28th November 2016

The vision for Coach yourself first- a coach's guide to self reflection'

As a new coach beginning to practice at the turn of the millennium I was enthused by the thought of a lifelong learning journey in my chosen profession. I could instantly see the benefit of reflecting on my coaching sessions to support the development of my practice. I took a traditional approach and began to use a reflective log. However the reality was that what I logged was more of a description of the topics the coachee brought to the session and the models and tools I used. I also noted the actions the coachee had decided to focus on. I am a marker and assessor for the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) and I regularly see my initial approach replicated in the coaching portfolios of those undertaking coaching qualifications. My truth was that when I qualified as a coach there was little reference to what best practice was in terms of self-reflection within a focus on developing my coaching practice. Instead the focus was on learning and trying out models and tools. I developed my approach to self-reflection over many years of reading, researching and academic learning which culminated in an MA in applied coaching.

I found excellent generic books on the topic of self-reflection and specific chapters in coaching books by thought leaders in the profession. However I could not find any book which specifically focused on guiding coaches and coach supervisors in developing their ability to self-reflect using a variety of creative approaches.

This was the embryonic catalyst for this book. I am known as someone who can turn strategic high-level thinking into practical solutions and I consider myself to be more of a pragmatist than an intellectual. My hope for the readers of my book is that as they progress through the various chapters they can see a link between the theory relating to reflective learning and the content in other chapters which aims to provide practical guidance, tools and techniques which match a variety of learning styles.

As I began my journey as an author, a publishing company in the United States asked me a question which made me sit back and think about the potential impact of my book on the wider system. The question was “What is your vision for the book and how do you hope it will give back to humanity?”

My considered response was that I wanted to write a book to support coaches and coach supervisors in developing their ability to self-reflect on their practice and gain new insights regarding themselves and their clients. I also recognised that the topic of the book had the potential for attracting a broader audience for leaders and managers looking to reflect on their leadership approaches. My hope is that the book will enable those reading it to learn more reflectively and become better practitioners in the service of their clients in the case of coaches and supervisors. For leaders and managers my hope is that it impacts positively on their relationships with other professionals they work with.

18th September 2016

Today is an important milestone in the development of my business. It marks the launch of Rise Organisational Development Consultancy Limited. There are two reasons for me taking this step. The first is that over the last two and a half years as a sole trader I have been undertaking a variety of commissions involving behavioral and organisational change in addition to my core business of coaching, coach supervision, mentoring and facilitation. The second driver for the launch of a limited company is that I will now be working with my wife Jackie Bisson who brings a wealth of expertise from a career in HR and Organisational Development. I look forward to connecting with clients both old and new as we move forward on this new and exciting venture

9th July 2016

Yesterday I attended a lecture at the RSA titled "living the 100 year life".

So what did I learn? The authors argue that the key to healthy longevity is exercise and mental education and to focus on both consistently. Many people base their forecast of their lifespan on that of their parents or grand parents. This is not a good predictor of your life span. Research shows that children born in the U.K. In 2007 have a 50% chance of living to 100.

Defining who you are and what your identity is can be key to living a multi stage life and not a three stage life focused on education, work and retirement

To do this we need to focus on our intangible assets including continuing to acquire and use our knowledge, growing a peer network and building our reputation.

To maintain vitality we must focus on regenerative friendships and having a diverse network of people who are different to us.

To live a multi stage life we need to get better at change and manage our own 'rejuvinance'. Examples if multi stage living include studying later in life, career breaks and volunteering.

Of course coaching can support people with these challenges and help you create new insight and awareness about who you are and how you want to live your life.

I will finish with a question. If you knew you would live to 100 what choices would you make and how would you live your life differently?

20th June 2016

Statistics released by DfE have shown that the rates of death among those who have recently left care are severa times higher than for young adults in general.

Some commentators are rightly asking why this mortality rate is so much higher and what is institutionally holding these young people back. I believe It is less about how young people in care have been failed by institutions or the system and far more about how their families have failed them and how the trauma from their childhood before entering care impacts negatively on them as a human being.

