CoachingExcellence

January 1, 2017
Dear Coach,

Welcome to my Blog. Here you'll find essays I've written about coaching. Some of the questions I'm exploring are (1) What makes coaching work? (2) What helps coaches do their work well? (3) How do coaches continue to be masters of their profession? and (4) What the heck are those ICF coaching competencies, anyway?

My passion is helping coaches to be their best, so they can bring the best of coaching to their clients.

There's something here for all coaches, at all levels of experience. I’ll bet you'll learn something new, find a new perspective to consider, or just encounter a new way to say what you already know from experience. It’s all good, and (probably) good for you, too! .
You're welcome to browse - I'm sure you'll find something that resonates with your experience. You can also search on Categories and Tags for specific topics.

If you find something that you enjoy, please share with your colleagues and friends, and copy the link so you can find it again. Leave a comment if you’d like. You just might spur a new essay about something I’ve learned from you!

It's my privilege to offer my thoughts on coaching.. Enjoy your reading!

Sue McLeod, PCC

Coach, Are you an Innocent Bystander? or a Passive Enabler?

You know that feeling when you're coaching. Your client is doing what they always do. Maybe they talk a lot and never really get to the point. Maybe they "I don't know" a lot and deflect all invitations to explore new paths. And, since you've been here before, you let them do what they do, feeling powerless and "skill-less" to change the course of the conversation. 

 



You're an innocent bystander to your client.

Innocent because it's not your fault (it's the client's fault). Bystander because you're on the sidelines watching and listening, and being a little bit of a victim, too.

This term came to me in a Master Class session I was leading on Establishing the Coaching Agreement. We were discussing challenges with clients who are difficult to pin down, who can't seem to focus on what they want from the coaching, who only want to talk about what's already happened, and who never come to the coaching session with a topic in mind.

Listening to these stories led me to reflect on my own coaching. Of course, I have clients like this, too.  With reflection, I had an epiphany - I've been taking the role of "innocent bystander" with clients who don't come to the session with a clear topic, ready for coaching.

I'm now reframing.

When I pull back from the coaching conversation and blame the client, I'm not really "innocent". In fact, you could say I'm guilty. Guilty of not being a full partner, of not owning my responsibility to lead the coaching session to be a purposeful conversation.

I'm also not a bystander! My presence and actions with my client have an impact, always! By letting them ramble on, I'm enabling them to continue their default patterns of thinking, reinforcing their stories and assessments of how life is for them, and accepting the lack of focus and forward movement this is probably not working for them in other parts of their life.

From "innocent bystander" to "guilty enabler" - there's a powerful reframe! It's a wake-up call for me and I'm mindful now as I work with clients, students and colleagues to return to the core of coaching - my role is to be a partner, to support the client to "do/be what they don't want to do/be, in order to have the life they want." which mean I sometimes have to do what I don't want to do, or say what I don't want to say.

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Setting Goals: It's Complicated

In coaching, we work with our clients to set goals and find ways to have new results in their lives.  At the March ICFNE Maine Affiliate program "Beyond Goals", I got an insight into just how complex and nuanced that can be.

 
 
 
 
The ICFNE Maine Affiliate program in March was a facilitated discussion based on the book Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring by by Susan David and David Clutterbuck.
 
This interactive session gave me a lot to think about, as I realized the limitations of my own preferences and practices, and how they might also limit my clients.
 
I left with more questions than answers:
 
·      Are stretch goals motivating or overwhelming?
·      Am I motivated by moving towards a positive result or avoiding a negative result?
·      Are specific and measurable goals focused and results oriented or too narrow to make a real difference?
·      Are simple and obvious goals just good common sense or a way to avoid exploring and understanding nuanced options?
·      Are goals always useful in an increasing complex world?
·      Are goals set by others more or less motivating than goals we set for ourselves?
 
In letting these questions roll around in my head for a few weeks, I realize that having more distinctions around goals and how they work for others would help me in all of the roles I play.

