The goal of coaching is for the coachee to look inside and discover their answers. This forces them to build their muscle of innovation and creativity, and so they often struggle. It’s vital that coaches allow their struggle and don’t interrupt by working too hard. If you are doing more than the coachee, you are not coaching!
The number one leadership initiative in any organization today is improved coaching. Coaching empowers employees, empowerment drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. At its core, coaching is about transformation. Leading distributed teams requires transforming how we coach and changing our play calls and playbooks to get things done. As a part of our interview series called “Moving From Command & Control to Coaching & Collaboration; How Leaders and Managers Can Become Better Coaches,” we had the pleasure to interview Stephen Daltrey.
Stephen Daltrey has a business background and is a fully trained Gestalt psychotherapist, qualified counsellor, and certified Mental health First Aid instructor. In addition, he is one of the most experienced coaches in the UK, with over 10,000 client contact hours.
Stephen’s expert coaching and tailored world-class support enables leaders to navigate multiple challenges and opportunities and succeed as their authentic selves.
Stephen is an author and speaker, has a Masters Degree in Executive Coaching and is accredited to PCC level with the International Coach Federation (ICF) and in MBTI and Hogan HPI, HDS & MVPI personality assessments.
Thank you for joining us to explore a critical inflexion point in how we define leadership. Our readers would like to get to know you better. What was a defining moment that shaped who you are as a leader?
I began my leadership career as an Officer trainee in the Royal Navy starting at 18. The Navy identified that there is no one leadership model and was good at encouraging us to understand and develop our natural leadership style within a hierarchical command structure. The training reinforced this at every point, including expeditions on Dartmoor, in small boats and real-time on warships at sea.
This input sustained me in my early career; however, the defining moment for me was when I had a mental health crisis and went into therapy. This was a life-changing moment for me, where I began to understand more clearly who I was, my values, and how I wanted to show up in the world.
I eventually undertook 12 years of continuous weekly therapy and six years of fortnightly group therapy, as well as training for nine years as a person-centred counsellor and gestalt psychotherapist. As you might imagine, I underwent a dramatic transformation. A core concept of Gestalt is the paradoxical theory of change, the idea that we change by becoming more of who we are. I then had the opportunity and ability to be genuinely authentic and apply this in my leadership role. My increased self-awareness and emotional intelligence also meant I could better understand myself, my teams and individuals.
An example was when I took an interim role as European Sales Director for a global luxury goods organisation. I was advised when I started that the only thing team members were interested in was money. When I met my direct reports, it was clear that what they wanted was some acknowledgement and appreciation. As an interim leader, I knew that I needed to connect with the team to achieve my challenging objectives quickly.
A few days into the assignment, the most senior salesperson, who had been with the organisation for 20 years and influenced the rest of the team, came into my office and was very angry about something I’d done. I was sitting; she was standing, so I stood up to meet her at the same level, apologised for my error, and told her with total authenticity, “ I can understand you being angry because I know how much you care about this organisation’. She stopped and said, ‘yes, yes, I do care’. I said, ‘I know you do. I’ve seen that since I arrived’. Her eyes slightly teared, mine too, and we had an I — Thou moment of recognition and connection. After that, she went out of her way to support me in achieving the ambitious goals and align the team behind me.
As a result, we created a great team spirit where people felt recognised and empowered, and we exceeded every target set for us. This, to me, was an example of authentic leadership linked to the emotional intelligence I had developed through my investment in my personal development.
John C. Maxwell is credited with saying, “A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” How do you embody that quote as a leader?
I believe influential leaders must invest in their personal development to understand themselves. Through this process, they can look inside and understand their authentic need in response to their context on a moment-by-moment basis. Understanding their authentic need enables them to be ‘A leader is someone that knows the way.’ Authentic leadership is powerful, consistent, transparent and builds trust in others. Followers need to feel safe and trust the leader’s values, judgement, direction, and commitment.
Personal development also builds inner confidence (when I review the testimonials of the clients I have worked with over the last 30 years, they site confidence as the number one outcome). This confidence enables leaders to ‘go the way’. This means scanning the horizon internally and externally to identify the challenges and opportunities ahead. With this knowledge linked to their internal wisdom, the leader sets a vision, aligns the team behind the vision, inspires them when things are challenging and continues to refine the vision as we progress. By this method, the leader shows the way.
