Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Clients are Liars

There are many schools of coaching, many coaching models and many styles of coach. All, apparently, serve the same purpose, to “free up the client’s resources” and “enable growth”. In short, all coaches help the client to achieve the things that they want in their lives.

But why are there so many different styles of coaching? At one end of the spectrum, we have a person centred approach, akin to counselling, and at the other end we have a goal focused approach which is concerned primarily with the end result that the client desires.

I believe in simplicity and elegance as an operating principle. Even that regularly quoted genius, Albert Einstein, said, “Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler”. Machines are at their most efficient when their motion is at its most simple. In the arts, we admire grace and elegance. In product design, we admire multifunctional objects which conserve energy and resources. And in the field of personal change, I personally admire simplicity.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Rituals and Incantations


When people have goals which are outside of their personal control, they often engage in rituals and incantations to restore a sense of control. Organisations turn these rituals and incantations into operating procedures, sales scripts and training programs. However, they are generally ineffective.

A ritual is a set of behaviours and an incantation is a script, both intended to lead to a result. For example, saying, “Would you like an apple pie with that?” does not, in itself, guarantee increased sales in a fast food outlet. A high performer changes what they do and say from one customer to the next, but with a ritual and incantation we pretend that the actions and words have magic in themselves, and the skill or creativity of the employee is irrelevant. The opposite is actually true.

I do a bit of mystery shopping in my spare time. I have to check that restaurant staff make me feel personally connected with by asking if I'm having a good day. Wow. I feel sooooo valued.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Coaching as a Performance Art

Can a business book be a work of art?

We might say that great works of fiction are works of art, but what about throwaway airport romantic fiction, where the publisher churns out the same book every year with different names and a new cover? Is that art?

A design can have artistic merit, but if we mass produce that design, is the resulting product a work of art?

Art must be unique, and it must arise from a moment in time where ability, resource and inspiration come together. No artist can create by sitting in a dark room, thinking long and hard about what they will sculpt or paint or write next. Artists go out into the world and wait for the moment of inspiration to come to them.

I propose that a business book can be a work of art, and each copy of that book can be like a print you might buy from an art gallery. Not limited edition, but nonetheless a reproduction of the artistic process.

Performance arts include dance, theatre, music and more. Can we consider coaching as a performance art?

It's a performance, usually with an audience of one. If we extend the idea to training as a performance art, then I'm sure we've all seen trainers who are primarily performing for the audience, to impress them, to win their approval. But like a ham actor who knowingly looks at the audience while waiting for that dramatic ....................................... pause, the trainer who plays to the audience is not a performer at all.

Actors talk about the 'fourth wall' which separates the actors from the audience. The actors are engaged in their scenario, oblivious to the voyeurs who watch from the cheap seats.

A trainer might give a demonstration at the front of the class, and forget that the audience is watching. Personally I like the style of performers/characters such as Groucho Marx or Deadpool who break the fourth wall and speak directly to the audience, as if sharing a secret that the other characters don't have access to.

When I perform a demonstration of a coaching process, for example, I frequently stop to tell the audience what I'm doing, so that they can pay attention to the most important points for their learning. If I simply perform the entire coaching process or technique, the audience doesn't know what to look for and they don't know what to practice, so their learning is impaired.

But this is a different, and more obvious kind of performance.

During a coaching session, is the client the audience? Or is there an imaginary audience, watching from the sidelines?

This is my proposal to you: The client is not paying for your time. They are not paying to be processed. They are not paying for your coaching model. They are not paying for your education. They are not even paying for results.

Your client is paying for a performance.

The techniques of coaching are irrelevant. If you think that the coaching model or the 6 step whatever are where the magic happens then consider an operation such as McDonalds. Would you like an apple pie with that? Their system is not designed to deliver excellence, it is designed to deliver conformity, consistency. The questions that you ask and the steps you take the client through to explore their goals are irrelevant. They are the baseline, the means, the props, the backdrop, the script.

The performance is what you add, over and above that script, and it is unique to you, crafted from your personality and, most importantly, unique to that moment and that client.

The client provides the fleeting moment of inspiration which transforms, transcends your work into an art form.

Learn to see yourself, not as a facilitator but as a performer.





I'll be running a Coaching Masterclass in Mumbai, 30 April to 3 May 2016, and that will be the first time that I'll be teaching you the art of performance in coaching. Beyond that, I'll be including it in NLP Trainer Training from late 2016 onwards, and in other Masterclasses.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Looking for a Stress-Free Life?

I bet you are. Stress is a nasty thing. It has been shown to shorten the 'telomeres' that protect the DNA in every cell in your body, leading to a measurable reduction in your body's cells ability to reproduce. That means an early death. Stress will kill you.

But how can you reduce stress, when it's not your fault? It's because of the economy, or your nasty boss, or your family, or your bank manager, or some other external pressure. Nothing you can do but grin and bear it.

Well, here's the bad news.

Stress is your fault.

Here's why. You're lying to yourself, and your lies create stress.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Coaching Masterclass

Coaching models are great, but they don't really tell you how to coach. If you stick to the model, you risk processing the client through a coaching process, instead of engaging with the client and letting the process inform the next step in the conversation. Therefore, coaching models and coaching training that is tied to a particular model is only part of what a coach needs to really excel and deliver genuine, permanent and satisfying change for a client. Some people say that coaching doesn't necessarily require change; of course it does. Progress is change.

I'm running a masterclass on this in Mumbai, India at the end of April, and I'm currently writing the workbook, which I am going to publish as a book.

My question to you is: What title do you suggest for the book?

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Let Go


Throughout your career, you have been rewarded for certain behaviours. Maybe you were a technical expert. Maybe you hit every target that you were given. Maybe you knew how to push other people to get them to comply. Maybe you let people walk all over you, as you laboured long into the night while they went home to their families. Whatever it was, you were repeatedly rewarded for it. Sometimes, you were rewarded explicitly with bonuses and certificates. Usually, and more importantly, you were rewarded implicitly, with vague nods of approval and acceptance by the boss. You felt part of the gang. You belonged.

The very behaviours, and we could equally use the word skills or capabilities, which got you to where you are right now, sitting there, reading this article, are now precisely the behaviours which hold you back, which tie you to that chair, those working hours, that lifestyle. If you see your colleagues being promoted ahead of you, you can be sure you're stuck behind the second glass ceiling.