Coaching with Precision in a Time-Poor World

Having coaching precision allows one to work with speed.  And if there’s one thing that most organisational leaders are short on these days its time.

It’s not that you want to push clients to results, it’s just that you don’t want to waste time coaching toward dead-ends.

Here are three essential practices for coaching with the speed and precision that will open the door to C-suite clients.

1.       Track Who Is Speaking

The person who comes into your coaching session, shouldn’t be the same person as who leaves.  When powerful coaching happens, there is a transformative shift in the client.

Learn to listen for who is speaking.  Do they have access to the big picture and a clear understanding of the full potential your client possesses?  Or are they the voice of someone who is bogged down, overburdened and has lost perspective?  Do they support growth, or do they hold views and beliefs that will hold the client back?

2.      Follow The Energy

We see many coaches getting caught up in the client’s narrative and not working where the real energy and potential for change lies.

At GCI we counter this common trap by teaching students to read energetic feedback; non-verbal and communication cues, which have their origins in the unconscious. This is  a powerful way of moving beyond the constraints of the client’s ordinary self

3.      Pick Your Level

Sometimes, even experienced coaches work at what might be described as the wrong level.  For example, focusing exclusively at the level of habits and behavior when deeper work on identity is needed for sustainable change.  Or working at the individual level, when systemic insights and relational or political engagement is needed.

The ability to recognise what level your client is operating from and learning to shift levels in order to access new insights and momentum makes for powerful coaching.

For more on coaching with precision and Process Oriented Coaching, take a look at our upcoming programs in Australia and Barcelona.

Courage to Vision The New Year

With the New Year upon us it is a wonderful time to step out of the business of our lives, reflect on the year to come and ask what is really important to us.

Our ordinary lives develop a momentum.  The unfolding of each day and week is the result of the decisions we made last week, last month and even last year.  Now, that’s great if we reflect on what we’ve created, asking ourselves if the reality fits with our initial imaginings.  But we often miss this step.  It’s not just visioning, but consistently re-visioning that’s important.  Take the opportunity now.  Connect with your deepest dreaming and reset your compass for the year to come.

Many people begin the New Year with setting goals for themselves.  While goal setting can be helpful, it tends to be instrumental, focused on what a person will do or have.  If undertaken superficially, it is unlikely to result in a significant transformation in your life.

Connecting to Your Deepest Vision

At the Global Coaching Institute we prefer a deep visioning that starts with who and how you want to be in the world.  Only when you are deeply connected to that, can you trust the vision that follows.

Our deepest visions are necessary in today’s world.  A continuous tide of consumerism assaults us daily, and we need to apply our conscious intent to hold that at bay.  So many messages bombard us about what creates happiness, we can run ourselves into the ground in pursuit of fool’s gold.  In order to create authentic and deeply fulfilling lives, we need to tune out this white noise and connect with a deeper wisdom in ourselves.

Even as I write those words, they evoke a mild anxiety.  Deep visioning assumes not only that deep within ourselves is a knowing about the right path for our lives, but that what call us is in fact possible.  It can be realised.  Not quite believing these things results in what Robert Fritz describes as settling for what we think we can or should have instead.

Our Deepest Dreams and Purpose

In our GCI programs, we teach coaches and would-be coaches  to uncover their clients’ deepest dreams and life myths.  Connecting with these, they can live lives with a deep sense of purpose.  As I reflect on my own vision for 2018, it is to become more discerning, to say no to those things which don’t align with my deepest dreams.

Visioning is an organic process.  I didn’t consciously set out to vision for the New Year, but noticed what drew my attention and was holding energy for me.  I found myself clearing out notes, papers and journals that go back over a decade, and discovered I was making space for something I didn’t quite yet know.

This means we don’t need to vision in isolation.  We can work with our embodied wisdom and the many signals and invitations which the world presents and discover what direction we are already headed in.

You don’t have to feel pressured to know your direction for 2018.  Allow what you sense to cook within you.  Pay attention to your inner knowing and your outer world.  Notice unexpected events.  Allow synchronicities to pop up and engage with them.

