Recipe to Ease Overwhelm

Recipe to Ease Overwhelm 20150805

 

Sometimes, in spite of all of the self care practice you can muster, your day just goes off the rails.

Maybe it’s because a bunny chewed through the fuel line on your car.

Maybe it’s because you didn’t get enough sleep.

Maybe it’s because you took a few days off for vacation or because you’ve been ill.

Maybe it’s because you mixed up the dates on a deadline.

Maybe it’s because someone else mixed up their dates and suddenly hands you a deadline.

Maybe it’s because life can just get life-y and throw a whole lot at you all at once.

You look up and you’re in overwhelm. It’s a horrible feeling — having a whirling dervish of panic flying around in your head — and just makes a difficult day even harder.

My hubby was in overwhelm recently and told me so. I couldn’t remove anything from his proverbial plate, but I could help him walk through the process of collecting his thoughts and sorting through them so that some of the anxiety could be set aside. Having a clear head and remembering to breathe makes those pressing tasks much easier to accomplish.

When we’re worked up, we just don’t think clearly. We feel like we don’t have time to stop and make a plan. The reality is that we must pause and assess before we can get anything of value done.

So, when I encounter someone in overwhelm — or am feeling it creeping into my day — here’s what I do.

(1) I tell them to breathe.

It’s essential. You’re going to do it anyway. Give it your attention for a moment.

(2) Then I walk them through a dervish dump and sort.

Basically, you get it all down — everything that’s flying through your head — and then sort those items into what really must be done today and what can wait.

(3) Then come more reminders to breathe.

It’s amazing how our bodies respond to intentional, slow breathing.

At that point they are usually calm enough to take it from there. If not, we rinse and repeat.

Overwhelm happens to the best of us. It’s not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s a sign that you need a moment to pause and plan. So, next time you hit overwhelm, remember to stop, breath, list, breathe, sort, and breathe.

The image is a colorful, painted background with the Recipe to Ease Overwhelm written on it.

Happy Quote: Leader by Example

 

QuoteAccept that as you create your right life, you’ll become a leader automatically; not because you’ll want others to follow your rules, but because they’ll want to follow your example.

–Martha Beck

Celebrating the Launch of Self Care Day on the 6th

Sept 6

The first time I recall ever hearing “Self Care” mentioned was a little over 10 years ago. I was sitting in my therapist’s office, exhausted, depressed, and hurting all over. I had just given birth to the Diva Princess, been handed two diagnoses within a month of one another — autism for Berns and lupus for me —  and was worn down to the nub from giving every ounce of energy, love, and attention to the needs of a newborn, her still-a-mystery-to-me brother, and their spiraling-from-the-weight-of-it-all dad.

As I sat in pj’s office venting all that was pissing me off, weighing me down, and breaking my heart, she said something to me that might as well have been whale song.

“Gina, you are going to have to take better care of yourself. You have to sleep. You have to eat. You have to go to the doctor. Your kids need a mother who is strong and you can’t be strong if you don’t do some self care.”

Self care?

I suppose I gave her my best golden retriever head cock, because she went on to say, “Yes. Self care. It is not selfish to keep yourself alive, healthy, and happy.”

Wait. What?

Luckily pj was a font of patience and walked me through the fog of self-denial into some pretty painful self awareness and on out the other side. I did a whole lot of work in those five (five!!) years of therapy with her. But it all really started with my nails.

Two Years Later…

I didn’t say this happened quickly.

While we were in Florida at the end of my father-in-law’s life, I went with one of my favorite people on the planet — my sister-in-law, E — to wait with her while she had her nails done. While I was sitting there, I decided that, heck, I could get my nails done, too. It had been a couple of years since I had and it was always for special occasions like a wedding or prom. I suppose I rationalized that a funeral was a pretty special occasion. Regardless, I got my nails done. I felt 72% more beautiful. Sure, it’s silly, but it was true.

So, I kept getting them done. Every 2 weeks for the next 6 years I went in for my manicure — an act of pure selfishness. No one benefited from this activity but me. Just me. All me. It was revelatory. It was an act of self care and it was the beginning of my taking myself seriously.

So Now…

As a coach and friend, I’m often “giving permission” to people to take care of themselves. Sure, there are a cadre of narcissists out there who do nothing but care about themselves, but most folks are pretty giving. And a certain segment of folks were taught that anything they do for themselves is immoral and selfish. They’ll drop everything to race across town at the slightest indication that someone neeeeeeds them, but they won’t walk across the room to meet their own needs.

Well enough of that!

As Joyce Rupp would say, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” So, it’s high time you started refilling yours. And now there’s an official day to do it — the 6th of each month. Why the 6th? Because the idea came to be when we were talking about the facebook games about breast cancer, and I do my monthly self exams on the 6th (it’s Berns’ birthdate).

As I said when this thing popped into existence as a fully-formed idea, urged on by Page and CG:

I am — as the winner of the Internet (see: Bacon Klout) — declaring the 6th of every month Self Care Day.

