Never too old or too experienced to learn!

October 16th, 2014

This week has been a tough week. I have met myself backwards almost every day. I have been reminded over and over that relationship is everything and what I complain about in others is something I have not yet accepted in me.

I consider myself self-aware but this week I realized how many layers I have yet to reveal to myself. Let me explain.

I got accepted to study for a professional course in Psychotherapy. I thought the discipline would really support my own coaching. Arrogantly or pragmatically I thought it would serve my old age as well.

I didn’t fully appreciate the nature of the program, the set-up, the  structure and culture of the program. First learning. I did not do enough due diligence or preparation.

I did not understand the roles and responsibilities of everyone attending, especially that of the group leader. My own unspoken expectations were misaligned with what I received. Second learning.

Three times this year I have entered  into commitments without first clarifing my role and contracting for my responsibility. Three times a fool and each time I have been disappointed. Last weekend was no exception but the manner in which I learnt was profound.

What psychotherapy taught me in one weekend and I cannot begin to imagine what I will learn over 4 years is that you have to be your own guide, trust own wisdom and  resolve your own issues as you speak them out. Instead at my grand old age I was looking for explanations, answers and maybe even direction too.

My week was miserable but I learnt loads. I can see or am beginning to see my own process. I can be confident that this other discipline will be very complimentary to my own work and how I support clients to be responsible for their own change.

Career Management at any age!

August 12th, 2013


I have been surprised and thrilled by the amount of interest I have received lately through my website for support with career management. I can appreciate that the current economic climate is such that candidates need to be assertive, knowledgeable and spirited in their choice of careers. It is to use a horrible cliché a buyers market.

I have however been struck by the seriousness and intent of those who have approached me to get their story aligned and congruent with their own values, beliefs and ambitions.

I am speaking my age here but when I was in University and even in gainful employment I did not question my career choices in depth nor did I assess my own suitability for some of the choices I pursued.

The Y generation seem different. They seem to want to know in advance and to approach future employers with a distinct offer and a request to get their ambitions realised.

I have been struck and am impressed with their seriousness in approach and their willingness to invest in their own development at an age where I would have thought they would have preferred to use that investment in coaching to other uses.

One of the candidates that I have worked with lately surprised me with her appreciation for coaching.  More than any other senior executive with whom I have had the opportunity to work she was able to elucidate how coaching worked for her.


To paraphrase here’s what she told me


  1. Coaching is a focused approach to thinking
  2. It is a great reflective space
  3. Speaking out is much more valuable than keeping things in your head
  4. It is useful to have someone support your thinking and challenge you in a non-judgemental way (her words)
  5. It is wonderful for someone to listen to me and help me think
  6. Every session was different and that kept me interested and engaged


I was so appreciative of her feedback but more importantly encouraged to think that I could support more people like her for career support.


I have not blogged before to explicitly sell but I would like to encourage any third years students or individuals in careers where they are not happy to give me a call or write to me here

Why Change?

May 16th, 2013

85% of all change fails!

This is a damning indictment of our ability to institute change given how much we know on the subject.

I have just delivered a talk on “Making Change Stick” to a client team with European reach intent on a significant change trajectory. As is customary with several organizations focused on the strategic imperative for change they were concentrated on the systems and processes and not the human behavioral side of change.

We know from Global Surveys conducted on the subject of change that there exist two significant contributing factors to failure when an organization attempts to institute change. These include the prevailing mind-set and attitudes 58% in the system and the current Corporate Culture 50% (IBM Global Study 2011)

What to consider?

In a detailed analysis of Change Management conducted by IBM Global Business in 2008 and revised in 2011 there are four common factors that when combined can increase the likelihood of success. These include focusing on Real Insights, Solid Methods, Better Skills and the Right Investment in terms of the business process and the people dimension of a change process

In practice you have to think of a few real concerns…

Discuss the subject of resistance and determine where your people might be sitting on the change curve. All change involves loss of some sort and for many it can create a feeling of sadness, grief, incompetence and abandonment. Managers because of their inherent technical bias are taught to mange the process but not the management of people’s anxiety and confusion or conversely their excitement and engagement.