Listening to Our Senses; Inner and Outer

Connecting with our deepest vision is about making ourselves available and listening to what we sense.  Become like a hiker in nature.  Enjoying what is around you and then discover what has caught your attention.

If your vision happens to be working with others to realise their deepest dreams and potential, check out our 2018 programs at the Global Coaching Institute.


Orange Kombi Dreaming:  The Journey To Become A Coach

Some of the extraordinary breakthroughs that process oriented coaches achieve are the direct result of their capacity to work with both conscious and unconscious content.  Our coaches learn to access unconscious content in the form of dreams, body symptoms and synchronistic events.

As 2017 draws to a close one of our Australian students, Lisa Klug, wrote to us about the outer and inner journeys she embarked on as a GCI student and now graduate.

Lisa’s Dream

A few months ago I had a strikingly clear dream. I was driving a Kombi van through thick rainforest. My van was bright orange with a white roof.  Part of a Kombi van convoy, I drove at full speed, hitting potholes and bumps with gay abandon, sometimes airborne, laughing uproariously.

While mystified by the meaning of the dream the wild freedom of that ride and the colour orange stayed with me. I painted my toenails fluorescent orange.  Each time I saw them, I felt something exciting was happening.

Following the Feeling of Signals

The meaning of unconscious signals is often unclear, yet the feeling they contain can be followed, with curiosity until their meaning or direction begins to reveal itself.

My daughter, Chloe, dreamt of going to the desert to see the stars. Meanwhile my younger daughter Ruby objected that she couldn’t think of anything worse than being stuck in the car with us.  Suddenly the Kombi van came to my mind. I hired a 6-berth motorhome and we began to plot our 4670km journey.

Unconscious Content has Meaning

Unconscious content is often experienced as ‘happening to us’.  The Kombi ‘came to mind’.  This use of language indicates those things that are closer to or further away from our conscious identity or everyday lives.   Compare Lisa’s description of the elusive orange Kombi with the way she speaks about her working responsibilities. As process oriented coaches we ask ourselves which of these experiences, seems more familiar and which holds more energy for the individual.

Life then got busy. as I prepared a manuscript for publication.  On the last day of my coaching course at Byron, I was astonished as I walked past a little model of my orange and white Kombi in a gift shop – I immediately bought it.   Curiously, the Kombi was capricious and decided not to come home with me. I had left it behind!  Perplexed by its appearance and disappearance, I knew I must hold on to my coaching dreams, despite competing goals at work…. The model Kombi arrived a few days before our departure, meek as a mouse, and ready to take the journey with us.

The Nullarbor desert crossing delighted us with its astonishing beauty. I meditated on my coaching goals and dreams for hours while watching the unfolding road stretch out before me, framed by desert ecosystems, dramatic and beautiful.

Listen to New Possibilities

As coaches and their clients learn to listen to their intuitions, new possibilities emerge, that don’t fit with what we might think of as our ordinary selves.

After hearing my dream, Rho had leant me an orange Sari, which I stowed safely in the motorhome.  As we approached the remote western part of the Nullarbor Desert.  I had a very strong feeling that just up the road I‘d find a place where I could unfurl the sari.  That place revealed itself to be Mt Jimberlana – an orange rocky outcrop in the Great Western Woodlands, and the only piece of land with any height we had seen for days.  Despite the searing 40 degree heat, we clambered over the unusual rock formation to the peak.  Clutching the orange sari in my hand, I ascended, a ferocious north wind buffeting the summit.  I raced to the top knowing this was the place to release all my creative energy, dreams, power and passion.

Later I learnt that this peak is part of a long stretch of granite rock that pushed up through the earth to form a vast ridge that runs for many, many kilometers through the desert.  It is reputed to be one of the oldest geological sites in the world.  I believe I felt the power of a vast and ancient landscape.

Engaging the Forces Within

It is not just Lisa’s experience, but her narrative that is rich in imagery.  Skilled in tracking her own experience, she engaged the forces within her, her meekness and her sense of wonder, along with those of the geological forces that formed her environment. … the searing wind, thrusting rocky outcrops to reclaim more of who she is and the crucial powers within.