How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?
In understanding management and leadership, it’s also helpful to understand the difference between an expert and a leader. When we start our careers, 90% of our activities are linked to ‘doing’ our expertise, and 10% will be people. For example, if you are an engineer or a pilot, you are fixing things or flying planes. Towards the end of our career and if you are now the CEO of an engineering company or airline, 90% of your activities will be people, and 10% will be your expertise. There is a point at which we switch from ‘doing’ to ‘being’. Leadership is about inspiration, motivation, shared values, and connecting with hearts and minds — in other words; we utilise our humanity to inspire our teams to achieve exceptional results.
In my experience, managers are focused on doing — they oversee the day-to-day tasks such as budgets, planning, organising resources etc. The step up to leadership is utilising our humanity to inspire, connect and empower others by operating as a coach to our teams, enabling them to discover their own answers and way forward. Key to this is appealing to shared values and creating an inspiring vision that can ultimately lead to organisational transformation. As ‘leader as a coach’ it can be helpful to recognise whether team members are staying in their comfort zone (operating from their expertise), whether they are at the crossover point between expert and leader or whether they have made the transition and are progressing on their leadership journey.
As an example, I was asked to coach an expert in their field by an organisation that wanted the individual to operate more as a leader. I explained this concept to the coachee (the person I am coaching) at the start of the process, and as the coaching progressed, the coachee ultimately recognised they did not want to become a leader; they wanted to stay an expert. This knowledge enabled them to converse with the organisation on the best way to proceed in their career.
We started our conversation by noting that improved coaching is the number one leadership initiative in any organisation today. What essential skills and competencies must leaders have now to be better coaches?
As leaders and managers, we have several skills to deploy. We can tell people what to do, sell people on a project or task (there will be a bonus, party etc.). We can discuss with our teams; we can teach our teams models, frameworks, and tools, and we can coach or mentor them. The difference between coaching and mentoring lies in expertise. If I’m a mentor, I will typically have 20+ years of experience and be the expert sharing my solutions. In coaching, the client (other person) is the expert. When I’m coaching, I ask my client which two of those they use most often. In my experience, people most frequently respond at this point with tell and discuss.
I then suggest to them that leadership is fundamentally about achieving two things, getting tasks done and growing people. I then ask them to think about why is it important to develop people? I do this because, in busy environments, most people are focused on getting tasks done. Coachees eventually respond that growing people leads to increased engagement, greater performance and productivity, with team members bringing solutions, not problems.
I then invite them to look at the list of tell, sell, discuss, teach, coach, and mentor and say that only one of those does both at the same time, so, as the person is completing the task, they are growing too. I ask, which of those six do you think achieves that? Many people say teach or mentor when the answer, of course, is coaching. Coaching works because as the team member or individual struggles to identify their solution, they grow in the process.
Essential coaching skills are:
Contracting — This takes place at the start of any coaching process and includes a discussion on confidentiality, identifying goals for the session, clarifying expectations for the coaching process, individual roles, self-responsibility, boundaries, and timings.
Self-awareness of the coach links to emotional intelligence and is about noticing what is happening inside you as a coach, what’s happening with the client and in the space between, i.e. the relationship. Did the client respond positively or differently to your last comment? What is the temperature in the relationship? Has it suddenly got colder etc?
Questions — utilising open questions — what, when, where, how, who — to draw out answers from the client. I advise not to use ‘why’ as this can seem like an interrogation. Also, we understand that closed questions can be answered with a yes or no, and we tend to use these sparingly in coaching, typically around the commitment to an action plan, etc.
Listening — in my experience of 30 years, I believe that up to 50% of the benefit of coaching is allowing busy, sometimes stressed individuals the space to offload and be received by the coach. Through my experience as a coach, I have concluded that learning to listen is an important life skill I believe should be taught in schools.
An excellent way to teach others how to listen is to get two people together and run a series of exchanges. Firstly, each identifies who is A or B, then A speaks, and B listens. In this first round, B cannot make any sound and can only use their body language and facial expressions to show they are following A. After a couple of minutes, it’s helpful to stop the participants and ask B how that was — B will often say that was terrible; I wanted to say XYZ! In my experience, if we ask A if they felt listened to, they will often say yes. The lesson for the participants is that we do not need to add our input; giving the other person the space to offload is best.