What does that mean? It means that we’ll remind one another to take good care of ourselves on this day. You know, perform your self-check (skin & moles, breasts, etc), make your dentist appointment you’ve been putting off, get a massage, take a nap, start a class, clean the slate, laugh, polish your nails, or whatever it is you do that nurtures you.

It’s officially official, so there are no excuses big enough to put you and your health on the back burner any more. I’d love for you to share your Self Care Day activities in the comments.

I anticipate future posts about specific kinds of self care, how folks are observing the day, the Self Care Day T-shirt launch, the app, and the commemorative bracelet charm. Or maybe I’ll just be satisfied knowing that the folks I love are taking better care of themselves.

Either way, pretty please take really good care of yourself. It is not selfish to keep yourself alive, healthy, and happy.

It’s your job.

My Journey with Graphic Coaching

Graphic Coaching

Note from Gina: As a coach and facilitator, I use a number of tools to help folks get from where they are to where they want to be. One of my very, very favorite ways to work is graphically — through PATH and other “big paper” methods as well as in smaller, table-top graphic formats. Who better to explain how this works than the smart lady who graciously taught me how to put it all together? Read on as Christina Merkley explains, in her own words, her role in bringing visuals and coaching together into one pretty powerful package.

My Journey with Graphic Coaching

By Graphic Coaching Pioneer, Christina Merkley

I was interviewed about my Graphic Coaching niche for an American T.V. show earlier in the year … called Meet the Experts (see video to right).

While Arielle Ford and I didn’t have time to go into it, many people ask me how I came to have such an unusual profession … so this article outlines the evolution of Graphic Coaching and the path I took to create this my unique work and how I now teach others to do it too.

Early Background:

For many years I worked in both the United States and Canada as a ‘graphic recorder’ and a ‘graphic facilitator’, in corporate, governmental and not-for-profit settings. In a nutshell, both these roles use visuals to help groups understand each other and make collaborative decisions.

Always interested in personal growth, in 2000 I enrolled in coach training via The Coaches Training Institute and also became an Alchemical Hypnotherapist. While I enjoyed my facilitation work with companies, it required me to travel extensively (leaving little time for anything else) and to sometimes work with organizational mandates I wasn’t fully aligned with. So I was on the lookout for an entrepreneurial venture that I could be morally congruent with and hopefully not travel as much (where people could come to me or we could work online).


Doing Focus Wheel Work With a Client
In coaching and hypnotherapy school I discovered that I was very popular with the other students … they wanted to work with me because of the cool visual notes I took of their sessions instead of just the verbal way that the other coaches worked (as a professional doodler I just couldn’t help but create visual summaries of the insights, ahhas and results that my clients came to).

Spotting a market opportunity, I tried for a while to convince other visual colleagues that they should develop “Graphic Coaching” … as I was too busy to explore it more seriously. However that all changed on the morning of September 11th in 2001 as I awoke in my San Francisco home to the trauma of that infamous day. I was supposed to be in New York that week but a series of synchronicities had kept me away.

Watching lives being forever changed … I made a vow that day to reorganize my life around the things that really mattered to me. To pursue what I was most attracted to, even if it seemed unusual or strange … as life can be short.

Within a year I had moved back to my beautiful hometown of Victoria, British Columbia, Canada … and set about creating a new life and livelihood.

I continued to do graphic recording and graphic facilitation work and concurrently developed Graphic Coaching — developing my signature process and suite of 17 visual tools: The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coaching Process®.

The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process

There are so many ways that one can work visually with individuals, biz partners and couples — using different processes and formats. In the early days I mostly did strategic planning hybrids … helping people literally SEE where they had been (Life Maps), where they wanted to go (Personal Visions) and how to organize their steps to get there (Action Plans). Later my specialty honed into the area of resistance — what I call “Trouble at the Border”. Pinpointing and flipping the inner blocks, self-sabotage and wonky energy that prevents people from having what they desire.

The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process
Client Demo in Training Class
The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process
Young Client in Front of His New Vision

My practice flourished as word got out about my innovations and the results clients were getting (careers, jobs, raises, homes, partners, children, etc). I got emails inquiring about my work — especially from other consultants, facilitators, trainers, coaches, etc who wanted to use my methods and tools themselves. So, after years of contemplating it, in 2010 I launched the first Graphic Coach Certification cohort, with wonderful coaches-in-training from around the world.


Cynthia Miller, Certified Graphic Coach at Her Private Training Learning to Draw Icons.

Certified Graphic Coaches Allison Crow and Jennifer Voss … Developing Visual Skills.

Today Graphic Coaching is growing nicely, aided by the growing ranks of Certified Graphic Coaches. They work in a diversity of environments and specialty areas including: executive coaching, small biz & solopreneurs development, military, grief & bereavement, first nations, autism, eating disorders, relationships, social justice & youth, human trafficking, mind/body and weight loss, abundance, health and wellness, etc.

Each cohort brings a new group of fascinating professionals who are doing great work in the world … and doing it even better by learning how to effectively use visuals to help their clients SHIFT.

