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Once Upon A Time: The Power of Story in Coaching

October 18, 2018

 

Last Friday, I was delighted to be joined by some amazing coaches for an impromptu meetup to discuss the power of story in coaching. (I was reminded of how very much I love this work we do, as well as this community we get to be a part of. 🙂 )

In this blog, I share with you some of what I’m coming to believe about the role of my coachees’ stories in our coaching. I’m no authority, and though I’m in the Narrative Coaching certification program, I’m a novice. So what I share here is what I’m coming to believe and integrate into my own work. And I offer it as an invitation for you to consider what’s possible and what might be available if you were to look at your own coachees’ stories in a new light.

 

How We Can Minimize the Value of Coachee Stories

When I was first trained to be a coach, I was taught the technique of “bottom lining.”  Bottom lining was a way of encouraging coachees to “get to the point” when their stories went too long. When a coachee showed up to coaching with a big, long, detailed story, we were to interject with a question like “What’s the bottom line to your story?” or “What’s the CNN version of your story?”  

At the time, bottom lining made sense to me. We coaches didn’t need all that detail. After all, we only have so much time. And long stories can take up a lot of it. We needed to achieve the coachee’s stated desired outcome by the end of the session to be successful. Right? So, helping the coachee “get to the point” in any way we could, was in the service of the coachee, in the service of the coaching.

But what if the story WAS the point?

 

The Hero’s Journey

In 2013, I organized a TEDx conference. In the formative stages of conference planning, I was struggling to articulate a theme that conveyed the message I hoped for the conference to share.  I wanted it to be about reaching our full human potential and becoming fully expressed. But it all sounded so “woowoo” and trite. 

Then, my husband sent me a link to the trailer for the film, Finding Joe, based upon the work of Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey. (Somehow, Joseph Campbell and the Hero’s Journey had escaped my attention for 50+ years.) And, when I watched the trailer and later the movie, I knew I had my theme. (If you aren’t familiar with The Hero’s Journey, watch the two-minute film clip linked above. It’ll do a better job of explaining it in a shorter period of time and more interestingly than I will.)

So what does the Hero’s Journey have to do with coaching?

I’ve come to believe that The Hero’s Journey reflects the life journey we all are on. We are on the transformational journey of becoming – becoming a full expression of ourself, our potential.  And the integrational story of our return to our core essence – of overcoming our patterns of adaptation (like those captured in the EQ Profile). A journey of discovery of self and a returning home to self. A journey of transformation.

If the findings of Joseph Campbell, based upon his extensive research into the world’s legends, myths and folklore, are true, (and I believe they are), then perhaps our stories are more than just stories. Perhaps our stories are a vehicle to our transformation. 



Storytelling is Organic

My coachees show up telling stories in our coaching sessions. I don’t ask them to bring their stories, they just do. I used to ask them to bottom line it or I’d get frustrated because their stories were getting in the way of the goals they said they wanted to achieve. Recently, I’ve begun to believe that my coachees’ stories are their conscious and/or unconscious way of revealing their true desires.

Also, I’ve noticed how frequently my coachees show up with stories that possess all of the pieces of the solution they are seeking. And when I listen long enough and closely enough to their stories, and simply mirror back what they are saying, they often experience a kind of “Eureka” moment. They see how the dots of their stories connect to form the picture they were searching for.  

So, if storytelling itself is a process of becoming, of self expression, of return to core essence, and if coachees naturally show up to coaching with stories that possess the seeds of their solutions, perhaps our role (or one of them) as coaches is to facilitate the organic transformation and integration that has already begun in the form of the story. To assist the story in doing its work. 

How do we do that?

 

The Power of Story in Coaching

Within the story itself and within the coachee’s experience of telling the story are the clues to what the story is wanting to do. And by attending to the experience of the coachee as they are telling the story, and to the characters, metaphors, and language in the story, and to each stage of the journey of the story, we can guide the coachee to the resolution their story is seeking. 

 

Coachee Experience

Noticing and exploring the coachee’s experience as they are telling the story can sometimes reveal more than any questions we might ask. We are all taught this in coaching school and it’s easy to forget – how much a sigh, a change in posture, a glistening in the eye can clue us to shifts in the coachee’s internal experience.  

When we notice these subtle shifts and explore them with our coachees, they can notice aspects of their experience that were previously missing – feelings or sensations that might be suppressed or outside of their awareness. (If you are interested in reading an example of how this plays out in a coaching session, read more here
.)