·      As an individual, are there options for goal setting that I should have in my tool kit, that aren’t my normal and familiar way?
·      As a leader, how can I expand my awareness and practice to use different approaches with different people and groups?
·      As a coach, how can I partner with clients so they are the best they can be at setting and achieving goals?
·      As a coach trainer and mentor, how do I teach and assess a coach’s ability to partner with their clients?
 
A big part of the awareness from this program is that my own preferences for goals creates a powerful bias in how I act and how I judge others. With that awareness comes the desire to pull together a diverse set of people to explore this with me - to get “up close and personal” with different perspectives, motivations, and practices.


These are questions that I will be bringing to my own participation in the next PCC Master Class.
 
This winter I set a goal for myself. To photograph and share the biggest snow bank I could find here in Maine.  Here's the winning entry. 
 
 
 That's my 6ft 2in tall husband standing next to our Suburban in a parking lot in Camden, ME.
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Fulfill the Vision of Your Coaching - Join the Coaching Master Class

 

In my spare time, I'm a knitter.  You'll usually find me with knitting needles in my hands and visions of my next knitting project in my head.  As an amateur, my visions don't always appear from the yarn in my hands. But the fun thing about knitting is that it can be unraveled back to where it started - just a ball of yarn...

Every once in a while, I create something that aligns with my original vision. This sweater is one example. Just what I imaged and the young girl who received it, loved it!

In my professional life as a coach, I also created something that aligned with my vision - The PCC Master Class.  I call it my "little class" because it's designed for little groups of coaches (less than 5) who are ready to have conversations about the little details that are the foundations for masterful coaching. Topics like what's in your coaching agreements, what wording changes can shift your questions to be more curious, and what thinking can shift your clients to full partners in the coaching.

Little changes that come from intimate conversations about our coaching and big shifts that come from our collective commitment to be the best we can be.

Here's what some of the recent student have to say…

The Results
 
I feel like I have a more focused approach to my coaching sessions as a result of this course.  I have a clearer picture of the ICF PCC competencies and feel like I have a better grasp of them practically rather than just theoretically. 
 
Each competency reviewed and discussed led me to deeper insights and practical considerations. My notebook is full.
 
Every session resulted in a practical reflection of my own work and new ideas for subsequent coaching sessions/practices
 
The Learning Environment
 
An open and spacious environment for discussions was a true gift.
 
I truly enjoy being in conversation with fellow coaches who are thoughtful about their work.
 
The Instructor
 
Our instructor was so well prepared and willing to draw upon the expertise of others to complement her own. 
 
Sue adapted to whatever her learner's needs were, and freely shared her own growing edges and distinctions.
 
Sue, you do a great job facilitating conversation and creating an effective learning environment.  The fact that you join in the exercises and continue your own learning really adds depth to the experience.
 
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ICFNE Maine Affiliate Program Summary - Mentor Coaching

It was a night of the full moon - both a Harvest Moon and a Super Moon, at that.  With the energy shift that moves us from August’s relaxation to September’s hustle we kicked off the second year of ICFNE Maine affiliate programs with Mentor Coaching.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The mission of the Maine affiliate of ICFNE is to create a community that fosters our learning, building the reputation of coaching in Maine, and supports us in building our businesses. To support that mission, the program was designed to be interactive and draw on the experiences and wisdom of the participants.

.... I was totally impressed with the level of engagement, trust, and support demonstrated by this learning community ... (SG)

I’m passionate about Mentor Coaching as a valuable tool for developing our coaching skills. I also want to bring clarity about Mentor Coaching so that coaches can be informed “consumers” of this valuable service, and that experienced coaches know what it means to be an effective Mentor Coach.