Change involves un-learning
Many people are inherently cynical about change, many doubt its effectiveness and too often there are conflicting priorities with an organization to see that the change could possibly be a success. We have to learn how to learn, how to chose and how to relate to people, which is often simply a new learning.

Change is the new normal
The values of the 21st worker include empowerment, accountability and ownership. If companies insist on managing change as if the conditions of control, predictability and consistency are alive they will perpetuate dependency and resistance. The shift in the core values of employees has created a workforce that will embrace change as long as they are part of the solution. In other words the mental models of leaders has to change from unilateral control to mutual learning.

Play to Win
Playing to win is about seeing change as an opportunity and a challenge. It is about taking risks and moving out of a comfort zone. It means letting go and building new scripts or patterns for success. It is about embracing new behaviors and admonishing old and redundant behaviors consciously. For some it is about living 100% by the values of T.A.S.T.E. Truth, Accountability, Support, Trust and Energy.

It takes courage to recognize that the system, mind-set, culture, and or structures are failing and need to be addressed. Staying put is an option but it can mean atrophy as well.

Identify the pay-offs
Work has significant meaning for people. When change is muted people feel threatened or challenged and will respond in a manner in keeping with how vulnerable they feel. Managing change means managing peoples fear however irrational. The fear of failure, the fear of rejection, the fear of a being wrong, and the fear of emotional discomfort keep us where we are and encourage inaction. The trick is to identify these fears and acknowledge their existence. If however the new order is compelling, makes sense and can be understood these fears can be surmounted.

Notice and change the language you use.

From Fearful To Fearless
I can’t I will find a way
It’s a problem It’s an opportunity
It will never work out I can handle whatever happens
I am not good enough I continue to learn and grow through each experience





Identify your current mindset
In the group I worked with they began to appreciate that the organization’s espoused view of the world was inconsistent with the current values in action. With consciousness they were then able to re-script the beliefs, values and feelings necessary to make the change required a reality. This is no easy feat and requires persistence, reflection and practice for recurrence.

Take responsibility
On an individual level the members of this group were able to see how they could contribute to the change success by being aware of the current limitations in their set up, by being desirous of change, understanding the skills gap and knowledge required, their own ability and that of those whom they were trying to influence and by being committed to reinforcing their efforts.

Inevitably this means you have to…

Avoid the blame game. It’s very easy to stop yourself from moving forward when you see an external event or person as being the reason why you can’t do something. Gently remind yourself that you can choose how you respond to and deal with any given situation.

Build your confidence by stepping out of your comfort zone. To do this revisit past achievements when you took risks and succeeded!

Catch your negative thinking habits and focus on more positive thoughts! It’s amazing how much time we waste on worrying about what others might think and the worst possible outcomes that may never happen.

Take action! Even small steps can lead to unstoppable momentum. And then soon enough you’ll have made that big leap! Start by researching, asking questions, meeting people who have made the changes you want to make and get inspired by ordinary people who are now living extraordinary lives.

Remember the Change Equation


Despite its name and appearance this is not serious mathematics it is an intuitive tool that reminds change advocates about what they need to consider when implementing change.

Change is a considered response to the dissatisfaction (D) with the current state a vision for a future state that when coupled with a meaningful first step can surmount the natural resistance that accompanies change. It is worthwhile remembering this tool

Resisting change is like holding your breath, if you succeed you die!

More stuff is often confused for growth and fulfilment. Be more of who you already are.

March 19th, 2013

When people ask me what I do I say I am a transformational coach. I support people to rethink how they feel, believe and sense about themselves. I work to help another shift their current paradigm to be more authentic and congruent.

That sounds like an oxymoron and I can understand why. It sounds so counterintuitive. Why would anyone pay me to help him or her become what he or she already is? The truth is we are already whole.

What we call growth is often a desire to fix or improve some perceived inadequacy or other. We collapse assessments and procrastinate, “when I am this or that then I will”

In truth there are 7 kinds of development we can speak of and they include,
Skills, Knowledge, Behaviours, Attitudes, Emotions, Motivations and of course our Mind-set. The constant pursuit of skills and knowledge is for many an addiction and it masquerades as real growth. Some call this single loop learning and I call it wanting more for more sake in a deluded pursuit of greatness. I think we have been duped at some level.