The exercise is then developed by switching roles with B speaking and A listening utilising non-verbal as before, including para-verbals such as the ah-ha, uh-hum etc., but no words. This further demonstrates that listeners need to add no comments to make the other person feel heard and understood. A final round includes both trying the listening role, including the non-verbal and para-verbal and introducing paraphrasing, where the person listening repeats a few words of their understanding of the other person, i.e. getting project X completed is important to you, I understand you are ambitious, etc.
Review of goals achieved and agreement on an action plan. Coaching usually starts with the coachee identifying goals for the session; the coach supports them in discovering their solution to achieving the goal during the session. The session will generally end with confirmation and commitment by the coachee to a plan with a timeline to take appropriate actions. In my work with senior leaders, CEOS, SVPs etc., sometimes they have no specific goal and simply want to offload, reflect and explore their multitude of challenges and opportunities and see where they get to.
Additional skills and competencies are included in my answers to subsequent questions.
We’re familiar with the adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” How are you inspiring — rather than mandating — leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling?
When coaching, I show clients two images. The first is a man with a net chasing butterflies. I advise, if you want to catch butterflies, you can run around with a net, get hot and sweaty, catch butterflies, and put them in a jar, but what are they trying to do? The answer is they always want to escape.
I then show a picture of a beautiful garden full of flowers and lots of butterflies on the flowers or in the air, and I say to my client — the alternative is you can create a beautiful garden, and the butterflies come of their own free will and choose to stay. I advise the difference between the two is the man with a net is applying ‘push’ management and leadership, and the beautiful garden full of butterflies represents ‘pull’ management and leadership. I then ask, do you want to be a ‘push’ or ‘pull’ leader? People naturally choose the latter, and this is how I invite and inspire them to utilise their humanity and invest in their personal development and upskilling to become a better coach as a leader.
An example of how I might build on this was an organisation where I was asked to coach a ‘command-and-control’ style leader to change his leadership style. As part of my coaching style, I hold the mirror up to share how the coachee impacts me. I contract for this as it can be challenging to receive feedback. With this individual, I shared how he seemed to be permanently on ‘transmit’ making little connection and showing no interest or empathy for me and suggested that in a parallel process, that was likely to be his impact on his team and the organisation. This came as a shock to the individual. Over time, as I engaged with him non-judgementally, he gradually became more willing to let go of ‘control’ and experimented with a more coaching and empowering style. A 360 exercise before coaching and post-coaching showed a dramatic turnaround in his style and the positive impact on his team and the organisation.
Let’s get more specific. How do you coach someone to do their best work? How can leaders coach for peak performance in our current context? What are your “Top 5 Ways That Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches?”
My coaching journey includes nine years as Director of Executive Coaching at the Academy of Executive Coaching (AOEC), a leading international executive coaching organisation. Included in this experience were five years as faculty on their International Coach Federation (ICF) accredited coach training programmes, where I observed and supported individuals to become skilled executive coaches. I have also conducted coach training for leaders in global organisations such as GE, Nokia, PMI International etc. My comments below reflect that experience and my sense of effective coaching.
Be Lazy- the coachee needed to be working harder than you
The goal of coaching is for the coachee to look inside and discover their answers. This forces them to build their muscle of innovation and creativity, and so they often struggle. It’s vital that coaches allow their struggle and don’t interrupt by working too hard. If you are doing more than the coachee, you are not coaching!
As business leaders, we are used to seeing a problem and quickly analysing and identifying a solution. The tricky thing for leaders as coaches is to let go of that process and understand that solving the problem is the coachee’s job, not theirs. Therefore, as the coach, the leader needs an ‘empty head’ to be open to observing and experiencing the coachee while solving the problem, not the leader. This is probably one of the most challenging aspects of learning to be a coach and undoing years and years of repeated behaviour.
I was a three-year lead trainer on Nokia Finland’s global leadership programme. Leaders flew in from around the world and were joined by multiple Finnish engineers and technical people. Nearly all delegates were experts at solving problems. Sometimes individuals became exasperated by the coaching process of not solving the coachee’s problem. I remember one delegate frustratedly saying to me, ‘if they are solving the problem, what’s my job?’ He also commented that a computer could ask coaching questions; why do they need human beings and leaders to learn this stuff?
