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Supervision shares the view that you are there for your colleagues, to help them think, to share your experiences in service of them resolving their challenges and to continue to deepen your connection with the group and the coaching community at large. This blog supports this view and facilitates the opportunity to share ideas and support for other members.


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Eye 4 of the Seven-Eyed Model: Sometimes it really is all about "me"!

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 25 June 2018
Perhaps a bit conceitedly, I pride myself on giving pretty good attention to the client even when my wider life is all rather busy. Of course, in reality there are still times when, my attention wanders and I’m distracted by what is going on for me in the moment ….and in doing so, what might be going on for my client in the here and now fades to the background. “Bad coach” I hear you utter … well don’t worry I’ve already given myself a good talking to - many, many times before I wrote this blog !! However, I can’t really apologise for this, as since I’m human, it happens!! And of course the more interesting and useful questions to consider are “why?” or “how?” does this happen? Eye four of the 7-eyed model is where we explore these questions - encouraging us to consider what is going on for us as the coaching dialogue unfolds.

When I look to my own experience I notice two common triggers when I become aware of this eye.

The first trigger is something akin to performance anxiety –rather than paying attention to my client, my attention shifts to myself. A recurrent question is “am I doing okay?” Perhaps the client is going around in circles, or I just offered a clunky question or I simply feel out of my depth.

The second trigger is when something in my client’s story resonates with my own, and I get flipped back to those past memories. When this happens, it’s likely that my own experience will filter what I do or don’t notice within my client’s story.

Let’s take a look an example of the second trigger – when I have a subjective reaction to my client’s story.

My client had been in their organisation for just 18 months, she was hugely frustrated that she had been brought in as a “change agent” but now that she was in the organisation, she was expected to play by the rules with the existing (outdated) processes slowing her down almost to a standstill, she was significantly behind budget and feeling “lost”.

As a naturally forthright individual, she was finding that common sense wasn’t prevailing. We talked through how else she might approach things and got into a discussion of how to manage the politics. I offered a stakeholder analysis as a way of working out how to handle things more “subtly”. Her reaction to this was interesting, she seemed split as whilst her words reflected the logic of the approach, it felt unlikely that she would actually alter her working style.

As I watched her ambivalence at the prospect of having to work differently, I was reminded me of how torn I felt in a similar corporate experience. I commented that observing her I got the sense that whilst she knew “it made sense” there was an underlying question of “but why should I have to work in that way?! That’s not me”. It was spot on, she laughed and this provoked further discussion. However, after a while I became aware that her perspective was now very much about what “they needed to do differently”.

Inadvertently I had colluded with her. I paused and gathered my thoughts, I knew I needed to get some objectivity back. I commented that they really did seem a tricky bunch, but that I was only coaching her, not them. I enquired who she thought she could influence a little (and inwardly I was thinking, let’s rate these stakeholders and divide and conquer – oops! That’s what I did, who knows what she will want to do?).

However, quite matter of factly, she said “none of them….” Ok I said with a smile, so I guess that just leaves you? “It certainly looks that way” she said with an exhausted smile. So tell me, I asked… what’s the shift that needs to happen in you, that will cause the shift you want to see in them? Her response was quick “deliver the numbers… regardless… until I do that, no-one is going to pay any attention to me at all”.

The rest of the session had a completely different focus – her wider stakeholders were forgotten in favour of her own team and how she could galvanise them to turn things around. Her positive energy had returned.

I hope this illustrates how whilst empathy is generally a good thing, and we can bring our own experience into the room to offer insight… there is also a dark side to this connectivity! Has this ever happened for you? And if so, how did you feel about it? And how did you manage to get yourself back on track? I’d love to hear your stories.

