Sunday, 11 August 2019

What I learned from training to be a Performance Coach in Higher Education

What have you learned recently, either professionally or personally? Have you found there has been an overlap between the two?

This year I trained and qualified to be a performance coach with the Institute of Leadership and Management. This is something I’ve wanted for myself for a while now so I was thrilled to finally receive my certificate. I learned a lot during the course. I increased my knowledge of the skills, behaviours and techniques required to become an ethical, non-judgemental coach who could successfully support someone else in the achievement of their goals. I also learned a lot about myself. I’ve picked out a few things below which might resonate with you too:

I can be determined when it matters:

When something enters my life that I am passionate about, it is all consuming. My determination to succeed at this meant I was motivated and organised. This was on top of starting a new job and still waking up through the night to feed my youngest. I took on board feedback, kept my learning logs and diaries up to date as I went along and met all my deadlines. I made it work by incorporating it into every aspect of my life. I practised my coaching skills in almost every conversation I could, even with my kids. Especially with my kids.

I experience the same highs and lows as everyone else

I went from 'the peak of inflated expectations' to 'the trough of disillusionment' about a third way into the course. Prior to taking the course, I’d read books, journal articles, watched videos and attended workshops. I had thought I knew a lot about coaching. It turns out, unsurprisingly, that sustained practise is completely different and much more intense than I'd realised. I seriously started to doubt that I could do it in the way I had envisaged. I had wanted this for a long time and it felt really miserable that I might not actually be any good at it. I have been aware of the Gartner Hype Cycle for years now so going back to it helped me realise I would get there soon enough and this is something I sometimes share with my students and clients to help motivate them.

Gartner Hype Cycle

Connections are important and take effort

During the coaching, I worried that I couldn’t connect with people. This was a concern because it is a crucial element of forming a coaching relationship. I’ve always preferred to read rather than socialise. There were difficulties with having friends when I was younger. Then circumstances in my marriage also meant maintaining friendships was challenging. On the other hand, I’ve always had jobs where I listen to people and provide them with what they need, or at least the skills to find it for themselves. People will stop me in the street to talk to me. They tell me I am calming and make them feel better, listened to and motivated. Reading my testimonials has given me confidence in this area and I'm aware that there's nothing like being given undivided attention to make people feel special.

Self-consciousness is not self-awareness

As I progressed through the course, my self-consciousness gave way to self-awareness. I could knowingly use various skills, models and techniques in the appropriate context and enable that ‘aha’ moment to occur. I learned that environment is incredibly important - one of my clients became visibly uncomfortable when we had to use a lecture room - which to her was associated with stress and pressure. I won’t make that mistake again. I now try to go outside whenever possible though of course, in Britain, that has its own challenges. I have had people telling me I am good and recommending me. My supervisor told me I could look harsh when closed but when open I had a rapport that he wished he could bottle. I'm becoming aware of when I have unreasonable expectations of others and at the same time I am learning to put boundaries in place.

A coaching culture benefits everybody in an organisation, not just management

Everyone in my organisation is technically entitled to access a coach. This is amazing. Yet it isn't taken up in the quantities you would expect, perhaps because it is perceived as something for management or for remedial action. Yet, you don’t have to be a qualified coach to use the skills with other people. Supervisors can ask open questions to doctoral researchers to help them understand their topic more. Tutors can paraphrase and summarise a student’s comment to ensure they have understood it correctly and increase confidence. Managers can help their staff work towards purposeful and realistic goals. And everybody would benefit from improving their non-judgemental listening skills.

I have gained a lot both personally and professionally from becoming qualified as a Performance Coach and I would like to thank Bernie Croft of Brunel of Brunel University London and Don Greenwood of Metice Development Solutions for accepting me on the course.

What have you been learning recently and what impact has this made on you? Have you signed up for something that will be starting shortly? I'd be delighted if you shared your experiences in the comments

Monday, 22 July 2019

What are you proud of?

