CoachingExcellence

January 1, 2017
Dear Coach,

Welcome to my Blog. Here you'll find essays I've written about coaching. Some of the questions I'm exploring are (1) What makes coaching work? (2) What helps coaches do their work well? (3) How do coaches continue to be masters of their profession? and (4) What the heck are those ICF coaching competencies, anyway?

My passion is helping coaches to be their best, so they can bring the best of coaching to their clients.

There's something here for all coaches, at all levels of experience. I’ll bet you'll learn something new, find a new perspective to consider, or just encounter a new way to say what you already know from experience. It’s all good, and (probably) good for you, too! .
You're welcome to browse - I'm sure you'll find something that resonates with your experience. You can also search on Categories and Tags for specific topics.

If you find something that you enjoy, please share with your colleagues and friends, and copy the link so you can find it again. Leave a comment if you’d like. You just might spur a new essay about something I’ve learned from you!

It's my privilege to offer my thoughts on coaching.. Enjoy your reading!

Sue McLeod, PCC
Other thoughts, ideas and musings on coaching, learning, business and life

What I Did on Summer Sabbatical

Sabbatical means taking a break from my normal routines.  We ended our summer fun in Brooklin, Maine at the Marine Photography class offered by the Wooden Boat School.

My photography knowledge, skills, and eye have clearly improved after a week focused on f-stops, focal length, shutter speed, exposure, blurred backgrounds, and the rule of thirds.  What surprised me was my reaction to joining a small group experiential learning adventure. More on that in a later post. For now, just enjoy the the photos.

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Simple Ways to Improve Your Coaching

I’ve said that coaching is simple. All it takes at the most basic level is connecting with another person, being curious, asking questions, responding to what they say with more questions, and believing that they are creative and can find their own answers and path forward.

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So why do I continue to offer coach training for experienced coaches? After 100, 500 or more hours of coaching experience, shouldn’t we have mastered these simple things?

It turns out that these simple things aren’t always easy. Some of them are at odds with ideas, beliefs, and skills that have made us successful in other careers. For examples, consultants find that the impulse to identify and solve problems can get in the way of their curiosity and listening. Over time, they are pulled back to this old ways of serving clients. 

As I observe my own coaching, teach classes and work with coaches on their coaching I’m learning more about what makes coaching work and how coaches can increase their effectiveness.

From all of this learning, I’ve distilled a small number of SIMPLE WAYS you can improve your coaching - things that will help you get back to the core skills, beliefs and ways of being that make coaching powerful and effective.  You can find these in my new E-Book “Simple Ways to Improve Your Coaching” available free to download HERE.

But like any self-help book that provides thought-provoking ideas, my “Simple Ways” can’t tell you the best way to improve your coaching. It takes more than knowing to deepen your understanding, apply it to yourself, and follow your own path forward.

Students in my Coaching Master Class create a supportive community for discussing coaching challenges and finding new ways to improve their own coaching. Through sharing our experiences and questions about how we can be more effective, students create new insights into their own coaching. Then each student selects an assignment to further reflect, observe, and practice new coaching moves. I'm delighted by the insights and the commitment to improve that the students create during our time together.

The Coaching Master Class engages a small group of coaches to focus on the core coaching competencies in a collaborative learning lab of 8 tele-classes. You’ll earn 18 Core Competency CEUs, including 3 hours of Ethics Training while gaining new insights into the coaching competencies and learning from wise and experienced peer coaches. 

Learn more about the Coaching Master Class HERE.

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What's in your Coaching Agreement?

When we talk about Ethics, we soon find that our Ethical Foundations live in the agreements we make with our clients. Like these steps in a hiking trail, our agreements provide a path over uneven terrain and can lead us from darkness into light.

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Do you like to talk about Ethics? Probably not. Not many people jump at the opportunity. It sounds stale, pedantic, authoritarian and downright dull.

Imagine my surprise when I noticed that students in the Ethics in Coaching and Coaching Master Classes were engaged, intrigued and surprised by what they learned. They were grateful for the opportunity to talk honestly and openly about this important topic.

(By the way, my classes meet the requirements for the 3 hours of Ethics training you’ll need for your ICF credential renewal and I promise it will be the most fun you’ll have talking about Ethics!)

In these conversations, we talk about the challenges we’re facing with keeping client information confidential, recognizing and avoiding conflicts of interest, knowing when (and how) to decline or terminate a coaching engagement, and what information we can keep and what we should delete.