While it hasn’t always been easy, I’m proud that I pursued my dream and have successfully SHIFTed my own work. And that I get to help others do the same. Its exciting to see the ripple effect as the work expands internationally.

The SHIFT-IT Graphic Coacing Process
Me in Front of My SHIFT-IT Templates

How to Draw Quick People!

Graphic Coach-in-Training
Melissa Blevins
Author’s Bio: Christina Merkley is The SHIFT-IT Coach. Founder of “Graphic Coaching” … Christina has pioneered the use of interactive- visuals to help individuals, couples and business partners make and manifest clear decisions about their work and lives. Based in charming Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, she maintains a thriving coaching and facilitation practice and trains other helping professionals from around the globe in her innovative ways of working.
For more information visit: www.shift-it-coach.com
Gina's SHIFT-IT Testimonial

Coaching Through Transition: Part VII: Ethics

central park -- Gina Lynette

Over the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I’m sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

In Part II, I shared more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I also talked some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching.

In Part III, I outlined the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. These steps form the structure for just about any coaching relationship.

In Part IV, we looked at the person-centered assessments I use during the Data Gathering portion of coaching a family through transition.

In Part V, we took a closer look at the PATH tool and discussed how delicious pie-in-the-sky dreaming can lead to some pretty delightful real-world results.

In Part VI, I shared a bit about coaching a family after they have identified their goals, including holding folks accountable, pooling needed resources and adjusting the plan as we go along.

Today we’re discussing a little about the ethical and multicultural considerations of coaching families through transitions. Honestly, this could be a whole series in and of itself, but I’m going to try to keep it brief.

 

Ethical Considerations

In working with individuals with disabilities, there must, must, must be a special emphasis on ethics. This portion of our population has traditionally been treated as less than human – ignored, institutionalized, abused and yes, even killed, often with little outrage from the rest of society. I approach my relationships with these individuals from a place of intense respect for their right to a self-determined life.

Balancing their right to choose situations that make them happy with their need for safety, health, and community inclusion is a delicate process. Regardless of the convoluting factors in the process, I, like any ethical practitioner, must hold the client’s well being in high regard, must practice from an informed and ethical standard, and ought to be very clear about what I am and am not promising through the process.

It is exciting and fascinating to be on the cutting edge of a new profession – but it also puts me, as a coach, in a risky position. As such, it is critical that anyone who coaches – however they choose to define it and wherever they acquire their credentials – keeps abreast of the latest developments in the field.

To quote the textbook:

QuoteInformed practitioners can draw on relevant academic literature to design and implement evidence-based interventions with their own clients and to evaluate client progress while adhering to ethical practice. — Stober and Grant

 

To get right down to it, I take ethics pretty seriously. I’ve taken graduate courses in Ethics, subscribe to both the APA (American Psychological Association) and ICF (International Coaching Federation) ethical guidelines, and practice under the supervision of a licensed psychologist. I never want a family to feel like we are in over our heads, and will quickly refer them for therapeutic support if it seems like that is what they need.

 

Back to Basics

I’ve mentioned Rogerian theory before. I consider myself a humanistic coach as Rogers might have defined such. A very basic tenet of humanistic work is the essential necessity of maintaining unconditional positive regard.

In my work with Jon, maintaining unconditional positive regard is paramount to his successful transition into adulthood. If I believe the case files and other disability-based assumptions about him, I will have incredibly low expectations for him, tend to talk him out of situations that put him at risk, attempt to steer him away from opportunities that seem above his skill level, and defer to his parents when there is a conflict. This would be a horrible disservice to Jon.

Rather than defaulting to these behaviors when the situation becomes complex, I go back to this ideal:

QuoteBecause I care about you, I can permit you to be autonomous and independent of my evaluations and restrictions. You are a separate person with your own feelings and opinions regarding what is right or wrong. The fact that I care for you does not mean that I must guide you in making choices, but that I can allow you to be yourself and to decide what is best for you. – Jess and Gregory Feist

 

It isn’t always easy to maintain this neutrality when I’m working with someone with a diagnosis that may make it difficult for them to make an informed choice. The whole picture becomes even more convoluted when you take into account that individuals with disabilities are often infantilized in just about every aspect of their lives. They need support from people for some things so they end up losing autonomy in everything. The incongruence in their experience of self and other’s expectations of them also muddies the water. How do you form a healthy self concept when people discuss “what’s wrong” with you so openly and so rarely highlight what’s right?

When I strip it all back to Roger’s ideals, it absolutely simplifies my role as a coach. I care, but I don’t decide. That’s Jon’s role, and, when appropriate, his parents, Kate and Dan, and their support system can help him make those choices.

 

Multicultural Considerations

Whether you want to consider multicultural factors or not – and regardless of the coach’s or client’s personal cultural heritage – it’s still there.

QuoteYou must accept the paradox that it is critical to consider race to get to the point where race does not matter. – Stewart Cooper

 

 

The best practice is to find a way to bring the issue up and address it from the beginning. Once I’ve broached the topic and we come to an understanding that it matters when it matters, but that race and culture aren’t the only factors in how our coaching work will go, I ask permission to bring it up when it seems relevant and encourage my clients to do the same.