 

Characters, Metaphors, Language

Our coachees’ stories provide a rich cache of resources to help them “slay their dragons.” The characters in the stories have wisdom and perspective for them. The metaphors in their stories suggest the tools that will help them navigate challenging terrain. The language they use reveals the lens through which they are seeing their challenge/opportunity.

Playing with characters, metaphors and language can be really fun and invigorating for both coach and coachee. And these approaches to coaching are simple to apply and can create surprisingly fast and robust outcomes. Here are links for examples for playing with charactersmetaphors and language.

 

Stage of the Journey

Just like in the Hero’s Journey, our coachees’ stories have stages. And helping our coachee experience and identify each state in the journey provides its own form of wayfinding for the coachee.  

Questions the coach can be asking themselves as they work with their coachees’ stories include:

  1. What is the coachee’s experience as they are telling the story? (What is the unfulfilled desire?)
  2. What is the purpose of the story? (What is the unexpressed intention?)
  3. What is the challenge in the story? (What is the unexamined identity?)
  4. What is the invitation in the story? (What is the undemonstrated behavior?)
  5. What is the resolution to the story? (What is the unapologetic outcome?)


Note: These questions are taken from Dr. David Drake’s Narrative Coaching.

When we as coaches are curious about these questions, we will allow for deeper and deeper levels of awareness of the unconscious role of the story for the coachee.

———————————

I hope you try out some of these techniques with your coachees. Our coaching can sometimes be so linear and/or so cerebral that it can be fun and healthy and energizing to try something new and see what happens.  

Sure, it takes courage. But hey, you’re a coach. We already know you have courage!

What are your thoughts and experiences in trying these techniques? I’d love to know!  

Be one of the first seven people to comment on this blog and we’ll send you a DVD of the Finding Joe film.


Join the conversation.

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

P.P.S. Want to learn more about what the languaging used in your coachees’ stories can tell you? Join our virtual video course, Insight Mapping – or get the unedited recordings of the course afterward! Click here for details and to register.

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching

How to Fill Your Unused Coaching Capacity

October 11, 2018

Last week, we at Learning in Action, turned our attention to what we could do to help you fill your unused coaching capacity. (That time when you could be and would want to be coaching, if you had the coachees to fill it.) We are passionate about helping coaches thrive in their chosen profession.  

And we believe that both coachees and coaches can languish because of the challenges in finding each other. Marketing, sales and promotion are not necessarily a strong suit for many coaches. And most coachees don’t know the first thing about coaching, coaches, what they are looking for or where to find them.

That’s why we hosted our monthly podinar, Coaching At Capacity: How to Fill Your Calendar with Paid Coaching Time. We invited Chip Carter, Senior Advisor with LeaderJam and the Institute of Coaching, to talk with us about platforms that match coaches to coachees. If you’d like to watch and/or listen to our 90 minute conversation, you can tune in here.

Note: We’re grateful to Chip Carter for providing all the platform information in our podinar, and for verifying the information. This blog is based on that information.

 

Coach Platforms

Some of you reading this blog may have no idea what we mean when we talk about Coach Platforms. So here is a brief description that I’ve made up (because this space is so new I haven’t seen it referenced anywhere):

A coach platform is a platform that matches potential coachees (people who want coaching) with coaches.   

For purposes of this blog, we’ll focus on three primary types of platforms:

  • B2B (business to business)
  • B2C (business to consumer)
  • Coach companies


We’ll describe each of these types of platforms below and give examples.

 

B2B Coach Platform

B2B coach platforms match companies who want to offer coaching to their employees with coaches who they’ve invited onto their platform. Examples of B2B platforms include BetterUpCoaching Right NowProfitable Leadership, and LeaderJam, which is soon to be launched.
 

Platforms like these approach companies who want to create a consistent coaching program throughout their company but don’t have or want to invest in the expertise to do it themselves. Or companies who want to democratize coaching as part of their culture, and make it available to a broader cross-section of their employees.

Also, these platforms find coaches with excess coaching capacity who want to be part of their network of coaches. Many of these platforms are looking for coaches at all experience levels who have more coaching time than they can sell themselves. And because the prospective coachees in companies on the platform are at all levels of the organization, these platforms need coaches at all different price points (and therefore levels of experience).   

