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Coaching Reflections

An ongoing series of my reading reflections

Conscious Leadership

Where did I put that box?

Using boxes and the shelf as a metaphor for thinking.

Conscious Leadership

Where did I put that box?

19/02/2021

Introduction to Conscious Leadership - Where did I put that box?

I met Karim Hirani (BTS Coach) around 8 months ago, when I first started my role with the EMCC UK. In our first meeting I was struct by Karim’s quiet, thoughtful, and so very present approach to our conversation. I left the first meeting as though I had been in therapy, yet we had clearly focused on strategy throughout. He talked about conscious leadership, a subject that I had read around over the years, so I had some knowledge. However, I was slightly short of where I would like to be to hold a conversation with anyone, let alone Karim. Karim suggested Conscious Leadership as something we might introduce to our members, “count me in!”. Over the last two months I have read books (Karim and Jerry’s specifically), research articles and watched countless YouTube clips. This short piece walks you through my learning journey to give you an insight into my Conscious Leadership travels and invites you to take your own.

2020 has been somewhat of a year to say the least; many of us have struggled and triumphed throughout. Conscious Leadership offers us a choice in how we show up and this choice determines how we feel about the outcome we are faced with and in some cases adds into or determines the outcome. Watching, The Conscious Leadership Group on YouTube was my starting point, click the link below to take you to their You Tube channel (The Conscious Leadership Group, 2015).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLqzYDZAqCI

Where am I? indeed where am I? this question was the first one I was presented with and I immediately began to ask myself this question through a number of lenses. Knowing I like to wrestle with a questions in my map of the world before I invite any client to wrestle with theirs, I explored this question through the lens of family, work, volunteering and friendship. This broke down into a simple idea for me and in the words of my dear friend Auriel Majumdar, ‘am I still playing in the puddles?’ or am I sat on the windowsill looking outside at the other kids wishing for something else? As it turns out I am above the line through many lenses, splashing in bright yellow wellies. Though I have to say in some areas I felt close to tipping point and recognised this is a piece of deep and deliberate practice for myself (The Conscious Leadership Group, 2015).

Ward (2016) describes conscious leadership as a way of ‘conducting responsibilities’ as a leader. Suggesting leaders choose how they go about their interactions and business, the practiced craft of conscious leadership. Working consciously, we can see how this would bring wonderful rewards in terms of personal, socially, and economic return. Ward (2016) describes conscious leadership as a combination of science and art where the delivery of organisational outcomes is entwined with the human experience and therefore symbiotic. If we are to move towards the ultimate good, people and business outcomes might benefit from being viewed as mutually beneficial (Ward, 2016, Vol 104).

Change is inevitable, nothing stays the same, life, work, family, friendships are not static. They are like the earth ever revolving and evolving. Rapid change is a symptom of modern society, or so we are told. It is faster, more complex, more ambiguous. Anderson and Anderson states “Change is happening everywhere; its speed and complexity are increasing; and the future success of our organizations depends on how successful leaders are at leading that change. In today's marketplace, change is a requirement for continued success, and competent change leadership is a most coveted executive skill (Anderson & Anderson, 2010)”. Is it? Is it really? Or is this a story we tell ourselves? Thus, increasing our suffering and depleting our ability to cope. Anderson and Anderson (2010) also tell the story of the benefits of conscious leadership and adopting mindful approaches to work with people and business in this VUCA environment.

The 4 Greatest Coaching Conversations (Conner & Hirani, 2019) provides an alternative approach to developing our consciousness: BRIT – Be, Relate, Inspire, Think. Be, as in being, the conscious self, was my first chapter. I enjoyed the part where Conner and Hirani (2019) described two conversations one ‘in the box’ and one ‘out of the box’. In the box (below the line) the coachee might describe feelings of boredom, frustration, anxiety etc; out of the box (above the line) the coachee might describe feelings of energy, confidence, or clarity. A box rather than a line. I explored this metaphor and reflected on coaching conversation with my clients both in and out of the box. What works for me, the box or the line? in truth BOTH!

My final thoughts are how I might use this learning to support and enable clients. One metaphor I often use, is that of a shelf with boxes on it. The shelf holds the story (the line), with boxes full of content, some tightly sealed, some open and bursting, some barren and broken, some so heavy the shelf is wobbling. As I wonder, I ask is the shelf a metaphor for ‘the line’ and the boxes contain what brings us life, energy, and joy and what depletes us. I guess the question and the beautiful challenge is – where is the shelf? How and where do we hold our shelf? And what work do we do when a box happens to fall? What are our tightly sealed boxes and what boxes are as light as a feather filled with joy? – So, I invite you to look into conscious leadership and let me know what you learn.

Go out, get your wellies on and play.


References

Anderson, L. A., & Anderson, D. (2010). Beyond Change Management: How to Achieve Breakthrough Results Through Conscious Change Leadership. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

Conner, J., & Hirani, K. (2019). The 4 Greatest Coaching Conversations. London: Nicholas Brearley Publishing.

