On learning to listen

On learning to listen

What an interesting, if exhausting, weekend. I spent it at a venue in central London on an “Introduction to Personal Performance Coaching” course and felt, particularly at the end of the first day, as if I had, to quote me ould Irish granny, been “ridden hard and put away wet.”

(That’s a saying about horses. In case you were wondering).

Unlike, I think, about 98 of the 100 people there, I was pretty sure when I booked the course that I was unlikely to be paying for future coaching courses and so I went in with the mindset that learning more about what coaching is and how I could acquire those skills in order to be a better people manager in my next job would be a really good outcome for me. On Sunday afternoon, we were asked by the trainer if we saw ourselves having either a part-time coaching business (two thirds of the room), a full time business (most of the rest) or just using the skills: me and one other person.

So, what did I learn? Well, first of all, it was good to spend two days with a very nice and amazingly diverse group of people and to hear their stories. A lot of coaching is focussed on listening to the “client” and so, when we were having our “peer coaching” sessions, I, as the “coach” closed my mouth, opened my ears and really, truly, listened. At first, that felt, and here I’ll be brutally honest … extremely hard. But, like any other muscle, you can train it to do your bidding and so I felt that my listening skills were much improved by the end of the two days. We also had to act as “observers” to others when they were, respectively, the “coach” and the “client” and that was a great object lesson in listening, observing but also giving thoughtful and constructive feedback.

As my own life is still in something of a tsunami of thoughts, decisions, options and confusion following on from my redundancy, I found the sessions on goal setting to be really helpful, albeit they did open up quite a can of worms for me when I thought about what I’ve achieved so far and where I hope to be. The trainer-cum-coach, Ann Skidmore , was just fabulous at working with us as a group and helping us to understand so much more about the goal setting process and why people find it so hard.

We also spent time working with Pam Lidford on our beliefs and she explained to us that, when we align goals with our values, success will follow. Pam clarified all of this with a series of great exercises around the concept of moving from a comfort zone to a stretch zone to a panic zone (and back again) and helped us to recognise where we are and how we feel (familiar and cosy – or stressed and unhappy, depending!)

I was also fascinated to learn how those who wanted to set up their own coaching businesses planned to do so and I met several women who hope to, for example, coach and support other women who want to return to the workplace after a career break, or who would like some coaching help in coping with the curve ball that can be new motherhood. Others wanted to break into the corporate/executive coaching and leadership space and we had some interesting debates around the issues facing women in business. And some men and women wanted to do the youth coaching diploma and work with young people; it was wonderfully heartening to see their passion and commitment to making a difference to the lives of the next generation.

The final session was applicable to the 98% but not to the one other bloke and me who didn’t want to set up our own coaching business, as it was all about how to get going, how to get clients, what to charge and so on.

However, on the premise that nothing is ever wasted, I listened in and hence took away the suggestion that using Twitter can be a great way to connect with people and get your message out there. As I’m nothing if not a late adopter … The Gender Blog is now on Twitter and you can see a link to my “tweets” on the right of the screen. Come and find me and join in.

My tweets thus far have been about the “Girls’ Night In” charity event I’m organising for later this week; I’ll be blogging about that tomorrow and there’s also a link to my “Just Giving” page here and on the right under the “Blogroll” section.

Thank you in advance if you feel able to make a donation to support Plan International’s work for girls and women around the world.

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