Each platform’s vetting of coaches is unique. For the most part, coaches submit information to these companies about their background, experience, education, certifications, credentials and areas of expertise. The platforms will perform some kind of interview and background check.

As a condition of bringing a coach into their network, the platform might require the coach to follow certain processes or procedures around coaching engagements and/or get some additional education in certain assessments they use frequently (e.g. MBTI, DISC, StrengthsFinder).

 

Side Note/Soap Box: Do yourself and everyone who would benefit enormously from working with you a favor! Discover, create, develop YOUR unique expertise in the coaching space. Determine a compelling way to articulate it. (Read my blog about it here.) You can focus on a specific target market (e.g. I focus on CEO/business owners); you can specialize in a type of coaching (e.g. wellness, Narrative, mindfulness, neuroleadership); you can develop an expertise that cuts across all coaching (e.g. Emotional Intelligence (EQ), Conversational Intelligence (CiQ), Neuroscience, Somatics). There are unlimited options. Use one of them!

 

Many of us got the impression from coaching school that we shouldn’t or need not specialize – which is the quickest way to commoditization of our industry, as far as I can tell. (You can even get your unique expertise from us at Learning in Action. We frame, teach, measure EQ like no one else on the planet. Learn more.)

B2C Coach Platform

B2C platforms create a marketplace for people who want coaches to find coaching. Examples of B2C platforms include LiveCoachAce-UpCoachMarket (focuses on career coaching).  

These platforms provide you with a place to list yourself and your work to be reviewed by potential coachees (either within companies or the public) for matching.  

The difference between B2C and B2B is that with B2C, you have to promote and differentiate yourself and you are effectively competing with many other similar coaches in the marketplace. A B2B platform will likely have fewer coaches than a B2C platform. It is in the best interest of those who run a B2B coach platform to curate the expertise and experience level of the coaches for diversity (and less overlap). 

While these platforms aren’t exactly TinderForCoaches, for coaches to be successful in gaining clients on these sites, they are going to need to either 1) stand out in some way – particularly in their unique experience, education, or expertise or 2) charge below what similarly experienced coaches charge. (Refer to SoapBox, above.)

Coaching Companies

These organizations are less of a coach platform and more of a company that hires coaches to be part of their team, full or part time. Examples include Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) and LHH/Knightsbridge (which I believe has a strong focus on career transition). These are excellent organizations, IMO, and working with them would likely feel more like working for a company than working for yourself.  

Pros and Cons

The overview of these services provided by Chip Carter with LeaderJam lists the pros and cons of each type of platform and you can see them on this grid. In short, the more freedom you want, the more responsibility you have for promoting yourself. And the more money you want to make, the less freedom you are likely to have. And the better you are at articulating who you work with, what they get from your work and the reason to believe it’s true (because of your deep expertise and experience doing that), the more money you’ll make and the more freedom you’ll have. (Are you detecting a theme? 🙂 )

How to Pick a Platform

We asked Chip the question, “How does a coach pick one of these platforms? What are the factors they should consider?”, and he created this document for us. Thank you, Chip.  

I encourage you to read through the options, consider the pros and cons and determine the best answer for yourself. And I’m going to do something we coaches don’t usually do: give you some advice. (I’m cringing even as I write the word advice.) Here goes:

Choose the platform (or no platform) that will allow you to do the most coaching. 

The more coaching you do, the better you’ll get and the more likely you’ll be able to create a specialty and/or articulate an expertise. The more able you are to articulate exactly 1) what it is you do 2) who you do it for and 3) what they get from it, the more coachees you’ll attract. When you can articulate what you do, who you do it for and what they get from it in a compelling and unique way, you won’t need any of these platforms. You’ll need an assistant to keep all of your coachees and calendar organized!


Good luck!  And let us know how it goes.

Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

 

P.P.S. Do you coach teams? Do you want to?? It brings its own challenges. You asked for help to unpack teams – and now it’s available! The same EQ Profile that you rely on for individual coaching, can also be used for teams. We’ll answer your questions and clarify any confusion. Join us Wed. Oct 24th  live to ask whatever is on your mind about using the EQ Profile with Teams! Click for details and to register – FREE.

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Business of Coaching|Growing Client Base|Industry|Learning in Action

Five of the Most Useful Narrative Coach Tools, Concepts, Frameworks

October 4, 2018

Who doesn’t love a simple, yet powerful, coaching tool?!

