FINAL PART 2, REVIEWING AND REFLECTING ON THE TRANSFORMATIONAL COACH BY CLARE NORMAN
I am reading The Transformational Coach by Clare Norman for the Tracy Sinclair Alumni Book Club. The book is in 7 sections, and these notes cover the second half of the book. Various links are included in the comments below, including to Part 1, a previous article about the first half of the book.
On first reading I felt the contracting structure was a bit stilted and artificial, rather like an airline briefing given every time before take-off. But I am warming to the idea, because like the airline it is always good to remind people even if it feels formulaic and they already know.
1. Check-in – What is the most useful thing to talk about today?
2. Objective – What would you like to see, think, feel, do, hear differently as a result of today?
3. Necessity – Why is this important to you, and why is it important now?
4. Time – If we allow 45 minutes, what is the best way we can use that time?
5. Realisation – How will you know you’ve got what you need, by the time we finish?
6. Agenda – What do we need to cover to get to your outcome?
7. Co-Creating – How do you want to work together: listen, challenge, interrupt, provoke?
8. Their Agenda – Where shall we start.
I also liked the challenge to client, “How would you summarise in a single sentence”. This is always a great technique which I often use in business meeting where, after protected discussion, I say “how would you like me to summarise in the minutes”. This always concentrates attention.
Indeed Clare Norman suggests (Page 51 and 83) that it should be the client who does the summaries at key milestones.
IT IS ABOUT THE PLOT NOT THE PEOPLE, THE THINKING NOT THE STORY
Clare Norman makes a good case to cut short story telling (pages 15, 47) which is simply reciting to the audience something they already know, and therefore is informing the audience but not growing the thinking or feeling of the client.
The extension of this is not to ask about Ashton, Blake, Cameron or Emerson and get drawn into the characters, but instead focus on the thinking and feeling of the client and therefore the plot rather than the players.
I especially liked the powerful line: “It sounds like this is something you already know”
From this you can challenge: “What will change by you telling me this?” or better “What have you learned or will do differently as a result”. The first checks the motive and provokes awareness. The second is a more useful intervention designed to support their growth.
IT IS ABOUT THE PROCESS NOT THE OUTCOME
I liked this emphasis in the book because it does contrast consulting from coaching and I can see as a previous athlete and now rowing and triathlon coach the differences between achieving goals (medals) and creating the habits, tools and mindset (pages 58, 121) to let others define and deliver on their own goals.
There is a difference between coaching to someone to ride and bike, and thereafter what they do is their affair, and coaching someone to win the Tour de France. The essence however is in the well known phrase…” give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”
I understand the point Clare Norman makes (page 63) that note taking means you are not fully present, and who are the notes for anyway, the aim is to provoke the clients thinking not the coaches pen (page 103).
However, I am a fan on doodles and one-word notes because they can allow you to spot something in a conversation without disrupting the flow. Sometimes it is good to go with the flow of the stream of consciousness, but sometimes it is useful, and possibly return to examine, the rocks, sand and bottom that shapes belief, assumptions and behavour. (page 111)
Provided the notes are observation and not judgment, and provided they are in pursuit of thinking, feeling and behaviour in the client, and not a case study for the coach I think this is OK.
BEING A THINKING PARTNER
I like the author’s idea that the relationship is a partnership (pages 129, 132) rather than something like student and pupil. In my own work I like to think we work together and I’ll bring some process they will being the content and together we will mix-it and see what we can make together.
The point here is that each must bring something and there is shared ownership and accountability.
DON’T PRAISE, ITS PATRONIZING
I liked this suggestion since it makes the point that coaching is about equals and not parent / child or teacher / student. The suggestion that we focus on achievement rather than accolade reminds me of the formula when giving feedback…
When you [behaviour] I feel / think [response] it would be better if [suggestion]
However in coaching we are not seeking to judge or evaluate so an adaptation might be as follows…
When you [behaviour] how does this move you toward [goal] what can you learn from this [experience]
DON’T BE A FIXER
I agree that the Coach should avoid taking a role in the drama triangle (page 106). This is a model of dysfunctional social interactions and illustrates a power game that involves three roles: Victim, Rescuer, and Persecutor, each role represents a common and ineffective response to conflict. The coach is not a consultant or rescuer and this is not a parent / child or teacher / student relationship.
I did like the contrast between useful (supporting thinking) and helpful (doing task), with the emphasis on being useful (supporting them to make the changes) rather than helpful (doing things for them).
It seems counter-intuitive that that each coaching session is standalone and there is no effort to link to the past or future (page 110), unless the client makes that link. We think of coaching as a journey and each session as linear stops along the way. But the reality is that it’s the clients journey not the coaches and they can elect to go in any apparently random direction that makes sense to them, especially since they may have travelled vast distances between each session and to go back to the previous may not be the best starting point for the client.
WHEN DOES THE WORK HAPPEN
The author makes two apparently opposing points. Sometimes the Aha! moment or shift happens outside the coaching session (page 160). Perhaps between coaching sessions, or maybe long after. We need to accept that coaching is part of the process and seldom the eureka moment itself. Coaching is not like comedy where we delivery a punch-line and expect an immediate response.
However, coaching in an opportunity to practice and to rehearse. There is no reason that I coaching session cannot be used to compose an email, write a letter, practice a speech. What-ever best serves the client is good coaching, particularly of competing a task in the coaching session is likely to be more successful than tackling it after.
IT’S ABOUT THE QUESTION NOT THE ANSWER
One of the challenges in coaching is not so much the answers, but the questions.
When you have a clear question (purpose or task) the answer (objectives and actions) become clear, indeed very often obvious (page 112). People talk about an epiphany or moment of clarity when everyone comes into place.
This is what is sometimes the magic question in coaching often provoked by “If you had a magic wand and could change anything what would it be?” The reason this (or variations of it) are called magic questions is that they tend to be transformative.
This then presents us with a Catch-22. If the real challenge is getting the question right maybe the coaching conversation is more about the question (what is it that the client really wants, needs, thinks, feels) rather than the answer, solution or action that might arising from or after the coaching conversation.
This fits with my experience as a coach where very often the clients topic for discussion is vague or superficial and only after some exploration do the really get to the problem. This exploration is really important otherwise we are dealing with the “presenting problem” or symptoms rather that the source or cause.
Einstein is quoted as having said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” The point he makes is important: preparation has great value to problem solving.
This suggests that the contracting phase (agreeing the topic for discussion) needs a good deal more time than simply “What shall we talk about today?” and accepting the first response.
COACHING IS ABOUT AN ECO-SYSTEM
People don’t work in a vacuum and often many things like work, family, relationships may be relevant to coaching. It can be useful to think about factors (which may be people, places or issues) as objects, rather like chess pieces on a board and their position, relationship and movement is dynamic.
The coaching conversation can then look at the situation with a new perspective, rather than just on the client and their goals, but also the context and circumstances. This may open up new possibilities and opportunities.
Overall I have enjoyed this book which has been thought provoking. Indeed even the process of reflecting on the key elements has been as valuable as reading the book.
ICF Coach, IoD Mentor, Mediation Practitioner, Change Practitioner
Mob 447797762051 Tim@ThinkingFeelingBeing.com
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SOURCE, RESOURCE, LINKS
Part 1 – Practical Learning and Reflections from a Transformational Coach