I assume no one really cares, but just in case...
I was trying to find a way to fit this on my site. But it didn't really fit anywhere, and I assumed no one would actually probably read it while they were perusing, so I thought I would put it here as a blog post.
Finding out that everything is a readable
We know that symbols are important in culture. At university, I spent money and several years doing a liberal arts degree - a course called Communication and Cultural Studies. In hindsight, basing my assumption of the course only on reading the title was a terrible idea. You should also note that I was disappointed when To Kill a Mockingbird included no actual mockingbird deaths. Really, I thought I was going to be doing journalism, but the course was about how everything is a text that can be 'read' to gain an understanding of deeper things - films, music, clothes, even word choice.
I had no idea I would actually use this skill set, but I am constantly evaluating what people, groups and businesses say about themselves through what they choose, or choose not to choose.
A principles-first approach
All this reflection means that I pride myself on some very close-held ethical positions. I use what I call a principles-first approach, which simply means deciding on some guiding principles, and then working out the detail of how they are applied. It makes sense to me - this is how the brain works - big picture first, and then increasingly small level of detail after this. I've tried to outline some of these principles, and how I enact them below:
- I am an expert in some things, but that is often not what you are an expert in: I am an expert in observation, facilitation, reflection and process, but I am not an expert in your life and business. I watch coaches who bring a range of self-developed systems, pre-loaded ideas about the things that will help you, and add-on surveys and diagnostics which they charge you extra for. All of this is trying to establish their expertise, and why you should listen to them. I believe that I should listen to my clients first, understand where they are and where they're coming from, and then work out (with them) what will most help them.
- I start with a blank page: Don't get me wrong, I know lots of things. I read avidly, and have a habit of bringing ideas and learning across from other fields. However, this all lives in my head (or on my computer in artices etc), and I bring forward what is relevant at the time, given the context that we establish together. If I came prepared with sheets and systems, I would already be pre-supposing how I would be helpful. I bring an agenda and a process so that there is a structure (and you know that I'm thinking about you before I turn up), but everything we do is generated in-session, and actions/change steps come from these discussions. I believe starting with the blank page is fundamental to being client-centric and listening.
- I talk simple: I HATE jargon and elitism. I don't understand most of the job titles people have on LinkedIn. I spend half of my life translating very complex academic studies and evidence into tools and knowledge my clients can use. I don't use business jargon, try to stay away from cliche's, and don't try and "wow" you with vocabularly. I also use lots of sketching and visual facilitation to help make complex things simpler, or at least tangible. Things in life are complicated enough, we don't need to make our communication more complicated. Often, I think over-complicating communication is about either insecurity or establishing a sense of superiority. This dynamic is very bad for coaches and consultants. Once, in an evaluation, I laughed at a client when they told me that my report was "too short" for how much they had paid... If you can't see the problem with this, we probably shouldn't work together.
- Nothing is independent: As I've written in a separate post about systems thinking in coaching, everything is connected to a range of other things. Your decision to work more impacts other parts of your life, your eating choices have many consequences, your business strategy impacts workers, systems, families, and your competitors. Systems-thinking is extremely valuable when weighing up options and making decisions.
- I believe that wisdom and evidence work, except that it's quantum: I think that wisdom is just like evidence before we had science. There are things that have worked for a long time, and will probably keep working. On the other hand, I often think sometimes we need to update our ideas of what works in light of evidence. It's hard to know which is which, and my experience is that it's often all relative to the context of my clients (i.e. it's quantum). Hence why starting with the client is paramount.
- I believe in comfort: I don't mean lounges and stuff - I'm a long distance trail runner - I can take and leave that kind of comfort. It might sound simple, but if you're uncomfortable or trying to impress me, you won't be honest, won't be vulnerable, and we won't get the best for you. I love people, and humour, hugs, empathy, tears custard tarts and wine all have their place when you're doing important life and busines things together.
I'm not sure what difference any of the above makes to you, but I believe that transparency is important. I continually get feedback that these approaches very helpful to my clients, and so I thought I should write them down.
Want to know what they can do in action for you? Maybe you should get in contact so that we can talk?