I’m always looking for fresh approaches and elegant frameworks for helping my coachees navigate their personal journey. And the WBEC’s Narrative Coach (NC) program with Dr. David Drake provided a virtual treasure trove of tools, conceptual constructs, and frameworks for working with coachees and their stories in a unique and insightful way. I’ve seen an enormous number of tools in my 15 years of coaching, and the one’s I’ll share here, I’ve found to be easy to understand, extraordinarily clarifying and simple to implement.

This is the third and final blog post related to my reflection on the NC Program. In Part 1, I shared the insights I gained about myself as a coach while experiencing the program. In Part 2, I shared the assumptions about coaching that have shifted for me. Here I’ll share the five pieces of content from the program that I found most valuable, and why I believe they are so useful.

Note: 100% of this content was created by Dr. David Drake and should you choose to share this with clients or create your own version (as we coaches love to do), please ensure you give proper credit to Dr. David Drake and Narrative Coaching. Also, I did my best to distill the essence of the tool without taking too many liberties or short cuts. And for the exact words, questions and context, buy his book and/or take the course.

You’ll discover that all of these simple tools and approaches meet the coachee where they are and focus on their story as a generative aspect of the coaching. Many of these tools may feel familiar, and you’ll notice an emphasis on the coachee’s present moment experience, the stories they tell and the identity of the coachee in their stories.

 

Rewinding Your Story

 

This is my fave of all of the tools because it links so beautifully with the EQ Profile. When we are preparing a coachee for the session in which we’ll debrief their EQ Profile results, we ask them to recall and bring to the session 2-3 specific stories of interpersonal conflicts. We use the narrative in the coachee’s stories to map to the patterns revealed in their EQ Profile. The EQ Profile reveals patterns of thinking, feeling, wanting, sensing and focusing that are vestiges of adaptive strategies spawned by our lifetime of relationships and experiences.

These default patterns become a common denominator of many of our interpersonal conflicts until we become aware of them, and create new, more conscious ways of being and behaving.

This simple, yet powerful tool supports the coachee in reflecting on the stories they tell about interpersonal conflicts and the patterns which may be inherent within them. Further, it facilitates the development of a new, more intentional pattern that supports who and how the coachee wants to be.

Here’s a simplified version of the tool and how we might use it with ourself or our coachees:

 

Reflect on a conversation or situation you find challenging:

 

1)      What did you observe? (Describe your experience as a reporter would.)

2)      What were you telling yourself at the time? (What was your internal narrative or story?)

3)      What does this say about how you see yourself? (How does it support your identity?)

4)      What did you do as a result? (How did you behave?)

5)      What happened in the end? (What was the outcome?)

 

Rewind the story to achieve a different outcome:

 

1)      What would you like to have had happen in the end? (What outcome would you wish for?)

2)      What could you have done differently as a result? (How could you have behaved differently to create your desired outcome?)

3)      What would need to shift in how you see yourself to achieve a different outcome? (What would your identity need to be to behave in alignment with what you want?)

4)      What could you tell yourself next time this happens? (What is the new story you could tell yourself that would support your identity and desired outcome?)

5)      What would you observe if ‘this’ were the case?  (What would your new experience be?)

 

I hear an echo of the Ladder of Inference in the first half, to be sure. And the second half is a kind of walking back down the Ladder. And adding the question about identity amps up the insight that’s available here. It takes this set of questions from simply an examination of the stories we make up to who we are that we make up these stories.

The second half starts with classic Covey, beginning with the end in mind (but how often do we actually do that in the middle of an interpersonal conflict?). And this begins the intentional process of re-patterning our seeing, thinking, being and doing to align with what we want.

Circling the Tree

 

One of the big differences I’m noticing about Narrative Coaching and how I’ve learned to coach is the bias toward examining the coachee’s present moment experience. (Of course, that’s an aspect of most all coaching, and my sense is that Narrative Coaching gives it more weight and returns to it more frequently).

Circling the Tree is an example of a tool that moves the coachee forward simply by staying with, and exploring, their present moment experience. Here’s a simplified version:

 

Circle One

1)      What happened?  (Just give the facts.)

2)      What do you think about it? (What’s your narrative of what happened?)

3)      How do you feel about it? (Notice and name the feelings you have about what happened.)

4)      What is important about it to you? (Talk about your values.)

5)      How has it affected you? (Share the impact on you and what that means for you.)

