#cipdldshow – The Psychology of Coaching

My second session of the day is with Jeremy Snape from Sporting Edge @thesportingedge – ex England cricketer and now a sports psychologist – and holds the world record for the slowest bowler!

The CIPD use some of Jeremy’s models and approaches in their L&D qualification.

Jeremy’s big failure on the cricket pitch raised the question for him about what it is that means people thrive or fall in those situations when the pressure’s on.  This led him to study sports psychology at Loughborough Uni (great university! #biased!).  Reminds me of Kim Morgan’s piece for the #blogcarnival about the conditions needed for learning to occur.  In addition to psychology he’s spoken to neuroscientists to get a rounded view.

Jeremy sees the problem being that orgs think coaching is a ‘thing to do’ instead of seeing it as a ‘way of being’.  This is so so true.  Coaching is a mindset and a skill.  An art and a science.

So we can put a new skill into an org – e.g. to coach – but if stress levels rise then we’ll revert to our previous behaviours.  Neuroscience has shown that these 3 factors cause stress: novelty, uncertainty and uncontrollability.

When our perceived coping skills are in balance with the perceived challenge around us we work in flow and at our best.  But if the balance tips with challenge outweighing our perceived coping skills we go into threat state and we become stressed, fearful and our capacity for creativity and awareness of others decreases.

Jeremy showed a video of Matthew Pinsent from the gold medal winning race – the coach was working with what he could see and what the team were telling him directly.  The coach took Steve Redgrave to one side who was ‘staring down the barrel of the pressure of his 5th gold medal win’ and asked him to speak to James to help him feel OK because it was his first Olympic race.  The purpose wasn’t about James – James was fine – but it took Steve’s attention away from his own concerns and gave him something to keep occupied as they waited for the race.

Groups are now talking about:

  1. What was the coach’s mindset on the finals day?  2. What skills did he use?  3. What impact did it have?

1. Mindset – My job is to help my team perform at it’s best.  How can the most senior person take responsibility for the team?  How can they do that together without me being involved?  I’m not getting in the boat so how can I stay out of the boat / outside of the team to distance from the pressure and emotion of the situation?  > Usually when under pressure, leaders grab hold and control the living daylight out of things.  Being an effective coach requires you to take all emotional attachment off the outcome the team are going to achieve, or not.  Your work as a leader, developing your team should be done before it gets to any crunch points.

2. Skills – Getting the team to support each other.  It’s a few words or a question all the time – it’s not an end of year review approach when you bring out your coaching skills.

3. Impact – On James – it would have boosted and inspired him that he was being valued, that the most senior was giving something to him.  It also takes the emotional attachment for James away from the outcome, he encouraged him to focus on the process – focus on your stroke, focus on your rhythm.  It wouldn’t have had the same effect if Steve had said “come on, you can do this, we have to win this” – that just increases the emotion and pressure.

Video of a great dance coach – her view is that great coaches display : Extraordinary respect for detail, Inspiring for their passion, A core desire to see the person they’re coaching get better, Acknowledgement that it’s exhilarating for you as a coach to see others succeed, Allow others to discover for themselves, Calmness, Simplicity, Create the environment so the dancers learn for themselves.

Sharing a performance curve from research that shows the best results are achieved in a context of High Challenge and High Support.  The worst performance is when there’s High Challenge and Low Support – the environment when threat state is most highly triggered and people will shut down, they won’t experiment, they won’t be creative or find new solutions, they won’t say if they think a decision is missing critical information that they hold.  And people will leave – either physically or mentally.

Coaching is the root to achieving this because as a coach you believe in your coachee’s ability to learn and succeed for themselves, they talk as if the person’s already two steps of where they currently are, they feedback changes they’re observing in the coachee.