When people ask me what I’m proud of I usually think of how I’ve made others think and feel. I reflect on my coaching and teaching all the time – how can I improve it; what went right/wrong etc. When it comes to life events I don’t tend to celebrate but then I try not to ruminate either – it’s a protective mechanism. Inspired by a recent post I read, I started making a list:
  • Getting into university despite those close to me saying I shouldn't and being homeless when taking my A Levels. I tanked my A Levels which my parents said they were happy about as it would ‘show me’ but the uni let me in anyway! 
  • Moving to London from Yorkshire (yes it was to follow a boy but I still made the move ‘down south’ which I’d been warned about)
  • I completed my Masters in my 20s when working full-time, suffering PTSD and severe depression while also being a carer for the boy (now husband).
  • Being awarded an all-expenses paid trip to a conference in Chicago because of my work achievements. I found out on the same day I was offered a new job.
  • Being named a Lis-Network Rising Star
  • Being nominated for a student-led teaching award despite not being a year into my new role
  • Presenting at two conferences on compassion and customer service while suffering morning sickness
  • Presenting a talk about compassion for our colleagues and students on the big stage at Internet Librarian International while heavily pregnant – I teetered a bit too close to the edge 
  • Passing my driving test at the third attempt when eight month’s pregnant (it was a busy year)
  • Breastfeeding my two little ones, despite working full-time
  • Starting a new job two weeks before going on maternity leave
  • Receiving my coaching qualification
These all required bravery and resilience yet I’d forgotten some of them. So I’m partly writing this post as a reminder to myself that I am enough, but also to you. When you’re going through a tough patch it can be helpful to look back and think how you’ve done it all before.

What are you proud of?

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Keeping up CPD when you've not had a decent night's sleep in years and have caring responsibilities

This is a post for all those who are unable to take part in conference season, for whatever reason. For those returning to work thinking 'how am I going to cope/prove I can do the job'. For those trying to balance work and caring responsibilities.

A major part of any professional role is to engage in continual professional development. It keeps skills, knowledge and behaviour up to date and to a standard, which is usually set by a professional body. For example:
  • Part of the requirements for gaining a fellowship of the HEA are "successful engagement with continuing professional development in relation to teaching, learning, assessment and, where appropriate, related academic or professional practices".
  • In librarianship, chartership is expected to be gained and revalidated continually.
  • In coaching, a coach is expected to engage in coaching supervision.

Pre children: I went to conferences. I sat on committees. I organised conferences. I organised training and development for special interest groups. I trained and developed others in my spare time. I took part in Twitter chats. I sometimes got up at 4am on a Saturday (what was I thinking?!) to traipse across the country to attend 'unconferences'. I wrote articles. I blogged on my own blog and wrote guest blog posts. I read widely and deeply and wrote book reviews. I delivered guest lectures. I attended guest lectures. I networked. I was enthusiastic... and tired.

I then had two children and changed jobs. I am still enthusiastic, and now even more tired.

We have been through some lovely ups and quite horrific downs with the children. But, good quality sleep, settling down with a good book, and networking till the wee small hours are all distant memories and unlikely to happen again for a while

Which brings me, finally, to my point. Is it still possible to engage in CPD when even a Twitterchat will most likely be interrupted by wailing and crying (sometimes from the children)?

This is how I sort of make it work.

Post children:
  • I am much more strategic in my approach to what is necessary - so fewer things but better quality
  • I still read professional books but much more slowly (I have book chapters marked out in my bullet journal that I am going to read that week)
  • I still read journal articles (I use JournalTocs to keep me up to date with what's happening)
  • I am growing a Twitter network of people in my slightly altered field which helps me to keep up to date and raise my own profile
  • I read the Wakelets of the evening Twitterchats 
  • I have started blogging again to aid my reflection and help others who wish to develop
  • I talk to my colleagues rather than just put my head down and get my work done
  • I attend lunch-time events where possible
  • I have engaged in workplace training, including finally becoming a qualified Performance Coach
It's not glamorous and I miss dressing up for conference dinners (see below) but this is what it is - and it's more environmentally friendly! There's probably more I could be doing but for now this is enough. Whatever you're doing is enough.

How do you make it work?