The orange giftshop Kombi finally hit the sand, on possibly the most beautiful beach in the world, Cape Le Grande National Park in Western Australia.  The place left me reeling with its wild beauty, largely untouched and untrammeled by man, free and uncontrolled.  Here I felt my own authentic truth, and felt the courage to take responsibility for that truth, to let go and act on it.

Becoming Who We Truly Are

The journey to become a coach is about much more than acquiring skills.  It’s about transforming ourselves.  In becoming who we truly are, we can meet clients in their deepest truth. Lisa brought her whole coaching cohort with her, via their weekly online classes.  She was indeed part of a Kombi van convoy, replete with wildly uproarious laughter and adventure.

Since returning from this trip, the symbolism of my dream, and how it amplifies into real life adventures has brought meaning to my dreams of becoming a powerful coach. I deeply resonated with the world physically and psychically. I continue to access my “Orange Kombi” attitude in my decisions, approach to life and plans for the future. I feel profoundly happy when I access this truth, freedom and wildness. I am home, I am me.

I realize that while I did not initially understand the Kombi van dream, I intuitively knew its value to understanding myself, and when I followed the signals; the dream became a naturally unfolding process that was directed from within, and without.  Everything happened exactly when it should, with its own order.

You Don’t Know Where it will Take You

In Lisa’s own words:  With Process oriented coaching you never know where it will take you, but it is certain to be a deeply meaningful unfolding of what is required right now.

For more information on our Process Oriented Coaching Programs, visit our Upcoming Events page:


The Breath-Takingly Powerful Coach

Recently, I’ve written a lot about coaching with a deep understanding of the systems people operate in.

Right now, let’s reflect on coaching the individual.  I’m specifically interested in the question of What differentiates a good coach and a breath-takingly powerful coach?

Precision and Mastery

The Global Coaching Institute is passionate about coach development in this space of precision and mastery.

When I think of mastery, I immediately think of my teacher, Max Schupbach.  My jaw fell open with wonder the first time I watched Max work.  I didn’t quite understand what he was doing, but the results were like magic!

I needed to understand what guided his work.  What did he see or hear that led to those seemingly counter-intuitive interventions?  How was he able to be so playful, especially in the midst of conflict?  I was baffled, but I knew his practice was clearly more than a momentary inspiration.  Despite their apparent ease, his interventions were deeply cultivated and precise.

The gap between what I witnessed and what I understood prompted a learning journey that took my practice to a whole new level.  And that’s what we offer our coaching students!

My curiosity led to a near twenty-year study and practice of Process Oriented Psychology, also known as Processwork.  Over the years, some of the mysteries of what I witnessed in that first piece of work were revealed to me.  Though I’m delighted to say, the sense of mystery and wonder has never left me.  In fact, it sustains me and supports my deep path of growth and practice.

Over these years I have learned to work with both the conscious and unconscious dimensions of a client’s narrative.  I’ve attuned myself to spot the flickering indicators of a client’s true potential – something I take great joy in sharing with our students.  I now see them working in this deep way, even when their clients are too hesitant or fearful to linger and explore these themes for long.

Meta-Skills at The Edge

A process oriented approach to coaching introduces Arnold Mindell’s notion of the edge – that precise point of change we teeter at sometimes, as if on a precipice, unsure of how to proceed.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand the meta-skills, or feeling attitudes, needed to work with someone at that fulcrum of change.  What’s more, we work with our students to recognise and adopt the different meta-skills that are called for, depending upon the client’s style and growth trajectory.  Knowing when to take a tough-accountability-oriented focus and when to adopt a gentle and nurturing tone becomes clear when we understand a client’s unfolding process.

The coach’s use of meta-skills holds the client in the coaching relationship and models the potential that lies just beyond reach.  Our own agility and breadth of style says, “it’s ok to go there.”  It brings lightness and movement to the coaching session, and it helps clients become unstuck.

It’s this precision – the ability to recognise growth trajectories and edges with acuity, and to adopt the right meta-skill, that makes process oriented coaching so powerful.