Real growth is about expanding what already is. You don’t need to prove who you are by chasing hollow achievements. You are already complete. Often in our quest to be something we are not we disown parts of ourselves, we compete with comparisons of others and other isms

What gets in the way of our experiencing this sense of self is the ego, that never ending quest for satiation, for popularity, living by “should and musts” chasing empty pursuits and counting and measuring everything. All of this gets in the way of our being present to what is.

I am one of these pursuit junkies an archetypal warrior. I am all about the pursuit of new knowledge and wisdom to offer more and be more. What I forget is that I am already enough. My goal for now is integration and stability my archetypal Queen and for this I need to let go.

In my work I concentrate on listening to an individual’s self talk, the language they use, the emotions they experience and the moods they live. I listen to hear what kind of observer they are in the world. Our way of viewing the world is very much linked to the possibilities it opens for us. If I can help a person see differently and experience a shift at the level of mind-set or worldview then I have helped them grow and be more of who they are already perhaps by simply helping them shed an old and unhelpful pattern that once served.

What has worked for me is getting an even greater appreciation of the zones of awareness that exist in each of us, the feeling self, the sensory self and the thinking self all of which are related. To deny one is to deny the power of the whole. By getting in touch with how we feel in the moment, with how we imagine and with how we think can allow us to really be and enjoy life for what it is and not what it might be. This might mean experiencing a greater intimacy with life and a deeper passion for it. It might mean liberation for some or more intuition for another. It might just mean greater acceptance. It might just mean greater stillness the sort that is available on the yoga mat but rarely in everyday life.

Be more of who you already are. Enjoy

The Truth washed!

March 17th, 2011

I am currently working with Axialent an Organisational Development consultancy as an associate. Recently I went on a train the trainer programme with Axialent in a beautiful Manor outside of London. The setting was beautiful and really conducive to learning. We had three fabulous days immersed in the wonderful content of Conscious Business as espoused by Axialent.

One of the most profound learning for me happened when we explored what Axialent calls the Quatralemma. A quatralemma is a framework for working out our thoughts and what we say in difficult situations. It is comprised of four columns. The fist is what is called our LHC (our toxic thoughts when an event happens, the “oh shit” comments) and a column that oulines what would happen to the task, relationship and ourself if we blurted these comments out unwashed. The third colums is our RHC the things we say to another when faced with a difficult conversation, but in a much more sanitised way. The fourth column reflects what happens to the task, relationship and ourselves if we only speak our sanitised thoughts.

We cannot help our toxic thoughts. Those that immediately pop into our heads when we suddenly hear something or something happens. They serve to warn us that something is at stake. Unfortunately if we blurt these thoughts out unvarnished they are likely to kill the relationship and be disrespectful. Many confuse this behavior as being direct!

Our RHC are thoughts we say which do not reveal how we really feel and as a consequence we have a less effective conversation. If we only state our RHC we are not being true to ourselves and worse our colleagues know we have a rich LHC and so we are stuck. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t! Are you still with me?

We learnt how to access our core truth by looking at the LHC and asking very pertinent questions such as “what is at stake here for me” “What is important” “what am I likely to risk losing?”

The beauty of this process is that by asking these questions we get at what is important to us and we can restate these concerns in a much more truthful, honest and respectful way to another. Sometimes the core truth is buried and it takes time to surface but my advice is to be patient and afford the time to unearth what is important to you.

Only recently I was faced with a particularly difficult scenario. I was asked to prepare a section for a management development conference for a company I have been working with for some time. I was chuffed and honoured that they would ask me to contribute. I immediately realised however that the dates clashed with another commitment I had in London. I could not physically be present but I did think of an alternative.

I thought about doing a video with me introducing the subject matter and then using another graphic video to illustrate my points. I was excited. I worked hard to pull this off. I had to re-arrange various commitments and organise four other colleagues to support me in turning the production around in time. We did it. Then I heard the news. The CEO decided in this wisdom, without even seeing my work, that he did not like my idea. It was canned.