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Eye 7 of the Seven-Eyed Model: The wider context

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 30 May 2018
The one to one and confidential nature of the coaching relationship can often obscure the fact that coaching doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Especially when we are working as an executive coach, we will need to consider how the organisational context might be impacting on the work we do with our clients. For example how is coaching seen in their organisation – is it regarded as a remedial activity for poor performers as part of an exit strategy or is it reserved the cream of the talent pool? This is likely to engender a different quality of engagement in the client. Similarly, how was the coaching need determined – by the individual independently, by their manager or through a wider leadership programme? Again this is likely to shape the level of ownership the client has with the proposed focus of the coaching. The coach also needs to have a sense of the organisational culture – what does support, challenge and feedback look like in their client’s business? Once this is understood the coach can calibrate, or at least be transparent about how they work and how they might expect this to “land” with their client. All of these factors are likely to impact on how the client “shows up” for and experiences the coaching. In addition, for me there is also a “due diligence” that the coach needs to put in place when they are helping to effect change in their client. Whatever the client is choosing to change, this is likely to impact on the people around them. So whilst the client is the coach’s primary concern, it would be appropriate to consider what the ripple effect of the client’s change might be and how the client might need to manage any adverse reactions. Similarly, the wider system might be impacting on the client – for example it is hard to help a client develop their gravitas if their line manager isn’t opening doors for them to speak in forums which will raise their profile. In this way the coaching task may be much broader than what was set out as the coaching goal. Yet another overlay is how the coach won the work. If the work was won directly because the coach knows a senior stakeholder in the business – that could impact on how the coach is perceived. For example how objective can they be? How will they handle confidentiality? Importantly, this is a perception which would need to be managed regardless of how professional the coach actually is. If on the other hand, the work has been won through a 3rd party (like a Consultancy that assigns “Associates” to clients) the size and scope of the coaching programme will have probably been designed by someone other than the person delivering it. In which case the coach might have been given an impossible task, the budget might mean there are too few sessions to manage the issue in hand. At other times there might be too much time provided and the client is reluctant to draw it to an early close for fear of looking ungrateful in the eyes of the organisation. Finally whether we work as a life coach or an executive coach – rarely can we draw a wall between the different elements of people’s lives. In the context of the “whole person”, work life impacts on home life and vice versa. So no matter how we set our stall out as a coach it is likely that we will be drawn to take account of issues outside of our “brief”. As this short explanation starts to identify, there are many, many things which could be impacting on the client and coach. So whenever something in the 121 relationship doesn’t appear to be making sense, it is probably a good indication that there is something in the wider context which needs greater exploration in order to fully understand what is really going on. Example : As an Associate coach, I was asked to work with a senior technical specialist who had become a Head of Department in order to help her develop better EQ to manage her team more effectively. I remember being surprised when I found out that this was not a recent promotion, rather she had been in the position for some 3 years. I asked the MD in the tri-partite meeting “why now?” and was told that the company had recently been acquired and the new owners were looking for all senior managers to be “generalists” to improve talent management opportunities. This seemed “logical”. It was a tough coaching assignment, the individual concerned really did have a blind spot when it came to people ! Whilst we made some early progress we reached a bit of a plateau and so there was a request to extend his programme. In the meantime a new HR person joined the organisation - they approved the extension. Both the client and myself took this as an indication of their ongoing support of the individual. The coaching continued and from my perspective it appeared to be that my client was making progress. So, it came as quite a shock to the client (and in turn to me) when she was asked to leave the company. Interestingly the severance package honoured the conclusion of the coaching. The coaching assignment then moved into the territory of “job search” – not something that I particularly enjoy. It was a really dissatisfying end to a coaching programme. There have certainly been times when I have questioned “did I do enough” to help the client improve their performance? If only I’d been a better coach… if only I’d engaged the MD or the HR person more… if only I’d pressed harder at the tri-partite to know what prompted the coaching…. Perhaps then I would have been able to identify the real issue and at least been able to work with the client to exit the organisation in a much more planned and constructive manner. A little while later I heard that the new HR person had resigned on a “point of principle” and that a new Head of Department from the parent company had been recruited into my client’s old role. With this additional information things started to make more sense. As coaches I think we can often fantasize that we will be the catalyst that “turns things around”. However, in reality the organisational landscape in which we work often has much more influence than we do.

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When is over, over…?

