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The Performance Coach blog

Below you'll find some interesting articles about developments in the world of coaching and leadership development. Enjoy, and if you'd like to subscribe to posts, just join our mailing list here.


Coaching and mindfulness - an introduction / free webinar

Coaching and mindfulness

In this blog post Sally Bogle introduces her work and writes about her forthcoming webinar for The Performance Coach on coaching and mindfulness.

I am a coach and facilitator, working both as an associate of The Performance Coach and independently. I have been coaching for thirteen years and over the last few years have become increasingly involved with training other coaches. I have also had a mindfulness practice since 2009 and am involved in running mindfulness retreats in Dorset.

Some of the now much-discussed and written-about benefits of developing a mindful meditation practice speak directly to some of the biggest challenges that face us as coaches in serving our clients in the most helpful way, consistently. Benefits such as an enhanced ability to be present, calm and focused and having an increased sense of connection, empathy and compassion are, for me, at the core of good coaching. Since completing my coaching masters in 2005, developing a mindfulness practice has had more impact on my coaching and facilitation work than any other self-development I have done.

When you look at this list of benefits and add to it those connected with general health and wellbeing, it is also apparent that mindfulness can impact many aspects of your life. As such, it can also be hugely helpful to some clients, whether that’s in becoming more grounded and connected as a leader or in coping better with vast workloads and stress.

In our coaching and mindfulness webinar (on 7 April 2014) we will explore in more depth the benefits that becoming more mindful can bring to your coaching and also when and how you might introduce mindfulness to clients.

Most importantly, mindfulness is practice not theory and in order to really begin to understand what it is ‘to be mindful’, it is necessary to experience it not just talk (or read) about it. During the webinar I will talk you through some short mindfulness meditation practices, so please do make sure you have a comfortable, upright chair or firm cushions on the floor.

You can register for the webinar here.


The Gestalt approach to coaching

Gestalt image

Our next free coaching webinar takes place on 3 April 2014 at 14:00 (GMT) and will provide an insightful session on a ‘Gestalt approach to coaching.’ This session will be delivered by Jenny MacKewn who leads workshops on ‘Embodied Systemic Coaching,’ and ‘A Gestalt Approach to Coaching,’ in Years 2 and 3 or our MSc in Coaching and Development. You can register for the webinar here.

Webinar content

  • An introduction to Gestalt Coaching
  • The meaning of the world Gestalt
  • The goal of coaching – to raise a client’s awareness of how he/she is experiencing reality
  • The Gestalt cycle of awareness
  • The concept of the field – ie the context and circumstances in which the client lives and works ; or the context and circumstances around each one of us
  • The radical idea that – to a large extent – we all have some choice and some responsibility for how we see and experience the field (or the context and circumstances around us);
  • The way coachees (and coaches, of course) can actually transform their life experience through raising awareness of how they are currently perceiving the context around them and learning to change their habitual ways of perceiving
  • Methods of developing client’s awareness: 1) Through creative inquiry and experimentation 2) Through a dialogue (or horizontal and equal) relationship and 3) Through mindfulness training and activities

Style of the webinar

  • Some theoretical input
  • Some storytelling using real-life examples
  • Some experiential exploration
  • Some reflection on how to apply this webinar to your coaching clients
  • Some ideas for next steps in finding out more about Gestalt approaches to coaching

The goal of Gestalt Coaching

The goal of Gestalt Coaching is raising a client’s awareness of how he/she is currently experiencing or making meaning of reality. So that he or she has more choices and can take more responsibility for designing or authorising his or her own life.

How does Gestalt Coaching do this?

  • Method 1: Through creative experiments which are designed solely to develop the client’s awareness
  • Method 2: Through developing a dialogic or horizontal relationship
  • Method 3: Through mindfulness training and activities

In this webinar, we will explore Method 1 in some detail. In future webinars or our workshop, we explore Method 2 and Method 3 in more detail.

Register to attend the free webinar here.