I was disgusted. I wanted to give him immediate feedback. The kind that would have been my LHC un-washed!

Instead I refrained but I did spend the time to work out my core truth. I realised that what was important to me. I wanted to be present at the conference to be included. Prominence is important for me. Adding value is also a concern. In addition I really rely on competence as a hallmark of my offer and was crushed that the CEO had not trusted my wisdom in putting this video together. My not listening to the video I esteemed the CEO had treated me unfairly, another value. I had my core truth. I needed to be trusted, treated fairly and allowed to be present at the conference if only virtually given the initial request.

I am now equipped to have a more sanguine and respectful conversation with the CEO when I get an opportunity. I will give him my feedback but this time with respect.
The TTT taught me the value of working out your core truth and now I have an opportunity to put it into practice.
I wonder if I have perplexed you or have I made you think about the important conversational tool?

I would love to get your feedback

Things to be grateful for on a personal note in 2010

January 1st, 2011


Economically, especially for those living here in Ireland, 2010 will be remembered as a tough year. For Ireland we saw the demise of the Celtic Tiger and worse (although I do not quite concur) the appearance of the IMF in late November. The gloom was pervasive and the collective mood dour.

In January 2010 I started my new business. Lime Trees Road LTD.  Many lamented me as mad. I have however had my first full year of trading and thankfully I have generated enough income for my own accountant to be content. I am grateful for the continued support of four wonderful corporate clients and many individuals as well.
There are other things too for which I am proud and satisfied. I completed a one year course on Coaching Excellence in Organisations and in that year learnt a whole lot about myself and others in the process. I made friends, Birgit and Roger being the closest. I came away a little wiser (hopefully) and more respectful of learning styles.
The year saw me reconnecting with old friends, friends whom I had been very close to but with whom I had lost touch for years. Sam, Gonzalo and Katushka know their place in my heart.

I joined a new Organisation Axialent as an adjunct faculty member, a grandiose title yes but a fabulous opportunity to learn and practice with a bunch of people whom I admire. Martin, Noel, Leanne and Karen became new friends last year.

My niece married in August and I got to be part of the ritual. The event happened in Cork which only served to remind me of the wonderful summer holidays I passed with a Grandmother I adored. That one day surfaced a body of memories that I will treasure forever.

I travelled extensively over the course of the last year visiting old and new places for work and pleasure. Barcelona was by far my favourite destination this year. I am grateful to my Sister for bringing me there and indulging my taste in things beautiful. The W hotel was a treat and it proved to be magical. Sting will never be the same!
I spent my Birthday with my favourite people in Brussels, Sebastian, Julien and Emilie are simply the best nephews and niece an aunt could want.

November and December were two months that proved Ireland can have snow, deluges of the stuff. The months proved cold and scary. I spent three hours trying to drive a distance that should only have taken me 15 minutes in a blizzard of snow. How things change.

As I sit here writing on the 1st day of the New Year I can reflect and say that for me 2010 was a very positive year and I am truly grateful.

The Top Ten Organisational Breakdowns or Mistakes that Leaders make

November 14th, 2010

Recently I was in an organisation where I was providing team coaching as a management intervention. I was struck by how uncomfortable the management team were with their own performance management system and their individual application of performance management as a concept and skill.

Effective management requires a range of skills and many in today’s corporate life are not equipped with a complete set; building effective teams, evoking commitment, listening, managing morale, coping with breakdowns, managing customer satisfaction, planning effectively, developing shared standards, modelling presence, taking initiative and not being reactive.

In would appear that leadership and management thinking is still a mystery.  Witness the plethora of books on the topic, the social media boards dedicated to understanding leadership and management thinking and the educational courses that continue to pop up to support this arena.
There is no doubt that organisations have done an enormous  amount of work to clarify their vision and values with attendant mission statements and objectives. What are less evident are clear committed standards of excellence, dedicated labs for practice and well designed programmes to support and aid learning that allows for recurrent practice.

