Actually, this entry is mainly just a link to an article on the Guardian website where I get a mention as a leadership coach. Read all about it here.
Matt’s right, in that leaders in all sectors are isolated: it comes with the territory. And one way of dealing with that is to have someone with some skills ‘offline’ to reflect with. One reason coaching works is because of the professional boundary: when I’m meeting with a client, my only agenda is his or her development: it’s not what s/he thinks of me, or if s/he’s happy.
I’ve just been to Stratford to see Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale – a great treat for an English graduate! It’s a weird play, and almost completely unbelievable… but still…
King Leontes runs a pretty loose ship of a kingdom: lots of wine and ‘informal’ relationships. He has a lovely wife whom he idolises; but then he starts to think she’s having an affair with his best friend. It was a chance remark and a glimpse of contact – really, there was nothing to it. But he fixes on it; and jealousy and rage turn him inwards. He lashes out at his wife; her unborn child; his best friend; his chief counsellor, his kingdom… in the current setting at Stratford, he ends the first part of the play alone on top of a huge physical tower of jealousy, fear and grief, where no-one can reach him.
It’s what pressure can do to leaders. It can be just one thing that goes wrong; but we lose perspective, and focus on that alone, and the world gets warped and twisted and remote; and the people around us stop trusting us, we turn inwards, become remote…
Of course, I think he could have done with a leadership coach. Maybe if he’d thought a bit more about how he was leading when times were good, he’d have had a better perspective.
So I’m sitting doing Maths revision with my son, and he’s struggling with SIN and COS and areas of triangles. It all comes over me in waves – the way I just scraped my GCE Maths all those years ago, how I felt like I was drowning in a sea of ignorance, slowly sinking beneath the waves, never to be seen again…
But then I remembered how I felt when he taught me to swim. Years ago, he was having lessons, and picking it up really well. I had never been much of a swimmer, and I thought – why not? If he can do it, so can I. Let him teach me – it’ll be good for both of us. And it was. He grew in confidence, and I learned better from him than I had from the guy who’d chucked me in the deep end and shouted at me when I was six years old.
The same was true just now – I shared my ignorance with him, and we worked on things together. I gave up – and he was in the position of having to ‘rescue’ me. The power shifted – and he’s working away now on his own while I come to write this.
It’s not enough to know the answer and be confident. Coaching is about really, truly not knowing, and trusting the client and the dynamic of the relationship to come up with the answer. For coaches, it’s all too tempting to feel we should ‘know the answer'; for buyers of coaching, it’s all too tempting to go for a coach who has wide experience in the business that the client is involved with. But ignorance really is bliss in coaching – scary, challenging, sometimes threatening… but the only place to start if you actually want to help someone learn something.
The first blog post… Perhaps this is a bit like going to a party that I’m a bit nervous about? I put it off as long as I can and then turn up as people are leaving, and see all sorts of interesting faces going in the opposite direction. Nothing I do can make it seem that they are the ones who got the time wrong…
So I enter the blogosphere – quite possibly just as everyone else is leaving. Hello! Anyone there?
This is weird. In theory there are several billion people out here, but my voice echoes as if in one of those otherworldly (yet clearly cardboard) Doctor Who sets from the sixties and I worry that the only person who’s going to jump out is an alien, whose response I won’t be able to understand anyway (unless it shoots me).
A few facts: I’m Jerry Gilpin, and I run a coaching and development business called ‘perception’, in the wonderful city of Bristol UK. Before this I worked as a chaplain in an Oxford University College (St Hugh’s), and before that I was a fulltime Christian minister in the Church of England. More bits of history will no doubt come out as we go along.
What’s the blog for? Well my friendly web-designer Christophe said it would be good for my SEO ratings; but more than that, I’ve had a sneaking feeling for ages that it might be a good way to discipline myself to reflect on the work I’m doing, and that some other people out there on the scary alien uninhabited planet might be interested – maybe people I’ve worked with… maybe my friends… maybe you, unknown person! So I’m giving it a go, along with Twitter (when I get round t’wit – sorry – and a tutorial from my son).
So how was it for you? Was this a good blog post? How will I find out? Will I measure my success on the numbers of responses I get, or simply on the number of posts I make? Because I know that I tend to judge my success on the basis of what others say and do, even though I can’t control that. We all do it. Maybe I should stick to what I can control personally – a minimum of one post every two weeks should be achievable, and I might do more. And if it echoes around an empty corner of cyberspace… well, it won’t be annoying the aliens.