An unexpected lesson in coaching psychology… from the long grass!

Those who know me won’t associate me with golf. I took it up over a decade ago, but it didn’t last long due to the arrival of family and all that that entails! Anyhow, last summer as my own kids took an interest in golf I came across an opportunity for golf lessons that I couldn’t pass up. It entailed 7 lessons in a driving range with 9 other ladies as well as 3 on a golf course with a buddy.

About 10 days ago I was due to have my first experience on a golf course in 10 years. I have to admit it was a bit daunting, so you can imagine that I was a little relieved when it was called off due to rain. So last Sunday morning, I was again secretly hoping for the same phone-call but on this occasion it went ahead. It turned out that my ‘buddy’ was the pro in the golf club and none of my playing partners turned up! As one of my girls would say, this could be ‘a little bit good and a little bit bad’!

I tee’d off at the first hole and the ball cleared a stream (an obstacle I had been unaware of beforehand!) and landed in long grass. I didn’t disgrace myself on Sunday, but I did get quite familiar with navigating long grass and this is where I gained some insights into coaching psychology.

golf ball in long grass

Maybe it’s better not to know all the obstacles: I take quite a diagnostic approach to coaching leveraging adaptive leadership frameworks and approaches. I love to get stuck in to make sure a problem is really understood before taking action. So what was interesting for me on Sunday after taking this first shot is the fact that if the pro had pointed out the stream, I would probably have become apprehensive of it, and may have come up short or landed in it. One thing is for sure, I would probably have tried too hard and I would not have taken my best shot. So maybe knowing the in’s and out’s of a situation is not always helpful. I find approaching an issue with a ‘beginners mind’ invaluable, but it is key to balance the need to understand an issue with the risk of over-thinking it.

Picturing success not failure: As the ball lay in the long grass, the golf pro said ‘now don’t scoop it up Eadine’. So what did I do?… I scooped it up and it landed back into the long grass. So the pro said ‘now this time Eadine, make sure you don’t scoop it up!’…. and once again I scooped it up with a marginally more successful outcome. The pro asked me what happened. So I told him the story of the pink elephant.

Imagine I asked you not to think of a pink elephant…. what do you do? Of course, you visualise a great big pink elephant. The more vivid the description of the elephant the clearer the picture.

pink-elephant-clip-art-eiMjoknin

So I asked him what success looked like and he painted this for me in graphic detail along with an image of the great big divot that should appear in the grass afterwards. A lovely shot followed…. and this could not have been taught in the driving range.

Nothing can beat real live experience: All the lessons in the world in the driving range were no substitute for getting out there. As mentioned in a recent article in Forbes magazine ‘Can leadership be taught?‘, 70% of learning comes from ‘on-the’job’. The author describes the ideal blend of 70:20:10 between ‘on-the-job’, coaching/ mentoring and classroom sessions. Much of my work involves supporting and challenging clients as they take on ‘stretch assignments’ in the workplace. Even in the classroom sessions that I and my colleagues facilitate, we ask participants to bring in real live challenges to work in the classroom to apply concepts being learnt. I learnt more from my 1 hour on the golf course (with a patient pro) than in the 7 (albeit necessary) lessons in the driving range.

 

Last Sunday morning’s golf lesson served as a reminder to me of some principles of coaching and positive psychology …. and hopefully my golf improved also! Only time will tell…

 

 

Image Source: http://www.gettyimages.ie/detail/photo/golf-ball-in-long-grass-in-the-rough-high-res-stock-photography/88802021

 

UCD MBA Coaching Article …. just published

Six years ago a coaching pilot was launched with MBA students in the Smurfit Business School. To date 851 individuals from 30 different countries have benefited from this programme.

The purpose of the MBA coaching programme is to provide a space for reflection in the lives of MBA participants to enable them to work on a personalised agenda thereby maximising the value of the MBA as they transition back into the work-place.By Jennifer Fishbein..

Myself, Orla Nugent (MBA Programme Director) and Michael McDonnell (Leadership Development Programme Manager) took a look back over the last six years of the programme and recently published this article in the Association for Coaching Bulletin. Hopefully you will find it of interest.

Leadership values for Ireland

Is it just me or is everyone talking about ‘values’ in leadership these days? I have noticed an increase in such conversations in the last 6 months.

UK Values
UK Values

This week, it has come up every single day whether with colleagues or clients (corporate and personal).

I came across some research done by the Barrett Values Centre in 2012, where they surveyed 4,000 people to understand their personal values to form a view of what’s important to society as a whole in the UK (See picture and more detail in this report).

 

 

Would it be useful to understand Irish values so it can inform decision making at a national level?

Leadership and clowning!

Imagine a big room in the attic of a rural hotel in the Swiss mountains. There are 8 people, 2 facilitators (clown/ consultants) and 6 participants diverse in  terms of age and country of origin. This is a leadership lab run by AZck! Learning and Development in conjunction with Tom Greder.