It soon becomes clear that there is some guidance in the code on these topics but the real guidance comes from the agreements we make with our clients. Agreements set the foundation for a strong coaching engagement. They support our ability to act ethically when challenges come up. But taken to extremes, they can feel out of sync with the coaching relationship we want to create.

These class conversations prompted me to think more deeply about the role our agreements play in the coaching relationship.

I’ve seen (and used) agreements that are on two ends of a spectrum. On one end is the “not-in-writing” agreement. This could be a verbal agreement that isn’t written down. It also happens when coach and client don’t think they need an agreement (perhaps they’ve worked together before or know each other well) and don’t even discuss an agreement before starting the coaching.

On the other end of the spectrum is the multi-page, many-clauses-to-cover-all-possible-contingencies, carefully crafted in legal language to cover the coach’s tokus. It feels like bringing a prenup on a first date!

Neither seems right to me.

Coaching is a business relationship and warrants explicit agreements about boundaries, expectations, and the rights and responsibilities on both sides. The “no agreement” option doesn’t honor the professional nature of coaching. 

The coaching relationship also requires trust, mutuality, co-creation and holding the client’s interests at heart. It often involves more people and stakeholders beyond the coach and client, who also need be a part of that trusting relationship. The long, legal agreement doesn’t feel aligned with these qualities of the relationship.

Given that, my next question was “What is the ‘just right’ agreement?” Of course, the answer is – it depends! It depends on the existing relationship, the context for the coaching engagement (for example, is this coaching as part of a training program, or individual coaching towards specific development goals), and other factors (such as who else is a stakeholder in the engagement) that might impact what you include or what you exclude from your agreement.

The better questions are “what is the purpose of the agreement” and “how can you best serve that purpose with a specific client?”

Consider this. The coaching agreement serves two primary purposes:

First, it documents the business relationship including the services the coach provides and the container in which those services will be provided, such as time frame, payments, meeting logistics, client goals, coach’s methods, etc.

Second, it sets a foundation for a trusting relationship, including clarifying what the coach and client expect of each other, what will happen if something goes awry, and how the coach will keep the client’s interests at the heart of the coaching. 

The second seems to require more thought than the first. In thinking about some recent coaching engagements I realized that I had to include some unique items in my agreements. Here are some things that I felt needed to be addressed to build that trust:

  • The coaching sponsor is a friend and colleague of mine, so I was careful to cover with client and sponsor how I would interact with the sponsor during and after the coaching engagement.
  • The client and I were planning to meet in a public place, so I added language that said I wouldn’t share information about the client, but I could not promise confidentiality and privacy because others could see us together and overhear our conversations.
  • I was coaching someone who was looking for a job in one of my professional communities. We had a very specific conversation to assure the client that no one in that community would hear anything about our coaching.
  • Because I teach and write about coaching, my agreement covers how and when I share stories based on our coaching conversations.
  • My agreement with students in my classes clarifies what information I keep and what information I destroy once the class is over.

I’m curious. Does this “framework” for coaching agreements resonate with you? Are there other things that you consider when you’re crafting and customizing agreements for your coaching engagements? 

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Strengthen your coaching core - ICF MD Chapter Webinar Series

CoreStrength:  3-Part Webinar Series Covering ICF Core Competencies

Hosted by ICF Maryland Chapter

Presented by Sue McLeod, PCC

REGISTER HERE

*** Purchase All 3 Webinars and SAVE ***

(Sessions held on April 3, April 17and May 1 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)
4.5 CCEUs – Attend All 3 Webinars
4.5 CCEUs – Complete All 3Post-Webinar Assignments

$250 – ICF Maryland and Global Members
$300 – Non-Members 


Individual Webinars

1.5 CCEUs – Attend 1 Webinar
1.5 CCEUs – Complete 1Post-Webinar Assignment

$100 – ICF Maryland and Global Members
$125 – Non-Members

  Don't miss this incredible opportunity!!! 

Webinar #1:  Creating a Trusting Relationship for Coaching (April 3, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)


The magic of coaching begins with the relationship we create with our client.. Strong mutual trust and trust in the coaching process create asafe space for clients to honestly share their hopes and dreams, fears and frustrations.. When we accept the client as they are every time we meet, and treat them as a partner, the opportunity opens to work together to create the results the client desires.