 

The Disability Culture

In coaching individuals with disabilities, there is another culture at play beyond their ethnic or religious backgrounds. The culture of disability is a pervasive pressure on these individuals. From the moment of diagnosis, they’ve been told who they are and what they are able and, more often, not able to do by professionals who may know little about them. They’re often moved into segregated settings in school and live on the margins of their communities.

The goal of my practice is to reverse some of this damage and even highlight where a perceived disability is actually an asset. By inviting members of the broader community – students at their school, their pastor, the mayor, the fire chief – to participate in their PATH, I semi-subversively create interest in this individual as a fellow human.

 

The Payoff

Through our work, Jon now has allies who are not mired in the jargon of disability; he is seen as a competent member of his community. The varsity coach invites him to manage the team. The pastor asks him to speak to the congregation. Other students seek him out as a friend, not as a project. The fire chief offers him a job at one of the stations.

In short, Jon has the opportunity, as Tom Pomerantz would say, “to boldly go where everyone else has gone before.”

 

For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this series:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Cooper, S., Wilson-Stark, K., Peterson, D. B., O’Roark, A. M., & Pennington, G. (2008). Consulting competently in multicultural contexts. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 60(2), 186-202.

Fiest, J. & Fiest, G. J. (2009). Theories of personality (7th Ed.). New York: McGraw Hill.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stern, L. (2004). Executive Coaching: A Working Definition. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(3), 154-162.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Coaching Through Transition: Part VI : The Coaching


Over the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I’m sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

In Part II, I shared more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I also talked some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching.

In Part III, I outlined the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. These steps form the structure for just about any coaching relationship.

In Part IV, we looked at the person-centered assessments I use during the Data Gathering portion of coaching a family through transition.

In Part V, we took a closer look at the PATH tool and discussed how delicious pie-in-the-sky dreaming can lead to some pretty delightful real-world results.

Today we’ll take a look at what happens after the PATH. As you may recall from Part III, now that we have some specific goals in place, the actual coaching begins!

Positive and Possible

Whether I use a PATH or some other method of goal setting and action planning with an individual and their circle, the reality is that pretty paper is truly only that. Pretty paper. The real work comes in creating a structure of implementation that is realistic and pointed forward. So, once the PATH or other planning process is completed, it is critical to take the lists of goals, action steps, and enrolled individuals willing to work toward those ends and put them into a format that lends itself to follow through.

Knowing this, I’ll work with Jon, Kate and Dan to put those plans into a grid that will keep everyone accountable to their promises. I’ll also make sure that whatever our “deliverables” are from the planning sessions are readily identifiable to Jon as his own. Sometimes that means including pictures or graphics in the documents. Sometimes it is printing it all on his favorite color of paper with his picture on the cover. The end result should be a set of documents that are Jon and family friendly, very usable, and which includes room for edits, annotations, and changes in the plan.

Coaching and Coordination

If the PATH identified needed resources or referrals – typically this involves financial planning, estate planning, accessing service systems offered through state and federal agencies, researching post-secondary options, locating support groups and leisure activity options, and connecting to the larger community – I will work with the family to locate those supports. It isn’t unusual for the family to collaborate with me over the course of several years – at times on a weekly basis, but typically transitioning to a quarterly conversation as needed for continued momentum and check-ins.

My role involves following up on promises, finding resources, encouraging forward momentum, and regularly checking the plan for applicability. In some cases, I’ve found it’s helpful to gather the circle together on a regular basis to check progress and update goals. In a long-term transition plan, such as Jon’s, it may even be necessary to facilitate a second PATH as he achieves his goals and as his interests continue to develop and change.

Removing the Bricks

The real payoff is when Jon takes a central role in directing the course of his own life. After years of waiting to be told by Kate and his teachers where to be and when to be there, he’s learning that he gets a real say in what he likes and how he wants his day to go. Kate is starting to relax a bit about having to be the one who knows all of the answers to questions about Jon. Now, Jon and Dan, along with other members of their circle, take on many of the tasks that Kate used to spend nights and weekends trying to stay ahead of. She expresses her relief most succinctly when she thanks me for “removing the bricks from her back.” I’m touched that she sees it this way, but the truth is that I didn’t actually remove anything; I just gave her permission to share the load.

Of course Jon sees it another way. “I like to be in charge and ask people for help. It’s better when they help me do stuff on my list because then we all get to be happy about it.”

In Part VII I’ll share a little about the ethical and multicultural considerations of coaching families through transitions.


For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this series:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stern, L. (2004). Executive Coaching: A Working Definition. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(3), 154-162.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

Coaching through Transition: Part V

Over the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I’m sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

In Part II, I shared more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I also talked some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching.

In Part III, I outlined the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. These steps form the structure for just about any coaching relationship.

In Part IV, we looked at the person-centered assessments I use during the Data Gathering portion of coaching a family through transition.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the PATH tool and discuss how delicious pie-in-the-sky dreaming can lead to some pretty delightful real-world results.