My research suggests that this impacts their motivation and outlook on life. What these vulnerable young people need most in their lives is an authentic caring human to walk alongside them on their journey much like a good parent would do. This can be a teacher, youth support officer, sports coach or social worker. The words of OMI which I have adapted slightly seem appropriate here." I think I have found myself a cheerleader. She (or he) is always right here when I need them". It's about being a consistent, caring supporter

The key to being a happy motivated adult is that a supportive network ideally your family is around you during your formative years. Part of the role of this network is to provide an opportunity for a child to play. Dr Edward Halliwell in his book happy kids happy adults says that play is children's work. This is how they learn mastery, creativity and how to learn from failure. It is here that intrinsic motivation is created and this is so important. Someone who is intrinsically motivated needs only a limited amount of support to steer them. They know their goals and how to go about achieving them. Often NEET young people a significant proportion of whom are care leavers have not found their intrinsic motivation and this leaves them feeling as though life is pointless or leads them in the direction of criminality or drug and alcohol abuse.

In my work as a member of a leadership team covering youth services, education and social care I was accountable for a service which advocated the rights of children in care. I set up a ground breaking apprenticeship scheme which positively discriminated in favour of young people leaving care. This was not without its challenges as these vulnerable young people often brought issues relating to their childhood into the workplace as it felt to them that it was a safe environment to share. So they needed more support because of their experiences. However the two year apprenticeship were transformational for many. Some have gone on to roles in the public sector while others have found what intrinsically motivates them in terms of a career and returned to full time education including degrees.

These are fantastic outcomes and the key is having a supportive professional who used a coaching approach in their interactions with the young person. This approach involves support and challenge to create empowerment in the individual to achieve the goals they decide on rather than being told. A coaching approach creates new insight and awareness and increases choice.

My research suggests that more government funding should be invested in this approach. This research was published in coaching at work in July 2014 and I continue to lobby the all party parliamentary group on youth employment to consider this approach and what needs to change strategically to deliver it consistently across the country

10th May 2016

I attended a fascinating lecture at the RSA by professor Guy Caxton titled "why your mind needs your body". Guy argued that intelligence is as much somatic as it is cognitive and stated that in the western world we had become clever but inept as a result of becoming desomatised.

I was struck by the strength of his argument and made the following point in the Q and A session. I said that in my coaching practice I had noticed a change in the last twenty years from employers focusing solely on IQ in their recruitment process to a more balanced assessment involving both IQ and EQ. I asked whether Professor Caxton had any evidence of the change in approach being reflected in education strategy and policy relating to the development of the future work force.

The professor responded and acknowledged my implied argument and challenge. As an educationalist himself he had witnessed in schools a focus on what he referred to as a dull risk adverse academic syllabus rather than risk the emotional backlash from parents of dealing with real life experience and issues.

There was also a lack of engagement with teaching students how to be mindful and skills in becoming resilient and empathetic a key cornerstone of EQ.

In so many areas the education system lags behind the needs of employers which often results in an uncomfortable fit between what new recruits bring with them and what is expected of them in the workplace.

4th March 2016

Recently I have been researching positive psychology as I am increasingly seeing with my coaching clients a pattern of them not looking after their own well being. One of the most eminent authors and researchers in this field is Dr Martin Seligman.

In his book Flourish, Seligman argues that positive psychology is about well being and describes 5 elements positive emotion, engagement accomplishment, positive relationships and meaning. He also speaks of a higher purpose - For instance my higher purpose when coaching is to support people in their growth and development. I enjoy seeing people achieve their goals and it fulfils my need to achieve through them. So if they are achieving then so am I.

How often do we reflect on what our higher purpose could be. The evidence I witnessed in my 16 years of coaching practice is that a significant percentage of my client's focus on what is going wrong daily for them rather than what is going well and this can have a negative impact on their motivation, their outlook on life and ultimately their well being.

To counter this Seligman suggests an exercise titled "What went well". The exercise works like this. Each night for a week just before you go to sleep write down three things that went well that day and then write why you think they went well. This might seem difficult to begin with. My experience is that it does become easier. Seligman says that overtime it can become addictive. If you decide to give it a try I would love to here your reflections after the week is up.

6th February 2016

Recently I participated in a series of psychodynamic therapy sessions. In one of the sessions I was encouraged to think about myself at then end of my life sitting with my grandchildren and being asked what lessons from my life I would want to pass on to them. Firstly this was a wonderful opportunity for self reflection and to articulate what I had learnt for the benefit of those around me who I love and care for. The following are some of my learnings.