As a student of the Institute for Generative Leadership where I was studying Coaching Excellence in Organisations in 2009, we were made aware of the top ten organisational mistakes that scupper success; these observations have been collated over a period of thirty years by Bob Dunham, CEO of the Institute for Generative Leadership. Curiously these mistakes while seemingly simply are alive and well in many organisations today!

1. Not listening only speaking at your people engenders staff resentment and a lack of morale
2. Indulging in over-commitment; producing a staff that cannot say “no” results in overwork, underachievement and “dead heroes”.
3.Being Blinded by the numbers; the numbers do not comprise the whole picture yet get prioritised over the actions that generate the numbers such as valuable offers, impeccable co-ordination, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
4. Fuzzy around commitments; a lack of standards for generating and managing commitments produce waste and resignation.
5. The customer comes last; allowing your people to work on tasks without being cognisant of the reaction of customers kills customer satisfaction
6. Not holding others accountable; accountability is a skill and a conversation.  Many avoid the latter or do not know how to have it. This skill requires calm, centeredness being grounded with the facts. It also predisposes a disposition of care, to help others succeed.
7.  Fear and loathing of Performance Evaluation; Speaking honestly and directly is also a skill and requires courage. Avoiding these conversations is negligible and damning of corporate learning.
8. Teams in name only
9. Inability to build trust and cope with distrust.
10.  No clear game plan.

In looking at the above I am minded of the fact that for years we have prioritised “being right” over “being curious”. Our educational systems reward exam success and knowledge over learning. It is not surprising then that the very skills that promote effective leadership are not cultivated from an early age.  Personal mastery is not something that is widely appreciated or even lauded.

From Socrates (469-399) to modern management theory as we know it, all insist on Leadership with the right skills and attitude for business sustainability.  People matter, mastery counts.

An HBR study in 2010 on Leadership mistakes concluded that leaders fail because they exhibit the following behaviours; Self interest, betraying trust, being certain, not living their values, being inauthentic, being over enamoured with their own vision, arrogance, acting too fast, insufficient self reflection.

How  come so many organisations are still struggling with this conundrum?
I would love to hear your thoughts.

The killer question

September 29th, 2010

Part of our remit as coaches is to ask powerful questions. We often get paralysed by the anxiety this requirement produces especially for beginner coaches. There are several question frameworks that coaches can deploy or stick to in their coaching conversations for results.

Recently I was struck by a post on LinkedIn that asked coaches for their favourite questions. It was illuminating and also very informative because as is usual with these postings the explanations given are always more telling. There were similarities and themes that shaped some of the dialogue, most were attempting to allow the coached go deeper and resource the answer for him/her.
One of my favourite and often quite humbling question is “what are you assuming by that” It is a question Nancy Kline poses in her six question framework in “a time to think.” It is often employed as a way to unlock a person from their own self limiting beliefs.

In a recent coaching session with a client with whom I had asked this question several times I found myself asking the question of him again only to have him use the same question for one of his subordinates. It was quite an interesting moment of reflection to witness. The client was in essence wondering what his own people’s limiting beliefs might be in working for him.

Other questions I love include questions to ascertain responsibility and in particular unconditional responsibility a value I share with all of my clients. The question “in the face of that challenge what could you have done differently”  is often very provocative and rewarding as well. I have yet to pose this question where a client does not concede that his actions could have contributed to the confusion that reigned and where some learning is possible.
One of the strengths of an ontological coach is the ability to separate facts from the story we wrap around facts. Our interpretations that sometimes we live as truth. The ability to ask the question “is that an assessment or an assertion” often has the effect of stopping the client from anesthetizing himself against action. When a client realizes that it his story and his story is malleable great ease ensues.

The question “what do you want” is often really appreciated as well. As individuals we can often get gripped by what we do not want in our lives but forget to ask ourselves what we do want. This question prevents the continuous downward spiral that often accompanies dwelling on what we do not want in life.
I am mindful not to ask the “why” question too often or at all if possible. Some coaches can use this question with aplomb. My face reveals a judgemental stance that I chose not to employ.  Why is an oft used question to reveal beliefs. It has value but it has to be asked with a sense of curiousity otherwise it can produce defensiveness in another.
Simple questions do however have a real role to play in coaching sessions; when? What else? How? Tell me more? And? And a really powerful one, what’s possible? These all give room for the coached to think for themselves, for deep introspection, to have some space and ultimately dig for a response from within.
One of my all time favourites from “The work” by Byron Katie….is “what would you be without that thought?

