3D Ideas 833: Planes 2

Claire writes: “I was sharing with Nicky this morning how useful it is to think of a plane journey as a metaphor for a great conversation.

And we know that there is always more to learn – as we discovered. We were imagining how frustrated we would be if invited on a magical mystery flight that guaranteed we would go to a new destination.  Only to find that we had landed in a place we have been many times before.

That’s why it is so important to co-create the process for a conversation and work out together what we are doing before we start. Whether what we are doing is coaching, or something else, a great contract for today increases the likelihood of getting to new thinking.”

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3D Ideas 833: Planes 1

Claire writes: “We have learned that if we want to increase the likelihood of having transformational conversations – where someone knows something about their own stuff at the end they didn’t know at the beginning – then we must have boundaries. Just before Christmas someone looked at the coaching container I had drawn on the flip chart and said that it looks like a plane journey. Some metaphors have depth and insight. This one does.

They are right. A conversation is like a plane journey. And if it’s a conversation facilitated by one person about the other, we need to have agreed where we are going … even if that agreement is that we aren’t sure. Otherwise you think we are flying to Prague. And I take us to Southampton because that’s where I always fly – and because it’s worked for others I think it’s a great route.

Great conversations are co-created which is why it’s so useful to create the container for the conversation in partnership.”

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3D Ideas 832: Step Back

Claire writes: “We had our first practicum of 2019 this morning – where we all coach, listen and observe. It’s great learning. Someone was thinking about a situation at work and the coach asked: ‘I wonder how much challenge is comfortable for them?’

Asking ‘how much challenge is comfortable’ sounds like we are asking our colleague to report to us. Changing the question to ‘I wonder…’ is an invitation to step back, together, and see something differently. It worked! In the feedback, the thinker said that this one question would have been enough because that’s where the insight came…without even answering it!

Stepping back and asking people is powerful. It demonstrates the value of partnership in conversations.

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3D Ideas 831: Carol Services

Su writes: “It struck me at the Carol Service last night that the startling new insights that we can get from hearing the same readings every year is very much like our 3D method of learning the same material and always learning something new and profound each time.”

3D Ideas 830: What If There Were No Experts?

This week’s blog comes from our friend Val Hastings. He and Claire co-hosted some webinars about challenge and radical candour. There was lots of learning and this is some (longer than usual and useful!)

Val writes: “On a recent training call with coaches, we got on to the topic of the word coaching. They didn’t like it, and that prompted some good discussion. If we weren’t called coaches, what else could we be called? A few alternatives came up, including apprentice.

Yes, we can see how a coaching client is like an apprentice, seeking to gain some insights from the previous experience of the coach – particularly when the coach has dealt with similar work challenges or lifestyle situations as the client is facing now.

But where the conversation really took a fascinating turn was when we looked at the coach as apprentice, and what would happen if we did. Instead of an expert-apprentice dynamic, what if there were two apprentices? What if coach and client are in apprenticeship together?

Part of what the student coaches didn’t like about the term coach was that it implies, “I’m the expert; I’m the wise one.” If we’re all in apprenticeship, on the other hand, we’re all in continual learning, continual honing of our skills and strengths. “I don’t have the answer, but here’s what works for me.”

As coaches we are always learning from our clients; that’s the curiosity piece that is so essential to the relationship. If we’re all in apprenticeship, it opens up permission and opportunity for this to happen even more.

When it’s just two apprentices in the room and no expert, there is a sense of freedom that can unlock all sorts of new ideas and possibilities. A mutual sharing occurs, and a combined wisdom emerges. None of us have the answer, and yet the answer shows up.

A 2014 series of experiments at Harvard Business School looked at how getting into a “beginner’s mind” helps break what is called “the curse of knowledge.” They asked one group of expert guitarists to flip their guitar around so they’d be strumming with their left hand and forming chords with their right hand. The other group played normally.

Then both groups were asked to comment on videos of beginner guitar players who were struggling. The expert guitarists who played backwards and were forced to learn a new way to play were more encouraging to beginner guitarists, and gave specific and actionable advice. Those who’d played their guitar normally had less empathy for the beginners and tended to point out their errors or flaws instead of helping them get better.

That’s a good reminder for when we as coaches are tempted to slip into advice-giving mode. We’re much more empathetic and useful when we can see ourselves as novices. Coaching as apprenticeship levels the power in the relationship and I don’t think we can underestimate the importance of that power dynamic.

The apprentice is not starting from scratch, and neither are our coaching clients. Each party – coach and client, apprentice and expert, brings important learning. As an apprentice, I’m not trying to solve a problem or convey expert advice; I’m trying to stimulate you and be a catalyst to get your thinking going. This is the difference between solving the problem, and developing the person. I don’t know the answers but I’m curious about what you already know.