Follow your heart

Take time to have fun

Really notice the world around you in the here and now

Nurture the power, love and support of your family

Be authentic to yourself

Its ok to be competitive because achieving your best is positive in its own right

Seek a relationship which is equal and founded on unconditional love

Failure is ok because it is from failure that the greatest learnings come from

Listen to others

Ask the question which your heart wants to ask and be courageous in your thinking and your actions

Teach yourself to be resilient using your own life experiences

Learn to be focused and follow that focus with tenacity and you will achieve great things

Look after yourself by eating healthily and find a sport/exercise that you love

Laugh- do it every day

The exercise got me thinking about how we can coach our children and grandchildren without being prescriptive about our own doctrines. Some years ago I read a book titled learned optimism by Dr Martin Seligman. His research suggested that children not unsurprisingly learn pessimism from the criticisms adults make of them. He also proved that while children can learn to be pessimistic they can also unlearn it. Coaching your child to be optimistic will undoubtedly have some great learnings for the parent and grand parent as well. Seligman's exercises include a disputation technique which allows the child to dispute criticisms about themselves in a structured way. Seligman spent 7 years running experiments about how we learn pessimism and optimism. A key finding was "the remarkable attribute of resilience in the face of defeat need not remain a mystery. It was not an inborn trait; it could be acquired". I believe we all have the ability to coach our children and grandchildren to acquire resilience and learn to be optimistic. Seligman says "What is crucial is what you think when you fail, using the power of "non negative thinking" Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism". In my coaching practice I include appreciative coaching techniques which encourages clients to focus on their strengths and helps provide a reframe for past events. Every day we have the opportunity to influence those around us and support their growth and development.

12th January 2016

I have recently received confirmation that I have achieved the post graduate diploma in coaching and NLP supervision. which I have been studying for over the past year. I want to say a big thank you to all my supervisees who I have shared a learning journey with. I am now beginning to market myself as a qualified coach supervisor.

4th November 2015

Avoiding Symbiosis insupervision relationships

I am currently reading a book titled "Reflective Practice and Supervision for Coaches" by Julie Hay. It includes some great exercises to support supervisors in their self reflection. Using a Transactional Analysis ego state approach one exercise encourages the reader to consider how they spend time with their supervisor using the Parent, Adult and Child states. It helped me reflect on how I was in the relationship, what changes I wanted to make and the strengths of the relationship. For instance I recognised that from the child ego state I am excited to try out the techniques and models my supervisor suggests and this interest in playing comes from my child ego state. However there are some risks related to the feeling of excitement that I could try out new models and techniques because of my curiosity which may not be in service of the person I am supervising or coaching.

I believe taking the time to reflect on any professional supervision relationship is critical in improving how you work together and gaining new insight about yourself.

14th October 2015

I attended an excellent event organised by the Kingston university business school last night. The topic was "Where is the Psychology in coaching". The 4 speakers were all eminent in the field and I really enjoyed the debate. I took away this learning. All four speakers had a passion for lifelong learning. To keep up to date with knowledge in the profession of coaching and current leadership thinking in business is a challenge. We all need to think about our own knowledge management strategy. This will help identify which books to read and which conferences and networking events to attend etc.

23rd July 2015

Yesterday I lectured at Jesus college, Cambridge to students from around the world in the Oxbridge tradition programme. This year for the first time I included a session on "inner happiness". The students found the questions on what inner happiness meant for them and what they were doing about this happiness really challenging.

How often do take time out to really think about happiness as a state of being. Too often I believe we focus on working towards happiness in the future rather than understanding our happiness in the here and now. I found the film Hectors pursuit of happiness a great catalyst for self reflection and learning. I would recommend it to you.

15th June 2015

A few weeks ago I had the honour of being accepted as a fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of arts, manufactures and commerce. (RSA) The focus of the society is the enlightenment of thinking and collaborative action to address our most pressing social challenges.

As part of the application process I was asked what contribution I would make to the mission of the society. It was the first time I had really thought deeply about my contribution to society since I chose to end my career as a civil engineer 15 years ago.