The Coach’s Own Inner Agility

For a coach to work this way requires a level of inner agility.  We must be able to recognise and traverse our own edges.  That’s why we at the Global Coaching Institute focus so intently on the personal inner development of the coach.

The question of what makes a great coach should engage the profession for decades to come.  In the act of searching with curiosity, we make fresh discoveries and grow as practitioners.

If you would like to join our coach practitioners in Australia, USA or Barcelona in 2018, please drop us a line.

We will also be offering coach training in Japan for the first time in 2019.

In the meantime, I wish you great discovery and growth.


Coaching is Situational

Imagine a CEO who is new to an industry sector, yet charged with providing strategic insight and direction.  Or an aspirational leader who doesn’t have a firm grasp on organisational politics.  Both these leaders need to orient themselves – and quickly – to how their sector and organisations work.

Being able to read one’s environment is a core leadership capability, also called situational intelligence.  Those who don’t have it are slow off the mark.  They miss opportunities and are soon by-passed when new appointments are made.

Coaches play a key role in building situational intelligence.  So much so, that I would argue it is impossible to coach leaders in isolation, without reference to the context they work in.  Well it’s probably possible, but I believe it’s irresponsible.

As coaches, it’s imperative that our work with the individual – as they present in front of us –  is informed by a deep curiosity about how they operate within the systems they live and work in.  GCI coaches ask questions not just of the individual and their own aspirations, feelings and thought patterns, but actively enquire into the dynamics of the system.

We want to know how leaders read their environment, what they pay attention to and what they minimise or ignore.  We want to know what is likely to trigger a clash of ideologies or assumptions and how they adapt their style and messaging in order to bring others with them on the journey.

It stands to reason that the clearer and more incisive one’s questions about the system, the better the data the individual can give you.

However, only having the individual in front of us can be a challenge.  Unless our coaching is embedded in a wider organisational change initiative, we often don’t have access to the full system and the insights that direct observation can yield.  We rely on the coachee’s representation of their organisation, department or the team they work within.  Inevitably, our clients view will have blind-spots.  How then do we best serve them?

As coaches our role is to help them build a rich picture of themselves within the system, their relationship to it, and their impact upon it.

Coaches, therefore, need insights into system dynamics.  This empowers us to ask questions wide ranging enough to extend the client’s own enquiry.

Some useful questions to open up our client’s understanding of their systems are:

  • What are the founding stories and myths that shape the organisation’s identity?
  • What does the formal structure of the organisation convey? How is it enacted?
  • How would you describe the flow of information within the system?
  • Who holds power and influence? How is this negotiated?
  • What key events live on the organisational memory? What has kept them alive?
  • What experience and expectations do people bringing to their roles?
  • What is unique about this environment? What is familiar?
  • What may prove deceptive about this situation?
  • What is as yet unknown to you?

Join us in 2018 in our Coaching Fundamentals programs to apply systems theory and depth psychology in your coaching practice.  Or join us in Barcelona in May.



Choosing the Right Coach Training

I’m happy to introduce this guest post by Enric Arola, who joined our coaching intensive in Portland, Oregon, USA.  Enric has invited us to deliver this accredited coach training program in Barcelona, later this year in November/December.

How to choose the coach training program that’s right for you

Coaching is a discipline deeply rooted in the corporate world that is also familiar in our general global culture.  We even see coaches as characters in TV shows.

Many large companies use coaching regularly in the processes of promotion and development of their leaders and professionals.  They hire external coaches as well as their own company coaches.  Companies also support their managers and team managers to increase their leadership skills by training them in coaching techniques.

Through such trainings, team leaders gain resources to increase their awareness and connection with their staff, while expanding communication skills, intuition, self reflection, and to support effective action.

Professionals looking for coach training currently have a wide range of options.