Challenge & Support
If we are too challenging, we can overpower the coachee. If we are too supportive, we make the environment too cosy, and the coachee doesn’t feel they need to put in much effort. It’s, therefore, essential to get the right balance of challenge and support for the individual coachee.
As a coach, I get selected through chemistry sessions whereby a senior leader will meet three potential coaches to choose the one they want to work with. I have a high success rate because I emphasise that I challenge my coachees — most senior leaders respond well to this because subordinates are less likely to challenge them. Additionally, being willing to say what others have avoided saying to the leader builds trust in the coaching relationship.
I was asked to coach a very confident male leader to support their development as a coach. This individual had a straightforward style and was proud of his ability to say things as they were. Consequently, he would over-challenge his coachees, often his subordinates, leaving them feeling a little stupid and lacking in confidence. In my coaching, I helped him understand his style’s impact and needed to balance his challenging style with support.
When they are thinking, don’t interrupt (snow shaker)
When I contract with new clients, I show them a plastic snow shaker, a sphere filled with liquid and little plastic snowflakes. When shaken, the snowflakes swill around before settling down. Likewise, I explain to coachees that my coaching is all about transformation and change; therefore, there is likely to be a period of confusion and unsettledness while that change takes place. As a coach, we can see this taking place when the coachee stops and maybe their eyes look to the sky; they may lean back and are lost in thought. This is the gold dust of coaching; however, many new coaches feel uncomfortable with the silence and feel the coachee is disconnecting, so jump in and fill the space. This links to the need to ‘be Lazy’ above, cuts across the client’s change process, and defeats the object of coaching.
For example, I observed another leader on a coach training programme who was highly enthusiastic and energetic. To a certain extent, he wanted to push the coachee to succeed. As I observed, I noticed this leader as a coach constantly filling any space in the conversation with a desire to add more value and move the coachee forward. I showed him the snow shaker and helped him understand his need to drive for a solution was cutting across the coachees’ process and invited him to allow the client the space to process their experience and come to their conclusions.
This concept comes from Gestalt and is often seen as the most counterintuitive and challenging concept. As the name implies, the suggestion is that we are indifferent to the client’s success as a coach. I appreciate this may sound unproductive; however, given the client is the expert, the focus is on them to take ownership and responsibility for identifying a solution and taking positive actions through developing a plan to deliver the desired outcome. If we are a cheerleader, the client may adopt a plan to please us and then deliver poor results and feel guilty they have let us down. They must be fully committed, not swept along by our enthusiasm for their ideas.
As a coach, it is often the case that we feel a strong connection and natural desire to support our coachees. This is particularlyly the case when a coachee has had a difficult journey and may lack confidence. In my early career learning to be a coach, I had to let go of ‘Rescuing’ my clients (see below). I had to endure the personal pain of being creatively indifferent and seeing them struggle when all I wanted to do was make it easier for them. I learnt over time that it’s only through the client’s struggle to discover themselves and their answers that they ultimately grow.
Empower, don’t Rescue
An interesting psychological process is known as the Drama Triangle, linked to Transactional Analysis, referred to below. There are several interpretations of this model; mine has been developed through personal experience and from listening to hundreds of coachees describing very similar experiences. Imagine a triangle with the word ‘Rescuer’ at the top, ‘Victim’ bottom left corner and ‘Persecutor’ bottom right corner. If you start at the top and work your way around a triangle, often the Rescuer does everything they can to help the other person. Yet, at some level, the person being ‘Rescued’ can feel like a Victim who will eventually go on to Persecute the Rescuer.
If you think about it, how often have you put energy into a friend, relative, colleague or artist and felt like you’ve been effectively kicked in the teeth for your trouble? When I ask coachees or audiences this question, most people nod their heads. I was a massive Rescuer in the past and experienced this result countless times before I was shown this model.
Let me share an example of how this can innocently work in practice. Ten years ago, I had a client who loved their organisation so much that they sacrificed evenings, weekends, and holidays. They would travel anywhere at the drop of a hat to ‘support/help’ the organisation and its people. I was asked to coach this person by the organisation, as the feedback was they were too emotional and too intense, and while they were well-intentioned, the overall impact was not positive.