The Work is a simple yet powerful process of inquiry that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause suffering. It’s a way to understand what’s hurting you, and to address the cause of your problems with clarity.

Powerful questions are one skill deployed by coaches and their power is as much to do with the timing of the question, the presence of the coach and the trusted relationship created between the coach and the client.

What is your powerful question?

The s….ting with feedback

September 20th, 2010


As coaches and leadership development consultants we pride ourselves in helping others understand the efficacy of giving and receiving feedback. I am often quoted as saying feedback is a gift and people are starved of feedback especially in organisational life.

It is interesting then to note my own defensiveness with regard to feedback especially when it comes out of nowhere or is a complete surprise.

I was recently asked to be a guest speaker for a large publically quoted group who were interested in understanding more about leadership development and in particular Executive Coaching.

worked hard to illicit from the client what would make for an interesting engagement and to determine where the audience was with respect to their own leadership style and levels of self awareness.

Armed with my information I set about not to tell but to share some developments pertaining to coaching and how it might support the leadership cadre of the company concerned.

After the work was prepared, the speech delivered and I had left for my return journey I felt pretty confident that I had engaged with my audience and that my story was well received. Wrong? My talk bombed. I was told later by my potential client that the audience had failed to see the relevance of my offer and regrettably for me would not be entertaining the notion of coaching anytime soon. I was aghast.

In retrospect I have learned. I have done a considerable amount of introspection since and realise that the time I spent and the work I did is not all in vain. I have to revisit my story and make it compelling, irresistible, thought provoking and leave my audience curious, not deadened by information.
In starting out, we think or at least I think, I have to rely on my intellectual credibility to convey my message. I forget that my presence and confidence as a business women and coach is what my clients are buying. They want to know that what I offer will resolve some of their leadership angst.

There was learning for me too in the actual process of receiving the feedback

Any criticism can be hard to accept. But surprise feedback — criticism that seems to come from nowhere, about an issue we haven’t perceived ourselves — is the hardest. We’re far more likely to be defensive.
Because it’s not just about admitting, it’s about perceiving. Before we can accept something, we have to become aware of it.  The criticism or feedback I received to my speech completely blindsided me. I had no idea people would react the way they did, no sense that I was not hitting their sweet spot.

That kind of feedback exposes you to yourself, which is why it is both tremendously unsettling and exceptionally valuable. It’s also why our defensiveness is so predictable and so counterproductive. The things we most need to hear are often the things we defend against hearing the most.

I was delighted then to come accross a blog posted by Peter Bergmann in the HBR. Like me he opined the difficulty of receiving feedback that comes from left field. His tips for receiving feeback are provided below; He suggests;

“To take in surprise criticism more productively, we need a game plan. As you listen to the criticism and your adrenaline starts to flow, pause, take a deep breath, and:

Look beyond your feelings. We call it constructive criticism and it usually is. But it can also feel painful, destabilizing, and personal. Notice, and acknowledge — to yourself — your feelings of hurt, anger, embarrassment, insufficiency, and anything else that arises. Recognize the feelings — label them even — and then put them aside so the noise doesn’t crowd out your hearing.

Look beyond their delivery. Feedback is hard to give, and the person offering criticism may not be skilled at doing it well. Even if the feedback is delivered poorly, it doesn’t mean it’s not valuable and insightful. Not everything will be communicated in “I” statements, focused on behaviors, and shared with compassion. Avoid confusing the package with the message.

Listen, and don’t agree or disagree. Just collect the data. If you let go of the need to respond, you’ll reduce your defensiveness and give yourself space to really listen. Criticism is useful information about how someone else perceives you. Make sure you fully get it.
That means asking questions to further explore what you’re being told. Probe, solicit examples, play the devil’s advocate, pushing the criticism back on itself, in the spirit of understanding it more fully.”
Later, with some distance, decide what you want to do. Data rarely forces action, it merely informs it. Recognizing that the decision, and power, to change is up to you will help you stay open.