Some factors to consider when deciding on a coaching program:

  • Accreditation by Professional Coaching Associations. Choosing a program accredited by a professional coaching association will ensure training in the key competencies of coaching, as well as grounding in the ethical applications of coaching.
  • Professional Coach Certification. Being certified as a coach is a process that requires a commitment and, more importantly, a clear niche goal.  What kind of coach you will be and what environments you plan to practice in will determine the necessity of certification.  Many business professionals do not require certification because their goal is building a powerful leadership methodology, while others devote themselves professionally as coaches.  For the professional coach, certification is a quality guarantee of their service.
  • A Systemic Approach. A good coaching program will also include a systemic approach which puts the individual client in the context of the organization and environment they work in.
  • Exploration of Belief Structure. Coaching is not only about encouraging your client to achieve their goals, it also provides a frame to reflect deeply on those goals and the beliefs they are forged from.  Coaching supports the client to learn more about their primary reality (what they know about themselves) as well as to explore their secondary reality (aspects of themselves they are not so familiar with).
  • High-Diversity Training Groups. Coaching, and leadership in general, is characterized by the desire to include and accept personal and environmental diversity.  Working with differences that trigger us emotionally is a challenge for all human beings.  Coach training can provide an opportunity meet a diversity of people in a safe and protected space.  Different personalities, experiences, professional roles, and cultures become our allies in personal leadership.
  • Transferable to Different Working Environments. Unlike personal or life coaching, executive coaching requires awareness and skills to align the coachee with the objectives of their organization.  However confidential coaching may be, working with a client in an organization cannot focus only on the individual’s needs without aligning with their team and company.  An executive coach needs to create bridges by including the coachee’s supervisor in sessions, making formal agreements of the coaching process, or periodic follow-up of the objectives by the participant and their supervisor.  A good coach training needs to reflect on and teach how to maximize transfer of coaching skills into business.

Coaching is a great opportunity to support individuals in their personal and professional satisfaction, while also helping the systems they work within to gain in productivity and cohesion.

Often, coaches I train and my workshop participants ask about quality training programs.  One school I know, the Global Coaching Institute (GCI), has a particularly interesting focus derived from their exploration of depth psychology.

Last summer I traveled to the United States to join their coach training.  I and my partners at In Movement have decided to offer the intensive GCI program for the first time in Spain, facilitated by the two founders, Vicki Henricks and Rho Sandberg.

For more information on this training, please vist:

Enjoy training to be a coach!

Eric Arola

You can also see Eric’s original post on his website here:


Lessons From South Africa on Systemic Coaching


I am writing this post from South Africa – a country I first visited as a 17-year old.  It was shortly after the Soweto Student Uprising; a key moment in the fight against Apartheid.  Traveling here, I entered a society so different from my own that all of my senses were alert to the nuance of each interaction.  There was a vibrant edge, being in a country on the brink of change.  I missed that when I returned home to my familiar and seemingly, more stable culture.

Being back in South Africa now reminds me of the importance of context.  In fact, while I know it’s overdoing it, I want to suggest that in coaching context is everything.   If we – and our clients – don’t understand the cultural context, we’re in big trouble.  At some point we are likely to wake up with a start, because what we took for granted has landed us in trouble.

However, most of us grow accustomed to familiar contexts.  We take our circumstances for granted and we don’t even think about them.

At an individual level, we don’t consciously notice the external influences that cue us about who we are and what we are capable of.  We merge with the dominant forces in our environments, and internalize their messages.  By unconsciously taking on their norms and expectations about how we should behave and what is possible, we split off from our own potential.

In a society with a history of war or racial divide, the consequences of systemic influences and messaging, which most people were born into is especially worrying.  Some of those messages can be crippling – for individuals and for the society.

In South Africa there is a recognition that it may take several generations of conscious effort to undo the damage.  My colleague Zed Xaba is one of those people committed to ensuring that ‘the work’ is done.  The focus of her race work lies in exploring the dynamics of internal oppression with black South Africans.  Zed’s colleague, Caroline Hopkins, works with white South Africans to understand and re-evaluate the expectations, attitudes and assumptions they internalised while growing up.  These women are doing foundational work that will result in healing for individuals and the society.

We don’t often speak about coaching and healing in the one sentence, but to my way of thinking their work is a fine example of the healing and transformative power of coaching.

