So I’m writing this with a Guinness in hand listening to the recent BBC Live Lounge Edition of the Foo Fighters – Times like these… so forgive the spelling and gramma blips (#LazyDyslexic).
This blog is fuelled by a kind request from Andrew Bradshaw of UK Coaching to share my journey of becoming a ‘Coach Developer’ with others in our community. Thank you sir for giving a voice to 6 lessons that got me to here…..
Lesson 1: I don’t get it
For this lesson I thank the great Julian North – Senior Research Fellow at Leeds Beckett Uni.
Many moons ago I sat in a small room in what was sports coach UK’s Offices on Cardigan Road in Leeds listening to Julian share a story of coaching and research. Midway into his talk I rudely stopped him mid flow and said – “Julian, I don’t get it”… like an expectant learner almost demanding the sharer of knowledge reframe the story for my needs (just me). Well Julians response was gold and has stuck with me ever since and has been my guide for when things get tough! Julian said..
“Do you not get it, or have you just stopped trying to get it”
In that moment I realised I had switched off. Things had become too cognitively challenging, I just stopped trying. Now when that happens I ask myself what am I doing to ‘get this’, am I putting enough effort in, have I stopped trying.
Don’t kid yourself about learning and don’t loose responsibility for your part in it….
Lesson 2: Don’t read what everyone else is
If you want to be ‘like them’ then read what they are, if you want to be ‘unique’ and original in your space. GO OFF PISTE. I say – ‘go down rabbit wholes’, look for the obscure, look for the things that don’t agree with your ‘normal’ path. Take notice of the things that sit outside of your peers reference list.
For this lesson I thank Steve McQuaid (my boss of old and Head Honcho at Action Provoked) for introducing me to the work of Tim Ferris (best selling author etc). In Tim’s writing on learning he often refers to the value of checking what the outliers are doing. Those successful in your space (or similar spaces to you) but don’t conform to ‘norms’ within your context. The ‘Fosbury Floppers’…
Widen your circle of influence… try this activity by Lucy Wake (Leadership Consultant), If everyone on your ‘trusted ten’ are similar then you may like to reach out to new worlds. Twitter is a great place to start a conversation, or just give me a shout and I’ll point you somewhere…I’ve been down loads of rabbit wholes…
Lesson 3: Just listen and the answer will appear
The hardest thing (beyond remaining present) is to remain quite, let the conversation occur, don’t drive it, don’t fill the gaps, don’t be the noise because the silence is awkward. Just be sure you are in the moment with the conversation, ask THE question and let the voices come out.
In my own research on ‘mentor-mentee matching in high performance sports coaching’ – I found it wasn’t the complex questions or the challenge led statements that were important for the mentee development, it was actually ‘the simple questions’. Here’s the themes that popped up from interviewing mentors and mentees during my MSc in Psychology (its a riveting read honest).
Lesson 4: Understand yourself before others
It doesn’t matter what you know if you don’t know yourself. Spending time understanding your uniqueness, your challenges, your special powers, your desires, bias’s are what makes for a good practitioner.
One example that illustrates this for me – at the age of 8 I was diagnosed as ‘dyslexic’, this meant very little back then (beyond extra classes on handwriting etc). Often seen though a deficit lens I have wondered what the assets of being a dyslexic may be. And whilst at age 35 I started to see value in my dyslexia, it wasn’t until age 40 (or there about) I really noticed how dyslexia had helped me and was my aid. Now I love it. Honestly I do… I mean check out the slide below and ask yourself why wouldn’t you want these skills/attributes…
Go figure YOU out, so you can help others figure out themselves! I need to thank David Levine for helping with this lesson, the man always mind me think. And whilst I did dislike it, I needed it!
Lesson 5: Always be a novice at something
To quickly do we forget what it FEELs like to be a novice, a learner with fear, with anxiety, with a wish to avoid embarrassment.
We have an innate desire often to get good at something and with it avoid as much negative feeling as possible. Then once we become accomplished we go forth and practice/share. I say embrace the clunky ‘icky’ learning period as much as you can so you are able to connect deeper with what your learners are feeling. Yes you may well be able to list and describe a feeling but, to actually experience it and hold this with you is far richer and more powerful than to simply have an eloquent expression of it.
I use the model below to help me and my clients explore new stuff…. Whilst we fill all the boxes in, we spend much time on the blue box ‘Don’t Know’…the question being..
“What are you doing new, that you don’t know you may be awesome at”
I have now bought unicycle (so feel the fear of falling and pain before it happens) and use juggling batons in workshops (so I feel the emotion of ‘getting it wrong’ in front of an audience).
I suppose I better thank Mr Joseph Luft and his mate Mr Harrington Ingham for this one as this is kinda based on the ‘Johari Window’.
Lesson 6: Ask – “what can this teach me”
The hardest lesson of all is left until last. We all suffer life challenges some more than others. I have chosen for a long time to not succumb to these challenges but to ask ‘what can this teach me’. I thank my father for this one (Brian Tom Lindley).
When I was a young boy he would often tell me a story of braking his leg whilst riding a motorbike and having to go to hospital. On being discharged his father was waiting at the hospital steps with his motorbike. His father said… “son you are riding this bike home” obviously my father with a cast on was not keen, however he did not want to suffer the wrath of a traditional ‘Yorkshire man’. His father went on to say… “son if you don’t get on this bike today you will never ride again”. So my father mounted the bike and made his way tentatively home.
In my life I have had more than one of these occasions, where I could have very easily said no, turned and walked the other way, but some how I have found the strength to turn and face it, ‘BE’ with it. Sit in it, hold it, feel it, experience it and let it be my teacher. The image below represents my greatest learning experience as a ‘Coach Developer’.
In 2017 working as a ‘People Development Manager’ for the wonderful British Shooting I found myself at the ISSF world championship in Moscow. I thought I was ready for this, I had been to many competitions before, I knew (knowledge) all about high performance, the system and the people within it. I had good relationships with most of the key staff and athletes at the event. However I did not know these people within this environment (context). See knowledge may well be king but context is queens and on this day she ruled.
I missed the signs, I filled the gaps with noise, I got in the way trying to be helpful and I just did not notice myself within this situation. Thankfully I was given a nudge by the Performance Director which helped reset myself. However I spent a good deal of the final day of pre-competition shooting circling this sign. Almost as metaphorical anchor being used as my teacher – what direction would I take, would I turn and walk away from it, or lean into it!
Thankfully I found the head space to comprehend what was happing before me, what my role there needed to be and also how to recover into the situation to be a positive contributor to the event. This was a hard, and emotionally rich lesson to learn, but one that will teach me for years to come. Yes I wish it didn’t happen this way, but it did and I can learn from it.
Everything is a choice, every morning I ask myself…
“How can I BE MORE today”
if you want to be better you can choose it, the question is…
Kurt Ewald Lindley – thank you for listening
P.S. big thank you must got to TW (below) my first mentee and now my guide when it comes to all things ‘Coach Development’ in the performance world. And he’s an awesome guide in life too!