 

Circle Two

1)      What is true and important for you now?

2)      What is your motivation to do it differently?

3)      How will you remember this new story?

4)      What else do you need to get started?

5)      How will you know you have been successful?


Notice how all of the questions in Circle One are about the coachee’s present experience (about a past experience). There’s nothing about what the coachee wants to be different or where they want to go or what they want to create – all aspects that are often at the front of so many coaching models.

Notice how Circle Two stays with what’s present for the coachee to organically generate what new wants to emerge.

While I love this tool, a question is missing for me in Circle Two between 2 and 3. I think I would add: “What would be a new story that would support what you want for yourself?”

Circling the Tree is actually a lot like the Rewind Tool. Both give our coachees a way to examine their internal narrative relative to what they want for themselves. And the Circling the Tree stays more with what’s present for the coachee now.

 

Inquiry Cards

 

I LOVE LOVE LOVE this NC game of ‘serious play.’

1)      Bring a stack of 7-10 index cards to a coaching session.

2)      Invite your coachee to talk about her issue or question.

3)      As she does, write the words or phrases that carry the most weight or energy on to the index cards.

4)      Give the cards to the coachee and invite her to place the cards in the order represented by the story.

5)      Then, invite the coachee to move the cards to a new configuration and notice what comes up.

6)      Invite the coachee to continue to experiment until the resolution becomes clear.

7)      Invite the coachee to imagine what it would be like and what it would take to live from this place.

8)      Invite the coachee to talk about the implications of the outcome and anchor it as needed.

 

I can’t wait to try this. Sounds like fun.

 

Vectors of Change: BEAM

 

This is probably the first tool I started using almost as soon as I learned of it. It feels simpler and more inclusive than many other models of change I’ve worked with. Again, this is a simplified version:

As your coachee presents a challenge they are having, work with them to identify what they want and articulate their old story about the challenge. Then work with them to create a new story that surmounts the challenge.

 

1)      What is their Aspiration – what they are wanting ultimately (What would make them proud?)

 

What is the Coachee’s Old Story – Rooted in their Mindset, Behavior and Environment related to the challenge

 

2)      What is their current Mindset  – what do they think, feel, believe about themselves, others, the situation

3)      What is their current Behavior – what are they doing or not doing that is contributing to the challenge

4)      What is their Environment – what systems, structures, people, processes are contributing to the challenge

 

What can be the Coachee’s New Story – Aligned with their Aspiration

 

5)      What Mindset aligns with the Aspiration – what do they believe about the situation that feels both true and aligned with their aspiration

6)      What Behavior aligns with the Aspiration – what might they do that aligns with their Mindset and Aspiration

7)      What Environment aligns with the Aspiration – what systems, structures, people, processes will support the coachee’s Aspiration

 

I’ve seen a number of similar models and this Vectors of Change model feels more complete and integrated than any I’ve seen. And it’s so simple.

 

Five Perspectives

 

This simple tool is useful when a coachee is stuck and unable to see their situation in a new way. It allows them to try on someone or something else’s perspective of their situation. I often suggest “characters” from my coachee’s stories to offer their perspective. This tool goes something like this:

 

1)      Listen attentively when your coachee shares a challenging situation. Explore the coachee’s thinking, feeling, wanting and believing about themselves, others and the situation.

2)      Ask your coachee, “What is another perspective you could take?”  Explore what that perspective enables them to see, feel, think, believe.

3)      Continue asking “What is another perspective you could take?” Don’t be afraid to be creative here.

4)      Unpack each perspective by asking questions like:

  1.       Why this way of seeing things?
  2.       How does seeing it this way impact you?
  3.       How else could you see it?
  4.       What do you gain from seeing it this way?
  5.       What keeps you from considering this possibility?
  6.        What do you lose by seeing it this way?
  7.       What might you gain if you did?

 

I integrated a version of this into my work pretty quick. Here’s a brief example of how I’ve used this:

 

My coachee was expressing doubt that she was the best person to be running her company. As we explored her situation more deeply, she talked about her husband, her family and God. When she felt complete with her story, I asked:

“What would your husband say to your question about whether or not you’re the best person to be running your company?”

She said that he believes in her and her ability to run the company completely. I went on to ask:

“What would your family say?”

She reported that they felt much like her husband. And then I asked her:

“What would God say?”

and she began to cry.