 

Co-Creating Goals

Whether working with an individual, an organization or a family in transition, the role of a coach is similar. However the style may vary.

QuoteIn more personal coaching, the aim is often to help clients flesh out their vision of their ideal existence and then develop and enact steps toward that ideal. But it is not up to the coach to direct the content of that ideal; rather, the coach is there to help the client fully describe it and design steps to take them toward it.

Stober & Grant

One person-centered tool for creating the space for these conversations is the PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope) tool designed by Marsha Forest, Jack Pearpoint, and John O’Brien. The PATH tool was originally used to help folks move from institutional life to community life – not always a move supported by the paperwork and professionals and funding that typically follow this population.

The PATH process involves two extensively-trained individuals graphically facilitating a group through a four-hour conversation encompassing what strategic planners would recognize as a team-based visioning and action-planning session. It also involves a massive sheet of paper (often 4 feet high and nearly 15 feet long!) and colorful markers (I prefer the “smelly” ones). Everyone who gathers is involved in the conversation by one facilitator while a second facilitator draws, scribes, and doodles a record of the discussion billboard style.

I also try to encourage folks to host a meal or snack break in the middle. We all like to eat!

The PATH conversation begins with a vision or the North Star image of what life can look like in a no-holds-barred dream existence. Then the facilitators bring the group back into a “positive and possible” vision of the future. Successive steps involve identifying the realities of now, setting goals for a year down the road, enrolling participants in the next steps and assigning follow up tasks. At each stage the facilitators check in with the group and most especially with the individual in question – in our scenario, Jon – in order to identify how they are feeling, what needs to be adjusted, and that the ideas being captured accurately reflect the goals and hopes of Jon and his circle.

This type of facilitated conversation is steeped in positive psychology. Looking at desired outcomes with “no holds barred” and working back into a “positive and possible” set of stretch goals allow the circle to dream with one foot in reality. Jon and his parents will invite the people who care about Jon – his teachers, friends, church members, pastor, grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles – to gather for the PATH. Based on the information that has been gathered through the private sessions with Jon and his parents I have some idea of where the family would like to focus their attention – namely Jon’s transition from high school into adulthood – and the kinds of things that help Jon have good days. During the PATH, I will facilitate the group’s establishing a clear vision of where Jon will be in 5 years – the anticipated length of this transition process – and what it will take to get him there.

Based on our earlier conversations, I anticipate Kate’s hesitation on Jon’s bigger dreams – moving out on his own and getting a job – while recognizing that the dynamics of creating a circle of support will gently shift Kate’s role from that of mother and protector to that of ally and supporter. I also anticipate some hesitation from Dan in joining into the conversation. The typical – though not universal – scenario is that Kate has taken on the default role of advocating for Jon while Dan watches from the sidelines.

The trick to changing this dynamic is to put the focus back on Jon. In similar situations, individuals have declared their mom as their “ex-mom who is my friend” or have thwarted their mom’s intention to have them live in the same home forever by suggesting that they, “live a polite distance away” and have drawn their dad into the conversation by declaring that they want to spend time “doing swimming with Dad because he lets me go deep.” Emboldened by the attention and support of the circle, seeing their words appear on the large paper, and given the space to express what they really want, individuals with disabilities have an amazing ability to cut to what really matters to them and to get folks on board.

My job is to facilitate the pace of the conversation, to prevent any one individual from taking over or becoming the Voice of No, and to maintain a space of respect and positive regard. The whole process requires mindfulness and self-control on the part of the coach. I have strong beliefs regarding the rights of my clients, but must maintain a neutral stance as I guide the circle to their own conclusions.

At the end of the PATH process, we will have a massive 10-15’ long wall chart outlining Jon and his circle’s dream for him, a possible and positive vision of where he will be in 5 years, a snapshot of his current reality, a list of the folks who are willing to enroll in helping him achieve his goals, a set of concrete next steps for getting the whole plan moving forward, and consensus on what will keep this group strong and focused on supporting Jon along the way.

 

In Part VI we’ll take a look at what happens after the PATH. As you may recall from Part III, now that we have some specific goals in place, the actual coaching begins!


For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this series:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stern, L. (2004). Executive Coaching: A Working Definition. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(3), 154-162.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Coaching Through Transition: Part IV

Detail of Sea and Shore by Gina Lynette and Ned Andrew SolomonOver the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I’m sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

In Part II, I shared more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I also talked some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching.

In Part III, I outlined the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. These steps form the structure for just about any coaching relationship.

Today, we’re taking a closer look at the person-centered assessments I use during the Data Gathering portion of coaching a family through transition. For folks who have files that gain weight faster than they do, this is a tender space and I walk very carefully here. There are some lovely tools for getting that foundational information collected that honors the individual I’m coaching.