This workshop is your opportunity to learn about the core strengths that create this magical relationship. Learn about the three types of trust - coach trusting the client, client trusting the coach, coach and client trusting the coaching process. Learn how creating trust and intimacy and coaching presence support the rest of the coaching competencies. This workshop is an invitation to reflect on the quality of the relationships you have with your clients, and learn from Sue’s experience and the wisdom of other coaches how you can strengthen this core of your coaching.

 “I really appreciate the way you have illustrated the model, where everything points  to trust and intimacy in the relationship!”    ~ webinar participant

Webinar #2:  Defining and Aligning with Your Client’sAgenda (April 17, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM) 


What differentiates coaching from other disciplines? The answer lies, in part, in how coaches use the skills of Active Listening, PowerfulQuestioning, and Direct Communication. The practice of these skills in coaching is different than consulting, teaching, counseling, and our everyday interactions with friends and colleagues. Supported by the foundation of a trusting relationship, we listen intently to the client, we ask questions that expand their thinking into new perspectives and possibilities, and we share our observations and experiences as input to their process, not as the answer tothe problems.

This workshop is your opportunity to deepen your understanding of how to apply these coaching skills and take an honest look at your own listening, questioning and communicating. We’ll explore how these skills are supported by the trusting relationship we have with the client and serve the client’s work to create the life they desire. Through sharing and discussion ofthe challenges we face, we’ll find pathways to return your coaching to these fundamental coaching skills. 


Webinar #3:  Leveraging Your Coaching Skills for Learning,Growth and New Results (May1, 2018 • 11:30 AM – 1:00 PM)


It’s easy to stray from the purpose of coaching after you and the client have spent some time together. When coaching sessions become opportunities for clients to share what’s happened in the last week, complain at length about the status quo or explain how other people are causing their problems, you’ve likely drifted away from the coaching competencies that define why client’s hire us and what’s necessary for them to make progress towards their goals.


This workshop is your opportunity to revisit the “purpose” in the “purposeful conversations” we promise our clients. These core strengths include defining the agenda, intentions or goals of the coaching engagement ande ach conversation, searching for the new awareness that opens new options, and defining the action steps and success factors for the client to make changes in their life. We’ll explore how these competencies set the framework for all o fthe coaching competencies to work together to support the client to create the life they desire.


                                                                 Don't miss this incredible opportunity!!! 


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What? Me Worry?

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I’m a worrier.

In the back of my mind there’s a constant stream of worries. big and small - about family members, business, and clients. I worry about what’s on my to-do list, what I’ve forgotten to put on my to-do list, and how I’m going to everything done. My worries are small (what to make for dinner) and large (how my favorite team will fare in the big game) and global (what’s going on with the global economy).

My moment of acute self-awareness about the degree of my worrying was when I noticed that I was worried that I wasn’t worried enough. Doesn’t that sound a little over the top?

I’m not the only coach who worries.

I’ve heard from many of you “If the coaching police could hear my coaching, I’d be arrested!”. Although a bit overstated, this captures an underlying worry that we’ve strayed from “pure coaching” (or coaching the way we were taught or the way we think ICF expects us to) and wandered into the territory of advice-giving, letting the client talk too much, or other perceived “sins” of coaching.

(For example, see my Blog Post “Am I Coaching or Something Else?” for a my thoughts on crossing the line from coaching to consulting.)

Worrying about things beyond my control wastes energy. While I can don my lucky hat for the big game, there’s not much I can really do to help my team win.

For things that are within my control, I’ve learned to sit with the worry and consider if there is some truth lurking underneath. Maybe there is something I am being called to do. When I’m worried about a family member, I can (at a minimum) reach out to them and make a connection. When I’m worried about my do-to list, I can spend thoughtful time clarifying and prioritizing. And when I’m worried about what’s going on in my community, it’s time to take action.

When you are worried about your coaching, what is calling for your attention? How will you know what needs to be addressed?

Students in my Coaching Master Class bring their worries and find clarity from our work with the competency model. One student was concerned that she didn’t know how to use Direct Communication. As we explored that competency, she discovered that she was using Direct Communication effectively - she just didn’t know it. She could put that worry aside. Other students find things they aren’t doing as well as they could. They discover they really are doing more telling than asking, or they skip the agreement setting or forget to nail down actions. Through our conversations, they turn that worry into a learning intention. By the end of the class, they have new coaching moves and feel more skilled and confident.

