The moon, a telescope, a waterbed and being centred

20121112-231533.jpgI originally wrote this post as a guest post for David Goddin (@ChangeContinuum on twitter, well worth a follow). It was part of a series of blog posts on Positive Practices in Coaching and if you want to visit his blog, click here.

This post is about coaching and will look at themes such as listening, attentiveness, concentration, being present and we will reference emotions. I LOVE emotions (and by the way I don’t think love is an emotion) they are so powerful and pivotal that they will be included. Finally, we will reference the beauty and vitiality of reflection.

The positive practice that I want to share is one that I have done for a few years and I hope it of use.

The words in the title of this blog is taken from Jon Kabat-Zinn and to put them in context, he says:

“… If you were trying to look at the moon but you set up your telescope on a waterbed, it would be hopeless to even find the moon, never mind keep it in view and study it carefully.”

This is what I have and continue to purposefully and deliberately think about after each and every coaching session. Why? I hear you ask. Well, within us all we have:

evolutionary and learned emotional triggers
knowledge, skills, experience and expertise.

When embarking on any conversation (including a coaching one) us humans will react to the stimulus around us (in this context the person we are coaching) and this response may be emotional and/or cognitive. It may be that I am able to stop the response gaining momentum and completely hijacking me and/or my conscious thoughts, or I may not. Either way, for a moment in time (often seconds) I was not centred.

20121112-231627.jpgIf I add up all those moments in time over the course of a 30/60/90 minute coaching session, how much information have I missed? How vital may that information be?

So, after my coaching sessions, I take a moment to acknowledge that during it there were things I was thinking and feeling. I will go on a step (and this is where the purposeful reflection comes in), I will:

1) Go back through the conversation and catalogue the topics and content of the conversation from start to finish in as much detail as I can remember.

2) Taking each topic and content piece in turn ask myself:

What emotion(s) was I feeling when we discussed this?
How was I experiencing them?
What was the intensity?
What was the trigger?
How will I be more aware of that trigger next time so I can catch the response quicker?
What impact did these emotions have on the other person?
Did it help or hinder the conversation?
What thought responses did I have?
Where did they come from?
How did I hope my thoughts would help or add value?
What will I do next time to either interrupt those thoughts or do I need to share them?
What did these thoughts do to the quality of that part of the session?
Did they help or hinder the conversation?

3) I will collate my responses and critically analyse them to create an action plan for the next coaching session I have with that person. The desired outcome; that I can be more centred next time.

Interestingly, I have found that the emotional and thought responses are different depending on the person. So the same topic or content may cause different reactions.

After practice and refinement, it takes me 20-30 minutes to complete this process. At first i took over an hour each time.

It is hard work, it takes time, effort and energy and I will continue to do it for as long as I coach. Why? Because I:

Am of more help.
Give more and better support.
Listen more effectively.
Increase my self-awareness.
Make more of a difference (and if I don’t, what is the …………..

This practice helps me make sure that I am on firm ground so when I focus my telescope on the moon, I can find it, keep it in view and study it.



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