I went to this programme as a participant really unsure what leadership can learn from clowning but open to finding out. The journey over the 3 days brought us out of our comfort zones (with our permission) and helped us each to address areas of development we wanted to explore. I have never before seen a programme so tailored to the needs of the individual.

March 2014 106

Like many leadership programmes, we explored the areas of self-awareness and our impact on others. However  in contrast to the usual programmes, we really entered unknown territory. Our journey mirrored some of the challenges of life outside the lab: leading in ambiguous situations, with limited resources and having to improvise in the spotlight (although in this case, there really was a spotlight!)

We often learn a lot from times when we are stretched… and this was one of those occasions – a very special one indeed! We learnt and laughed so much!

So I ask myself the question in hindsight what has leadership got to learn from clowning? Surprisingly for me, quite a lot! So many of the regular leadership themes emerged in the act of clowning: presence, vulnerability, connection with others, leadership and followership, adaptability and so much more. But instead of reading it from a textbook or listening to theory, we were in a laboratory, and we ourselves were the subject of our own experiments. I can’t think of a more engaging way to learn.

‘We want coaching’

A recent article in the FT by Maxime Boersma entitled ‘We want coaching,’ say high-fliers shows how perceptions of coaching have changed dramatically over recent years.

The Head of Learning and Development at a UK organisation describes how “Executive coaching is increasingly sought by senior leaders as a space where they can have reflective conversations about their work and be challenged on their thinking and approach.”

A unique leadership development opportunity

Picture1For those who follow my blog, you will know that my trip to Harvard in 2012 was significant for me and altered my views and approaches to leadership development. I also benefited from meeting an incredible international group of people with similar interests and aspirations. One such person is Annick Zinck (www.AZck.com).

I have the pleasure of collaborating Annick this June on ‘The Sail and Lead program 2014’ on Lake Geneva. It is a unique learning opportunity enabling participants to learn more about themselves and how they interact with others in situations where they are under pressure, with limited resources and in a changing environment. No sailing experience is needed as there will be two top-class sailing coaches working with the participants.

You can get more details on the programme by clicking here or contact me directly to chat through this unique learning experience.

‘Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves’ – Carl Jung

Looking at things through a different lens can often help us see a situation differently and learn. This was exactly what struck me when I came across this quote recently… except the lens in this case is more like a mirror  – so we can understand ourselves and our impact on others a little more.

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Image Source: http://www.npr.org/blogs/pictureshow/2012/08/07/157743116/does-the-mirror-reflect-how-you-feel

Leadership in the age of complexity… an interesting article

Leadership in the age of complexity… an interesting article

This is an interesting article on the transition from Heroic Leadership to Leadership as a ‘Hosting’ activity. As the article describes, Heroic Leadership relies on the assumption that someone can be in control which is impossible in this age of inter-connectedness.

Leadership in the age of complexity

This is an interesting article on the transition from Heroic Leadership to Leadership as a ‘Hosting’ activity. As the article describes, Heroic Leadership relies on the assumption that someone can be in control, which is impossible in this age of inter-connectedness. No one person can offer solutions to every problem and control the environment through their implementation.

This paper suggests that leadership is more about inviting in and ‘hosting’ people who can help solve the challenges we face. ‘Leaders-as-hosts invest in meaningful conversations among people from many parts of the system as the most productive way to engender new insights and possibilities for action.’

From a leadership development perspective, we should reflect on whether we are attempting to be the sterotypical charismatic leader, the person with all the answers, or indeed the person who is engaging in meaningful conversations to deliver substantive change?

Experimentation

I wrote in a previous post about the benefits of experimentation to open up our minds to possibilities. I heard today of a cookery book which intersperses QR codes along the way so you can link into a video clip using your phone, iPad etc.. I love it! Such ideas come about through experimentation, making mistakes, learning and enhancing.

Someone mentioned to me yesterday that we are rearing a generation of kids who feel the need to be perfect. Many won’t attempt new things if they feel they won’t be good at them. How do we change this mind-set to one of curiosity and interest in the intended and unintended outcomes?

Since my trip to Harvard in May I am now attempting to view the world as a laboratory where I can observe, experiment, challenge and hopefully innovate to see what emerges – particularly but not exclusively in the field of leadership. I have managed to spot learning opportunities in activities I was not even looking forward to. By approaching these tasks with a curious mind-set my motivation actually increased.  I have been surprised at what I have learnt about myself. For example, I am finding that the broader my interests are, the more varied the ideas I generate. Suddenly the worlds of maths, art, sport, science and leadership are merging and I am seeing connections where I never saw them before. Not everything is a success but I am enjoying the journey.

I am attending a swimming session this evening which is way out of my league (in the fabulous new 50m pool in UCD). After a challenging start last week, I am nervous about what lies ahead, but most of all I am curious about what I will learn, not just about swimming, but about coaching, motivation, and the levels of endurance I can personally tolerate. I am hoping I will be still attending these swim sessions the next time I post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image Source: http://www.classroomjr.com