early years as a Coach I found that I ‘bumped up’ against the boundary between coaching and counselling and often felt the need to go deeper to understand the thoughts and behaviour of a Coachee but, ethically, I did not go there as that strayed into counselling.  Over five years ago, I trained as a Psychotherapist and transferred this learning and insight both into myself and others to manage better the dynamics at play in the coaching relationship to deepen a Coachee’s self-awareness and thereby help unlock change. 

The current stage of my coaching development has drawn me to the connections with nature and how to use nature in my work.  There is much evidence from clinicians (and anecdotally from those who spend time in nature) of the benefits of being in nature.  This is early work for me at present and this blog provides an opportunity to process my own thinking as a quote attributed to E.M Forster states: ‘How do I know what I think until I see what I have to say?’.

We can learn from the seasons and nature in terms of how we live our lives.  If we ‘chunk up’ and look conceptually, our life moves through their own seasons.  You can see our childhood and growing up as Spring and early Summer, where there is lots of growth, potential and risk for ‘weeds’ to pull us down!  Our early adult years form a parallel with Summer, where we get established and show our uniqueness (if we’re lucky).  As we age, we start to move into the Autumn of our years, still plenty to shine and revel in, but we start to become aware of the impact of ageing.  And Winter, when there is lots going on beneath the surface and with greater time for introspection, the brilliance of nature is revealed more sharply.  Winter is a core period in our lives and particularly so, as we have the potential to live longer.  Within these ‘life stages’ there are ‘seasons’ e.g. a new relationship or, indeed, a new project or job where the metaphor and learning still applies.     

These parallels with nature can also be used in the coaching room to help a Coachee gain perspective and learn from the natural environment.  I have coached many individuals who were stressed and disconnected from themselves and the world.  Tuning into the cycles of nature and the rhythm of the day or season and seeing the resilience present within the natural world, has often helped them to make changes that have eased some of the internal pressure. 

When you stop and listen to the language of a Coach there are numerous references to nature/gardening like:

·         Sowing the seeds

·         Germination (of an idea)

·         Nurture

·         New/green shoots

·         Change in conditions

·         Climate (or culture), micro-climate

·         Adapting to the environment

·         Feeding, watering, caring for new ideas (or plants)

·         Managing negative thoughts/ getting rid of the weeds

Indeed, one of the most popular frameworks for coaching is GROW (by John Whitmore), and nature is the best example of how to grow!  Wouldn’t it be good to form a much better connection between nature and coaching as they fit so well together?  

It’s too easy to dismiss this idea as ‘psychobabble’, and yet nature is a great metaphor and tool for Coaches to use, in considered ways, to enhance the perspective and experience of a Coachee.  A quote from one of our greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein, shows an insight into the powerful learning that can be gained by staying connected to nature.

‘Look deep into nature, and you will understand everything better’.


Margaret Walsh

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A Question of Identity

Posted By Ken Smith, 01 July 2017
The forthcoming referendum on EU membership has set me thinking about identity.  It’s a problematical subject to talk about, certainly at the national level, without sounding overblown or sentimental or jingoistic.  To me, some of the rhetoric about exiting the EU seems flavoured with a nationalism redolent of days when it was generally acceptable to express a certain racial superiority.  English identity is of course ever contested in the wake of multi-culturalism; European identity seems complex, heterogeneous and elusive too, rooted in the dusty web of the Holy Roman Empire, Napoleon’s megalomania and fading notions of Christendom.  So the path out from all this is found by making assertions about the economic doom consequent upon the UK’s staying or leaving.  

While I know that money makes the world go around, it strikes me as unfortunate that the great hope at the heart of the European project is so rarely mentioned: the preservation of peace.  I find myself thinking of my grandfather, gassed in the trenches during the First World War, moving with my grandmother between bomb-damaged homes in London during the Second; my father’s photographs taken when a member of the occupying forces in Germany of the devastation of the Ruhr, among which my mother lived, while members of her family suffered incarceration and murder in concentration camps.  Beyond these dark shadows of Empire and Reich, my parentage has given me a hunger for harmony, as well as a warm attachment to the best of both countries and; though it also occasionally creates a curious sense of displacement, of not quite belonging to either culture.

I think questions of identity lie at the deepest place we can go in coaching.  And it’s often a very entangled place.  I see it in clients who have found that their identity has come almost solely to be formed by their working lives, having moved from excitement and satisfaction into overwhelm and powerlessness; who have found that their own values are now in conflict with those played out in their organisation; or who have come to the sad realisation that they are ultimately and easily dispensable.  Our sense of identity can be a great strength, and give us a place from which to express our “authentic” selves; and it can grip us nightmarishly, like an unshakeable fever.  