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 10 May 2018
When we train as coaches, most programmes give a lot of attention to the start of the coaching relationship. How to set up the contract, how to establish rapport, the importance of setting goals or establishing a pre-agreed end point. However, certainly in my own training, much less attention was paid to how the coaching relationship may end. My working assumption was that the programme would end when the coaching goal was met or when the number of sessions of contracted for expired. As a practitioner, however, I have come to realise that this kind of “natural close” is only one of three ways in which the coaching relationship may come to an end. In this and the next blog, I want to share with you two other types of ending that often occur in a coaching relationship, along with some suggestions on how you might manage them with good grace! One other kind of ending I have experienced is the “premature” end. Often the sponsor of the coaching has an unrealistic sense of what can be achieved within the number of sessions budgeted. This may arise because they are only looking at the symptoms of the coaching need eg. time management, without considering the underlying causes. In the case of time management for example, the real coaching need could be having be a strong “please others” driver or a lack of assertiveness. Premature endings can also occur when although the sponsor understands that coaching is not a “quick fix”, nonetheless there is only a limited budget available. As a coach, given a desire to help, it can be tempting to cram as much as possible into the sessions in an attempt to complete the work. Some coaches I know who fear there is not enough coaching time, become overly generous and allow sessions to overrun, or to continue seeing the client on an unpaid basis once the “paid for” assignment has been exhausted. None of these approaches serve the stakeholders fully. So, some alternative strategies are : • When you start to realise the mismatch between the size of the coaching challenge and the sessions available to work on it, find a way of voicing this. Initially, you could explore this with the client and then in turn with the sponsor. Whilst the budget may appear to be fixed, if you create a strong case you may be able to negotiate an extension to the programme. Some organisations want to “test” if the coaching will work and if the client is making demonstrable progress further funding can sometimes be found. • In some situations this simply is not possible, for example you may be working as an Associate and there is a standard size of programme agreed with the client organisation, regardless of the coaching need. In such circumstances, it is helpful to manage your client’s expectations about what it is typically possible to achieve given the time available. I believe there are a couple of options here: First you might negotiate with your client a smaller, more achievable goal that allows you to work with them to make a change, without feeling unduly pressure. The second option, is to acknowledge that it is unlikely that you will fully resolve the issue in the time available. Therefore, you might deliberately reserve all or part of your final session, for establishing what additional support the client needs now. You proactively manage the fact that you will no longer be part of their support network and make plans accordingly. • Of course everyone is different and you may be surprised about the pace of the change – however, what a nice problem to have if you have reached a conclusion to the coaching need and yet still have some sessions available to use. • For me part of the definition of the premature end, is that whilst it is “premature” it will nonetheless be anticipated, and therefore it can be planned for. In these circumstances in the final session it can be useful to “take stock” and celebrate the successes to date as well as doing a gap analysis to establish what still needs work if they are to achieve the original goal. • It is interesting that sometimes, the coach experiences this situation with greater unease than the client. If you find yourself wondering about your client, or noticing that you felt you “coulda, shoulda” done more… then this is a sign that some “unfinished business” may be in play and it is likely to be a good idea to discuss the client with your supervisor. The other kind of end that I have experienced, cannot be planned for, this is the “uncertain” end and will be the subject of the next blog. Are you working with a client trying to achieve the impossible within a short space of time. Do give me a call and perhaps we can explore what options you might explore with them. For more information contact Call Michelle on 07717 122950

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The Sounds of Silence......