About Jenny Mackewn

Jenny Mackewn is a creative catalyst and leader. She convenes a Masters Programme in Transformative Leadership at Metanoia; Leads Leadership and Constellations programmes at Schumacher College and co-leads ‘The Facilitator Development Adventure’. She works in a variety of settings ranging from large commercial companies to small community enterprise. Her passion is to bring together diverse individuals, groups and communities to co-create interconnection and dialogue by combining planned and emergent approaches to change. Jenny has worked with the Nowhere Group, Harthill Consulting, Bath Consultancy Group, as a Fellow at Bath University School of Management and as a writer and campaigner for Friends of the Earth. She has written several chapters and two books published by Sage.


Transference and Countertransference

Becoming ‘psychologically minded’ as a coach is a step towards deepening your own learning and development as an advanced practitioner. As coach trainers we often see this begin to develop once a coach has mastered the core principles associated with effective coaching. It is for this reason that this competence is one of the cornerstones of the 2nd year of our coach training programmes (Pgd Diploma in Coaching and Development and the EMCC Senior Practitioner Award).

This capacity enables us to develop the ability to notice in the moment, to observe ourselves, the coachee, our relationship, the system and to become more conscious of the interpersonal dynamics at play. 

A principle for coaches becoming more psychologically-minded is learning the importance of identifying and working with these interpersonal dynamics through reflective practice. In order to take control of, not be over-influenced by or manage these processes effectively, we need to learn to disidentify from them but to do this we first need to identify what may be occurring between us and our coachee.

Our next webinar on 17 February 2014 at 14:00 (GMT) will help you to explore some of the common interpersonal and psychological dynamics that occur between coach and coachee. Our intention is to support you in

  • recognising these dynamics
  • identifying their source and relevance to the coaching conversation
  • developing an understanding for working with them.

The key processes of projection, identification, transference, countertransference and parallel process will be discussed and we will look at how regular and active reflective practice including coaching supervision is an important tool for coach development and coach efficacy in the service of their clients.

The aims of the session are to:

  • gain insight into psychological interpersonal dynamics present in coaching and the impact they make
  • deepen your understanding of how you as the coach may unconsciously influence the coaching relationship
  • reflect on a coachee and understand how to apply the principles of reflection and supervision to your practice.

This will be a reflective and interactive webinar delivered by two of our Faculty, Dr Andrew McDowell and Damion Wonfor. It will also include an experiential component so please prepare yourself for this session by reflecting upon a recent coaching experience where you felt challenged or curious about your reactions to your coachee or where you noticed a potentially deeper dynamic in the conversation that you did not expect and you became interested in after the session.

Register for the webinar here.


Coaching women doctors

By Penny Newman

Much has been written about women on boards and the need to improve the talent pipeline. Many companies are now introducing targeted leadership development opportunities such as coaching, mentoring and sponsorship, backed up by senior level commitment, HR processes to enable women to work flexibly and measurement to see how they are progressing. 

Medicine is seen as a relative success story compared to other sectors as the proportion of women in medicine grew from by 14% to 43% between 1990 and 2013. However, women doctors constitute about 20% of board level members or equivalent despite being over half of medical school graduates for more than two decades.  In addition, they are choosing certain specialties, such as general practice, over others e.g. surgery.  

Barriers to progress for women in the private sector include stereotypical behaviours, lack of role models and transparent selection processes, exclusion from informal networks and work-life balance.  Together they constitute a “second generation gender bias” or one which “erects powerful but subtle and often invisible barriers for women that arise from cultural assumptions and organizational structures, practices, and patterns of interaction that inadvertently benefit men while putting women at a disadvantage”.

Given the latter is a societal and not solely organisational issue it is unsurprising the barriers to women doctors’ progress are similar, with specific obstacles unique to medicine e.g. career structure. Although the numbers of women on FTSE boards increased significantly between 2010 -2013, the NHS has done little to address the under representation of women – and women doctors – in recent years.