The bottom line is that simple questions about the perspectives of people and entities important to her helped her fill in what was missing in her own perspective so that she could see her situation and herself more clearly.

I hope you find these tools as useful as I have. I’d love to hear what additional questions or comments you have. And if any of this needs more context, let me know. I’ll do what I can to provide it.

 

Do you have favorite tools you love? If so, let me know. If I get enough interest, I’ll do another blog on favorite tools.   

Join the conversation.

Button to click to share reader's thoughts on Facebook page.

 

– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

 

P.P.S. Do you struggle to understand your coachees sometimes? Do they struggle to express themselves in ways you both understand? The answers are all in their languaging. And there’s a course for that. 🙂 Join us for our virtual video course, Insight Mapping. Learn how to listen for the clues that are right in front of you. (And no, neither you nor your coachees need to know anything about the EQ Profile – although this course will enlighten those who use it, too!)  Click here for details and to register.

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence

What Learning about My Coachees’ Narratives Taught Me about My Own – Part 2

September 20, 2018

What are you sure you know about coaching? I thought I knew a lot about coaching after 15 years and over 5,000 hours of experience. And in the past year or so, I’ve realized that a lot of what I thought I knew, my assumptions, were horse S#$%.

In my last blog post, I shared Part 1 of a reflection assignment due as part of the WBECS Narrative Coach (NC) Program with Dr. David Drake. In this Part 2, I share how what I thought I knew about coaching has been turned on its head by my experience with Narrative Coaching.

Five Assumptions about Coaching That Have Shifted For Me

All of my coach training prior to the NC Program has been in a largely co-active approach to coaching, firmly grounded in ICF core competencies. And while Narrative Coaching certainly doesn’t throw the ICF competencies out the window, it takes a very different approach to coaching than what I’ve learned in the past.

What I’ve learned about coaching that I’ve had to unlearn (or assumptions I no longer make) include:

  • Coaching starts with a contract/agreement. Early on in my coach training, I learned that the first thing to do as a coach is figure out the contract or what it is the coachee wants. The problem is, in my experience anyway, the coachee almost never knows what they truly want until it’s uncovered by the coaching. And when I’ve focused early in the relationship or early in the coaching session on getting to what the coachee wants, I’ve ended up chasing a red-herring, spending time at the surface and/or on the wrong thing.  I’ve learned that what the coachee says they want is only one aspect (and maybe a small one) of their larger, deeper desire, which is only ultimately discovered through the work.

Even in the Advanced Coaching Program I took, we spent a great deal of time and energy around securing the coaching session agreement by checking the boxes of Topic, Desired Outcome, Meaningful Underlying Issue and Success Measure. And I bought into that at the time, and to an extent, I still do. Only now it feels more like an artificial structure placed on an organic process. (More on that below).

  • Coachees will do what they say if we’ve designed the actions right. Maybe your coachees are different, but mine almost never do what they say they are going to do after the session. While this didn’t take me long to figure out, I assumed I was doing something wrong. I wasn’t designing the action specifically enough or ensuring the client had enough support or addressing enough of their obstacles or holding them accountable enough or making the actions S.M.A.R.T. enough. Well, I now believe I was doing something wrong, I was just wrong about what it was.  😊

Now, instead of designing actions for the coachee to take after the session, we do it in the coaching session (as much as possible). (If you read Part 1, you know that this is a cornerstone of Narrative Coaching). Early on in my coaching, I did a lot of role play with coachees, but it was discouraged by my mentor coaches (not clear now why), so I stopped. Now, I’m doing a lot more acting out, role play, experimentation during my coaching sessions so that my coachees can repeat/replay outside the session what they are experiencing and learning inside the session. (Here’s an example of something I tried recently.)


  • The coach provides the structure and the process. The coachee provides the content. To an extent, I still believe this – and now I see it differently. I used to feel responsible for figuring out the most robust and efficient series of questions that would bring the coachees the insights, clarity and resolution they were seeking, based upon what they said they wanted. Now, that feels to me like an artificial construct placed on a natural process.

These days, I see coaching as the facilitation of an innately organic process. I believe that our coachees are all almost always, consciously or unconsciously, working to resolve what they bring to coaching (that’s what brings them to coaching). And my role isn’t to lead them down the path of questions that will ultimately get them to their answer.  My role is to be present with them, see them, explore with them where they find themselves and then remain alert for the indications of where, why and how they are wanting to move from where they are to a new state of being.