Despite the great commitment to building unity within South Africa, trying to plaster over the difference would be naïve.  Pushing inequity and social tensions underground is dangerous, and usually leads to conflict. Most South Africans I speak with feel the tension and the risk their society faces at the present time.   In some regions the work of transformation and healing has gone deep.  However, there are pockets within the country where the white privileges of the Apartheid era are still entrenched.

Researcher and coach Val Tapela works with community development practitioners in the Western Cape region. Typically organisational coaching practice might focus on leadership, capacity building or career planning.  However Val coaches her clients to understand the cultural difference between Johannesburg and the Cape.   She works with her clients to build resilience and help them last in their profession.  She has found it most important to help newly-arrived practitioners understand and find ways to deal with the subtle and not so subtle race dynamics in their new environment.

Of course, South Africa is not the only environment in which context matters. All of our coaching clients operate in distinct contexts which have an influence on them and which we, like Zed, Clair and Val have an opportunity to influence.

If you want to build your understanding of systems and coaching practice, why not join us in Barcelona in November/December!

Experience not just advanced coaching skills, but how coaches work with their clients in a climate of dynamic social change.  Join our community in bringing a systems mind-set to coaching.



Becoming a Coach: Stop Being the Expert

In earlier posts I have written about a central tenet of coaching which states the client is whole, capable and resourceful.

Once we accept the client’s inherent capability and that it exceeds our own in many cases, we are on the way to becoming truly useful.  Though there is usually a learning curve to navigate before we fully get there.

A Crisis of Identity

Firstly, there can be a crisis of identity for individuals who are used to the role of technical expert or even being an expert supporter of others (as a consultant, manager or therapist).  As coaches, it’s our role to support and challenge clients to be their own expert.  If we try to show our know-how of the content they are working with, that can go against them inhabiting their own authority.

I know this struggle from the inside out.  I’ve wrestled it cheek by jowl.  This struggle and I know each other so well, we’re on a first name basis.  It commands my attention regularly, to ensure I’ve learned its lessons thoroughly.

Why is it so hard to give up being the expert?

Many of our earliest discoveries about what is rewarded in life occurred in grade school.  I was the girl whose hand always shot up to answer the teacher’s questions.  I learned that knowledge and having the answer was the main currency of the classroom.  And boy was I good at it.  I worked hard at the game and usually got the answers right, and got a little dopamine rush of reward each time.  This formed my sense of identity.  I was a clever girl.  I scored highly.  My teachers were happy, my parents were happy, and I knew how to be an expert.

You can imagine my shock when coach training asked me to drop my capacity to know the answer, which I believed was my key asset.  The more I tried to know the answer, the more my trainers and mentors shook their heads.  I scowled at them for changing the rules of sucess on me.  They smiled back, but they didn’t let me off the hook.  Thankfully they insisted I take a deep breath, sooth my ego, and face up to this new way of being.

Do you have a dependency on expertise? 

Most of us only realise how closely we are wedded to being an expert when we need to relinquish it.  Next time you must let go of knowing, notice what comes up for you.  Here are some responses that often pop up in our coach training.

If I’m not bringing superior insight, wisdom or a refined capacity to interpret my clients’ situation, why am I here?

I’m not sure what to do if I don’t offer an insight or interpretation.

If the client can manage without us … what contribution am I making?

Stripped of the aura of expertise projected onto the technical expert, most emerging coaches feel disoriented.  They fear they may be lacking or redundant in their new role.  This is a vulnerable experience.

Unlearning Our Expertise

Once we appreciate that the client’s inherent capability can and should exceed our own, we enter a process of unlearning.  We need to stop being experts in the content or context of the session, and become experts in supporting the client’s own expertise.  For many of us, this isn’t easy.  Even committed client-centred practitioners find it surprising how often they rely on framing the client’s narrative, rather than supporting them to engage in the meaning making process themselves.

There can be a crisis of identity for new coaches used to being in an active supporting role.  If we are not bringing superior insight, wisdom or a refined capacity to interpret our clients’ situation and point the way through their dilemmas, what are we supposed to do?  If the client can manage without us, why are we even there?   Stripped of the aura of expertise projected onto the therapist, counsellor or technical expert, most emerging coaches feel disoriented.

