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

Taking out the Trash (or How I Manage Client Information)

What do you do with your coaching client files and records?

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The trash can is overflowing as I throw away files and papers related to my coaching clients and students. There’s a pang of regret and fear that goes along with this exercise. “What if I need these again and can’t put my hands on them?”  Then a competing voice asks “But you promised your clients confidentiality and privacy and why do you need to keep all of this information anyway?”

In my Ethics in Coaching Class we carefully read the ICF Code of Ethics and ask ourselves if our current practices are aligned with the provisions of the Code. Each of us finds some way we can do better and we commit to learn more and make specific changes.

My assignment was to get serious about managing client information and deleting files when appropriate.

Here’s the paragraph in the ICF Code of Ethics I was using as my guide:

11. Maintain, store and dispose of any records, including electronic files and communications, created during my coaching engagements in a manner that promotes confidentiality, security and privacy and complies with any applicable laws and agreements. (ICF Code of Ethics, July 2015)

On first reading it seems simple and clear, but when you start asking “How would I implement this?”, the ambiguities appear.  What do I really need to do to “promote confidentiality, security, and privacy?” and which “laws and agreements apply?” are just the first two questions I asked. 

My goal was to create routines that addressed client and student records within a reasonable time after coaching engagement or class is done.  This seemed like an easy assignment, but I ran into the some challenges - I found it was a little more complex that I thought and I stumbled into more than one a“rabbit hole”.

Here’s my homework report that I shared with the other students in the class:

First things first - Where are my client documents?

  • Client documents and information are stored in many more places than I anticipated!. It’s in tax returns; my bookkeeping software; and my PayPal account. It’s in calendar entries; contact lists; and emails with their attachments.  It’s in electronic files and folders, and on paper. Client data is stored on my hard drive, on my mobile devices, in the “cloud”, on my desk and in notebooks.
  • With laptop, iPad, IPhone, and cloud apps that sync with each other, data start in one place, then get copied in two, three or more additional places.

I was overwhelmed by the idea that I needed to protect and keep “confidential and private” all of this data that is stored in so many places!

With all of that data floating around, what (really) needs to be protected?

I decided that the IRS and Maine Department of Revenue are the only entities really interested in who I do business with, how much I’m paid, when and for how long I talk with clients, or what their phone numbers/email addresses/Skype addresses are. I just don’t think there’s any danger in this information becoming public for the people I work with. Password protection should be enough.

It is important to protect and dispose of information about the content of my work with clients and students. This includes client coaching goals; interviews and notes from bosses, peers and direct reports; coaching session prep sheets;  homework assignment reports; coaching recordings, transcripts and assessment reports; and my notes about any of this content.

Now that I know what to delete, I need to know how!

This turned out to be the hardest part of this assignment. Deleting electronic files isn’t simple (or easy) because of multiple syncing devises, cloud-based applications, and disorganized filing systems. 

It took me a week of exploring to feel like I fully understood where files are stored and how they can be deleted in the systems I use. For example a file that I receive as an email attachment is stored on the mail server, in the mail folder on my computer, phone and tablet, and in system files that are hidden from my view, and then I copy it to a client folder. Tracking down all of these copies and learning the steps needed to really delete was, to say the least, a chore. 

After a couple of weeks of exploring and learning and thinking, here’s what I plan to do.

#1: I will be rigorous about deleting client, student and assessment files related to the content of our work within 30 days of the work being completed. I have an item on my ToDo list every 2 weeks to handle this task. I will delete files from ALL places that I know they can be hiding out on ALL devices and sites.

#2: I will revise my agreements to Include language that says I will hold our work in confidence but “doing business with” information will not be protected beyond passwords on devices and websites.

Sounds simple, but it won’t always be easy! 

With the technical details figured out, I started deleting - and ran into another obstacle.

My aversion to throwing things away reared it’s ugly head as soon as I started moving files into the Trash. Luckily, I quickly noticed that this response was the same as my response to getting rid of a pair of shoes that no longer fit. While my fear says these things are irreplaceable and I will suffer harm without them, my logical brain knows that they can be replaced, that most of the time they don’t need to be replaced, and that no deaths or injuries will occur if I no longer have them. 

I can just let them go.

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Do you have an Ethics Lifeline?

Who do you reach out to when the waters get a little rough in your one-on-one with coaching clients?
 