  • Better questions make for better coaching. While I believe this is true to an extent, I’m no longer so focused on how to figure out the right, best questions. Because when I focus on figuring out the questions, I’m in my head and not with my coachee. I’m not present. I now believe that it is greater presence that makes for better coaching. The more present, the more in the moment, I can be with my coachee, the more I can attend to, encourage and facilitate the coachee’s own organic progress.
  • Coaching is a dance with the coachee…. and the coach leads. No one ever told me this. It’s just what I “learned,” especially in my early years, through coach training osmosis. In recent years, I’ve observed that the traditional co-active approach to coaching is placing greater emphasis on partnering with the coachee. That feels like a welcome and significant shift from what I first “learned.”

That said, my understanding from those coach trainings has been that even though we want to partner with the coachee (just like in a dance), the coach is still supposed to lead. And the way the coach leads is through their questions. And where the coach leads is where the coachee says they want to go. But if the coachee doesn’t truly know where they want to go…… where are we leading them?

In my prior coach trainings, as if to emphasize the importance of partnering with the coachee, the coach trainers would recommend frequently checking in with the coachee to determine if the coaching is on track and/or where they want the coaching to go. That made sense to me at the time.

But here’s the deal: In my experience, not only do my coachees not consciously know what they want, they are often resistant to directly confronting the challenge ahead of them. And if I ask them where they want to go, they will often avoid exactly where their organic process is taking them.   

So what’s the answer?  If we are not leading and we are not partnering, what the heck are we doing?

For that, you’ll have to wait for Part 3 (and hopefully in the next week, I’ll figure it out).  🙂

Join the conversation.

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

 

P.P.S. Are there more blank spaces on your coaching calendar than you’d like? Join Chip Carter, Senior Advisor at the Institute of Coaching, and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for September’s interactive webinar of discussion and Q&A around your coaching capacity and how you can fill your calendar in a number of ways, including coaching for organizations who need you!  Register here – FREE.    

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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What Learning about My Coachees’ Narratives Taught Me about My Own – Part 1

September 13, 2018

Last year, I registered for WBECS’ Narrative Coach Program with Dr. David Drake. I had been hearing about David and Narrative Coaching and was curious about how we might apply his approach to help coachees make meaning of their EQ Profile results.

For the uninitiated: The EQ Profile provides a snapshot of one’s internal experience under stress in relationship. It reveals the patterns of thinking, feeling, and wanting that are triggered within us during interpersonal conflict. And because we often aren’t fully aware of our internal experience, it can sometimes be challenging to relate to our EQ Profile results.

After debriefing EQ Profile results with hundreds of coachees, I’ve learned that we are all, always narrating our internal experience (whether we are aware of it or not).   And one of the best ways of helping a coachee see the aspects of their internal experience that are hidden to them is to ask them to tell a story about a specific interpersonal conflict.

I’ve found that as I listen deeply to a coachee’s story, I can hear the dimensions of their EQ Profile in their language. (Which is what our Master Class: Insight Mapping course is all about.) Because this is now second nature to me, I was curious what more I could learn about a coachee and their story through Narrative Coaching. And learn more I did.

Narrative Coach Reflection Assignment

I’m now moving from the Enhanced Narrative Coach program to the Certification program, and one of the first assignments is as follows:

“Write a letter to a friend who coaches about what you learned in the Narrative Coach program, in which you share:

  • Five important insights you gained about yourself as a coach
  • Five important assumptions about coaching that shifted for you
  • Five important pieces of content that made a difference for you
  • Five important ways in which you are a better coach now
  • Five important growth edges for you in taking this work forward
  • How you would describe narrative coaching and the impact it has”

Yeah.

This gives you a pretty good sense of what the first seven months of the Narrative Coaching (NC) Program were like.  Exhaustive and exhausting. And incredibly rich, brilliant and challenging.

While I entered the NC Program to learn more about how we could help coachee’s make meaning of their EQ Profile results, what I came away with was a dramatically different view of coaching overall.   

In Narrative Coaching, I’ve found a much more organic, natural approach to working with coachees that feels less formulaic than what I’d been taught previously.

I’d like to share with you what I learned from the NC program, so you are now my “friend who coaches”.  😊 And because I want to stay friends, I’m not going to cover all of the bulleted items above.  And I’ll cover several of them over the course of this multi-part post.  I hope you find it useful.

