My wife gave me a day long masterclass with a renowned garden photographer as a Christmas present last year. I’ve had my camera for about 10 years and have always used it in automatic mode. The workshop taught me how to frame and make best use of the light for garden photographs and how to use more than just the two buttons I am used to using. It gave me lots of hints, tips and ideas in a very accessible way. I learned how to use various other settings and how to use the information that the camera provides to take wonderful pictures of gardens and flowers. I came away with a renewed enthusiasm and ability to use more of my camera’s potential.
Not long after the class, we visited the Chelsea Flower Show and had a wonderful time exploring the show gardens, grand marquee and stalls. To travel light (7hrs on our feet!) I only took only one camera lens, and left the tripod at home as the crowds are always extensive. That evening, I was really disappointed when looking through the photos on the laptop. While some were beautifully clear images of specific flowers, in crisp focus and gloriously isolated from their surroundings, other photos were nicely framed but with the majority of the picture out of focus or with no obviously clear focal point.
Other photos were blurred and obviously suffering camera shake due to too long a shutter speed. What I was learning, was the limitations of the zoom lens I had taken and the impact of having compromised the depth of field in order to achieve a quick enough shutter speed to hand hold my camera. The lens was great for picking out and isolating a bloom or plant, but not so good for capturing the whole garden in all its glory. By taking one lens and by leaving my tripod behind I limited myself to fast shutter speeds and narrow depth of field. A good lesson for my photographic ambitions, and an interesting metaphor for my coaching.
It got me thinking about where else I am looking through only one lens and at a limited range of what that lens offers.
- Which lens am I using most often and what am I missing as a result?
- Am I missing the wide view by focussing on too small (and interesting) a detail?
- Is this the lens I am using when I notice that I am getting caught in my client’s story?
The same zoom lens allows me to ask the client to narrow in on a word or a phrase and say more about what it means to them.
Am I seeing enough of my client’s personal or organisational context – what would I see through my wide angle lens?
I often invite my clients to fit a different lens, for example, by asking them to imagine sitting in the other person’s chair, or by taking the perspective of an interested observer.
It’s not just as coaches that we need to be aware of the different lenses available to us. Peter Hawkins’s “7 Eyes of Supervision” model first published in 1985, describes seven different lenses through which a supervisor may look within a session to explore the supervisee’s work. A coaching supervisor’s role is to support the coach to be the best coach they can be for their clients. One way they do this is to help the coach to reflect on all aspects of the coaching work and their relationship with their client. Hawkins uses:
- A macro lens to look close up in detail at the players; at the coachee, at the coach and at the supervisor.
- A mid-range lens is taken to picture the respective relationships between Coach and Client and between Coach and supervisor.
- The wide angle lens is used to look at the coachee’s context.
With each of these lenses he brings different aspects into focus at different times and explores different depths of focus. His model uses the full capability of all three lenses to explore what is present, to hypothesise about alternative interventions, to explore parallel processes and transference, and develop the coach’s self-awareness and capability. The supervisor is challenged to look inside themselves for what is happening that may be informative and useful for the coach (perhaps the analogy here is an endoscope!)
Similarly as a coach, I want to use all the lenses at my disposal to see the full range from isolated detail to whole picture of my coachee and his story and the reaction it is creating in me.
I get great joy in being in gardens taking photographs; of being in beautiful places, experiencing beautiful colours textures and structures in combination and seeing how seasons and weather change the view over time. I also find joy in getting home and looking through the photographs. It’s only at home with the laptop that I clearly see the images I have captured and can compare that image with the scene I was trying to capture. Once I’ve gone through the pictures, I then analyse the settings and check which lens I used and start to learn about what worked and I’ll do again and what did not, and what I could do differently next time.
And so it is in my practice of reflection after coaching sessions and my learning through supervision. My personal reflection and my supervisor enable me to look at what lens and setting I was using and what I was seeing clearly and what is blurred. It helps me to swap lenses and to look at and challenge myself as a coach and to supportively challenge my coachee’s thinking. I know I have lots more to learn about swapping lenses thoughtfully and with purpose.
Interestingly in sitting down to write this I found myself looking through a familiar old lens – the one that questions why anyone would be interested in what I have to say, believes that writing is erudite, academic and intellectually challenging, and fears the humiliation of rejection. Realising that this lens was not useful, I changed it for the one that says, I’m interested in what I have to say and how will I know about others until I’ve posted it? And anyway, who cares if no one finds it interesting or useful; I’ve enjoyed and learned for the experience and want to share it.
Not only have I a lot to learn about the lenses I have available and when and how to use them, but my old camera has lots of useful features I was unaware of. It just goes to show that this old dog has been taught new tricks.
So let me leave you with these questions…
- As a coach, how is your default lens limiting your view?
- What other lenses could you look through that will give you and your clients new views, sharp focus and different depths of fields?
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