Essay on an Emerging Shadow in Coaching, Part One

A rural Adelaide Hills landscape

As the bright light of coaching grows, it, like all other things under the sun, will inevitably cast a shadow which undermines quality. That wouldn’t matter if we offered just ad hoc skills, but we have defined ourselves as a profession. It is up to us to maintain standards and, as John Schuster has said, “We must make ourselves worthy of our clients. “Fortunately, the shadow is not something to repress; it is a source of depth and power when properly engaged.

What is a shadow? In the Jungian sense, it is the part of ourselves kept hidden from others and from ourselves and it strikes me that shadows exist for both individual coaches and the profession itself.

One of the more common coach shadows I have encountered in myself and in good coaches whom I supervise is vulnerability. Here I am, a Master Certified Coach, and yet there are moments when I simply don’t know what to do! When I hide that uncertainty, it becomes a shadow. And when I don’t know that the shadow exists, my chances of serving my clients well goes down.

I’m amazed at how many times my coaching supervisees say the most useful thing about a session is when I admit I don’t know what to do! They say that when my vulnerability shows up, they are invited to show up completely as well. Then real learning begins.

I’ll continue exploring this in my blog next week.

Open New Doors

Open Doors 600x450

Did You Know? Coaching can create clarity in the midst of chaos and open doors you may not have known existed. If you are serious about changing the way you work and are willing to undertake the effort to make it happen, I may be the coach for you. I work with clients individually and groups in a number of different areas:

Executive Leadership Coaching

Half of leadership is observation. Half is doing something about what you observe. All of it is about being human. Leaders face challenges that often cannot be discussed with people in their organization. An external coach can help explore challenging and sensitive issues in a neutral environment. Coaching can assist with transition to new leadership roles, completion of roles, recovery from mistakes, working with difficult staff members, planning major changes, dealing with the stress of changes, pacing leadership work at a rate the organization can absorb, and managing personal life balance.

“Dollar-for-dollar, my work with Sam is the highest value professional development I’ve ever done. It’s incredibly useful to me.” – Eric Svaren, Coach and Consultant

Supervising and Mentoring Other Professional Coaches

There is always room for improvement. As coaches, we are regularly immersed in the world of our clients. We are called to be fully present and connected in profound ways so that we can evoke questions in ourselves and in our clients that have previously crouched beneath the surface activities of their/our lives. Yet this essential relational space makes us vulnerable. Whether we are new to coaching or have been at it for a very long time, it is utterly natural to, in a sense, fall asleep to the effects of these connections, to the intentional practice of being present. In the process, we become less aware of our own practice and, while acting instinctively is very often a good thing, over time we develop unconscious patterns that may or may not be right for our current client. As a professionally-trained coaching supervisor, I work with experienced certified coaches to renew their skills, adjust relationships, and help them be the very best they can be for their clients.

“[Sam has the] courage for doing what I would not have considered.” – Boeing division president

Organization Change Management

What do you do if a whole company, organization, or department needs to change? Maybe it’s reorganization, merger, or simply facing a situation that isn’t working anymore. I’ve teamed with management to move large or small organizations forward slowly and surely by using proven coaching techniques and meeting designs to improve communication and buy-in.

Team Building, Group Coaching, Facilitation

We all depend on others to get work done. In every work setting there is some chain or network of relationships that supports or impedes progress. I am regarded as an expert in helping clients understand these connections and in fostering growth among the people involved. This isn’t touchy feely stuff that can be easily dismissed; in fact, it can be the most important and rewarding work of all.

If you or someone you know is interested in coaching, please contact me via email or call (425) 787-0846.

Being Human

Sam in France with Colleague Gilles Roy 600x240
Me and my colleague Gilles Roy in France

I have been consulting and coaching in aerospace, health care, education and government since 1977. I hold an MBA and am a Master Certified Coach (International Coaching Federation). My background and approaches are eclectic, drawing from solid experience in a variety of organizations, a rich educational background and a life long commitment to learning. I have worked as an independent coach and consultant for over 10 years.  I am best used with leaders who want to dive below the surface of quick answers in order to look at patterns, relationships and cultural habits that dampen organization effectiveness. Although I have taught many workshops over the years (and continue to do so), my interest now is sustained coaching relationships in which I and my clients know and trust each other enough to do real work. I am is regarded as skillful, insightful and authentic. My observations through all this experience are as such:

Part of leadership is about observation. I’m amazed at how little leaders know about their own organizations. We must get better at seeing – just as the old naturalists learned to see the world with fresh eyes every time they went walking. A big part of my work focuses on helping people see and hear what is happening. That’s why I’ve included my own works of poetry and photography in this site. I know it might not seem business like, but I can tell you many stories about how listening to the subtle nuance of communication has helped increase effectiveness. Similarly, I have learned to look at situations with my camera in hand and ask, “What wants to be seen here?” In our organizations, I believe people are crying to be seen, to be heard, to be involved in effective ways. That’s what I want to help clients do.”

