Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Coaching in different cultures

I've been asked to speak at a conference on London in March on the topic of coaching across different cultures. This always seems to a bit of a hot topic for many coaches and my guess is that this might speak to our sensitivities and uncertainties about working with people who are (very) different from ourselves.

I think is very easy to reduce the discussion of culture to a discussion of crude stereotypes.... Italians are voluble and excitable... Americans are loud... and all Brits have stiff upper lips.  A much more useful characterisation of culture is Hofstede's work on cultural dimensions and it can be eye-opening to compare ourselves with other nationalities. Have a look at the Hofstede website to see what I mean.

And of course any description of national culture obscures a whole load of variation. Just because I'm a Brit doesn't mean I'm reserved .. at least not all the time. To understand the individual sat in front of us for coaching means considering a whole pile of factors including their personality type, their organisational culture as well as their national culture.. and that is just for starters. However underneath that complexity, strangely the more you get to understand an individual the more you see their similarities not their differences.

Vive la difference!

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Getting the shift - using pivot points

What does it take to 'get the shift'. Coaching clients all to often show up for coaching with best intentions of making changes in their lives and relations, but somehow never making them. The change becomes overwelmingly difficult - "If it wasn't for my difficult boss... I'm not the sort of person .. my unrelenting workload" - and the conversation stops being about bringing about change so much as justifying why any change is impossible.

Getting the client to the point where they make a real and sustainable change is therefore a challenge and a dilemma for a coach. Some coaches in their anxiety to make a difference, resort to using their personal energies to get the client over the line, forgetting that once they leave them they are likely to fall back to their habitual ways of being.

Dr David Drake  (Centre for Narrative Coaching) has an interesting technique that helps here. He talks about the notion of 'pivot points', effectively choice points in a clients life where they have to two possible course of of action - one aligned with their desires and one aligned with their status quo. Change is then about recognising and choosing a particular path in the moment . For example "I can give my opinion or I can keep quiet" when I'm faced with a threatening situation. What's great about this approach is it reduces what might seem an overwelmingly impossible change into a series of small and simple in the moment choices... which is what life is composed of anyway.