Category: ICF 04 Coaching Presence

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: 823 Managers Say That

Claire writes: ‘If we want to have a different kind of conversation sometimes we need to use different language. I think that’s because we learn how to respond without fully listening. For example many managers say ‘Do you want to explore that?’ when they actually mean tell me. ‘Is it useful to explore that?’ might be a more useful question.

It might be useful to notice in the next couple of days if things don’t land as you expect where you could change the language.’

And if you’ve heard me talk about my dislike of why questions, you might be interested in this blog

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3D Ideas 819: Neither From Nor Towards

Claire writes: “Holding space, or presence, is one of the greatest gifts of leadership – and an essential in coaching. TS Eliot describes it as
‘At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is’

Presence is intangible, hard to describe and obvious when it’s missing from a conversation. The only way to develop it is in an embodied way. A while ago, we invited a musical conductor to teach us how to conduct. Conducting requires presence. Something needs to happen in the space between the conductor and the orchestra to make the music happen. The conductor can’t make it happen. The music is co-created.

And so it is with improv where something happens between the audience and the performer. So on the basis that you can only develop presence experientially, we are delighted to be offering a workshop in Luton in December with Claire and Stuart Reid, who is a coach and has a lot of experience in improv. We’d love you to come!”

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3D Ideas 816: Attentive Diversion

Claire writes: “Attentiveness or presence is one of the most significant parts of the way we work. And to borrow from TS Eliot who says ‘Teach us to care and to not care. Teach us to sit still‘, we are learning to be attentive and to not be attentive. So we are working very lightly until September so that all of us can have a change of pace and attention. You can email info@3dcoaching.com for bookings etc because one of us will check at some point each week to respond.

3D Ideas will be back in September. The autumn holds some exciting new areas of work and some brand new training including a day on presence through theatre improv. Bookings are also open for Using Coaching Over Time, Coaching people who are dying or grieving and Are we too soft? Learning from Jesus about Challenge. These programmes are for people with a minimum of 26 hours coach specific training.

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3D Ideas 814: Tone?

Claire writes: “Some of the greatest questions I have heard are one or two words (which came directly from the thinker) asked with a question mark lilt. Sadly they are unusable in any other conversation. And yet they transform everything. Tone matters!

It’s also useful to remember that when someone has an insight, us changing our tone (or pace) a little can also help own that transformation. When we continue to match their tone, they might underplay the moment.”

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3D Ideas 812: Enough?

Claire writes: ‘Some of the people who are developing with us were practicing coaching this morning. Stuart began his conversation by saying: ‘I’m looking forward to being useful to you’. Great words, in the light of some of the blogs we have written recently. I’m reading Kim Scott’s book Radical Candor at the moment. She talks about the value of conversations that are supportive and challenging and describes them as ‘radical candor’. Her take on conversations which are supportive and not challenging enough is to describe them as ‘ruinous empathy’. Empathy is a wonderful gift… and it’s not enough on it’s own if the person coming to the conversation would find a bit of challenge even more useful.

It also reminds me that we can get so focussed on the training we deliver, that we forget to say that we are always available if you think a bit of coaching like that would be useful?’

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3D Ideas 805: In the Muscle

Claire writes: “This term I have embarked on a significant piece of professional development starting with a 6 day immersion programme. One of my fellow delegates talked about getting the skill into the muscle. Along with a massage that went deep into my physical muscle, there was much to ponder.

The Asaro Tribe say that “Knowledge is only a rumour until it lives in the muscle.” We practised and simplified over and over again so that we are continue to embody what we are learning. That’s the joy of development and also an insight that the journey to mastery and simplicity is lifelong.

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3D Ideas 804: Fishing Boy

Claire writes: “I love this picture of a man and a child fishing. Their proximity and focus on discovering something together – even though the father may be an expert fisherman – models well what we are learning about effective conversations at work.

Where and how we sit can impact how the conversation evolves. I remember talking with hospital consultants who were using a coaching approach with colleagues to offer peer support. Efficiency meant that the peers arrived at the end of the clinic and sat… in the patients chair. The consultants knew the conversations were not the best they could be. So they decided to swap chairs and the quality improved. They had been treating their colleagues like patients.

Your context will be different. But changing to a different chair, a different environment, or moving from a position that feels like reporting back may well change the quality of the conversation.”

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3D Ideas 796: Suggestible

Claire writes: “I’m just beginning to realise that the questions we ask to open conversations could be perceived as suggestible:

  • What would you like to think about (… because I’m assuming we will be thinking as well as talking…)
  • What would you like to be different by the end of the conversation (… because I am assuming something will be…)

Interestingly they also inspire and suggest that things can change and move on. And it works! So why not?

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