The case for investing in women in the private sector surrounds the business case and use of talent, also true for the NHS. However, women doctors’ differential progression both horizontally and vertically also potentially affects patient care and the ability to fill rotas 24/7, recruitment and retention, clinical decision making and consultation styles and NHS culture given the disproportionate degree of influence doctors hold. 

Given coaching is a tool that has been adopted to aid female career progression and manage transitions, as part of my MSc I looked at how women doctors use coaching through a literature review and short survey. 

There is a limited evidence base of executive coaching specifically designed for women and an even greater paucity on coaching and doctors so mentoring was included. This revealed a number of differences between women and men in their use of coaching and/or mentoring:

  • Women are less likely to put themselves forward for coaching, perceive barriers to gaining a mentor, perceive mentors’ unwillingness to enter into a relationship, and may lack opportunity to undertake projects that require mentoring.
  • A number of companies have specifically targeted coaching alone or as part of a suite of interventions
  • Senior women leaders want help in coaching with better influencing skills, having their voice heard, more presence and gravitas, developing self-confidence, managing organisational politics, help with networking, developing an authentic style and their career path.
  • It is recommended that coaching be offered as early as possible as well as at key career transition points and that coaching for men - as gatekeepers to board-level positions - should focus on how they can help women into senior positions.

In the NHS coaching has principally been available for senior managers e.g. as part of the NHS Leadership Academy programmes.  Of the small sample of 75 doctors surveyed the majority want coaching and it especially appeals to women.

  • Overall male and female doctors would use coaching similarly, to develop emotional intelligence (influencing, managing politics, self-confidence), balance clinical, leadership and work-life balance, and for career development and specific work objectives
  • More female doctors want coaching to help improve their influencing skills, and to develop a service, while male doctors would use coaching more to improve clinical, leadership and work life balance.
  • More female doctors perceived that coaching would benefit them when choosing to apply for senior roles, manage unacceptable behaviour, maximise impact at board level, help with exclusion from networks, and in appointment processes.  More male doctors perceived these barriers were not unique to women and that women may benefit from coaching in choice of specialty. 

Top 5 areas more unique to women doctors suitable for coaching

Female respondents

  1. Maximising impact in a part-time role
  2. Choosing to apply for senior roles
  3. Managing unacceptable behaviours
  4. Negotiating flexible working
  5. Exclusion from networks/maximising impact at Board level

Male respondents

  1. Maximising impact in a part-time role
  2. None of the areas are unique to women
  3. Negotiating flexible working      
  4. Perception of bias or discrimination
  5. Choice of specialty  

Given the need for leadership development for all doctors in addition to their clinical role, the study recommends that a coaching and mentoring programme should be open to both but recruit strongly for women and monitor to ensure 50/50 uptake given the barriers they face.  


What do we really mean by challenge in coaching?

Rubix cube. Article about challenge and coaching.

The 2013 Ridler Report outlined that one of the key qualities valued by sponsors of executive coaches is their ability to challenge the senior leader. Challenge is often an aspect of coaching discussed, expected and wanted by a coachee and is a cause of popular debate currently for coaches - but what do we really mean by challenge?

At The Performance Coach our perspective on challenge is that, done well, it enables the coachee to adjust their relationship with a current topic and to shift their approach, attitude, assumptions, thinking or behaviour so they can make new choices and become more productive; all with a view to benefiting themselves, others and the wider organisation. This is achieved through raising awareness, creating objectivity and building personal responsibility. It takes a coaching conversation from a place of 'comfort' to optimal awareness and learning without leaving the coachee feeling threatened or vulnerable.

In our 'Challenge and Coaching' webinar on Monday 27 January at 14:00 (GMT) we will explore this popular topic. The webinar will be an interactive 45 minute session and aims to provide you with a reflective space to consider your practice through the lens of challenge. In the webinar we will cover the following areas:

  •     Contracting effectively for challenge with the coachee and the organisation  
  •     The challenge threshold
  •     Dynamics of challenge 
  •     Effective models and approaches. 

We hope you will be able to make space to join us to reflect and further develop your own coaching approach. Register for the webinar here.