Understanding the Costs

To overcome our reliance on expertise we need to understand both the pay offs and the costs of being seen as the expert.

The simple fact of the matter is that clients know more about their situations than we do.

Bringing us up to speed on all the information and understanding they’ve gleaned over months and sometimes years would take a lot of time.  If you need convincing, think about the hours and intensive research involved in large consultancy projects.  Getting the pertinent data on the table is a laborious business.

Our precious coaching time is much better spent expanding and deepening the client’s understanding.  Leaders need to progress their thinking, not explain it all to their coach every time they meet.

We Need to Learn to Trust Our Clients

Letting go of your desire to know all the facts is not only essential but highly doable.  It usually comes with practice and good supervision with a coach-mentor who supports you with humor and grace through the inevitable identity or practice crisis.  It is a process of accepting our client’s expertise as superior to our own in their situation.  We must trust their authority.

The Benefits

When emerging coaches learn to let go of being the expert, they free up bandwidth for tracking different sorts of information.  They are able to observe what is happening in the moment; the areas where their client’s thinking flows and where they meet roadblocks.  This is where the coach’s skills are needed.  When we support and challenge our clients to work their own way through those road blocks, we earn our coaching fees.

Our contribution and relevance lies in our ability to pay attention to the client’s development process or the systemic factors operating in the background, within their organisations and the society. We listen for the patterns that inform our clients decisions, rather than trying to make their decisions for them.

If you are interested in learning more about process-oriented coaching please contact us here.


How have you managed the need to be an expert?

Interested in advanced Coach Training?  Join us in Byron Bay, Australia, this October!


The Unequal Risks of Transparency in a Discriminating World

With renewed debate in Australia about gay marriage, I am reminded of it’s impact on individuals, as well as the mainstream’s inability to appreciate diversity in sexual orientation.  I wrote this piece about the intersection of discrimination and mental health a little while ago.  I’m posting it again here because it is still very much relevant.

Coming Out in Public

Over the past few days there’s been widespread commentary on Olympic gold medallist Ian Thorpe’s coming out as gay.  Discussion ranges from unconditional support to expressions of disappointment and even to criticism that he didn’t come out sooner.

As a heterosexual, I notice my own discomfort about this commentary and I’m hesitant to add to it.  I’m conscious that few heterosexuals attract this level of scrutiny around their sexual orientation.  There is no expectation we should come out and declare ourselves; heterosexuality is the assumed norm.  It’s the mainstream position.  It comes with a free pass.

Thorpe, like many individuals in our diverse workplaces and communities, is subject to pressures that many don’t have to endure and don’t fully understand.  This pressure is not just something he has been under in the past week.  He’s most probably endured it for years.  The strain associated with marginality is reflected, in Thorpe’s case, through his long-term struggle with depression.  His public story is a powerful illustration of the incredible personal and social costs of being marginalized and discriminated against.

Some of the criticism aimed at Thorpe relates to his concerns about coming out.  Among the many risks he faced was the loss of corporate sponsorship.  It shocks me that public discussion has focused on Thorpe’s choices in this situation, rather than the social dynamic which creates such dilemmas in the first place.

Our Responsibility as Observers

Examining this dynamic brings those of us who are more mainstream face to face with our own choices.  It asks us to call-out homophobia and other forms of subtle and overt discrimination.

In coming out against a backdrop of prejudice, Thorpe needs to be acknowledged and appreciated for his courage.  Some have expressed disappointment that he didn’t use his position as a sports champion to further the cause of young gay people earlier.  These comments assume that breaking world records in the pool equips an individual to go against the weight of social pressure.  It’s unfair that we ask Thorpe to carry the weight of a growing desire for social change.

While it’s true Thorpe was virtually untouchable for many years in the water, it’s a mistake for us to assume he’s invincible in all aspects of his life.  Such thinking is typical of a widespread tendency to project unrealistic capabilities onto people in the public eye.