The Conscious Leadership Group. (2015, November 15). Locating Yourself, A Key To Conscious Leadership. Retrieved from You Tubue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fLqzYDZAqCI

Ward, S. (2016, Vol 104). The Art and Science of Conscious Leadership. Aorn Journal, 383-385.


Coaching Reflections

An ongoing series of my reading reflections

Conscious Leadership

Am I the Regina George of the Coaching World?

Reflects on GROW

Am I the Regina George of the Coaching World?

Reflections on GROW

20/02/21

I am trying to think back to the beginning when I very first heard of and practiced GROW. It was a long time ago and it seems to be in my make-up to be persuaded by every theory and model that crosses my path. I studied a PGc in psychology at University and remember being bowled over by Bowlby, then Maslow and finally Piaget and Vygotsky. The only approach I have ever resisted is Behaviourism not because I don’t buy it, truth is, I am really scared of it and in my own narcissistic way cannot belieeeeeve this women could be so easily influenced by anything as reductive! What I mean is, Behaviourism reduces human experience to a series of stimuli and responses. Which reminds me, where did I put that face cream with the pentapeptides, bats eyes and pig’s urine?

So, what was it about GROW? Have I left GROW behind in favour of more on trend models? What I have learnt is that I still really like, and practice with GROW and while simplistic in process the application can be far more complex and nuanced when entering someone else’s map of the world. So, if you hoping to find a bit of GROW bashing, you are in the wrong place! not today Satan, not today! I will share with you my experience of GROW and how I have fallen in love with it all over again, like the flourishing of a returning close and stable friendship, one I can count on, one I chose to neglect in my arrogance and ignorance and now hold dear and ask for forgiveness.

2010, in comes GROW, WOW! It changed every conversation. My previous conversations had been about control, advice and superiority, all well intended. I was the friend who would counter your situation and story, by telling you that I had just the same experience and poured cream all over your cake and you did not like cream. In line management meetings I would crush ideas and thinking by saying ‘yes that’s a really great idea, BUT!”. I had so much to learn and GROW enabled me to start to see others and myself (Whitmore, Cleverly Connected - Sir John Whitmore, 2013).

Click the image/link below to see Sir John Whitmore – Cleverly Connected.

In the early days GROW enabled me to hold a space in service of the other person, changing the way I was leading, managing and more. It was transforming my relationships at work, at home and with myself. I am sure Mr B will not mind me saying here that we, like so many couples, looked over the cliff edge of divorce. However, our developing ability to hold conversation, air frustration in a compassionate way and understand the other person, has saved us. We still disagree, more so than ever, however disagreement now feels safe! This was mirrored in my professional life too, disconnection and exclusion were toxic organisational habits I was prescribing, all veiled in naivety. GROW opened a door to explore and embrace the potential in others, to see what was hidden and increase diversity of voice in the workplace (Kline, 2020). On reflection this was a beautiful period in my messy professional life. I revelled in watching others develop, this made me happy and more fulfilled than I had ever felt chasing the next promotion.

As a professional coach I began to place GROW to one side, ignoring the friend who had been so kind and enabled so much development. I had outgrown GROW! I spotted the dazzling lights and promise of Gestalt who, let’s be honest, felt more like my tribe. Is it true could I possibly have been the Regina George of the coaching models and approaches? Just to let you know, Regina George is a character in a film called Mean Girls, a family favourite for us. I also flirted with newfound friends like Goal Free, Creative Techniques and one of my best friends Narrative Coaching. These coaching approaches wrapped themselves around me and took me to new places, empowered exciting exploration, and led to adventures in coaching (Dowman, 2020).

Like old friends, GROW crossed my mind and I wondered how I might talk about and reflect on GROW in coaching training. We didn’t fall out, and in all fairness, we would have said hello to each other in the street and from time to time had a quick catch up. As I reflected on GROW, I questioned how far I have really wandered or whether it is simple the case that I no longer use GROW in its most rigid format. For example, what do we mean when we use the word ‘goal’? Is a focus a soft goal? What does it mean to be goal light? and can we be truly goal free? Answering these questions suggests that this old friend has sat in the background to my coaching, observing and relishing in my development like a proud parent or the dearest of friends.

Just like the end of Mean Girls, my belief is you can have it all. You might have a really close friend you have met throughout your coaching journey who you now hold dear to your heart. That doesn’t have to set other models and approaches up as enemies, we can learn from the other. I am now working hard to come to terms with some of my own polarities and exclusions (Kline, 2020). In this reflection, I feel we can coexist, ask an old coaching friend for advice and on occasions pop in for a coffee and a chat.

This refection is framed as an appreciation to Sir John Whitmore and GROW you were there at my beginning and will be with me to the end.

References

Dowman, B. (2020). Adventures in Coaching . London: Nicholas Brearley Publishing.

Kline, N. (2020). The Promise That Changes Everything. London: Penguin.

Whitmore, J. (2013, February 13). Cleverly Connected - Sir John Whitmore. Retrieved from YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fld90L6Hkw

Whitmore, J. (2017). Coaching For Performance. London: Nicholas Brierley.