Oh my, what a summer it’s been! I do a lot of “checking-in” as part of a dozen monthly supervision groups and a clear theme has been emerging across most of them: Stretch!
It seems that part of what the pandemic caused was a contraction, a holding of the breath, a going-inside, not just physically, but psychologically; and now that many countries had some time to breathe (or, well, exhale) due to progress in the vaccination efforts and the resulting lifting of restrictions, a LOT has been moving and shifting. The consequence was a wave of much needed work for our industry (coaching) and the industries that many of us coaches work with.
With the exhale also came a bunch of virus particles though and it seems like we’re heading into a third wave, so I want start with sending out my best wishes to all of you and genuinely hope you’re well and taking good care of yourself, your loved ones, and anybody else around you. Vaccination hesitance is still wide spread and I would like to encourage those of you who are advocates to have the uncomfortable conversations with friends and family, and those of you who are skeptical to perhaps look at the evidence again or have those conversations with people who chose to get vaccinated with a blank slate or a re-opened mind, just to make sure you’re still sure about your decision. It’s a hot topic and I found myself debating this much less in the past few months, mostly due to time and because those who have strong opinions seem to rarely change them. But there are a lot of people out there who aren’t that strong and just kinda went with the first wave of information they picked up, so there’s a lot of potential to make a positive impact on someone you know and the people around them. Simply asking whether someone is vaccinated and, if not, being gently curious as to why not, without initial judgment, and possible offering some information, may just make a huge difference. This video offers a LOT of good and well-researched information, which personally I trust (also, it’s really funny!). Consider the message, rewind it, take it in, and as suggested, don’t just share it, have the conversations! It’s our way out of this shitty situation. Thank you.
But enough about you, a bit more about me 😉 I’m glad there’s a lot of work. And I’m immensely grateful I’ve got so much of it on. It’s a little crazy, yes. I still don’t work before 10am (unless I’m teaching, which, thanks to the fast-growing International Centre for Coaching Supervision, the New School for Psychotherapy and Counselling, the Society for Existential Analysis, and an upcoming gig at an existential institute in Mexico City, there’s been quite lot of) but there’s been a lot of evenings and good few weekends since and I certainly feel the stretch, usually in my stomach, down to the left. It tells me to be careful not to take too much on. I believe I know my limits quite well along with the signs, but then I’m sure many have said that before and so I’m being extra mindful of how much work I take on.
Since the launch of the ACIC (the coach training programme I had created for the School of Positive Transformation during the pandemic) I’ve had my calendar packed with meaningful work in supporting the next generation of coaches, but on top of that I’ve seen a real interested in talking about the existential questions that have arisen en masse as the world collectively and individually came face-to-face with their human condition. As a result I’ve delivered a range of talks and workshops, among them a wonderfully received 3-day coach training for existential psychotherapists for the Society of Existential Analysis, a talk about why the big philosophical questions matter in the coaching room at WBECS in early June, for which more than 12.000 coaches had registered (I had never minded so little that I couldn’t see everybody in the audience!), and a live coaching demo to nearly 300 members of the Association for Coaching just past.
So apologies for the relative radio silence as I dove head-first into a number of such exciting opportunities. It didn’t leave much headspace to write and reflect, though I was thinking about you often and have really been looking forward to finally sitting down and writing these Nuggets. And at this point I also want to welcome those of you who are reading my Nuggets for the first time. I appreciate you.
So let’s go then, as always, here are a few Nuggets of what’s been going on for me this month, bits and pieces that I’ve come across or thoughts that have been on my mind, as well as a few fruits of that energy.
If any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
What a rich metaphor! – The cat is in the house!
I find myself in the same dilemma as the client who told me this story. How do I keep this short? What a rich metaphor! As soon as I heard it, I know I would tell the story for decades. Not just because I like cats, but because it sums up so much about how I think about coaching, personal development, and how we can get what we are looking for.
It’s the story of a cat that went missing while being cat-sat (cat-sitted?) at my client’s house. Let’s call the cat Telefonmann (a proper cat name as Helge Schneider very rightly acknowledged). I won’t get into the details of what might have been going on for this poor fella. What matters is that one night, in the middle of the night, Telefonmann caused some commotion in the kitchen which led my client to investigate and tuck the cat back in again. Once more there was rumbling in the kitchen, but this time the cat was nowhere to be found. Somewhat worried, my client (let’s call her Seven-of-Nine) started to look for the cat, but it was nowhere to be found. Hours later, following conversations with the security company who confirmed that no windows or doors had been opened since the cat was last seen, Telefonmann was still vanished. This went on for days!