As you can imagine, the coaching client was devastated to learn this because all they wanted to do was ‘help’ and add value. After some discussion and explanation, I shared the Drama Triangle with the client, and it had a powerful effect. This person immediately understood the impact of their behaviour and why the organisation responded as it did in the role of the Persecutor.I explained to the client that the best way to help another person — or even a whole organisation — is to empower them, not rescue them. To challenge and support them to step up, identify a plan and move forward — in other words, be a coach to them.
We’re leading and coaching in increasingly diverse organisations. And one aspect of workforce diversity on the rise is generational diversity. What advice would you offer about how to effectively coach a multi-generational workforce? And how do you activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce?
I mentioned above my four years of training as a person-centred counsellor, which Dr Carl Rogers, an American psychiatrist in the 1940s, developed. His teachings have profoundly impacted my coaching, and I believe they are invaluable in understanding how to coach a multi-generational workforce.
As an ‘expert’, it was his job to tell people what was wrong with them. Over time, his thoughts developed along the line of, ‘How can I tell them who they are when they have known themselves over a lifetime? How can I help them discover who they are and discover their answers to their problems rather than telling them my ideas and solutions?’ He turned conventional wisdom on its head; instead of the doctor being the expert, he realised the patient was the expert. He then recognised that if he offered three elements in terms of the way he related to his patients, it would stimulate their ability to discover their answers, heal themselves and move forward in their lives.
If you think about it, a tree needs three things to grow and flourish: sunshine, water and soil. Fascinatingly Carl Rogers identified that human beings also need just three ‘Core Conditions’ to grow, Empathy, Non-Judgementalism/Acceptance and Authenticity.
I want to share how these three simple elements combined are extremely powerful and shaped my coaching journey.
Many years ago, I was a volunteer youth counsellor and received a phone call about a young person who was suicidal. Could I immediately go and meet them? The client sat opposite me when I got there and cried continuously for 50 minutes. I stayed with them and didn’t say anything. My heart went to them, and I genuinely offered these three conditions.
When I saw the client the following week, they were completely different! The client looked so well and said, ‘For two years, I’ve had the most terrible sinuses and pains in my body; I’ve felt blocked and miserable. I’ve had acupuncture and tried all sorts of remedies, but nothing worked. After seeing you last week, the discomfort has reduced by 50%. I feel better than I have in such a long time.’
While it took me four years of training as a Person-Centred Counsellor to thoroughly learn how to offer these in a clinical setting, the good news for managers or leaders, it’s something they can use in their coaching toolkit right away.
Empathy -all human beings want to be Heard & Understood; this applies across generations. Utilising the listening skills shared earlier and demonstrating empathy for the employee or group has a powerful impact that builds connection.
Non-Judgmental/Acceptance- This is one of the most potent forces in connecting with others, no matter who they are or how different they may be from us as leaders and coaches. The more I accept my coachee, the more likely they will begin to accept themselves and me as a leader or coach.
Authenticity-we can all spot a phoney, and authenticity leads to consistency of behaviour and, most importantly, builds trust. Trust is the basis of all relationships.
To activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce, we need to combine the elements featured so far:
-Set an inspiring vision that appeals to shared values.
-Develop a ‘pull’ coaching culture that draws potential and performance from the workforce.
-Utilise the core conditions as the basis of coaching or relationship combined with the coaching skills listed above, including goal setting, challenge and support ownership, and self-responsibility.
The Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) can also be very powerful in enabling multi-generational workforces to understand and accept each other. At the end of WWII, a mother and daughter decided they wanted to help end all future wars by enabling people to understand and respect differences in others. They developed the Myers Briggs type indicator (MBTI), which explains how our brains are wired and enable people to understand themselves and accept the difference in others.
As an example, if I ask you to choose between one of the following questions, which would you choose –
You can only play when the work gets done, or you can play anytime, and the work will get done. This represents the Judging and Perceiving axis on MBTI and is a great exercise to run with a team.
People with an MBTI ‘Judging’ style like to close things down, so they would identify with the former, while people with the MBTI ‘Perceiving’ style like to leave things open, so they would identify with play anytime.
I highlight this because leaders as coaches must suspend judgement as described earlier and be open to the difference in the people they lead and coach. A young person of 20 will see the world very differently than someone aged 40+, and coaching is the way to enable that potential to emerge if we want to release the collective potential.