And yet we learn from those of a spiritual bent that letting go of our delusional, constructed self is the way to reach a fuller understanding of who we are and to form a deeper connection with others.  And indeed I wonder if we need to be just one thing, one person; and whether it is healthier and more joyful to be many people, as we discover the diverse things that are important to us and respond to them.  I think as a coach we can, at our best, let go of our own selves in the service of others; witnessing our clients relearn who it is they can and want to be, as they shape the legacies they receive and those they want to pass on.

Ken Smith

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The 5 Minute Interview: Linda Aspey on Igniting Thinking in a Webinar Environment

Posted By Angela Dunbar, 01 July 2017

Angela Dunbar speaks to Linda Aspey about the ideas behind and takeaways from her webinar series ‘Journey to Coaching Mastery and the Thinking Environment’ that she recently conducted, with Ruth McCarthy, for the AC. In this interview, Linda explains that the webinars’ purpose was to create a space to help people think for themselves, about the Thinking Environment.

In this interview, Linda explains that the webinars’ purpose was to create a space to help people think for themselves, about the Thinking Environment.

Angela: What’s been the biggest takeaway that coaches are getting from the webinars? 

Linda: Each webinar has given an overview of four of the different components of the Thinking Environment, of which there are ten. 

In the first webinar we focused on attention, ease, equality and appreciation. We’ve had feedback that people are being more easeful in their client work. And they are holding back on asking too many questions and offering too much input, because they’ve been getting curious about where the client might go with their thinking, before they offer their own thoughts. 

People are telling us they really understand now, what it’s like to be attentive. And this has really sparked people’s imagination. They are listening now to ignite, not to respond. People have noticed how much calmer they feel, and how much more positive about things. 

We have three people volunteered to be in our ’thinking team’, so you can hear them on the recording. They’ve all said that they noticed they are using the ideas already, such as asking others - “What do you think?” when they have finished speaking. 

Angela: In the description of the third webinar, what really caught my attention was about helping people get past their powerful and limiting assumptions. Can you think of an example when this approach has helped you? 

Linda: Absolutely! It’s what got me hooked on the Thinking Environment in the first place. It was nine years ago and I was having a thinking session with Nancy Kline. I said I wanted to write more. 

I had written handouts and training materials for years but they were not for publication as such. I’d even written a book years before but I dismissed that as just a series of cobbled-together handouts. So we spent some time looking at my assumptions about writing, and one of my biggest was that I wasn’t academic enough. But I had loads of qualifications! However because I didn’t work hard or do well at school I had this imprint that I wasn’t really academic. 

Although I had lots of other excuses, the deep-seated assumption was this one. Then we explored that and pulled that apart, and worked out if it was true or not. And, even if it was true, why would that hold me back? I didn’t need to be perfect at it. And I found an alternative, liberating assumption: I could write as well as anyone else! 

And then Nancy said, “So if you knew you could write as well as anyone else, what would you do?” I said, “I’d start writing tomorrow!” And that was it! I just started writing. I’d wanted to write for years and been on all these courses and had coaching sessions and then – wow! It was sorted in a single two-hour session. 

In my life the Thinking Environment has made a phenomenal difference. I weave it into everything I do, even if I’m not offering pure Thinking Environment coaching or training. I can’t not use Thinking Environment because it is a way of being, not doing. 

Angela: If people are inspired to know more and missed the webinar, what should they do?

Linda: Although the live classes are finished now, you can still download the recordings through the AC website. We have more courses coming next year and places are filling up fast!

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Posted By Ken Smith, 01 July 2017

Perhaps it’s because I’m writing this on a Monday morning, when I often feel a little fragile, but I’ve been wondering about fear.

The fear

  • of taking an opportunity and of losing some of the things that keep you safe
  • of proclaiming your passion and speaking your mind
  • that arises when a frenzy of counting devalues you
  • of losing territory when territory equates to identity
  • of not knowing where to take the coaching session
  • of where in the future to take yourself

And I’ve been wondering about the fear that seems to be keeping a couple of my clients from saying what they don’t want to hear themselves telling me. Sometimes coaching becomes an invitation to consider our fear, both for coach and client; the fear that is the pin that holds us in our stuck place.

It’s an invitation that can bring fear’s presumptions into the light of compassionate scrutiny and allow, from behind the disguise of our business vocabulary, a more human language to be spoken.  

Maybe somewhere within, beneath or around our fear is something that contains its very opposite and where the possibility of renewal and a growing light resides.

And when you are working as a coach, what do you do with your own fear?

Ken Smith

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Trapped in a Good Intention

Posted By Ken Smith, 01 July 2017
We coach because we want to do some good in the world: a bold assertion but I think essentially true.  Whether our focus is the individual coachee sitting with us or, if we can hold the wider frame open too, the organisation or other system of which they are a part; our general goal is to achieve some sort of positive effect from which they can benefit.