Now the owners of the cat had tried their best to make Seven-of-Nine doubt her sanity, but she managed to prevail and hold on to her belief that the cat must still be in the house. “The cat is in the house” she reassured again and again, while the relatives urged her to look outside, hang up posters, talk to neighbours, etc.
5 days in, Seven-of-Nine decided to follow another hunch of hers and arrange for a handyman to come and take apart part of the kitchen foundations to reach into a possible space that Telefonmann might have crawled into. And there it was! The fucking cat just chilling pretty non-chalantly in a crevice, playing it cool despite not having eaten for 5 days stuck in a small space!
There’s a lot of interpersonal stuff to this story that I don’t want to get into. What struck me were the rich reflections in relation our work as coaches: How many people believe that the solution to their problems lies out side of them, that whatever it is we need to find, or whatever it is that is missing, is outside the house, and that we need to look outside for answers? We should go talk to other people, to the neighbours, to our work colleagues, to experts who can give us advice or tell us what to do! Even those who believe that their cat is in the house, may doubt this when enough people tell them to look outside, and that they’re mad, or they’re lying, or they probably just forgot they left the door open. Holding on to a believe that your cat is in the house is so vital in so many ways. It’s not to say that there aren’t any cats outside and that sometimes that may be a fantastic (or even a better) place to look for answers. But the really important answers are always in the house, inside! And while a coach may not be able to find it and you may need to call in a “handyman” (or woman!) in order to get to where you need to be (this may be some sort of therapist, expert, shaman, close friend, a book even or a seminar…) the answer to the most important questions is usually is in the house.
Now I must admit that I started thinking about what happens after a month when the cat may have died and started rotting, whether there’s a time limit on finding “the cat” and to what extent this really is such a good metaphor; but at this point I decided not to overthink it and just write it down anyway. Perhaps you can help me out here and spin it a bit further. Got any good cat stories I can add to my collection?
It’s been a long wait and I’ve been teasing it for some time, but better late and great than early and half-arsed. And a lot has been happening behind the scenes actually: the working groups in our Professional Section Coaching & Psychedelics at the MIND Foundation have gone to work and started drafting important output (such as a professional framework for this work as well as ethical guidelines for coaches in this space) and we’ve connected with a good few of the leading names in this emerging field (among them Shiri Godasi from PsychedelicIntegrationCoach.com and Paul Austin from the Third Wave), which means that we’ve got another 5 more episodes lined up already.
Why Coaching & Psychedelics? Well, in short, you may have heard about the mind-blowing therapeutic effects of psychedelics in clinical populations. We argue(and have seen first hand) that beyond their well-evidenced ability to heal and fix, psychedelic experiences (just like coaching compared to therapy) lead to growth, insights, learning and development, and we’re here to take this conversation to other coaches in an effort to educate, share ideas, resources, ethical concerns and best practice. You can learn more on this part of my website, as well as on the landing page of our new podcast:
Before our dedicated arm of the TaC podcast with Heather, I’ve started the conversation with the founder of the annual “Psychedelics, Sacred Medicines, Purpose and Business” summit, Beth Weinstein. Last year we talked about psychedelics-assisted business coaching, spiritual entrepreneurship, and how coaching & psychedelics can work together to help clients navigate their lives and careers.
Episode 1: We kick things off with my own views on why these two fields make sense together, why I founded the Professional Section at the MIND Foundation and our usual questions we ask every practitioner. Heather is the main interviewer in this one and it doesn’t take a lot to keep me talking about this subject.
Episode 2: Isabel Santis gave us a LOT of value and was really generous with her time (over 2 hours). We’re grateful and have covered a large range of topics relevant to coaches in this field, but also to anyone interested in integrating a psychedelic experience.
Episode 3: Daniel Shankin was a real joy to talk to. He’s kind, entertaining and very experienced when it comes to working with psychedelics and we cover a range of topics around coaching and integration, including whether coaches need to have had their own psychedelic experiences.
What’s guiding you on your journey
How do we navigate a project, a career, a life even? Often people come to coaching because they want to get somewhere, reach something, and they’re trying to figure out what their path is. In a recent session my client and I hence started working on their “roadmap” in order to make sense of where they’re going and how to get there. The metaphor came in really handy and developed some arms, so I wanted to share it with you.