Posted By Michelle Lucas Ms, Greenfields Consulting Ltd, 03 April 2018
So, how long can you wait before breaking a silence? Of course each individual’s tolerance level is different and, more than that, silence often prompts a whole host of gremlins to jump onto our shoulder. Was my question not sharp enough? Should I offer a follow up question? Have I lost them? What did I miss? What time is it…?! And yet all of these questions divert us from noticing what is actually shouting to be heard. I found a wonderful quote the other day “Silence is not the absence of something, but the presence of everything” it was attributed to John Grossman. With this as a lens I find it’s possible to be much more curious about how the client is, in their silence. You don’t have to be an NLP practitioner to notice eye movements and the slant of their head. Are they searching? Reflecting? Rehearsing? You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to feel the impact of their energy..? Are they still or fidgety? If they are still – are they still and stuck or still and contemplative? If they are fidgety - are they energised positively or is frustration brewing? What is their level of engagement, can you feel they are working or does it feel like they are avoiding? And what about our energy, if we tune into our own sense of them, what do you notice is occurring in you? What do you notice you are drawn to in their story? What sensations are you experiencing (beside your own anxiety!!) that might hint at what thoughts are unfolding? Of course it is tempting to use this heightened awareness to craft a “clever question” so that you can re-engage in the dialogue and demonstrate just how fully you were listening. But for me, that is not the point. For me, by being curious in this way, I keep my energy away from my greedy gremlins who steal attention from my client. At some point the client will remember that I am there and re-connect with me, when they do so I am there. Ready. Waiting. They know I’ve not been far away, and yet I haven’t intruded… it was their private journey and they seem to know what they need from me next. Often there is no need for me to say anything, they lead the way. Sometimes they return my gaze with a sense of expectancy – an invitation to speak. Perhaps. My favourite question at this point is … “so where has that taken you to?” . I notice with interest what is similar and what is different about where I imagined they had travelled to. And of course those comparisons are not important either. Old habits and all that. What I notice in myself is a desire to bring value to the client, to earn my keep. For many years I felt value was inextricably bound up with the questions that I asked. Yet we know that organisations can be noisy places. Leaders are typically surrounded by people who have an opinion, people who offer challenge … some people even offer support! However, as the pace of life and work quickens, the time for pause and reflection becomes more scarce. So how do the time poor, sort through the wheat and the chaff to work out what they really think for themselves? And so I am becoming more and more confident that when silence falls, the most valuable thing I can do is to offer my quiet. Sometimes it’s relatively easy, sometimes it’s actually quite tough. And then when I am truly quiet in myself, I hear so much more than the silence. If you’re a coach that struggles with silence, please do get in touch. I’d love to help you explore what habits you might need to let go of in order to find your own quiet :O) Call : Michelle 07717 122950

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Reflections on Group Supervision Experience Calls

Posted By Jean-Charles Gentilly, 19 September 2017

The Group Supervision Experience Calls were one of the reasons that led me to join the Association for Coaching UK in early 2012 – they were called Coach Mentor Supervision Calls at the time. I had then been recommended the service by a coach who had also mentioned services like the Co-coaching forums as being great benefits that could be enjoyed by members when developing their practices.

Since my first session in February 2012 I have always been reminded of the introduction of supervision as presented in one of my first coaching books, Career Counselling(1). In the latter Robert Nathan and Linda Hill report that supervision would often be seen as having a threefold function labelled by Proctor (1988) as 'formative', 'restorative' and 'normative'(2).

With regards to the 'formative' aspect, I have no doubt that discussing with my peers some actual instances/situations evaluated in the context of some coaching practices that I may not have been familiar with has been invaluable to my development as a coach. I have also benefited from the positive and critical evaluations from the coaches and the supervisor when sharing a particular issue that I had brought on the call.

In addition to the opportunity to contribute to my assessment and development of my competences as a coach I have experienced how much the sense of community has supported me in the role of independent coach in which I can feel at times “isolated”. I have also on some instances been able to bring difficult issues to a place that I trusted to be safe and gain confidence in my practice and competences as a result of the feedback that I received. These have been my most significant experiences of the 'restorative' element inherent to supervision. For the 'normative' dimension of supervision I appreciate that the sharing of cases and the relevant discussions with my peers and the supervisors have given me an awareness and understanding of shared professional standards way beyond the textbooks I have read or the actual distinct coaching techniques or theories brought by the coaches. This is also true of the acquisition of a shared pragmatic interpretation of the ethical guidelines promoted by the Association for Coaching UK as these were either implicitly or explicitly part of the issues discussed on the call under the facilitation of a trained supervisor.

In conclusion I am grateful that as an independent coach, I have greatly benefited from the ACGSE calls as a support and reflective mechanism. In the confines of a safe supervision, the sharing of experiences with like-minded practitioners has taken me at times to an uncomfortable zone where the magic happens.

Jean-Charles Gentilly, Chartered MCIPD Career & Leadership Coach

Notes: (1) Nathan, R. and Hill, L. (2006) Career Counselling. London: SAGE. (2) Proctor, B. (1988) Supervision: A Working Alliance (Videotape Training Manual). St Leonards on Sea: Alexia

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