Last autumn, after having a chat with Claire Bradshaw, I signed up to complete my ILM Level 5 certificate in Coaching and Mentoring with her. I am hugely passionate about effective leadership and I am always reflecting on my performance as a leader. What I really enjoy is helping others develop and maximise their potential, so this qualification seemed like a great opportunity to work on my coaching and mentoring skills. I have been on one day courses for both coaching and mentoring some years ago, and feel like I use some of the skills I learnt but I was keen to develop these further.
I am now nearing the end of the formal training which I will have finished by the end of February and am now working to complete my assignment and my coaching hours. Reflecting back to just before I started the qualification I have to be honest I don’t think I had any major expectation other than to develop skills to be able to effectively coach people individually. I am not embarrassed to say that it has opened my eyes to far more than the ability to coach. One of the most critical skills to coaching is listening, which sounds simple as we all know how to do that don’t we? To be a really effective coach though is about really listening (active to deep listening)! This was something we discussed and practised a lot in the first few days of the course, and I feel have highly underestimated this simple skills my entire life (honestly!).
My new found awareness of listening is probably one of the biggest things I have taken away from the course, not only is it something I am conscious of during my formal coaching sessions with my coachees but also something I am conscious of outside of these sessions too. What I mean by ‘really’ listening is giving people opportunity to talk without interruption, noticing how they are saying things, the types of words they use and also the body language and tone. This can say a lot about what is going on for this person and using this extra understanding can help to make sure the response I make to what they are ‘really’ saying is most effective and supportive. This skill (if you can call it that) has sneaked into my day to day working life, whether it’s conversations with my team or colleagues, or even in meetings it’s really helping me make sure I give people/things the attention they need and really understand what is going on. We have a lot of meetings at work, and sometimes it’s really hard to concentrate (well it is for me…) through the whole meetings, especially ones that last longer than an hour. So I have been challenging myself to see if I can use my listening and noticing skills to help me maintain my concentration, and it definitely seems to be helping (work will be pleased!!).
Recently I had a meeting with a few members of my team and like most meetings with a group of people some people talk more than others. For this meeting though, after discussing it with one of the people on my course, I thought I would try one of the exercises we learnt from the course about ‘thinking about thinking’. Like the course I split the team into pairs, and gave them the topic we were meeting about. They each had 90 seconds to talk about that topic. Again by allowing someone to speak without interruption would ideally give them all a chance to talk and share their thoughts on the topic, but also allowed time to see whether what they were thinking would change once they heard what the other person had to say. We then got back into a group and gave each person a chance to share what they were thinking now. Again they took it in turns without interruption! As I hoped the thoughts of individuals grew as they heard other people talk and we had a well-rounded discussion with lots of different ideas about the topic. I can’t remember the last time we had a meeting where everyone talked equally and all were heard. I think they will agree it was probably one of the most effective meetings we have had for a long time, and we walked out with our next steps and all understanding each other’s view points (or at least I think they did!). For me it was great, as I chair the meetings generally in this situation I jump in my ideas and I am conscious that sometimes I may dominate the conversation with my giddiness and therefore I don’t always give everyone the opportunity to speak and encourage their ideas and thoughts. For once I talked the least and listened the most!
As I write this I am thinking that the common thread here has to be listening although as I planned my blog I thought it maybe more. Yes there are lots of tools and techniques that I am picking up from the course that are fab, and I have used loads of them in different situations but at the heart of all these is listening. And therefore really hearing what is said so your response and your actions are based on what you actually heard rather than what you thought you heard.
I can’t write a blog about my coaching course without mentioning Claire, but I will try not to embarrass her too much. The last few months on this course have been great, as you will have heard it has had a profound effect on me. I have been on the course alongside 7 amazing people too, most of whom I hadn’t met before and I couldn’t have asked for a greater group of people and I am pretty sure we will all be friends for life (cheesy but true!). What makes Claire special and therefore has made this course special is her ability to listen too. Claire’s positive attitude makes you always feels good about yourself; she gets to know you and adapts the course to make sure it works for us all. Thank you Claire for giving me a nudge to do the course!!
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