Initially it didn’t quite land. They came back to the next session not having moved much, and it turned out that drawing the map felt stifling, adding in the milestones along the way felt like they were making plans that they may not be able to live up to. Worrying about not being able to get it done led to procrastination. Thinking about this from a travelling perspective brought home the realisation that we don’t need to be restricted by what we’re planning to see or experience along the way. Having a road map doesn’t mean you’ve got it all figured out. It’s for orientation purposes. I shows you where south is (or your north star, whatever metaphor you prefer for reminding you of your direction). If you’re heading south, there’s a million ways to get there. If, along the way, you’re looking to make a stop in the mountains, there’s a bunch of them. And given that you’re drawing the map, and you’re not actually bound by geography, you’re much more flexible with how you’re travelling. Sure, some spots are time-sensitive, and some opportunities won’t be there anymore if you get there late. But in the end you call the shots. And if you’re looking to get some sun, or get to Italy, then there’s a tonne of different ways to make that happen. At any point in time you can re-draw your map and shift some of the milestones around. Again, it’s to orientate yourself, to check where you are in relation to what you’re trying to create. It’s not set in stone, and it rarely is. Business plans are a good example of such roadmaps. They rarely, of ever, happen the way they were drawn. But they offer orientation and direction. And that’s where the real value lies.
And also, yes, you don’t need a map. You can just drive south and see what happens. This can lead to some of the most beautiful experiences. But those who are looking for a particular kind of journey will appreciate some orientation along the way as to travel more efficiently.
What modern day philosophers talk about
Existentialists love to talk about death. Some might argue they’re obsessed. But what we’re really talking about is temporality and endings, and how they’re part of the fabric of human existence, an existential given of being human, one of the few certainties of living (now, arguably, given the nauseating speed of development in the biotech areas, it’s not unimaginable that we may be able to create reproducing cells and perhaps within our lifetime find a way to extend the half-life of the human body indefinitely, and we don’t have any answers to the question of how long the mind lasts, but for now, let’s assume that death is gonna be a thing for a while). I’d say that existential coaches have a healthy awareness of endings and how deadlines (death being the ultimate one) are actually a tremendous source of energy. Either way, endings matter, and death is arguably one of the, if not the most significant ending for a person.
Lots of great thinkers have written about death and wrapped their heads around its significance and our relationship to it, but it can be really difficult to wrap our heads around their often convoluted writing styles. Now I’m a big fan of making philosophical thought more tangible and applicable to what’s going on in our life, to make relevant links between the great philosophers of past times and modern culture. One of the channels that do this really well is Wisecrack over on YouTube. Recently I stumbled over this episode in which they get knee-deep into the concept of death featuring our friend Soren Kierkegaard and his musings on despair and freedom, all in relation to one of my all-time favourite cartoons Rick & Morty. May not be your thing, but if you’re digging it, you’ll REALLY dig it. Enjoy! 🙂
Brace yourself! I’ve uploaded a tonne of content since my last drop. I considered holding back and drip-feeding it (the smart thing apparently), but I decided to drop it all now and then perhaps bring some of it back later as reminders in case of any “dry periods”. If you’re interested in coaching, the big questions, meaning in the workplace or the art of conversations, you’ll find a lot of value in this drop. If you see something that a friend or colleague of yours might appreciate, do share!
It’s been a trip to present to thousands of coaches at the pre-summit of the World Business and Executive Coaching Pre-Summit, especially when I got the timing wrong and spontaneously adjusted my talk from 1 hour to 37 minutes! It went well apparently, and they were kind enough to let me upload my talk and share it with you. Their full summit is currently underway and I’ll do another demo for them which will be exclusive, so go and check it out. It’s on now. Link in the “Catch me live” section of these Nuggets.
In celebration of the upcoming publication of the book chapter I wrote with Michael Steger for “Positive Psychology Coaching in the Workplace” I gave this presentation about meaning-centred coaching in the workplace at Suzy Green’s Workplace Coaching Summit. I introduce the value of meaning-centred approaches to coaching and why it matters to have explore meaning and to use coaching to create a more meaningful experience at work. I’ll talk about how the conditions for meaningful work can be created top-down by leaders as well as bottom up through coaching the workforce.
I was invited to open Day 2 of this year’s annual Positive Psychology in Practice Conference and found myself amidst a wonderfully inspiring group of speakers featuring many leading Positive Psychology coaches and practitioners. What better place than to reflect on the state of positive psychology coaching (PPC) and try to get closer to a working framework and definition of this exciting field. Since one of the main tenets of PPC is that it is grounded in evidence, we really need more data and to bring together the many different approaches that currently exist under the banner of PPC, to highlight some practical issues, and to encourage academics and coaches to work together in order to progress our profession. This is more on the academic side but if you’ve got an interest in theory and conceptual frameworks, and you’re wondering what the hell it is that positive psychology coaches are doing, I bet you’ll find yourself stimulated.
I talked about the art of conversations (including coaching but it goes well beyond coaching) with Georgie Nightingall, founder of Trigger Conversations and transformational life coach. I love Georgie’s inspired thinking, the way she deeply contemplates and reflects and how she’s learned to strike up conversations with strangers (which is a GOLDEN skill when it comes to creating a successful coaching practice. We’re exploring a range of topics in this conversation, which, coach or not, I’m sure, will leave you hungry for more.