There are two approaches to coaching; one is structured, where the coach imposes their structure to ‘guide’ the coachee to discover an answer, i.e. the Grow model. The alternative is an Emergent style where we create solid boundaries of confidentiality, ethics, professionalism, etc., yet place no structure to the discussion, allowing whatever is within the coachee to emerge and be expressed. As a coach, I prefer the latter and encourage coaches to let go and allow their client to discover their emergent process. Adopting this Emergent approach as a leadership tool across an organisation can support the activation of the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce.
You’re referring to emotional intelligence, in a sense. What are two steps every leader can take to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence?
- Be fully present in your interactions with employees — clear your head of any other issues when dealing with people. Give them your full attention in the moment, and don’t be distracted by your phone/emails/other issues. A simple tip for this is to take a conscious breath before any interaction so that you can gently bring your mind into focus on the person in front of you.
- Pay attention to your body language, especially in challenging or potentially argumentative situations. Keep your body open (sit or stand up straight, look directly at the other person and don’t cross your arms) and nod or tilt your head while the other person is talking. These are respectful and positive gestures that demonstrate approachability and your willingness to listen.
- Get some coaching!
Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?
I’ll begin with a word that many will find controversial in the context of leadership. The word is ‘I’. Having coached hundreds of leaders worldwide, I’ve noticed that approximately 80% of coachees, when talking about themselves, will speak in the third person. E.g. they may say, ‘you get challenged’, ‘you struggle to find the way forward’, ‘you want to do the right thing etc. In my coaching, I highlight this and invite them to own their language and themselves. Coaching clients are often amazed at how wedded they are to third-party language.
I do this to reinforce authentic leadership, as described earlier. The small but powerful change enables the leader to have a more significant presence, impact and authority and builds trust in followers because the leader owns their statements. Who wants to follow a leader that doesn’t appear to be willing to back up and own their leadership decisions?
Of course, when discussing the collective, it will be important to use ‘We’ etc., and the fear from many coachees is they don’t want to sound like some of the leaders they’ve observed where it’s all about them, and they take credit for everything.
In terms of language, leaders need to use assertive language. There is a concept known as Transactional Analysis (TA) and it’s a really handy way to understand and analyse interactions and communication (transactions) between people.
As a coach, I’ve worked with many coachees in challenging, high-pressure situations who ask me how they can get the other person to change. My response is always the same: the only person in the world you can change is yourself. I invite my coachees to identify their part in any difficulties; the idea is that it’s not all the other person’s fault — both people contribute to the overall experience. The beauty of TA is that it can give you a sense of control and choice by enabling you to identify what’s happening when things start going wrong. It then empowers you to make immediate changes and improve the communication between you and the other person.
Have you ever had the experience where you’ve thought, ‘Oh, I’m beginning to sound like my mum/dad?’ A core principle of TA is that the way we react to people or situations today is based on our childhood. It’s about how we experienced our parents or primary caregivers and the multitude of ideas, beliefs and behaviours we naturally absorbed from them.
The idea is that we each have three ‘ego states’: Parent, Adult, Child. An ‘ego state’ is a bit like a computer programme; it’s simply a consistent pattern of behaviours, thoughts and feelings that we exhibit when we respond from each of those three different positions. Let’s take a look:
Parent (P) — (Values) This is where you react to a person or situation in the way that your parents, or significant others did to you when you were a child. The parent state is essentially about rules: ‘You got that wrong, you should have done it my way!’ You might recognise someone as being in their Parent if they are blaming, criticising or continually need to prove a point.
The Parent ego state is rooted in the past, and two types of Parent can manifest, depending on your life experience.
- Critical Parent (CP) — Controlling, critical, negative, dominant: ‘Do things my way, do what I say.’ The aim is to control the child’s behaviour. The child’s response to this is to either adapt and be compliant/pleasing or to rebel.
- Nurturing Parent (NP) — Caring, sympathetic, protective, non-judgemental. The aim is to create a safe space for a child to grow and flourish.
Adult (A) — (Assertiveness) This is where you react to a person or situation in the present (the ‘Here and Now’). Your decisions and views are based on your own life experience, logic, and reality rather than your parents’ influence. You are therefore more comfortable in your own skin and operate assertively in the world. Your Adult also balances the inputs from the Child and Parent to identify the best decisions for you.
In TA terms, your Adult is the ideal place to operate from in the world, and the goal of TA is to continually strengthen your Adult. Using coaching techniques with your teams is a great way to grow their Adult, and leads to assertive communication and enhanced relationships.