Accessible Assessment

While a traditional organizational coach might go in with formal assessments including personality assessments, 360 multi-rater assessments, task analyses, and the like, coaching families who have been through years of diagnosis, special education testing, and formalized Individualized Educational Plans (IEP) requires some measure of gentleness around this area. Rather than bombard the family with more standardized assessments, right off the bat, I tend to review the file of the individual to see what has already been declared about him, while keeping an open mind to the real possibility that there is more to Jon than his file might indicate. During the same time frame that I’m reviewing Jon’s documents, I meet with the family to gather more person-centered information.

I’m not one to subscribe to a particular tool or set of tools when I contract with a family. Rather, I cobble together a customized approach that best fits the needs of the client and their circle of support. I do start with best-practice, person-centered tools developed by such brilliant thinkers as Helen Sanderson, John O’Brien, Jack Pearpoint, David Sibbet, Martin Seligman, Ben Dean, Christina Merkley, and Michael Smull, among others*. I then mix in the adaptations and creations of my own that have morphed and grown over the years that I’ve been working with individuals with disabilities and their families.

Using Essential Lifestyle Planning as the basis, the process might involve the following steps:

  1. Inventory the skills, interests, communication strategies, likes, dislikes, natural and paid supports, dreams, goals, fears, passions, missteps, and areas of concern of the individual and their loved ones through interviews, dynamic group facilitation, and file reviews.
  2. Sort out what is important to (makes them happy) the individual and important for (keeps them safe, healthy, and a valued member of the community) the individual from their perspective as well as those who care about them.
  3. Sort out what makes for a good day for this individual or what has the potential to send the day into a bad direction.
  4. Determine what is working and what is not working from multiple perspectives through a process that closely resembles a 360 assessment that my Industrial/Organizational brethren are used to using.
  5. Ask: “What have we tried? What have we learned? What are we pleased about? What are we concerned about? Knowing what we know, what will we do next?”
  6. Collect all of this information in the most gentle and respectful manner, put it into a format that is recognizable by and accessible to the individual at the center of the process, and work with the individual until they are delighted with their plan.
  7. Set them loose upon the community with a renewed sense of what is possible and pray that they do not encounter someone who dashes their hope in the first day or two.
  8. Check in regularly to maintain momentum, adjust the plan, and connect with resources.
  9. Hope for the best.

At each step along the way, I’m constantly paying attention to how this family works best. Do they prefer checklists or questionnaires? Do they prefer individual interviews? Would they rather brainstorm as a group? Are they visual thinkers who love graphic facilitation sessions or are they more likely to send me long narratives in emails at 3am? There are ways to use any and all of these preferences when gathering the clues and learning the preferences and uncovering the hidden agendas and fears that this family brings with them.

Some of the tools I use most include:

  • Essential Lifestyle Planning (ELP): Helen Sanderson and Michael Smull along with the Learning Community for Essential Lifestyle Planning have put together a series of powerful tools that they share freely on their websites.
  • PATH (Planning Alternative Tomorrows with Hope): John O’Brien, Jack Pearpoint, and Marsha Forest developed the PATH tool to facilitate groups of people in creating strategic plans around moving an individual from an institutional setting into a real life as part of a community.
  • SHIFT-IT® Graphic Coaching Process:  Christina Merkley has created a set of visually accessible templates that allow individual coaching conversations to be captured in the same powerful, graphic way that the PATH tool uses.
  • Positive Psychology: Martin Seligman leads the way in this field of research and practice that is constantly adding to our toolkit of effective methods for tapping into what’s right about us rather than focusing on what’s wrong with us.

Each of these approaches will get covered in future segments, but I’m trained and/or certified in all of them because they each add something to the coaching conversation that I believe is essential to getting to that penultimate goal – a really real good life.

In Part V, we will take a closer look at the PATH tool and discuss how delicious pie-in-the-sky dreaming can lead to some pretty delightful real-world results.

*I name drop, not because I want you to be impressed with how well-connected I am, but because you might be interested in researching some of these folks’ ideas and methods. There are so many wonderful resources out there that this list could have been 3 times as long and still would have left some of my favorite folks out.

 

For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this series:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stern, L. (2004). Executive Coaching: A Working Definition. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(3), 154-162.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Coaching through Transition: Part III

Over the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I’m sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything; coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

In Part II, I shared more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I also talked some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching.

Today, I’m outlining the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. And when I say “process and steps” I mean a delightful mix of gentle fact-finding, person-centered conversations, and fun facilitation with colors and markers and BIG paper! Wooohooooo!

Unfortunately, the art supplies don’t come up until later in this series, but if you were working with me you’d see them within about 10 minutes of entering my studio. I do, however, want to give you an overview of the steps and stages in the process — any coaching process — so that when we return to Jon’s story you’ll have a road map.

So, here goes…

 

Steps in the Process

While coaching a family differs in some ways from coaching an individual or team within an organization, many of the steps are similar. Establishing and maintaining trust is the most essential element for a successful coaching experience – one which David Peterson advocates spending the first coaching session developing through the exploration of the individual’s personal goals.