Five Insights I Gained About Myself as a Coach

The NC program began at a particularly challenging time for me. A month or so into the program, my father passed away. And while my dad’s passing was incredibly hard, the aftermath was even harder. (Perhaps one day, when I have some perspective on it, I’ll write a blog post about it.)  

The birth of my understanding of Narrative Coaching came at the time of the death of not only my father, but also a part of my identity. (And I’m still wrestling with that.)

So all of that is context for what I learned about myself, as a coach, as a human, over the duration of the NC Program. Also, it had been a while since I’d stepped back and observed myself as a coach, so that is reflected here, as well.

The insights I gained about myself as a coach during the NC program include:

  • I am who I say to myself I am. And that’s true about myself as a coach and in every other aspect of my life. If I say to myself that I’m not enough as a coach, that I’m not creating enough value for clients, that I can never be worth what they pay me, then that will be true for me. And I will embody that identity. I will stay small. And safe. And fortunately, the opposite is also true. If I say to myself, “I am enough and everything I need lies in the space created by my client and me,” then that will be true. And it opens up more possibilities for both of us.
  • Forming a secure attachment with my clients is my first priority as a coach. When I’m able to form a secure attachment with a client, our relationship becomes the safe haven in which they show up as themselves and are seen and accepted. Our relationship creates the secure base from which they safely explore new territory. And our work can help them create new mental models that support their self-development. And while we at Learning in Action have been talking about attachment theory for more than a decade as it relates to the EQ Profile, only through the NC program have I been able to see how clearly the concept of secure attachment applies to my coaching.
  • Empathy, along with objectivity, will serve my client best. When my client is distressed, I can feel it so palpably that I can lose my boundary and my objectivity. Frankly, when I’m not conscious of it, I can lose my full ability to self-regulate. And then, I’m not much good to my client. And when I can empathize to the point of attuning to my client, while maintaining my boundary and objectivity and ability to self-regulate, my client can feel felt and seen and held in that space in a way that is generative for them. (Says easy, does hard. Still a work in progress for me.)
  • My curiosity will help my clients more than my knowing. I generally consider myself to be more curious than assumptive as a coach. However, I’ve been realizing how readily I assume I know what my client means by what they say. Since NC, I’ve been paying much closer attention to the language my clients are using and how they are using it. In particular, I’ve begun playing much more with the languages and metaphors my clients use, helping them to tease out their meaning and exploring their potential as a vehicle for experimentation and solution creation. (If you’re curious about an example of this, you can read about it here.) 
  • I can bring lightness to my coaching through play. I tend to be a fairly serious sort. And pretty much all of my clients want to have more fun.. (Me, too!) And I’ve been challenged to figure out how to do that and “get the work done!” Narrative Coaching encourages what David calls “serious play,”  He describes “serious play” as “both an attitude and an activity” which allows coachees to experiment, play, make mistakes, start over, engage all aspects of themselves, and try on something new – all in a safe, encouraging environment. It worked. I experimented with some “serious play” in the example of exploration of the metaphor mentioned above. Midway through, my client exclaimed, “Now, this is fun!”


Having a client feel like our work is fun is its own reward. Because when my clients are having fun, they are experiencing something different, something new, and they are more likely to see something different and new about their situation and themselves.

I hope that my reflections about me encourage you to reflect on you. Because what I get about you, my partners and colleagues in this noble work we do, is that you, like me, want to be better, do better, learn more, love more, be more for your coachees. And that can only be good for us, our coachees, and the ripple effects on the world.

Stay tuned for Part 2 next week on Reflections on Narrative Coaching. Until then, have fun!

Join the conversation. 

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– Alison
Alison Whitmire
President | Learning in Action

 

P.S. Want to receive our blogs in your inbox? Subscribe to our Friday Conversations Blog.

 

P.P.S. Are there more blank spaces on your coaching calendar than you’d like? Join Chip Carter, Senior Advisor at the Institute of Coaching, and Alison Whitmire, president of Learning in Action, for September’s interactive webinar of discussion and Q&A around your coaching capacity and how you can fill your calendar in a number of ways, including coaching for organizations who need you!  Register here – FREE.    

 

Not an EQ Profile practitioner? 
Click here for information on the EQ Profile. Too much to chew on? Click here for a Taste of the EQ Profile.

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Posted in: Coaching|Emotional Intelligence