In my response I said that the mission aligns with my own journey of understanding who I want to be as a coach. I have curiosity and desire to support and challenge those I coach to lead more fulfilling lives by creating new awareness and walking alongside them as they find their own solutions.

I also have a passion for using a coaching approach to support vulnerable young people to transform their lives attitudes and outlook on life. This was the research topic for my MA in applied coaching where I looked at how to create intrinsic motivation in young people not in education, employment or training (NEET).

Maybe taking a moment to reflect on what contribution we are making to society is something we should all do once in a while?

19th May 2015

I am really enjoying my journey as a coach supervisor. The opportunity to support coaches in working through dilemmas and issues around ethics and boundaries has embedded my awareness of the skills and experience I have which ensures I add value for the people I supervise. Supervision is a combination of coaching, mentoring and imparting my academic learning and leadership experience. Most of all I am enjoying helping those I am supervising in their growth and development as coaches.

8th May 2015

Over the last few weeks the universe has brought to me through my coaching and supervision of coaches a theme looking at the assumptions we make as coaches. These assumptions can lead to thoughts about solutions which then acts as interference to our ability to be truly present with our clients. Supervision can be a safe environment to reflect on our assumptions and how they impact our practice. What assumptions are you making about the clients you are working with?

5th March 2015

This week my daughter posted on Whatsapp a picture of a blue pill and a red pill with a caption "which would you take". In the hypothetical scenario the blue pill would take you back 10 years in time while the red pill would take you 10 years in to the future. My daughter said she would take the red pill as long as it wore off to have a peak into the future. I responded saying taking the red pill in my view could limit your thinking and the decisions you make now could be impacted. My belief is that we make the best decisions we can with the wisdom, resources and learning we have now and if we get it wrong our mistakes provide us with the opportunity to learn, grow and become wiser.

However, what if you could make better decisions now? Coaching plays into this as a coach can support you in gaining new insights and awareness regarding decisions you want to make for example with your career, finances and other life choices. "In order for people to learn new things or change unhelpful behaviours , they have to create new neuronal connections and hardwire new maps into their brains" (Flatau 2015). Coaching can help you build your new map. If you are interested please do make contact with me for a no obligation conversation regarding how you could benefit from coaching.

5th February 2015

I have been giving some thought to the benefits which clients derive from being coached by me and what makes my offer unique. Here is my statement

"I support clients by using challenge to create new insights and by empowering them to make positive changes in their lives. I am uniquely qualified to coach in this way because of my understanding of coaching theory combined with knowledge of models and techniques through experiential learning during my MA in applied coaching and ILM qualification in executive coaching. I am credible because I have a unique combination of a passion for seeing people learn and grow, experience of working at an executive level, my coaching credentials and strong testimonials from my clients"

5th January 2015

Today I read an article titled thoughts for 2015. It was based on research on regrets people have as they approached the end of their life. The purpose of identifying regrets was to reveal how deeply poignant regrets can be and to inspire and challenge others to live life more fully and completely. It provides an opportunity for self reflection as we head in to the busyness of a new year. Here is the link to the article

I am really enjoying being authentic in my coaching and mentoring business so having the courage to live a life which is true to myself really resonated with me. I am working hard and I am really happy doing so. I think happiness is the key message in the article. Doing what makes you happy and wish for that same happiness in your children whatever happiness means for them. Living in the now is something I will be focusing on in 2015.

14th November 2014

Last week I presented a key note speech at a conference for senior managers who provide youth support services. The speech was based on findings from a research topic for my MA in applied coaching. The topic was "Does coaching make a positive difference for the life outcomes and attitudes of young people classified as not in education, employment or training (NEET)?"

The research evidenced that the key to Youth Support Officers (YSO) working at a deeper emotional level in their practice was their ability to be an authentic caring human.

This links with Watson’s theory of human caring (2008) which emanated from her visionary work regarding the future of the nursing profession globally. Watson developed a carative factors framework to bring a structure for nursing phenomena. Glasgow and Morris (2005) referring to Watson’s theory state that "It is when we include caring and love in our work and our life that we discover and affirm that nursing, like teaching, is more than just a job, but a life-giving and life-receiving career for a lifetime of growth and learning.” (Glasgow and Morris,2005:308). So in the nursing profession there is a notion that love falls within the professional and ethical boundaries rather than outside of them.

