Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Coaching as 're-storying'

Fascinating and very inspiring day yesterday. I spend it in the company of Dr David Drake, an expert on 'Narrative Coaching'. David was speaking at an EMCC sponsored workshop held in the lovely surrounding of Regents Park College in central London.

The premise of 'Narrative Coaching' is very straight forward - we live our lives as and through stories. According to David, we construct narratives about our past (and our future) to help us make sense of a complex and confusing world. However our self stories are always part fiction in that we select and remember fragments of our experience, interpreting events so we can make sense of what is going on around us. We therefore get in to trouble when we confuse our self story with objective truth. We end up hanging on to our version of events even when it has stopped serving us - the narrative 'grip' as David calls it.

This perspective is helpful in coaching in that it allows for the possibility of  new stories to be told. Thus a client's old/habitual story might be: "I am not the sort of person who is confident - I've never been able to present well". This could be plausibly retold as "I once has a bad experience of giving presentations, but I've learnt a lot since" allowing the client the possibility of looking forward to and even enjoying their next speaking opportunity. From this perspective we are all work in progress - I find that thought reassuring rather than limiting.

Here's a link to David's Narrative Coaching website

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The slopey shouldered 'coach'

One of the big pay-off's for managers learning to coach, is the idea of using their new found skills to keep responsibility for tasks with their teams. Most leaders I've worked with recognise their tendency to pick up their subordinates tasks - especially when under time pressure - and end up doing not only their own job but everyone else's job. Coaching can seem like a god send for getting those jobs back where they belong.

However, I've seen this taken too far. Only this morning I was talking to a manager who's boss has just been on a 'coaching' course. The boss now habitually pings back a reply of "What have you done so far?" to all requests for help , irrespective of  need or urgency. This as you can imagine is driving his team mad, and the good name of coaching is getting sullied.

Coaching is not about being slopey shouldered, deflecting all requests with a deft clever question. Coaching is first and foremost about being in service of the coachee, and helping them to perform/learn/grow. Constant deflection may serve the interests of the manager, but is annoying and counter-productive very quickly.