Part of leadership is about doing something. According to Ronald Heifetz, at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, the purpose of leadership is to mobilize people to collectively affect positive change on crucial and often complex issues.

Yet, getting from ideas to action is often a breakdown point for leaders. I’m interested in the chain of relationships among people that allows work to get done. Getting things done requires having the right conversation at the right time, knowing how to make effective requests, knowing how to keep work going once it starts and knowing how to gather in the results of effort – not just the bottom line, but for each person who contributes in their particular way. It also involves letting go of methods and ideas that no longer serve.

All of it is about being human. There are a lot of efforts these days to find some common ground on which communities and organizations can be built and sustained. We spend countless dollars and euros and pesos dealing with the effects of not having common ground, but finding it is really quite simple. The fact is we are all human. What a concept! That is our common ground and once we figure that out, we can get on with addressing the enormous challenges we have in communities and organizations across this tiny globe. This business of being human crosses all the boundaries of communities, countries, and organizations. Doctors, farmers, field workers, teachers, politicians, CEO’s – underneath all our situations and titles, we’re pretty much the same. Let’s get on with important work that honors all human beings.

If you are committed and ready to do something to advance your organization, give me a call at (425) 787-0846 and we can talk about how I can help you achieve your goals.

Polishing the Rock: Refining the Coach Towards Mastery – Forever

Stream flowing over rocks

Sam has the distinguished opportunity to present as a breakout session speaker during the 2014 International Coach Federation (ICF) Midwest Regional and Global Conference in Cleveland, Ohio on June 19-21.  The theme for the conference is “Coaching ROCKS!” 

Rocks take a long time to polish. In fact, when the rock is in nature, the polishing never ceases, but only occurs under the right conditions. This workshop introduces the emerging refinement process for coaches called “Coaching Supervision”.  We will explore what this process is, why it is necessary and sample some of the ways coaches can refine themselves and their practices in service of their clients. A key part of refinement involves “Reflective Practice”, and each participant will practice reflecting on themselves.  Imagine a rock in a river: after thousands of years it knows itself and how it works really well.

Participants will:

  • Understand the nature and purpose of coaching supervision
  • Learn some of the characteristics of well-refined rocks (coaches)
  • Sample a few models of coaching supervision, including reflective practice
  • Reflect upon at least one of their own coaching engagements while using powerful supervision methods
  • Begin their endless journey of coaching refinement, whether they are currently ACC’s, PCC’s or MCC’s

If you are interested in attending the conference and/or Sam’s session, please visit the ICF Conference websiteThis session is 1.5 Core Competency CCE Units.

Coaching Supervision – a relational practice

Men Business Shaking Hands 600x400

Coaching Supervision understands that while the observable business of coaching is going on – meetings, contracting, outlining coaching programs, coaching sessions – it is people who do the talking and thus, who and how we are in the conversation, affects outcomes. This ‘who and how we are’ piece is mostly unobservable from the outside, but can have significant impact on effectiveness.

How does Coaching Supervision help?

A process of reflection with a Coach Supervisor helps the coach to become aware of relevant strengths and weaknesses and to become stronger and more confident across a range of conversations. CS explores and clarifies what goes on in these relationships and conversations and enables coaches to be intelligent about creating effective conversation in every ‘coaching moment’.

The CSA team bring huge experience and dedication to all their enterprises and I have personally benefited from their work.
-Marianne Craig, MCC

Coaches in supervision often refer to the relief of having time and space to think about particular aspects of their work and especially to think/reflect with a trusted colleague who will microscopically explore practice with them and contribute to their understanding. This support enables the coach to contain and resolve some of the more challenging parts of their work:

  • their frustrations with coachees
  • their concern that they are not doing enough
  • the difficulty of keeping to a coaching contract when the coaching ‘flow’ is going off piste the undue influence of the organisation (often implicit) or of key stakeholders which might reduce coach effectiveness (power/disempowerment)
  • unexpected emotional material either within the coach or in the coachee
  • ‘ruptures’ in the coaching relationship

If coaching supervision sounds like something that would interest you, please contact me for more details.  Opportunities are available in both individual and group sessions.

My Approach to Coaching

Man Looking Through Binoculars 600x400

Executive Leadership Coaching

Half of leadership is observation. Half is doing something about what you observe. All of it is about being human. Leaders face challenges that often cannot be discussed with people in their organization. An external coach can help explore challenging and sensitive issues in a neutral environment. Coaching can assist with transition to new leadership roles, completion of roles, recovery from mistakes, working with difficult staff members, planning major changes, dealing with the stress of changes, pacing leadership work at a rate the organization can absorb, and managing personal life balance.

