A Personal Account Of Deepening My Coaching Practice – One Year In!
It’s been a year since I created Vantage People; I have been spending some time reflecting on the path I’ve taken. Looking back this was a journey that started nine years ago. I applied to become an internally accredited coach, I was fortunate to be selected for the in-house programme.
The programme was rigorous and introduced me to many of the concepts that I still use today. I experienced the magic that coaching can bring, seeing the flash in someone’s eyes as their realisation shifts. During the following eight years I had the opportunity to work with some great managers and leaders on issues that they were facing in their work. Resolving problems, examining thinking, enabling people to gain new realisations, understanding and awareness of how they could meet those challenges. Feedback showed that my coaching helped them achieve their career goals and organisational objectives – hooray!
My work in HR led me to the belief that there was something deeper. During that time I continued partnering leaders within organisations, working alongside them to deliver. I have worked with excellent leaders that can create balance between stretching and supporting their staff, who listen and have the understanding and awareness to guide, inspire and generate the pathways that drive their teams to success. People with calmness and clarity, the ability to listen and make decisions and support those around them to succeed.
I have also seen the other side, leaders who are self-absorbed, aggressive, who fail to show integrity and maintain their composure. Where values are espoused but not followed. Failing to share purpose, decisions flip flop; stress levels are high, resulting in a flawed culture and low levels of engagement and trust.
Whilst I hold the belief that all people were inherently good, I started to wonder what leads to this dichotomy within people and their behaviour. I became aware that there was much more that went on beneath the surface and while I was delivering coaching that was useful and good I knew there was more depth to be found. This has been my focus for the last year.
In March last year I enrolled into two coaching qualifications and started with a group of fellow practitioners seeking to take their coaching to the next level. We went deeper and wider into the concepts of coaching, and I left with a new level of understanding and awareness, new tools, ideas and focus. I’d got a clearer perspective on coaching; my first shift towards working more deeply was identifying the need to explore and understand myself.
I’d learned that what we do and say is determined by our values, beliefs and life experiences. To coach is privilege and a position of great trust. To act with integrity it is critical for the coach to know where their questions come from and for whose needs they service. For me this was critical and I would often reflect on Daniel Goleman’s quote ‘seek first to understand, before being understood.’
Undertaking self-work makes you look deeply, you open yourself up and discover a lot. You recognise judgments that you never knew you had, see patterns and beliefs that can be very uncomfortable or wonderful. You see yourself in a new light and also recognise strengths and resources you never knew you had and patterns and action that are disruptive.
The process I followed also introduced a large amount of academic rigor. Exploring and understanding new concepts, relating these to my experience within organisations gave me a mass of new insight and hypothesise on people and leadership. As I completed the qualifications by the summer of 2016 I had a lot of concepts, churning and whirling within me. I had in affect completely disrupted myself and I now felt pressure to start to build something.
Rather than what I felt I should be doing I found myself following a quest for more knowledge and understanding. I was seeking something from within myself. I needed a sense of value that would allow me to define my proposition, something that felt real to me. It was common sense to look at the person and focusing on areas such on strengths, EQ and personality and I built some great tools and approaches. As a strong advocate of these concepts I felt strengthened to provide greater levels of insight in my work, but something still felt like it was missing.
I’d always ‘got’ systems thinking early on; it made sense – when you’ve seen the reverberations of actions move across an organisation. Towards the end of the year I was fortunate to meet someone who introduced me to constellations. This finally connected the dots and gave me what felt like the missing piece of the puzzle. It opened up a deeper level of understanding I had intuited but had not quite been able to grasp. My own experience of constellations gave me a broader understanding of wider forces within my relationships that were impacting me. It gave me new insight and acceptance and restored me to perform better.
As a coach constellations gives my clients a tool to shine a light on ‘what is’ for them, their relationships in organisational or wider social and family systems. Systems are made up of people; in healthy connection we follow certain rules. When systems become out of balance conflict and unhealthy patterns arise. By being able to look deeper we can give people understanding and choice. The rules and patterns adopted in systems create interdependencies, creating difficulties and divergence for its members. They influence our relationships, loyalties and experiences and stretch back into our past and the past of the people that have created our existence or that of the organisation we belong to, these disruptions can often be found lying behind intractable difficulties.
Seeing that coaching is bigger than understanding ourselves, this year has led me to be curious about understanding the wider context of my clients. Seeing a ripple of connection from ourselves and our interconnected relationships and systems helps us realise a much broader picture. It enables us to develop the understanding and awareness around what informs and influences our behaviour. To explore and understand ourselves in a way that disrupts what we have taken for granted and unconsciously accepted. We see and learn with a cognisant and fresh perspective that is both powerful and transformative.
It has taken me a year of digging deep, researching and connecting to reach this understanding. I am excited to see what I can accomplish in the next year. What I do know is that I’m freer as person with newly embodied knowledge. To get here at times has felt like it was breaking me, but I am now stronger and awoken.
In coaching there is a lot of talk around the lenses people use and the mindset they have. These are concepts where there is a vast difference between knowing about them and really understanding them. My coach told me when I started working with her ‘you cannot take a client along a path that you have not yet walked yourself.’ There is a difference between walking the path and seeing the path, I didn’t understand how my path had informed my actions and reactions. Seeing the path, following the learning and exploring it deeply is not for everyone, but for me, as a coach, it’s a must!
So one year on a lot has shifted and there is a newness. After this reflection I decided to constellate, to resource myself for year two. The self-work does not stop, but for me it’s a year for broadening my connections and associations. The drive that led to coaching also leads to seek the energy I get for working with others who share my passion about people and discovering the potential within.
Over the last year and for the future, this quote stays with me:
Out beyond ideas of right and wrong
There’s a field.
I’ll meet you there.
Thank you to all that have helped me on this journey. I’d love to hear if this resonates with your journey.