The coaching process – in spite of being person-centered in the humanistic approach – is not a meandering conversation. It follows a pattern of development that has been studied, practiced, and tweaked – while still remaining open to the needs of the individuals I’m coaching.

When provided by the professional consultant, [coaching] is more commonly preplanned and follows a structured seven-step process: (a) initial needs analysis, (b) contracting, (c) data gathering, (d) specific goal setting, (e) coaching, (f) measuring and reporting results, (g) transitioning to a more long-term development effort. – Lewis Stern

While I may not announce, formally, at the beginning of a coaching session, “Welcome to our data gathering phase.” It’s certainly happening. Some formats lend themselves to a very close following of Stern’s steps. Others blend them more. Regardless of how distinctly these activities happen, they are each essential. So, let’s break them down a little here and then I’ll describe them more fully as we follow Jon, Dan and Kate through their work.

In each step of the process, the needs of both Jon and his parents must be balanced. In corporate coaching, we have to balance the organization’s expectations (because they are typically the ones who pay me) with that of the coachee.  In Jon’s case, the equivalent voices to the corporate client’s organization are his parents, Dan and Kate. They’re footing the bill and have quite a bit of influence (if not actual control) over Jon’s life choices. However, it is Jon’s life after all. Balance. Balance. Balance. It comes up a lot in coaching. So much so that I may have to come up with another word for it.

Initial Needs Analysis

In the simplest terms, the initial needs analysis involves finding out why I’ve been contacted by a family. And here is where I reveal that my number one job – the actual reason I’m hired – is to ask the questions folks have been staying up at night thinking about and then helping them articulate the answers. Where are they? Where are they hoping to go? What do they want to avoid? What have they tried before? What did they learn from that? Sometimes all of the answers are available just by talking to the immediate family, but usually it involves some extended conversations.

Contracting

I’d rather pull out my eyelashes than go legal on folks, but the reality is that contracting is about knowing everyone’s roles, rights and responsibilities on the front end. At this stage, we’ll agree on a format and a timeline. We’ll also agree that this will be an iterative process, that is, we will all have some freedom to review the contract, discuss how it’s going, and decide whether we need to adjust the plan.

Data Gathering

The data gathering phase never actually ends, but there is a period of time when I’m digging through all of those facts and beliefs and events and getting them organized into visual formats that lend themselves to decision making. Sometimes this looks like questionnaires. Sometimes it involves interviews. Often times it looks like lots of sticky notes and markers and more of those questions I’m known for. Once we gather really good information about the current reality and the hopes, dreams, challenges, and fears that need to be taken seriously in the future, we’re ready to start planning.

Specific Goal Setting

I don’t know that anyone on this planet has escaped the SMART goal planning acronym. It’s been around long enough that there are people arguing over what the R stands for. So, I won’t go there, but I will say that goal setting (and keeping!) is an art. In order to keep everyone moving toward what matters – creating doable action plans that will support them achieving the dreams they hope to fulfill while overcoming the challenges and either avoiding or confronting their fears – I use some pretty cool tools. The key is to capture what the family is trying to achieve in some permanent format that is accessible and revisable. It’s also essential that there is consensus on what needs to happen, who is going to actually do the work, when they are going to accomplish that task, what they are going to do once that task is completed (this step, my friends, is where I see 99% of plans fail – people do stuff and then sit on it), and why they are doing it in the first place.

Coaching

Here is where we start coaching. Wait. What? We’ve done all of this work and we are nearing the end of the steps and now you start coaching? Yes. Now I start coaching. I’m sure I’ve done some steering before now. And I’ve certainly been facilitating conversations and asking questions and organizing information. But it isn’t until we have a plan that I really get to coach.  Here’s where we start hitting obstacles. Before now we could be as pie in the sky as we wanted. Now we have to actually implement those plans. The reality is that there will be some revision and some renegotiation and some steps that get deleted or completed quickly. As a coach, it’s my role to keep the train on the tracks.

Measuring and Reporting Results

Checking in is essential to a successful coaching relationship. Some folks call this the accountability stage. Did you meet your goals? If you have a 6-12 month goal horizon, we can quickly tell if we’re there. The reality is that, while we will have short-term action steps, many of the coaching plans I put together look ahead at least a year and, often, many years. At this stage of the process, I am going to be available on a very regular basis as those action steps start being accomplished and we create momentum and then fade my supports as the process of making plans and carrying through on them becomes more routine for the family. That’s the point when I start working myself out of a job.

Transitioning To A More Long-Term Development Effort

I have only done a good job of coaching a family if, along the way, I teach them how to build and sustain momentum toward living the life they really want to live. I help them learn the steps of building consensus. They practice listening and communicating effectively as they work toward goals that may not always be their first choices. They get pretty good at using the tools of creating good plans and goals and then – here’s the big then – actually acting on those plans. Once some of the big rocks have been removed from the family’s path, they are typically pretty comfortable continuing without checking in with me. Some choose to keep calling periodically for accountability. Some disappear for years, only to call me back when they come to their next transition.