Once you’ve got some time, space, and grounding, think about what you heard — what the data is telling you — and make choices about if, what, and how, you want to change.

Sometimes, you’ll choose to change your behavior.
But sometimes, you’ll decide not to change your behavior. That perhaps, you’re better off staying the same and changing your surroundings or your clients.

Criticism can be an incredible gift, a field guide for acting with impact in the world. All we need is enough patience and presence to hear it.

Coaching works?

August 5th, 2010

As a practitioner I am fascinated by the discipline of coaching. In training for my accreditation and in pursuing my own personal development I have experienced it to work for me. Does it work for others and does it work in a way that is measurable?

Interestingly Coaching has emerged from a synthesis of many fields including training, adult learning, consulting, change management, the human potential movement, and psychology and systems science. Each of these fields has their own models and approaches to coaching. The various schools of thought agree on little, except that “coaching works,” and that more of it should be done.

There is no widely accepted theoretical framework that explains why we need it, how it actually works and how to do it better. Much has been written but we are still in question.

I am a huge fan of Nancy Kline and her thinking environment approach. Her methodology is quizzically simple but provocative.  She is adamant, although her language would not be so fierce, that if you set up the right environment and give people the space and attention to think for themselves uninterrupted ( a crucial element!) great ideas emerge.  Nancy has identified 10 behaviours that comprise a system called the “thinking environment”.

It is a model that dramatically improves the way people think and thus how they live and work. The ten components or behaviours include; Attention, Incisive Questions, Equality, Appreciation, Ease, Encouragement, Feelings, Information, Place and Diversity. This to me is an example of a form of non-directive coaching that I espouse and chose to follow.

Some people question how I can coach in a non-directive fashion, am I not employed for my experience and ideas? Not so and more importantly I believe coaching is not about me but about the brilliance of another. I do what I can to support my clients to think creatively for themselves without judgement.
I was heartened then to stumble across an article that was exploring a brain-based approach to coaching using neuroscience. It seems like this approach could support or give answers to my very approach to executive coaching.

First, every event that occurs in coaching is tied to activities in someone’s head. Second, a brain-based approach to coaching looks attractive when you think about it being tangible and physical.  It is interesting to be able to explain in scientific terms; why the brain needs coaches, but it is even more useful to know how coaching helps the brain improve its functioning.

This article was fascinating on so many levels! The author David Rock muses that change is hard but that the world needs change. He also opines that change requires more than just scant thought; it requires ongoing attention and a significant effort of will. There are several reasons why change is so hard, and they point to the need to provide additional resources to an individual who wants to successfully change in any way. Hence, brains need coaching.

According to the author there are many interesting and useful findings across neuroscience to help explain the value of coaching, but there are four main areas of scientific research that combine to form a central explanation of how coaching impacts the brain. These are the study of Attention, Reflection, Insight and Action, or ‘ARIA’ for short.
Attention, about which the author spends considerable time,  for the brain means “where you focus your attention you make connections” Jeff Swartz, Neuro Scientist, or what you focus on expands!

In scientific terms this is called the Quantum Zeno Effect. Where we choose to put our attention changes our brain and changes how we see and interact with the world. A very coaching concept but it would appear to be a very scientific one too.

On my own website for Lime Trees Road I claim that I support clients to be conscious and in choice. It would appear that giving and paying attention to a concern allows us to be more mindful and attentive to choice, free will if you wish.  Apparently, the brain allows us 0.2 seconds of free will to change our minds before we act on a thought already generated. Coaching can support  being  conscious of our thoughts and noticing more.

The other areas of the ARIA model include reflection, insight and action. David Rock explains that to solve competing dilemmas or issues on a personal or organisational level people need time to think, to reflect and to focus so that insights can percolate and swim to our levels of consciousness. Coaching supports these needs.

Nancy Kline has a methodology and David Rock has some scientific explanations to explain why “coaching works” both of which I love.

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