I’ve been running some supervision sessions with newly trained coaches recently and this desire to do good appeared as a common and strong theme among them.  They wanted their clients to be happier and more accomplished people.  When the signs of this coming about seemed elusive, absent or very ambiguous, the coaches felt that to some degree or other they had failed their clients.  They then looked about themselves for more techniques whose application would reduce the risk of such failure.

This showed a wonderful generosity of spirit in the coaches but it was leaving them anxious.  They were trapped in their good intention, with their curiosity tied and bound.  They had found the great paradox of coaching: how to pursue the noble desire to do good work, while leaving the responsibility for action and its outcomes with the client?  It’s a paradox made deeper in that a part of a coach’s presence is the subtle expression of their hope for their client’s success. We are with them because, after all, we want to help them.

Interwoven with this desire to do good is our desire to understand; to find a pattern of connections between what we do as coaches and what we infer from our clients’ responses to us.  I believe that we can escape the trap of our good intention when we decide not to change our clients through our attempts to understand them.  Letting go of our urge to understand, however, means we then to forgive ourselves for our ignorance.

When we disentangle the need to understand from our desire to do good, the questions we give to our clients act as an invitation for them to pay a different kind of attention to themselves.  The trap of our intention dissolves and curiosity, theirs and ours, is set free. 

Ken Smith

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Coaches: What do we notice just before we don't know what to do?

Posted By Ian Saunders, 01 July 2017
When coaching, we inevitably discover that at times we don’t know what to do. How quickly we notice and what we then do in many ways defines the more experienced coach.

Over the past year or so Ray and I have been exploring this question on our own and with groups of coaches. Whilst we have some ideas to share here we have found that drawing on each coach’s individual experience provides a richer picture than hearing ideas presented in lecture or input form. It is from exploring and sharing these individual reflections that much learning is possible.

So, our starting point is to ask two questions to reflect on:

  • “When did you notice that you did not know what to do?”
  • “What did you do then?”

and next to consider: “what are the signals that you have noticed about ‘not knowing’; and what sort of awareness did you have and might you need?”

As soon as coaches begin to share such experiences they quickly realise that individual issues and concerns are shared quite widely between them, however experienced. What differs is how they dealt with the challenges which not knowing presented. We have encouraged sharing and further reflection in small groups using these questions:

  • “What have you learned that you could do, when you notice you don’t know what to do?”
  • “What might hinder you doing this?”
  • “What resources might you need to enable you to do this successfully?”

We conclude by encouraging participants to explore:

  • “What might be good about not knowing…?”

We believe that by following these questions yourself (and in supervision) you can identify your own behavioural patterns, raise your awareness and develop new or different responses.

We have grouped some of the many ideas shared by the coaches we have worked with, under three headings:

  • circumstances (when I don’t know what to do) - e.g. poorly prepared, different expectations
  • the signals that indicate or precede my not knowing - e.g. anxiety, loss of concentration
  • some tips - e.g. manage own state of attention, share not knowing, ask the client

Two consistent insights have emerged from all our investigations:                                                          

not knowing (what to do...) is OK; and have confidence in the silence (that might occur).


Ian Saunders and Ray Charlton

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Posted By Ken Smith, 01 July 2017

We live in an analytical world.  We look for causes, break things down, tie bits of them together again, transfer and translate, interpret, infer and weave in some old and new meanings; all so we can get by and get along.  And when we do these things as coaches, working with someone who wants to make sense of a part of their world whose meaning has slipped behind a cloud for a while, whereabouts do we, the coach, need to be? 

I was running a workshop recently, introducing some internal coaches to Clean Language.  This is an approach which, to put it very crudely, has a certain an anti-analytical attitude; an anti-“the coach clearly knows what’s going on here” stance. It’s about really believing the old adage that clients have their own best, most useful answers tucked away somewhere.  

A couple of the participants in the workshop felt that using Clean Language lessened a coach’s presence, with the coach simply working to a set menu of questions and leaving themselves coldly outside, behind a glass wall.  It’s an entirely reasonable first response by coaches who prefer, by virtue of training, education, wider culture and whatever else, to work interpretatively and to bring more external content into their coaching conversations. 

For me, using Clean Language actually helps me to be more present.  But the workshop left me thinking again about the “presence” thing. 

When it comes to coaching, I suspect that the parties involved would generally agree that presence has less to do with what you might call a charismatic impact and more to do with a deeper experience of connection and of really being listened to. 

The paradox though seems to be, that the way you listen to others is tangled up with how you listen to yourself.  So presence can be something that arises from your own mindfulness - or perhaps from your own mindlessness, as you let go of your prejudices and preferences and cleverness, at those times when you get a sense that they are playing around and playing up. 

We are, bizarrely, more present when we are not in others’ lines of sight; when we’ve got out of the way. 

Still, to be present, there has to be somebody else there, which makes presence both a quality of attention and an experience shared.  Though it does not quite do justice to their various nuances, you could say that when you are mindful, you are present with yourself; when you are present you are mindful with others.


Ken Smith

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