Child © — (Emotions and creativity) This is where you react to a person or situation as you did as a child, from a much more emotional basis. Two types of Child can manifest, depending on your life experience.
- Adapted Child (AC) — Restrained (as if a parent is watching you), sad, anxious; you will either try to fit in by being a ‘pleaser’ or be rebellious. This is the more challenging aspect of our personality.
- Free Child (FC) — Spontaneous, expressive with laughter or free to show anger, sadness or frustration. This style can be mixed with both naivety and vulnerability, as well as curiosity and adventurousness.
- Here are some ways way to use TA:
Stay in your Adult. As stated above, this is your ‘Here and Now’ view of the world based on your own experience and not influenced by the past. Recognise any pull towards your Critical Parent (as in the example above) or Rebellious Child, for example. Connecting to your Adult is more likely to encourage the other person to operate from their Adult too, potentially enabling a more positive outcome. The awareness concepts you’ve learned in this book will enable you to strengthen and operate from your Adult. Naturally, receiving coaching yourself will also accelerate the process.
Notice. My coachees often ask me for ‘homework’ after their first coaching session. My answer is to invite them to notice their inner and outer response to the world, in the weeks before our next session. I invite you to do the same and notice or keep a log of when you are in Critical or Nurturing Parent, Adult or Adapted or Free Child mode. What was it about the other person’s response that led to that reaction? Which of your ‘hot buttons’ might have been pushed? Where do you operate from most of the time? How could you achieve more balance?
Coaching will support your teams to grow their Adult ego state and operate from there more frequently. This will be beneficial to both of you.
- As you can see, understanding the basic principles of TA can improve your communication, help you notice and break repetitive patterns of unhelpful behaviour and lead to better relationships. The positive news is that, while our Adult is continually updating based on our life experience, coaching can update our Parent and Child ego states as well.
- My coachees will often say to me, ‘I was about to do X when I heard your voice inviting me to do Y,’ when for example, I may have given them permission to stop working so hard and build some fun into their lives (Free Child). Being coached and spending time with positive people can replace and update some of our past unhelpful Parent and Child inputs. Naturally, operating as leader as coach will support their growth and ability to operate more effectively in the world.
I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite “Life Lesson Quote,” and why does it mean so much to you?
Charles Dickens’, ‘A Christmas Carol’ has always inspired me. Those familiar with the story will know it’s about Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly man who has shut himself off from the world and focused on money. To offer him a chance at redemption, his ex-business partner Jacob Marley visits him as a ghost to advise that three more ghosts will visit him — Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future.
Marley is a sad figure, grey and wrapped in chains. Scrooge says, seeking to reassure Marley, ‘but Jacob, you always were a good man of business. At this, Marley rises into the air and screams, ‘Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business ;charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence, were all my business’
That quote has always struck me since I was a child, as I’m naturally focused on people. And, of course, as coaches, we are focused on the potential and development of our coachees. Yes, it’s about business, but ultimately it’s about growing the person in front of you, rather than making more money, so they can be more effective in work and life and contribute.
As a coach with 30+ years of experience working 1:1, I’m interested that the story grabbed me at that young age. As I mentioned earlier, I underwent therapy transformation and redemption. I can identify with the transformation in Scrooge and, of course, the potential for transformation in everyone, which is why we need to be non-judgemental and empower others to grow.
I also find it fascinating that the ghosts were, in effect, coaches and Dickens worked this out in 1843! The ghosts hold the mirror up to Scrooge of his behaviour — past, present and potential future — allowing him to work out for himself that he wanted to change his ways. This is precisely how I work in 2023! And as the story reveals, following this powerful coaching intervention, Scrooge does indeed become ‘as good a man as the good old city knew’.
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I recently published the first book of a series entitled ‘Deep Satisfaction in Life and Artist Management’. The book is written for the music industry where I coach; however, the lessons apply to any manager or leader. I propose that to be successful, artist managers must invest in their personal development and become more of a coach to their artists. The book has 21 chapters designed for leaders to dip into at any point and gain practical success tools, techniques and psychology. It will be helpful for any manager wanting to become a better coach.
I’ve written several articles on leadership topics, which are available on my website www.stephendaltrey.com where you can sign up for my mailing list for regular communication.
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