Supervising and Mentoring Other Professional Coaches

There is always room for improvement. As coaches, we are regularly immersed in the world of our clients. We are called to be fully present and connected in profound ways so that we can evoke questions in ourselves and in our clients that have previously crouched beneath the surface activities of their/our lives. Yet this essential relational space makes us vulnerable. Whether we are new to coaching or have been at it for a very long time, it is utterly natural to, in a sense, fall asleep to the effects of these connections, to the intentional practice of being present. In the process, we become less aware of our own practice and, while acting instinctively is very often a good thing, over time we develop unconscious patterns that may or may not be right for our current client. As a professionally-trained coaching supervisor, I work with experienced certified coaches to renew their skills, adjust relationships, and help them be the very best they can be for their clients.

Organization Change Management

What do you do if a whole company, organization, or department needs to change? Maybe it’s reorganization, merger, or simply facing a situation that isn’t working anymore. I’ve teamed with management to move large or small organizations forward slowly and surely by using proven coaching techniques and meeting designs to improve communication and buy-in.

Team Building, Group Coaching, Facilitation

We all depend on others to get work done. In every work setting there is some chain or network of relationships that supports or impedes progress. I am regarded as an expert in helping clients understand these connections and in fostering growth among the people involved. This isn’t touchy feely stuff that can be easily dismissed; in fact, it can be the most important and rewarding work of all.

Strengthen Your Team with Coaching

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Leadership teams are often confronted with changing membership, circumstances, and challenges that do not fit existing leadership patterns and practices. Coaching can assist the team in recognizing existing patterns, assessing their appropriateness for the new situation, and generating methods and relationships to move forward. As an outside agent, the coach can ask questions and encourage consideration of issues that are presently unheard or overlooked. Accountability for change can be developed jointly by the team and the coach.

What a team coaching engagement looks like:

  • A preliminary meeting, at no obligation, to identify the issues and see if we want to work together.
  • Interviews with team members to further define issues.
  • Coach reports findings to the whole team.
  • Depending on requirements, meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
  • Include check-back meetings to sustain change.
  • Alternatives include:
    • Leadership retreats for one or more days.
    • Coach participation in regular leadership meetings held in the course of work. (The coach’s job is to listen for the unasked questions that might make major shifts in thinking or progress.).
    • Intergroup conflict facilitation involving senior executives from two or more organizations.

If you are interested in my team building, group coaching and meeting facilitation, please click through to my Getting Started with Team/Group coaching page.

Getting Started with Coaching Supervision

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Are you curious about coaching supervision?  Wondering if it’s the right fit for you, and you for it?  Here is a quick set of guidelines to help the pondering process along:

Indicators you might be a good candidate for supervision:

  • You are a great coach and you hold yourself to high standards.
  • Your professional association requires coaching supervision after receiving your professional credentials.
  • You love learning about coaching and want to learn more.
  • Coaching isn’t as much fun as it used to be.
  • Contracting seems a bit harder.
  • You or your clients are not satisfied with results.
  • Your approaches are becoming routine or mechanical.
  • You have a challenging client.

If you are interested in giving coaching supervision a try, please contact Sam via email at sam@sammagill.com or by phoning 425-787-0846.

The Play at Rendezvous Hut

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For your holiday reading pleasure, I present to you one of the poems I have written, entitled “The Play at Rendezvous Hut”. It reads a little like the holiday favorite, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”. Enjoy!

Je suis content.

The gas lantern hushes,
shhhhh, like an usher
waiting for the play to begin.

The stage is set with candle glow,
warm food settling in
now that we have eaten.

Outside
the dark cold world rests,
comforted in its snowy down.

Peace and quiet surround the hut as
all of nature waits for life to stir.

It is much more quiet out than in
where my chattery mind
keeps interrupting both the player
and those who witness
Winter’s quiet silent drama.

The usher keeps at me,
until, thought by city thought
I let the world slip away
content to be on this stage
where only the silence
speaks its lines.

If you like this poem, my entire collection is available on my website.

Happy Holidays!

 

All Great Teams Practice Off The Field or Stage – is yours in top condition?

Business Team in a Round

Leadership teams are often confronted with changing membership, circumstances, and challenges that do not fit existing leadership patterns and practices. Coaching can assist the team in recognizing existing patterns, assessing their appropriateness for the new situation, and generating methods and relationships to move forward. As an outside agent, the coach can ask questions and encourage consideration of issues that are presently unheard or overlooked. Accountability for change can be developed jointly by the team and the coach.

What a team coaching engagement looks like:

  • A preliminary meeting, at no obligation, to identify the issues and see if we want to work together.
  • Interviews with team members to further define issues.
  • Coach reports findings to the whole team.
  • Depending on requirements, meet weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
  • Include check-back meetings to sustain change.

Alternative coaching solutions for a group may include:

  • Leadership retreats for one or more days.
  • Coach participation in regular leadership meetings held in the course of work. (The coach’s job is to listen for the unasked questions that might make major shifts in thinking or progress.).
  • Intergroup conflict facilitation involving senior executives from two or more organizations.

If you are interested in learning how your team can benefit from coaching, please read my Getting Started with Team/Group Coaching guide.