Wednesday, 24 June 2009

London Coaching Group

I've just attended my first meeting of the London Coaching Group, an event which I can highly recommend. The Group meets monthly, usually with a speaker, although last night's event was 'Open Space' in which anyone was permitted to raise an issue and then lead a discussion. I led one on the themes:
- What value can research bring to the profession of coaching?
- What should we be researching?
In the discussion, it was claimed that, at least in Small and Medium Sized enterprises, there is no push to evidence that coaching works. The corporate market, however, is different, with a keen desire to measure coaching's Return on Investment. However, organistions are trying to do this, using the kinds of traditional methods they apply to face-to-face training programmes. What we really need is research that measures some of the long-term benefits of coaching.
I couldn't agree more.
For more information about the London Coaching Group see:

Monday, 15 June 2009

Intuition in Coaching

Review: Penny Mavor (2009) Intuition in Coaching: Preliminary Findings of an Exploratory Study, EMCC UK Conference, 7 April.

This is a thought-provoking article, on an intriguing subject – the potential links between intuition and coaching. As human beings, we all use intuition to varying degrees. The same, argues Mavor, can be said about our role as coaches. She acknowledges, however, that apart from a trickle of studies, very little research has been undertaken on this subject.

But what do we mean by intuition? There is, as yet, no universally accepted definition. Mavor presents a number of alternative perspectives. Dane and Pratt (2007: 40) for example, regard intuitions as ‘affectively charged judgements that arise through rapid, nonconscious, and holistic associations’. Hence, intuition contains features such as: ‘gut feelings or gut instincts’; speed – they arise rapidly; nonconscious information processing; and holistic associations including patterns, structures or schemas held in long-term memory.

The Mavor study used semi-structured interviews with 14 experienced executive coaches (8 males and 6 females) with an average of 14.5 years experience as a coach. The coaches were asked to report retrospectively on intuitive experiences in either one-to-one or group coaching. A series of 15 broad questions, elicited from the literature on intuition, were posed, each interview lasting approximately two hours.

The findings suggest that intuition is, indeed, very much present in coaching conversations. One coach, for example, talked about ‘out of the blue’ experience. The intuition ‘came from nowhere’. But it cannot be deliberately ‘called up’. Looking for it makes it difficult to find. The key seems to be being open and maintaining a ‘soft focus’, allowing intuition to give you messages and clues.

Intuition is more likely to be accessed if the coach has self-belief and self-confidence in what they do. But it is also essential that the coach gets themselves in the right physical, mental and emotional state to help them access and apply their intuition. This includes the coach’s:

- Attention to their own well-being
- The preparation they undertake before the coaching session
- The rituals or routines they use before the session to get into ‘the zone’
- Their ability to stay present and focused during the session

Preparation for a session depends on the individual coach. Some would read through the notes from previous sessions; others would look through coaching models or frameworks. The key, however, was letting go of analytical thoughts, of getting ‘grounded’ and quieting the mind. It meant being congruent, receptive, fresh, attentive and calm. This helps to develop the vital ingredient of rapport which allows the coaching conversation to access deeper levels of communication and beliefs, attitudes, emotions and feelings. Yet it also means having a level of detachment and objectiveness in accessing and applying intuition, and to present an observation as an offering as opposed to a profound truth. As one coach said, it means being “willing to put it out there and willing to get it wrong”. This is not a celebration of ignorance. As one coach commented, “you have to know your stuff”. Hence, intuition is mainly used by more experienced coaches. This is because they operate at an unconscious competence level. Experience enables coaches to chunk information so that they can store and retrieve it easily (Hayashi 2001).

It would be wrong to read too much into what is, at best, a small scale study. However, the findings here on intuition in coaching, seem largely consistent with much of the general literature on intuition. The study raises some important themes that are certainly worthy of further exploration.

Dane, E., and Pratt, M. (2007) Exploring intuition and its role in managerial decision-making, Academy of Management Review, 32, 33-54.
Hayashi, A.M. (2001) When to trust your gut. Harvard Business Review at Large, Feb, 59-65.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Mentoring teachers and trainers in Vocational Education and Training

I'm privileged to be working at the moment with a team of international researchers on a handbook for practitioners and decision-makers involved in mentoring teachers and trainers in vocational education and training (VET). The handbook will be designed for those who seek to set up and train for new mentoring systems in VET, or to improve current mentoring practice. Definitions of mentoring will be offered (in part to distinguish it from coaching, counseling and other helping services). Other chapters will deal with:

Setting up a mentoring practice in your organisation
Mentoring practice overview (map)
Recruiting mentors. Who should be a mentor – professional profile.
Identifying mentees
Matching mentors and mentees
Referral processes

The stages of mentoring
Building rapport
Setting direction. Planning and conducting the first meeting; planning and agreeing time; confidentiality; boundaries; expectations.
Making progress
Winding up
Moving on – what happens next?

Evaluating progress
Giving and receiving feedback
Measuring progress – formal or informal?
What can go wrong?
Raising causes for concern

A Peer Learning event: Mentoring in VET - European perspectives, will be held (venue to be announed) on 21 and 22 October, 2009. If you would like further details, please contact me at

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