Seeing Both Great Acheivements and the Human Being

In his interview with Michael Parkinson, Thorpe’s vulnerability and the depth of his struggle are palpable.  The challenge for us as members of the public is if we are able to embrace both Thorpe’s achievements and his humanity.  Can we hold both simultaneously?  Do you favor one aspect over the other?

Why ask these questions?  Because Ian Thorpe is not so different from most people.  There are aspects of our lives that are easy to share with others.  Each of us has a public persona that we present to the world.  That persona shows others who we are, but it’s an edited version of ourselves.

If we are honest, we must acknowledge the thoughts, feelings and experiences that we downplay or actively hide.  We try to avoid being judged by other people.  Thankfully, most of us don’t stand in the intense glare of the public spotlight.  The pressure on members of diverse populations to hide parts of themselves is much larger than it is for the mainstream and it must not be underestimated.

I invite you to put the current focus on Ian Thorpe as a public figure into perspective, by reflecting on the following questions.


Which aspects of your life do you feel free to share with others?

Which aspects of your life are you reluctant to reveal to others?

What risks do you associate with being more open about these things?

What is the gift of these more marginalized dimensions of your own life?

What do you love and appreciate about them?


Seven Reasons Therapists Move Into Coaching

Lately we’ve had many therapists join our programs. They already have a well developed skill set, which they want to transition into the world of coaching.

As I used to be a therapist, I’m curious why so many skilled professionals are taking the coaching path.  Sure, I’m totally sold on it.  But why are so many other therapists coming to it, and with such passion?  In many ways my own story obscures my understanding of others.  I don’t want to project my own experience onto others, or to assume my career trajectory is right for anyone else.  It’s important for me to step aside from my case study of one, and discover what draws our students to our programs, as well as what they are gaining from the experience.

I must say I’m learning heaps –  as usual – from our students.  Here’s what I’m discovering:

1. A Love of Learning

Therapists and counsellors tend to be passionate about growing and ongoing learning.  So there is an intrinsic pull to explore new frontiers.

2. An Intrinsic Drive To Share Their Skills

Many practitioners know that much of the work they do with individuals is also needed in our social institutions.  It’s painful to see a lack of social conscience in organizations and to know that individuals are suffering from that.  For this to change, practitioners need a way to engage organizational leaders and their workforces.

3.  Clients Recognise Their Potential

For a significant number of therapists the move is client driven.  Clients are presenting to trusted counsellors with a desire to navigate career choices, understand workplace dynamics and manage other dimensions of their lives more effectively.   Yet many practitioners feel they lack specific content expertise in these domains.  It’s a real dilemma, all of the ground work has been done …  The deep rapport has been established.  There is permission to explore most or all facets of the individual’s life.  Yet the therapist feels at a loss to serve their client in ways more suited to context.

4. Recognising Situational Differences

What works in an organisational setting is not necessarily the same as what works in a family – though there is undeniably loads of overlap.  Approaching organisational leaders or even teams with the same methods one uses in counselling or therapy will fall short.   An implicit understanding of this makes many therapists interested in organisational work nervous.  Either they don’t venture forward, or they have been a little burnt when their early forays into organizations haven’t gone as they expected.

5. The Burden of Care

Coaching is strongly predicated on the assumption that the client is whole, capable and resourceful.  This places a different burden of responsibility upon the coach than therapists and counsellors.  It might be that the types of clients coaches work with are different, but it’s also the role and the contract that are different.  Considering domains such as chronic and mental health coaching, we understand that the same client can benefit from both therapy and coaching.

6. Strong Market Demand

The market for coaching services is growing. Many organizations now engage coaches to work on skillsets such as interpersonal communication, emotional intelligence and regulation.  These areas have long been the domain of therapists, but management in organizations is increasingly seeing the advantages of addressing them in the workplace.

7.  Earning Capacity

And then of course there’s the fact that coaching fees are usually higher; at least double and up to four or five times higher than the fees charged by most counsellors and therapists.  While our graduates may be a little shy to speak about this advantage – it offers significant lifestyle choices, meaning they can have more time for themselves.