In coaching as apprenticeship, it’s like we are trying to flip the guitar around and look at how learning happens, not just bestow an expert answer. It’s about turning clients into beginners, and we as coaches being willing to go there with them and be beginners as well.” For more blogs like this, please check out Val’s website

Coaching Presence

As Stuart and Claire are preparing Neither From nor Towards – a day on coaching presence some of their inspiration is coming from blogs like:

And Stuart has inspired Claire to start reading Edgar Shein’s Humble Inquiry

3D Ideas 829: Fixing

Claire writes: ‘In the interests of experimentation, for the last two weeks I have asked every group I have worked with whether they like being fixed, or having their problems solved by others. That’s about 150 people. About 5 people said they like it. About 145 don’t!

And yet, when facilitating conversations, most people recognised that their preference, or the style that they have adopted is to listen to solve, fix or rescue.

This reminds me of Mrs Do-as-you-would-be-done-by from The Water Babies. After all, if the answer is in the question it’s not a question. And as Stuart Reid commented on LinkedIn (heard through Roger Schwarz) if you can put ‘you idiot’ on the end of a question without substantially changing the meaning, that’s fixing too!’

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3D Ideas 828: Buttons

This week’s blog is written by Richard who trained with 3D in 2015. It’s never too late to apply what you are learning… He writes

“Just thought I’d share with you… I have only ever used the buttons that you showed us at Transforming Conversations in the training setting although intending to find an opportunity to use it. Last week, though, I was coaching a couple who work together and have multiple connections between, work, family, church, friends, etc. So I decided to go with it. I explained the concept of systems and asked them to map out their system with the buttons, working together.

At first, I thought it was a bit mundane and wondered if it would work. I said nothing, just watched them and noted down a couple of phrases they used that I thought were revealing. Then after a few minutes, I could see them both start to get red faced, breathing got shallower as they got frustrated with each other and not being able to express themselves. I just kept watching until the husband looked up at me and, with no words, his face and eyes were shouting ‘help’. Me: “This is hard for you isn’t it?”. Both together: “Yes!”. Moments silence…Me: “So what is happening?” Then it all came out and it become a really powerful session for them as they started to work out what their priorities are to keep life, their relationship, other relationships and their organisation all healthy.

So, thank you. I finally took the courage in my hands and tried something a bit different to talking and general use of movement, matching, mis-matching, etc. It was amazing for me to observe how I didn’t need to do anything at all or say very much for it to be really powerful! But I guess you have seen that a few times!”

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3D Ideas 827: Stretch the Frame

Claire writes: “Continuing professional development (CPD) is useful, and in some organisations ongoing training is mandatory. In the coaching world, we are required to evidence 40 hours CPD every 3 years in order to retain our credentials. As people progress through organisations, management and leadership development programmes and other training are available. Some even include coaching. This can easily become a tick box exercise coming out of appraisals – ‘what training would you like to go on?

The results of the training can be more transformational when we stretch the frame. Instead of ‘this would be good to do‘, a longer time frame and a co-created contract can make a significant difference. ‘Begin with the end in mind‘, said Covey. We expand that by asking questions like – What’s the training for? How will you (and the organisation) know it has been useful?

Think a year beyond the end of the programme and have a co-created conversation:

  • What will we see a year after you have completed the course so that we will know that it’s been useful to you, the team, the organisation and your customers (or whatever you call them)?
  • Therefore, what needs to happen during this time to work towards that?

This stretched frame is also useful for probation or training agreements:

  • What will we see 6 months into your next post (or after the end of your probation) so that we know this role is lifegiving for you and the team, the organisation and your customers (or whatever you call them)?
  • Therefore what do we/you need to do in this time to ensure that happens?

Not only is this useful because it looks beyond the obvious end point – it also makes revisiting the contract much more normal. ‘We are three months into… how are you getting on towards [that end point]. What do we need to explore to make sure you get to that [original goal for the training/probation]’.

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3D Ideas 826: Change the Frame

Claire writes: “Last week was one of those weeks which hit many of us from time to time – there was just too much stuff. A late evening’s work and two phone calls in the middle of the night from my husband’s work were the straw that broke the camel’s back and Friday turned from a catch up day to a place of overwhelm.

Two things changed everything. Ruth diverted from a work trip and came into the office to add some resource. And we changed the frame. I had been unproductively asking the question ‘what do I need to have done by the end of Friday’. A better question was ‘what do I need to have done by the end of Monday?’. A new frame changed everything.

Which is ironic because changing the frame had been a topic of discussion all week – more about that next week!”

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