...Sue's workshop illustrated the power of mentor coaching in my own professional development in a hands on, real time manner.  It was structured, organized and high impact.  ... (JE)

The ICF’s definition of Mentor Coaching is “coaching on your coaching”. After small group discussions on what it means to be a mentor, we reviewed the Georgetown University Mentor Coaching Model, which says that a Mentor Coach is an expert in coaching and a partner focused on developing coaching skills.  There are similarities to coaching and there are differences.
...Sue McLeod's presentation clarified the importance of mentoring to developing and sustaining the quality of my coaching... (JC)
Mentor Coaching begins with establishing your goals for development. Next, the Mentor Coach provides feedback on your coaching, and then engages in a coaching conversation focused on developing your coaching skills.  
The feedback is based on the Mentor Coach observing your coaching, assessing what they see and hear against a standard of coaching (such as the ICF Core Coaching Competencies), and providing feedback in a way that you can hear and understand.
The Mentor Coach then engages you in a coaching conversation that explores the feedback, looks for opportunities for new awareness about your coaching - including identifying habits and blind spots such as avoiding emotions or skipping over designing specific and measurable actions.
...Mentor coaching targeted areas for my development and offered improvement strategies that were spot on.  I want more!!!... (JE)
 After discussing the model, we moved on to demonstrations and practice.  Like coaching itself, the best way to learn about Mentor Coaching is to experience it!
We used the new ICF PCC Level Competency Markers as the basis for assessing the coaching.  Participants found the markers to be easy to understand and observe as they watched a coaching conversation. They were also humbled by how difficult it is to capture everything that’s happening as they prepared for giving feedback.  
...I want to thank you for such a rich program you presented on mentor coaching.  It was enlightening! It made me step back and think about my coaching and how I follow (or not) the core competencies.  I've been coaching for 11 years and it's so easy to forget!  I am now committed to taking one competency and practicing  the skills for 2 weeks and then moving on to another one... (DB)
After a demonstration of a mentor coaching conversation, we broke into triads for everyone to have the opportunity to be a part of a Mentor Coaching session. The room was energized as coaches coached clients and mentors observed. Then it was the mentor’s turn to try his/her hand at a mentor coach conversation. We finished up with a little feedback to the mentor coach. 
... As a result of the program, I will now be more intentional about how I elicit feedback and mentoring on my coaching ...  (SG)
Everyone was gracious and courageous in jumping in to try mentor coaching, and came away with a deeper appreciation for Mentor Coaching, Coaching and the community of coaches that we share.
...The interactive exercises enabled me to connect with and observe other coaches and appreciate the impact of good coaching... (JC)

Thank you to ICFNE Maine affiliate for the opportunity to present this program. And a special thank you to Susan Gallant, Janet Eastmen, Deb Bergeron and Janice Cohen for allowing me to include their comments in this blog post.

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Transforming Judgement into Learning

 

It’s way too nice today to work inside, so I’m on the deck, squinting to see my laptop screen through the glare, moving around for the optimal position relative to the sun, the shade and the breeze.
 

It’s worth the trouble!
 

It reminds me of my college days here in Maine. 

In the spring, when the weather was finally warm enough to be outside without shivering, we’d convince the professors into holding class outside. We were often surprised how little convincing that took, although now I’m sure they had cabin fever as badly as the students! 

 
Outside, sitting on the library lawn, we couldn’t hear very well, taking notes was a challenge and there were a lot of distractions! But the feeling of the sun on our faces and a warm wind at our backs for an extra hour was heaven!
 

For the last two weeks, I’ve been working on coaching assessments. In case you don’t know, this means listening to recordings of coaching for the PCC level competencies and finding a few points of feedback to give to the coach.  I’ve been doing this for years, and I still find it a challenge.  It’s sacred space to hold someone’s work in your hands (or ears, in this case) with the intention to pass judgement on whether it’s ‘good enough”.  It’s a delicate thing to find feedback that will speak to someone who is probably most concerned about the results of that judgement. And it’s a challenge for me, with my math brain and desire to find yes/no answers to the question “is this coaching good enough?”.   How do I listen to the words the coach is using, tune into to the relationship the coaching is building, and be witness to the choices he makes as he navigates the complex and delicate paths of a coaching conversation.
 
It is my continuing, never-ending it seems, learning edge as an assessor and mentor coach. 

How do I manage the impacts of judgement while opening the door to learning?  

How can both of these feel like that Maine spring-time sun - invigorating, humbling, and renewing all at the same time?

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