So, that’s the big picture. It really is a pretty straight forward process. Of course, people being people, it does get messy from time to time, but that’s why we work so much on establishing that trust. It’s vital when we’re right in the middle of a big transition that everyone has a sense that we know what we’re doing or feels safe enough to speak up if they want to adjust the plan.

In Part IV we’ll take a closer look at the person-centered assessments I use when coaching a family through transition. For folks who have files that gain weight faster than they do, this is a tender space and I walk very carefully here. There are some lovely tools for getting that foundational information collected that honors the individual I’m coaching.

 

 

For folks who like to know more, here are some references from this series:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stern, L. (2004). Executive Coaching: A Working Definition. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 56(3), 154-162.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

Coaching through Transition: Part II

Over the course of several Tuesdays — Transition Tuesdays — I am sharing one area of my practice that thrills me more than just about anything — coaching individuals with disabilities and their families as they transition from one life stage to another. Please note that while I’ll be describing a coaching scenario that is very similar to several families that I’ve worked with, it is an amalgamation of those conversations and is not based on any one family.

In Part I, I introduced you to Jon, Kate, and Dan and wrote a little about my approach to coaching families through the transition planning necessary to move students with disabilities from high school into an interdependent, adult life.

From here, I’ll share more about my role in working with Jon, Kate and Dan. I’ll also talk some about what it means to be “humanistic” in coaching… and I’ll hint a bit at how we’re going to get everyone on the same page and pointing forward.

Foundations of Family Transition Coaching

Coaching a family through a transition requires a balance of coaching, mediation, and networking skills that allow each individual to be heard, address potential conflicts in a person-centered manner, and build the natural supports that will help ensure long-term success.  The humanistic approach is based heavily on the work of Carl Rogers.

“It is through an optimal climate (empathy, positive regard, genuineness), in the relationship and provided by the practitioner, that the client’s capacity for self-growth is accessed.” — Carl Rogers

The humanistic approach has self-actualization as a foundational emphasis along with:

  1. a relational emphasis as the fundamental source of change
  2. a holistic view of the person as a unique being
  3. a belief in the possibility of freedom of choice with the accompanying responsibility –Stober & Grant

As Jon has likely experienced low expectations based upon his identified disability, it is especially important that I demonstrate high regard for him and support him in expressing his dreams in a safe environment.

Showing high regard for Jon and coaching him through goal-setting and attainment must be balanced with a measure of advocacy. I may need to work individually with his mother, who may see her son as a perpetual child, and with his father, who may not acknowledge some of his son’s real need for supports in identifying their roles in limiting their son’s options for future growth.

“People are masters of their own destiny in the sense that they take charge of their own development if they want to grow. Nothing can be done to make them grow; they grow only as they want to and as their own insights enable them to.” — Paul J. Brouwer

This quote is ever more poignant when you realize that, in some cases, the parents’ lack of growth can inhibit their son’s reaching his dreams. Part of this coaching process must address this reality if Jon is to have any realistic hope of launching into adulthood as an interdependent, self-determined individual.

One important note about my work with families: my goal is never — not ever — to undermine Jon’s relationship with the people who love and support him. Yes, I may work to help him build confidence while also helping him show his parents where he can soar without tethers, but I also recognize that every single one of us needs other people.

People do the best with what they know, and Kate and Dan are no different. It certainly isn’t my place to tell this family what to do — but I do see it as my role to open up the windows and allow some fresh ideas to blow in. What they choose to do with those ideas is truly up to them. As Martha Beck recently wrote so eloquently in O, The Oprah Magazine, it’s about loving without caring. Somehow, in my coaching, I am able to facilitate change without the impulse to control the outcome. I promise to share more about this balance later.

Tools of the Trade and Then Some

In order to achieve the foundational elements of this relationship – establishing trust, supporting Jon in being a self-determined individual, gaining buy-in from his parents on his goals, and building a strong circle of support – I pull from every evidence-based method at my disposal. I use aspects of The Learning Community’s Essential Lifestyle Planning – which the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are studying through a five-year, five-state demonstration project – along with PATH planning, co-active coaching tools, person-centered assessments, and graphic facilitation methods that allow Jon to participate in conversations where he has traditionally been shut out.

In Part III, I’ll outline the process and the steps I’m using to walk Jon and his parents through his transition. And when I say “process and steps” I mean a delightful mix of gentle fact-finding, person-centered conversations, and fun facilitation with colors and markers and BIG paper! Wooohooooo!

 

For folks who like to know more, here are the references from this post:

Brouwer, P. J. (1964). The power to see ourselves. Harvard Business Review, 42(6), 156-165.

Helen Sanderson and Associates. (2007). Person centred thinking. Liberty, Missouri: HSA, USA.

Pearpoint, J., O’Brien, J., & Forest, M.  (1993). PATH: Planning possible positive futures. Inclusion Press:  Toronto.

Peterson, D. (1996). Executive coaching at work: The art of one-on-one change. Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research, 48(2), 78-86.

Stober, D. R. & Grant, A. M. (eds.) (2006). Evidence based coaching handbook: Putting the best practices to work for your clients. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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