The ICF competencies make no explicit reference to the role of "love" in a coaching relationship. When describing the co creation of a coaching relationship there is reference to trust and intimacy with the client and showing a genuine concern for the client’s welfare and future is referenced. In the section on coaching presence there is reference to demonstrating confidence in working with strong emotions and the ability to self-manage and not be overpowered or enmeshed by client's emotions is a clear direction given. This seems to me to emanate from the desire to maintain professional boundaries.

Could there be something to learn from the nursing profession regarding the role of "love" in our coaching practice?

21st October 2014

Recently I received a package in the post which contained letters from students who attended the Oxbridge tradition which I lectured at in the summer. It was wonderful to receive their feedback. One student said "I will remember your inspiring stories in the future. You have motivated me to continue with my passion for music". Another said " Your lecture was definitely one of the highlights of my time here at Cambridge. It was one of the most inspiring talks I have ever heard. It was truly life changing"

Its great to receive positive feedback to reflect on and learn from.

10th October 2014

I learnt this week that I had been successful in achieving the ILM certificate in Executive coaching. I am also nearing completion of my dissertation for my M.A. in applied coaching. The learning journey in undertaking both of these qualifications has been huge. I now know that the more I learn about coaching and mentoring the more I know there is to learn. It is definitely a journey and not a destination.

I read a quote this week which really resonated with me in terms of my "heart" for coaching.

“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

30th July 2014

Last week I had the opportunity to lecture at Jesus college, Cambridge on the criminology programme of the Oxbridge tradition international summer school. It was the first opportunity to articulate the initial findings of my MA research. I also lectured on the learnings from my life so far. It isn't often that we get the opportunity to share what we have learnt from our life journey. It certainly raised my awareness of the importance of a focus on life long learning

6th June 2014

This week I facilitated a department awayday in Wales. The key to moving this team forward on their journey was to support the head of department in providing clarity in the strategic direction of the department and providing a safe space where reflection could take place openly and honestly on what they had achieved and the challenges ahead. This led to the whole teams ownership of their priorities and the next steps they wanted to take forward.

22nd May 2014

I am really enjoying the challenge of my learning journey relating to my MA in applied coaching. The headline message from my research regarding using a coaching approach with NEET young people is the need to be an authentic caring human. To help us we can do this by modelling ourselves on someone we respect for being an authentically caring human being. Who does this make you think of?

This is the coaching presence state which is fundamental to supporting and empowering these vulnerable your people to change their outlook and attitude to life.

Finding the young persons intrinsic motivation for what it Is that creates happiness in them. In the words of Pharell Williams "clap along if you know what happiness is to you"

29th April 2014

In the last few days I have been researching what it means to have intrinsic motivation. This is when you are motivated from within to achieve and are not reliant on external recognition or rewards to keep you focused on your end goal. In a sporting environment I have intrinsic motivation when playing football. It is the enjoyment of the game and being the best that I can be and still learning how to improve my abilities that I find rewarding.

For many people it is a challenge to find what it is that they have an intrinsic motivation for. The role of a coach is to support the person in identifying the thing which does this for them and support them to set their own goals which relate to it which they are intrinsically motivated to achieve

2nd April 2014

Recently I have been reading a book titled Happy Child Happy Adult by Dr Edward Hallowell. The book refers to an eminent psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who researched the roots of happiness. He concluded that "Happiness is not something that happens to people but something that they make happen". He indicated that people are happiest when they are in a state he called "flow". When you are one with what you are doing. It made me think about my own "flow" state. Other than playing football my state of flow is when I am coaching. What about you ?

14th March 2014

Earlier this week I received an e mail from the International Coaching Federation. They were congratulating me on attaining Associate Credentialed Coach (ACC) status which I completed last year. I am now one of only 295 ACC coaches in the uk. There are almost 7000 ACC's worldwide in over 90 countries.

11th March 2014

So this is my inaugural blog following the launch of my website. I am in the second year of an MA in applied coaching and my dissertation research project is looking at the impact of the provision of coaching skills to youth support officers who support young people who are not in education, employment and training. These young people have often had a childhood trauma which has impacted on their motivation and outlook on life. In my executive coaching practice currently there is a theme around providing effective challenge and creating awareness with regard to personal values.