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  • Helen Woodward

So what is it you do exactly?

Updated: Jun 15



It’s a good question, and one worth dwelling on for all of us.


Reflecting on the last two years, most work begins with a top line inquiry. Sometimes initially about leadership development, supporting the start of a new project or major change, or perhaps noticing the need to take stock, reflect and re-orientate. In the first instance, I listen, carefully. I listen for the story. The client’s story, (Egan 1998) how the world is showing up for them (Sieler 2003). How they experience hope, disruption, challenge and commitment. Here the reason for the conversation being initiated can begin to emerge.


As the story unfolds, I still listen, and begin to ask questions. Some of the questions are just internal for me as I’m listening, is this about the past or the future, insight or action, individuals or a team? Is it about uncertainty, tragedy, issues or opportunities? Other questions I ask the client, perhaps for clarity, insight or understanding, and I listen some more. One client recently remarked on the silence.


‘During the coaching, even when I ‘thought’ I had ‘answered’ something, the silence remained, and this meant that I began to ask many questions of myself… This was a really enlightening and incredibly empowering experience for me and I try to use this type of reflective thinking a lot now…’


As a deeper story emerges there can be an opportunity with the client’s permission to offer some relevant theory, a model or framework for consideration. The purpose here is to help organise thinking and locate experiences in a framework so they can be seen through a different ‘lens’. Working this way facilitates gaining deeper cognitive understanding of what is often a felt experience or concern. This is a collaborative act. We consider together if it’s helpful. Does it enable understanding and new insight? Can a previously held belief or mindset be questioned? Does it open a window into exploration and possibility?


Together we work together towards identifying ‘One big thing’ (Kegan 2017) as a focus for a shift in ideas, mindsets, beliefs and commitments about what is possible. This is the focus point for the work going forward. From here the desired future can begin to be re-imagined, narrated and planned. A clear and longed for sense of purpose can re-emerge and be created. Supporting and challenging clients as they ignite interest, hope and commitment towards the future they desire enabling a re-connection with a purposeful way forward.


In summary this is about:


Listening

Asking questions and listening some more

Introducing relevant theory for insight and understanding

Helping the client find their focus

Building their longed-for future

The work can be 1:1 coaching, a consultancy process, leadership team development or a combination of all three. There’s always a strong theme of never knowing what will emerge. The courage leaders show as they engage with struggles and hopes is a daily reminder of the privilege it is when people invite you to work with them and share their journey.


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