What are your worries about your coaching? Move from worry to clarity by looking more closely at your competencies and find where you can let go of the worry, or shift into learning.

The Coaching Master Class is designed facilitate this type of reflection, with the added bonus of being with experienced coaches as partners for your learning. I bring my experience as a coach, trainer, and assessor to keep us aligned to the coaching competencies.

Sue, There’s something magical that happens when people get together in the learning environment you create. So, on one level, there is this ethereal feeling of camaraderie. But then there's another level where I'm getting real, practical information and help on what to do to be a better coach. My notebook is full of new questions to ask my clients. Kelly Kienzle, PCC

Are you ready to transform your worries into better coaching skills and more confidence? Join the Coaching Master Class starting on March 12.

  • 18 Core Competency, CEU, including 3 hours of Ethics.
  • Small group, interactive learning.
  • Eight (8) on-line webinars between March 12 and August 6, 2018
  • More details including class schedule HERE
  • Save $150 by registering before March 2.

If you're not ready for a class, Mentor Coaching is a “personal trainer” approach to improving your coaching. We’ll get to the evidence from listening to recordings of your coaching, make some grounded assessments based on my knowledge of the competencies, and find powerful ways for you to shift your coaching and your confidence.  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you are interested.

With gratitude for the student and client who teach me so much!

Sue

(I remember the line "What? Me Worry?"   from Mad Magazine's Alfred E Newman. Here's a link if you're curious https://www.madmagazine.com/blog/2012/12/19/totally-mad-excerpt-who-is-alfred-e-neuman)

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Are You Asking Enough Questions In Your Coaching?

Coach, Are you asking enough questions?

Not that there’s a quota or anything, but I’m curious about how many questions you’re asking in your coaching. I ask, you see, because I’ve recently listened to some coaching and noticed that there were lots of statements and just a few questions.  If coaching is an inquiry approach, what’s happened to all of your questions?

What am I hearing in place of questions?  

One thing that I hear is restating what the client said, without adding much to it.  This is often introduced with “Client, what I heard you say is …” followed by the same words that the client used. Often, the client responds with “Yes, that’s right.” and then continues their story.

You might think that this is a demonstration of “active listening”, and it’s true that the definition of the ICF Active Listening competency includes restating. But this competency asks you to do more than just restate what you hear, including

  • Sharing what you hear about the client’s goals, concerns, values and beliefs, which are often not expressed directly in their word
  • Sharing the essence or “bottom lining” the client’s communication that breaks them out of their long, descriptive story

The PCC Markers go a step further and ask you to “notice and inquire about” the client’s language, emotions, behaviors, and the clues that hide in their voice such as changes in tone, inflection or pace. 

This might sound like “Client, I heard you start talking more passionately and stridently as you described that situation. What emotion are you noticing are you tell that story?” or “Client, I heard you use the words “she’s driving me crazy”. What does that that mean for you in this situation?”

If restating, word for word, what you hear the client say is taking up time and space that could be used for questioning, you might be missing out on opportunities to create new awareness that comes from inquiring about and exploring what your client is saying, not just listening to them speak.

I invite you to notice how many questions you’re asking, and challenge you to shift the balance to more questions and fewer declarative statements.

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The Gift of Fog

 

Fog is an integral part of the Maine landscape. It rolls in from the ocean covering the coast. It creeps down the rivers to cover the towns, like Bath, that live on their banks.
 
I've found that fog has an emotional and energetic impact on me.  As my distance vision blurs, so does my future thinking. The past and future disappear.
 
As the sunlight decreases, so does my energy. It's a sense of time and space closing in, with the only option to focus on what is present at this space and in this moment.
 

I'm thankful for the gift of fog.

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The Intoxicating Scent of Lilacs

 

With spring comes new energy, more light, a little warmth (when you live in Maine, anyway!), and the promise of being out of the house and on the water.

 

 
This weekend spring really seemed to have arrived on the Maine Coast, with mild air, blue skies, fluffy white clouds!   
I found myself noticing the “firsts” of the season...
 
First row across the harbor in the dingy.
   First wiff of the intoxicating scent of lilacs.
      First trip around the yard with the weed whacker.
         First planting of the annuals that decorate our summer deck.
 
and.. best of all...
 

 

First Maine Lobster dinner!!!
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