Episode 29: No decent coach enjoys making their clients uncomfortable. And yet, in order to grow fast, our clients often need to leave their comfort zone and venture into uncharted territory. An important part of the process is for the coach to offer questions and observations that may challenge the client’s beliefs or worldview. Many coaches, especially at the beginning of their journey, shy away from challenging confidently and to offer this in a way that’s productive. In this episode our resident coaches Yannick, Siawash and Nicki discuss why challenging is important, how it can be done constructively, and we explore various theoretical models and practical metaphors for how this can and should be done in service of the client’s agenda.
Episode 30: Even before we were hit with a global pandemic, coaching while walking, walk’n’talk, coaching in nature and other forms of being outside of a coaching “room” have sparked our interest. Now, more than ever, coaching clients outside has become relevant to many coaches. That’s why in this episode our resident coaches Yannick, Siawash and Nicki are discussing the benefits and pitfalls of coaching clients while walking. Done well your clients are in their bodies and there’s lots to be picked up on on a somatic level. You’re working shoulder-to-shoulder and this creates a wonderful dynamic. Elements you encounter on your walk can be used for the coaching work or as metaphors or here-and-now moments of learning and insight. Done badly it can seem unprofessional and awkward. So let’s talk about it. If you’ve done some walk-and-talks, we look forward to you sharing your input and experiences on this topic.
Episode 31: A surprising majority of coaches we talk to regularly go over the agreed time for their coaching sessions. At the very least it happens occasionally. In therapy it’s a big no-go! Coaches seem to be a lot more relaxed about this, some even plan going over time into their contract and are more flexible. What we do know is that it affects our relationship and the boundaries we create in some form or another, and so in today’s episode our resident coaches Yannick Jacob, Siawash Zahmat and Nicki Drab are talking about time, boundaries and some really practical advice on how we can end sessions on time, as well as when it may be important to go over.
Episode 32: Lots of coaches would like to charge more for their coaching, but don’t feel confident that they’re worth the money. This can have a variety of reasons such as our own money stories, what the word “sell” means to us, and often a lack of some basic technical skills with regards to how we talk to our clients and how we run consultations. We believe every coach can (even should) be confident about charging for their time and the space they create for their clients. “Just being there” for and with them, offering our undivided attention, helps greatly and often works wonders. However, many coaches are keen to increase their prices but don’t think that their coaching is worth it. In this short episode our resident coaches Yannick, Siawash and Nicki are laying the groundwork for a longer conversation about how to raise our prices.
Catch me live
After an incredibly busy first few summer months filled with conferences and events, I’ve cut down on and said now to a good few things to focus on my 1:1 work and the Coaching Lab predominantly.
- 20th July: The new NEW Coaching Cabinet – A FREE peer-support group for coaches. After some experimenting, we’ve re-re-modelled and our free community space for coaches and from this month onwards, upon popular demand from the community, we’ll be running peer support groups across three categories: Practice, Business, and Self. These groups are facilitated by an experienced coach (Freya Blom, Sid Hamid and myself, respectively, and they take place every 3rd Tuesday at 6:30pm UK time in this Zoom room. Drop in and see what it’s about. They’re free for all coaches in the wider Talking about Coaching Community, so if you’ve been to a Coaching Lab, listened to the podcast or you’re a member of our Facebook community, stick your head in!
- 3rd August: Coaching Lab #17 with our Coaching Cabinet facilitators Freya Blom and Sid Hamid – I’m excited for this session, not just because we get to see two live demos, but also because both of these coaches bring a unique style to the table and I really like them as human beings. Come join us for a special Lab during which we get to see two 30min sessions by two experienced coaches from two different coaching schools. It’ll also be a great introduction in case you’re a coach and are considering to join the Coaching Cabinet but would like to check out the facilitators before you drop in.
- November: My Association for Coaching Signature Programme “On Being Human: Positive-Existential Perspectives on Coaching & Supervision – Over the course of 10 webinars I’ll be exploring key themes in existentialism and how they tie in with positive psychology int he context of coaching and supervision.
- January: WBECS Full Summit – Existential Coaching Demo – The full summit is now underway and if you sign up you’ll see me do a live demo showcasing some existential coaching, plus access to recorded sessions of many of the best coaches out there. Check it out. The line up is incredible!
That’s it! If you’re reading this, I appreciate that you’re still with me and I hope you enjoyed reading my Nuggets. Again, if any of it resonates, make it swing! I’d love to hear from you 🙂
PS: The raffle for the free conference ticket to the Positive Psychology in Practice Conference last month went to lucky winner and wonderful coach Elena Iacobita (www.mastersofpotential.com). She said she had an inspiring time and sends her gratitude.