I received a call from a former student and colleague the other day. She was facing a challenge with a coaching client and needed help thinking through how to handle it. The challenge had to do with Ethics - which is not unusual when I receive these types of calls.  I think she had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done, but it wasn’t straightforward and she felt that there were risks in all directions. It was ambiguous (maybe something was amiss, or maybe not), it involved her client and others in the organization, and the worst-case scenario was serious enough that ignoring it wasn’t an option. It was helpful for her to talk it through, and she came away with a plan and the conviction that taking action was the right thing to do.

In my Coaching Master Class, we talk about Ethics first, and spend more time on it than the other competencies. In my initial class design, I put Ethics at the beginning because I thought it was a topic that we would discuss without much pre-work, as a way to “warm up” before hitting our stride with real coaching topics.


After 10 cohorts, I now see that putting Ethics first was a great decision - it is a real coaching topic. 


In listening to the ethical situations the students bring to the class, I see that Ethics is an undercurrent in our relationships with our clients and their sponsoring organizations.  They can arise right at the beginning or at any time during the engagement. They impact the services we offer and how we build our businesses, especially if we offer more than coaching.  Whenever they come up, they can knock us off center and disrupt the coaching engagement.


Talking about Ethics proactively – that is, before we need to make some of those difficult choices - is important. Many of the Coaching Master Class students have been grateful for that opportunity and have made specific changes to their coaching agreements and initial conversations with clients and sponsors. They are ready to handle some common ethical challenges before they become a problem.


Through the conversations, students also realize the value of getting different perspectives and hearing the experiences of their peers. We talk about having a “lifeline” - someone to call to help when you're facing a challenge. Your lifeline won’t have the answer, but will listen, ask questions, notice emotions that might be getting in your way, challenge your assumptions, and refer you back to the Code of Ethics and your coaching agreements for guidance. Your lifeline is a coach, really, to help you do what needs to be done to stay aligned with your ethical code.


The coach who called me had been through those conversations in the Coaching Master Class and had done some research on ethics in coaching relationships. She had the advantage of that proactive thinking, and had the phone number of her lifeline ready.


From teaching the Coaching Master Class, I’ve learned that it’s important that we stop and talk about Ethics periodically, to check in on the ethical challenges that are cropping up in your real-world experiences. The conversations remind us of what’s expected when we face these challenges, and prepare us for when they do occur.


Who is your Ethics Lifeline?

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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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"Just the Facts" - about Mentor Coaching

Mentor Coaching Overview


What is Mentor Coaching (according to the ICF)?
 
  • Coaching on your coaching 
  • by an ICF credentialed coach at or above your desired credential level
 
Roles in a Mentor Coaching Relationship
 
Mentor Coach - person providing coaching on your coaching
Mentee - person receiving the mentor coaching
Client - person being coached for the purposes of evaluating the Mentee/Coach’s coaching
 
How is Mentor Coaching done?
 
Option 1: Using Recorded Coaching Sessions
  • Mentee records a coaching session with a Client
  • Mentee and Mentor Coach separately review the recording to assess coaching behaviors and identify focus areas for the mentor coaching
  • Mentor Coach and Mentee engage in a conversation about the coaching that includes
    • Feedback
    • Coaching for development
    • Action planning for improved coaching

Option 2: Live Coaching Sessions

  • Mentee coaches the Mentor Coach, or Mentor Coach listens to a live coaching sessin with another client
  • Mentor Coach and Mentee engage in a conversation about the coaching that includes
    • Feedback
    • Coaching for development
    • Action planning for improved coaching
Who is a Mentor Coach?
 
Expert in coaching competencies, effective coaching behaviors, experience in delivering effective coaching, and understanding the human traits that support or hinder effective coaching.
 
Partner playing an equal  role with the mentee in their development. In partnership you invite the mentee to create their own focus of learning, their own awareness, their own plans for improvement. In partnership, you share your expertise, observations, assessments, and feedback using a coaching approach designed to foster the learning and development of your menthe.
 
Why Use A Mentor Coach?
 
Mentor coaching is a great option when you're ready for a "personal trainer" approach to becoming a better coach.  Learn more HERE.
 
For More Information about Mentor Coaching
 
International Coach Federation (ICF) - Mentor Coaching Duties and Competencies
 
 Lees, Janet. "Mentoring and Supervision [Special Issue]." Choice Magazine Volume 10, no. 3 (September, 2012). 
 
Sue’s Blog Posts 
Who Needs a Mentor Coach?  September 2013
Are you curious? About your own coaching? August 2014
 
For More Information about ICF Coaching Competencies
 
ICF Website - search for:
  • Coaching Core Competencies
  • Competencies Comparison Table for ACC, PCC and MCC
  • PCC Competency Markers
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