Empathy is the critical skill because you need to understand different needs and preferences, and as a coach you have to identify them and anticipate and work with those strengths and weakness, their sensitivities and preferences, and to their ability to handle challenge or provide extra support if that’s what they need at that time.  Don’t just sit down and start with the G of GROW.  Think about this person, what they prefer, what’s going on for them just now, what might they most need from me just now?  This is an intuitive place to operate from.  And you can ask them too – how are you today?  What do you most need from me in the conversation?  You don’t need to always guess.

Boris Becker video – notice the person, when they need to be in the gym, when they’re OK for a conversation – be on your toes the whole time and sense when the time is right to disrupt, to interfere, to make an observation.  Not a stale meeting – be in the moment, be aware, respond to the needs of your team.

Where’s the coaching in your org just now?  Structured and formal or Unstructured and informal?  Regular or Occasional?  Where do you want or need it to be?

Coaching Indian players and he’d wait for these informal moments to happen so that you drop questions at informal times – ask a question just before they’re about to get on a coach or plane so they can reflect on the journey.  Then ask them what they think at the end of the journey.

Video of Baroness Sue Campbell – you can’t change someone’s desire to succeed unless you create the environment – the coach isn’t the centre of attention.  You’re the enabler.  She had feedback years before – she was very “tell”, fast paced, she was in a show-off mode.  the person who’d fed back to her asked her “where are you when the game starts” – on the sidelines – “who’s in charge when the games happening” – the team – and “when do they get the chance to practice that skill if you’re always telling them” – oh.  You’ve got to help them do it for themselves and not take over.  Otherwise you create people who need constant spoon-feeding in the short term because they have no ability to figure things out and make decisions over complex situations that will create a successful business for the long term.

Respect the power of silence to let people think and do the inner work that they need to hear the question, process, reflect.  This is where the most powerful coaching moments happen.

Create the environment where failure is supported – otherwise people won’t try, they won’t stretch themselves out of their comfort zone.  Set experiments where people can fail safely and learn about the gaps they have in their abilities or knowledge.

Key points:

  1. Empathy builds trust
  2. Be a detective looking for clues of what to say when and how
  3. Ask questions to increase awareness
  4. Listening shows respect and allows synthesis
  5. Balance challenge and support

How to create a coaching culture – or a learning culture

Change fixed mindsets through education – expose them to other ideas and possibilities – if one person sets a new “normal” then loads more people will achieve it the next year because they now believe it’s possible, give them feedback about the mindset you see them holding.  As an exercise – think about – where will our industry in 5-8 years time.  Therefore what kind of skills, leadership and culture will we need to achieve that.  What’s the gap and how do we close it => drives a learning culture – curious about what’s coming next, how good could we be? Coaching enables that environment of a learning culture.  Are leaders role modelling a growth mindset?  Do they believe in nurturing and developing existing talent or do they just hire in big guns for lots of ££?  What limiting beliefs do you have in your organisation?

Guy Claxton sees the way a coach works with a learner at different levels – The level that builds expertise.  The level that involves learning to “be” the person you’re aiming to be – learning to play football is different to how you behave as a footballer – same very true as a leader – you might cognitively know what to do but you need to believe you’re that person to really live it and make it real. And.  The level of changing attitudes to learning itself – we’re in the business of encouraging our learner’s capacity to learn e.g. by failing to involve them in evaluation, by not allowing them to make mistakes.  If we take, as educators / coaches, all the responsibility for planning and sequencing learning then the learner will never gain that sense of responsibility and the skill of shaping their learning needs.  They’ll know what needs to be pushed next.  Creates a partnership with the coach.  If they can do this, they can solve any problem.

Are we just trying to get through this next deadline or are we looking to build skill, capability and responsibility for the future?

Top tips :

  1. Develop resilience
  2. Break the fixed mindset
  3. Move from transactional to transformational
  4. Content starts conversation
  5. Fuel learning and curiosity

This post has been live blogged from a session at CIPD Learning & Development show.  I’ve shared as I’ve heard it so there may be typos and I won’t have captured the whole thing but the intention is to give you a good sense of what was shared.

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