Blogging about my Coaching Practice: a powerful boost and re-connection to my aspirations by Sue Young
I thought, having done this blogging with the good coach (TGC) for a while, it felt like a good time to stop and take stock. What I have found with my blogging is that it’s taken my reflection and explicit articulation of what I do in my practice to a new and more aware, proactive level. As such it’s has been a very powerful personal and professional experience.
1. Limitations of the traditional structures for development as an experienced practitioner
1.1 Limitations of Traditional ‘CPD’: Like many experienced coaching practitioners I am a member of several professional bodies (not just coaching) and keep records of my CPD for compliance purposes. However I do not capture in those formal records the highly personal continuous informal learning that happens in my day to day practice, particularly around interaction with colleagues and clients.
In surveying what the professional bodies and coaching bodies write on the subject of CPD I can only find very general level commentary.
Most of the writings in the field feel very removed from the day-to-day ‘messy’ reality of operating in the organisational worlds we work in, and the typical themes and issues that emerge in professional client work. There is little written by practitioners for practitioners and little about learning by Coaches from their practice.
Even Supervision is limited in a similar manner – taking care not to do something wrong – by whichever standards of a body concerned - is not the same as what I am doing and learning that works so well.
1.2 Self managed learning: I keep an on-going personal journal, which I find an invaluable reflection tool for myself, but expressing and articulating for something that is going to be read by others externally is a very different process.
1.3 ‘Traditional publishing:’ I have written articles for professional publications and professional conference papers – but this also requires conforming to the style and perspective of other audiences.
1.4 Even Client Proposals – can require a great deal of Practice information. However, yet again, this has to be written for what the particular client is looking for.
2. Reviewing how I have found the blogging process
2.1 Keeping a regular discipline to it: I've committed to write a blog once a month. Although demanding, particularly when I have to fit it in around what, at times, has been a very heavy client workload, it has never felt onerous.
2.2 Finding my own themes: Again this has been very different to other professional writing I do, which tend to be much more planned and focused. Although I have in mind at any point 2 or 3 themes that draw my attention as being of personal interest and worthy of exploration and expressing, it has been a very natural and emergent process.
2.3 Evolution of themes: I observe that my earlier blogs are around more general themes I have been passionate about over the long term, reflecting the general beliefs and values that underpin my overall coaching approach and philosophy.
As I have progressed in my blogging I notice the blog themes becoming more related directly to my personal practice and exploratory of the real issues and dilemmas that arise.
3. Reviewing the blogging themes/focus that has emerged progressively
3.1 First Stage of blogging - long-term key ‘theoretical’ lenses:
Re-connecting to some underpinning long term key ‘theoretical’ lenses and underlying values that inform my coaching.
The real thing my MSc academic study time did for me was to allow me to survey the broader field of formal knowledge about people in organisations. This gave me both the confidence and an increased ability to step back and objectively evaluate models and theories and see more objectively, both what they added, and their limitations.
3.2 The principles of Adult Learning in coaching was a natural for my first blog:
Learning from experience has always been a strong area of personal interest that has informed my approach, both as a facilitator and coach. In my facilitation and coaching I have always been inclined towards encouraging people to reflect on, personally connect to, and share their experience with others as core to a deeper and more personalised learning process.
The discovery of Adult Learning during my MSc was a true affirmation of my natural approach, with those key principles of how we learn primarily from our experience, and how social interaction is central and clearly identified as a key learning enabler. One of my strengths is using my natural presence and style to create a safe confidence building space that encourages people to explore and be more self-disclosing – creating an environment conducive to learning. This underpins my coaching approach, as I encourage clients to become more capable and effective ‘strategic learners’ going forwards.
3.3 Strategy and Experiential Learning, both at organisational and individual levels:
I guess these are the two Big theoretical lenses that most inform my coaching approach and are the subjects of my first two blogs – Strategy and Experiential Learning, both at organisational and individual levels. These two are inextricably linked, as the strategy development process is a structured and collective form of learning where regular feedback and review is central.
With an early career background in business strategy I've always found the real divide that exists in most organisations between the ‘hard’ area of strategy and ‘soft’ area of people in most organisations completely artificial. I don’t see strategy as solely a ‘top down’ approach but rather a process to which individuals and teams at all organisational levels need to contribute.
3.4 Middle Stage of my blogging – taking principles of how we really learn into CPD – both for our Clients and ourselves as practitioners
In leadership and coaching- both highly relational and situational driven contexts, thinking and practice about real CPD in these contexts is not written about much. In my research, interestingly, only two fields came up as sources of much research and writing - the Education and Health sectors. In organisational and business fields there is not much research on CPD readily available.
