Category: ICF 03 Trust and Intimacy

3D Ideas 847: Reverse Coaching?

Claire writes: “I have just read an interesting article on reverse mentoring.  Alex, one of our systemic team coaches, says he has seen it work well.  For example with young graduate recruits mentoring senior leaders on their use of tech.

What about reverse coaching, I wonder? My current learning is about power and partnership. Coaching only works when there is enough capacity between the two people in the conversation to work in partnership. We teach a lot about keeping the responsibility in the middle by co-creating the conversation. Interestingly, even when people are great at not taking the responsibility in a conversation, it’s another lesson altogether to notice when the thinker gives it to you. Unless you give it back and return to co-creating you will still be holding it. Which puts the power out of balance.

We notice that this shared responsibility and co-creation can work even when there is a differential in role power when the coach, or the facilitator of the conversation, pays attention to make sure they aren’t doing all the work.  Even when they are the line manager.

So why not reverse coaching? We’d be interested to hear your thoughts?

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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.

© 2019 3D Coaching Ltd
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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

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 783: Capacity and Capability

Claire writes: “In conversation preparing for today’s Group Coaching training, I wrote down

If we pin down the content too much, we undervalue the capacity of the group to be generative

It can also undervalue the experience, knowledge and skill they bring. When we are training, we rarely teach people things they don’t know. What we do is name things they don’t know that they know so that in future they can draw on that more intentionally.

The same is true for managers and staff.  When we don’t listen, we undervalue people’s capacity and capability.  Listen to Tom Peters exploring whether we are an 18 second leader, manager (or doctor, or vicar, or…)”

© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
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3D Ideas 781: Me or Us

Claire writes: “Noticing what’s going on in conversations is much easier when we are observing than when we are in the thick of it. I have known for a long time that being useful is more effective than being helpful. This week, in conversation, there was some useful insight into what makes that true.

  • When I say “Is this helpful?” I may be implying “Am I being helpful?”
  • When I say “Is this useful?” I am asking “Is what we are doing together useful?”

It’s not about what I do that makes a conversation useful – it’s about what we do together.”

© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
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3D Ideas 780: Coddiwomple

Claire writes: “Coddiwomple, Sam tells me, means to travel purposefully towards a vague destination. I love that – because like others I am often unclear where I want to head when I am being coached. And, indeed, our business plan is more about direction than destination. Not everyone likes goals or targets, so it’s useful to remember that when we are working out in a conversation (or contracting)

  • what are we doing
  • how are we going to do it
  • how will we know we have done it

that a sense that we’ll feel it can be enough. It’s still important to be clear what we are doing – even if that’s to agree that we don’t know and that it will emerge! For some of us, ‘to travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive’ (Robert Louis Stevenson)

© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
May be distributed freely. Please retain contact details: www.3dcoaching.com and send a copy/ link to info@3dcoaching.com Register here to receive our blog posts every Monday by email

3D Ideas 770: Broken connection

Claire writes: ‘It was the first session of a new practicum where people come to a webinar to listen and observe coaching to enhance their learning. A new group. And a new way of learning for most of them.
The coach was doing a great job. And the thinker’s connection went.  She had to reconnect.  This took two or three minutes.  I said to the coach ‘don’t apologise just ask where are you now?’ The thinker was still thinking as she reconnected and the conversation continued to flow. To have said ‘I’m so sorry. What happened? Let me recap’ would have interrupted her thinking and taken it backwards. (Of course if she’d said I don’t know remind me that would have been fine).
A coaching style is about a flow of thinking.  A bit of a gap isn’t a bad thing!’
© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
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3D Ideas 769: Afterwards

Claire writes: ‘We demonstrate coaching a lot. Which means that the person who has been thinking is still in the room after the conversation is over. For safety and so that the group doesn’t get back into their stuff, we ask them to sit out.

I have noticed that while the rest of the group are talking about what they saw, the thinker invariably starts writing or looks out of the window. And when you ask them if they have made another leap in their thinking, they almost always have. After its over! The more I think about this I wonder whether it’s because is over. The contract is closed, and then the shift happens.
If we keep extending our conversation what are we actually saying? That they need us in order to think? They don’t. Our presence is a catalyst, a support and a challenge. They are more capable than we are of doing the rest!’
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3D Ideas 767: Omni-Not

Claire writes: “A delegate last week was delighted to discover that they were not going to need to abandon everything they have ever done and only use coaching. Coaching is not the right way to have every conversation.  Whilst working online with a couple of people who were feeling the aftershocks of an earthquake, coaching was not the right medium.  They needed to leave the building!
However, there are some useful things from the principles of coaching that can be applied more widely.  The most important one is this: Ask them! By that we mean, instead of taking the lead and deciding the best way to have a conversation – when there are choices to be made it can be even more powerful to Show the Working out and say ‘We could do this or this or that… which might be the most useful for you?’
© 2017 3D Coaching Ltd
May be distributed freely.  Please retain contact details: www.3dcoaching.com and send a copy/ link to info@3dcoaching.com  Register here to receive our blog posts every Monday by email