Forward the Action, Deepen the Learning
By Corrina Gordon-Barnes, CPCC
‘Forward and Deepen’ is the fourth in a series of articles written by CTI trained coaches which focus on the five contexts of the Co-active coaching model. Each context represents a point of contact with the client.
I hated Science at school. Then in my final year, Miss Shelley took over my class. She was young, attractive and so passionate about her subject. She wanted us to learn as much as we could about how our mysterious world worked and she knew that meant us getting our hands dirty. She got us away from our periodical tables and off our stools. We lay on the floor, blew things up, and watched peanuts burn. When something didn’t work out, she’d say “That doesn’t matter” and we soon came to realise that ‘getting it right’ was no longer the point.
One of our roles as a coach is to hold each client as a scientist and her life as her laboratory. This is what it means to come from the context of Forward The Action, Deepen The Learning. Life will always offer our client opportunities to learn and do new stuff but we highlight the learning and coax it one step further; we offer a direction to the action and call forth a boldness in how she approaches it. As we know, it is this cycle of action and learning, learning and action which leads to sustained and effective change.
So we take our client into the Fulfilment lab so that she can find out what fizzes, what sparkles, what hums and what purrs (Values); she gets to decide which ingredients to include in the next stage. We also help her to identify what pollutes, what infects, what waters down and what suffocates - how to isolate a virus and eliminate or heal it (Saboteur). In the next lab, she gets to experiment with Balance - how she might need to adjust weight by adding or taking away (Saying Yes, Saying No) and what happens when she looks through certain lenses (Perspectives). Here she gets to see herself as the true engineer of her life, removing any blinkered thinking and assumptions about ‘the way things are’. And finally we venture into the great outdoor lab of Process where we find a big wide seat to observe nature, to accept what we cannot control. Here our client witnesses what is true, real and untampered with, be it eerie silence, wild and scary terrain, exquisite beauty or the mundane.
We need to let our client know that she is a scientist, to let her in on the game, to continually point her to her own action and learning.
Not everyone had a Miss Shelley. This client might not be accustomed to taking risks, might have no framework within which to reflect and consolidate her insights. Like a good science teacher, we set the context of action and learning. We are not doing the experiments ourselves but are witnessing and supporting our client in doing hers. The experiment is owned by our client. As she stands there with her safety goggles and lab coat, we acknowledge her bravery and champion her endeavours. With accountability, we create a check-in point where she can sort through what worked and what didn’t work and how this points her to what is next.
Our client leaves each lab changed in some way. The experiments are not just for the sake of it; the client sets each up because she wants new understanding, new results.
Miss Shelley instilled in me a love of the forwarding and deepening process which continued outside of the classroom. Likewise, we give our client a context which will continue to support her even after our coaching relationship has finished. In my completion session with a client this week, he decided he would continue to support his process with a Learning and Action Book. The acronym... ? L.A.B.
So here’s how to ramp up the game for our clients - and ourselves:
- To hold her as a true scientist, we must make sure our client is in the realm of the new and unknown. Help her wade out into virgin territory, not tinker with the status quo she’s been used to for the last twenty years. When she’s speaking and we notice a boredom within us, speak that intuition. “Is this new information for you?” Make it explicit that we want her to have new insights and new understanding and that we’re not doing our job if we’re simply helping her rehash old text-book stories.
- Science means knowledge or truth. Any time a client has an excuse for why she can’t do something, challenge her to put it to the test. Is it true that her boss won’t let her drop down to three days per week? Is it a fact that her partner won’t up sticks and move to France? As her coach, get hungry for the truth and ask for the evidence. Get her into new action that will have her learn radically new things about herself and the people and world around her. Request and challenge her to action which will move her from old assumptions to new truths. And remember that when using the context of an experiment, unforeseen outcomes often hold great gifts.
- One of my favourite powerful questions which quickly does both forward the action and deepen the learning is: “What do you wish I’d dare you to do?” It taps into our client’s longing for new encounters with herself and for action which will make her heart beat. Her deepest longings will inadvertently reveal themselves to her and she’ll be left to find out for real: “Am I up to this? Have I got what it takes to actually meet this deepest need?”
- And finally, let’s turn the focus on us as coaches. Are we always moving into new territory? Are we brave enough to allow each coaching session to be a laboratory? - to try a new tool or approach, knowing it might fail? Do we know our client will fire us if we ask THAT question or share THAT nagging intuition? Do we care enough about her learning and forward-movement to risk it? If we’ve got stuck in the rut of safety, it’s time to get close to the Bunsen burner again.
About Corrina Gordon-Barnes
Corrina’s clients are women who care passionately about the world and want to make a difference yet are currently frustrated that they’re not fulfilling their potential; she helps them turn their inspirational ideas into reality. Her background is as a teacher (English & Drama; trained at Cambridge University) and she uses this experience to create enjoyable, outcome-focused processes. To find out more about Corrina’s work, visit YouInspireMe.
© Corrina Gordon-Barnes, 2009