The skills of 'reflective practice' or 'reflection in action' are becoming more fundamental for effective leadership in a fast moving and increasingly complex, interrelated world. In my coaching I often am helping clients incorporate ways of working and ways to allow space for the essential thinking required, both individually and collectively, to bring about organisational change. I review this explicitly in a couple of blogs, both from Client and Coach perspectives, and it is an on-going area of interest and development in my coaching approach.
3.5 Later Stage: this falls into two areas
a) Reviewing a coaching approach as an enabler of organisational change beyond the traditional one to one context – my blogs go on to explore how a coaching style and approaches are becoming more widely used, although many of these have been around in a smaller way for many years. For example action learning, peer coaching and team coaching. Where organisational change truly happens is at individual and team levels. Approaches that coaching uses are key enablers of jump shifts in the perceptions and behaviours required for organisational change.
b) Current themes emerging directly from my practice: typical themes emerging from coaching practice with topical leadership and organisational relevance – so the themes selected so far in my blogs include the true leadership contribution of middle managers, managing upwards, resilience and incorporating more thinking and reflection as a manager, particularly when under high time and workload pressures.
At this stage of my blogging I wanted to explore in more detail my practice and use case examples as material, drawing on what was happening in the present more specifically, both for my clients and for myself in my selection and experience of coaching interventions.
4. So, what have I found to be the benefits of blogging?
4.1 Stepping back I can see the evolution and patterns of my blogs and how they represent a more coherent, articulation expression of my practice approach, than I would otherwise have been able to see so clearly. It feels like a release of built up experience, thoughts and feelings that I'm articulating for the first time in such a coherent way.
Through the process of thinking, researching the field to check out, and expressing I have found to be grounding and confidence building experience that better enables me to be clear about both what I bring and what I am about as a professional practitioner.
4.2 It re-connects me to with why I got into this line of work in the first place. It's easy to be so busy doing, flexing myself to meet the priorities and preferences biases of the client. The most important part of that is probably what I don't say.
Blogging is helping me be truer to myself and share my perspectives more coherently in conversation with clients on issues that are important for them to take account of in order to make more informed choices. It’s sharpened my intent and given me more areas to focus on and investigate in my practice. I am developing more of a researcher / practitioner mindset where I am noticing and responding to the subtle detail of the interactions and their impact more explicitly and openly. I am more confidently alert to the risks of falling into being collusive with what may be flawed and limited thinking that the client may be unawarely drifting into.
4.3 It's helped me earth, raise my awareness and self supervise my coaching practice and how I work
Reviewing case examples - what I did and why I did it
I'm more consciously making choices in the moment
Self supervising more explicitly and stepping up in terms of my personal reflections and review what I bring into supervision with others
It's helped me realise more explicitly how my whole career/ life experience connects to and informs what I do. Just the process of reviewing my blogs here has made some of these patterns more visible and explicit to me.
Awareness of my own potential bias and therefore developed my confidence and ability to step outside myself and be genuinely open to and interested in others perspectives
4.4 The community of TGC – seeing that my expression is part of something bigger that I value
It's Practitioner focused so is more closely related to my interests and what I do than any other forum / publication I've come across
Authors are experienced practitioners from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures with different perspectives to bring
It allows me to explore real issues, previously only discussed informally with a few close peers, as they would be deemed to be too sensitive to raise in other contexts
The philosophy, approach and interest of TGC is not only at the individual level, but part of the wider organisational, industry and social context. It's part of the bigger picture of organisational and social change.
TGC sets an inclusive tone that welcomes diversity whilst recognising and raising the tough issues that coaching maybe needs to take more of a coherent position on. Also it deliberately takes an independent whole industry perspective. The nature of its structure and ownership allow for this, as it is not compromised due to vested interests or positions. As a result it is more free to put forward or represent ideas and thinking around the tough issues facing the coaching world (industry or profession, or both...?)
Due to all that TGC is, I feel no restrictions on what I can explore or express, providing I can evidence my views by relating to my personal practice
Gaining feedback from TGC’s “blogitors” has really helped me communicate what I want to get across in a more coherent and explicit way. When writing I find I can get too close and not see the wood for the trees – and this is done in a ‘light touch’ way, aimed at helping me enhance and stay true to what I want to get across. A true coaching approach!
4.5 Finally I’m finding I am really enjoying writing as a form of self-expression
The process of expression forces me to get in touch with what I really think
The creative process of evolving ideas and their expression
Researching the field to check out what other sources of research, and alternative perspectives have to bring.
In summary I really enjoy my blogging with TGC and I am finding it a powerful developmental process – both personally and professionally.
I’m really interested to hear from other bloggers about their blogging journeys. As it’s such an individual process I expect there to be some diverse and different experiences of blogging. Also it will be really fascinating to see what patterns emerge, particularly around the learning experience of blogging.
So, a call to fellow TGC bloggers to share your experiences of blogging and how you notice that evolves for you!