Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Thursday, 24 January 2013

What is your 'deference threshold'?

Ok picture the scene - you go to visit a new client/ customer or set up a meeting with a new senior manager. Instead of being your usual relaxed, poised and self-assured self you find you have regressed a couple of decades. Instead of speaking with your normal surety you find yourself babbling and tripping over your words. Nobody is more surprised than you.

This a sure sign that your 'deference threshold' has been tripped - instead of relating adult to adult you find yourself operating from a one down place in the face of this awesome (and possibly scary) human being. We all have a deference threshold - I recently asked a very experienced coach this week who triggered hers and she replied "I once had to work with an Army General ... that did it for me!" Usually the awesome being reminds us of parental or other authority figures from childhood days and has nothing to do with the reality of who they are. Sometimes we get entangled in other's power plays and it is everything to do with them.

Coaches have to learn to work with a wide range of people - including very senior people. It is therefore well worth finding out who sends you over the edge and what it is about them that triggers you. Good material for coaching supervision.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Be more like me - issues in coaching

I often have a tricky time explaining to novice coaches that advice giving, especially on a personal matter, is, by and large, a perilous activity. "But, I' ve been through something similar - surely they would benefit from my advice!" they say to me. Well yes and no.

The point is that we are not the same, and while our experiences may be similar, they are rarely directly equivalent. What works for one person in one situation may very well not be helpful for another person in another situation. Blindly copying another's actions robs us of our resourcefulness and keeps us from trusting ourselves fully.

However, my reservations about advice giving goes beyond this . So often for me the hidden message in advice is "Be like me". I heard someone tell a colleague recently to "be more confident" - unspecific advice at the best of times but also loaded with a judgement about the relative superiority of the speaker.- "Just be like me and you'll be fine" was the implied message. Surely our job as coaches is to help people be fully themselves, rather than poor copies of other people?

As Oscar Wilde so aptly put it "Be yourself, everyone else is taken !"

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Gaining perspective ... And loosing it again

So like the rest of the Western world I'm back to work after the Christmas and New Year break.
What was noticeable in the first few days back was the number of coaching clients who said something along the lines of "I'm feeling much calmer.. The holiday has given me a chance to stand back and re-prioritise... Much of the stuff I was making important just wasn't!" This is a great space to work with people in as they seem to hold their habitual ways of being and behaving much more lightly and seem much more open to exploring different ways of operating.

Then came week 2. Instead of experiencing a sense of calm and well being, clients reported how distant the holiday break felt and "It' s like it never happened". The frantic rush had begun again, and I noticed how it just took that bit longer for clients to 'tune into' their coaching sessions.

So apart from holding coaching sessions first thing on a Monday morning before the weekly scramble begins, has anyone any ideas for 'bottling' that feeling of post-holiday reflectiveness?