I’ve been running a series of CPD Workshops for Executive Coaches in the first few months of this year. One of the topics we worked on was entitled: Coaching Leaders through Mid Life Transition. This attracted a lot of interest, and all of the coaches – a wide diversity from Scotland and N Ireland – were hungry for information on this topic!
Let me share with you some of what we discussed.
- This is a hot topic. When we’re coaching managers and leaders in their mid to late 40’s and 50’s, we are likely to encounter issues of mid life transition
- What is ‘mid life transition’?! Well, it’s not what we tend to stereotype as a ‘mid life crisis’. Because it’s not a crisis. It’s a stage of growth in our lives. If our coachee is asking deep questions of themselves, such as ‘What’s it all about?’, ‘What’s the point of me putting my all into my work?’ or ‘I’m not as driven by achievement (or money, or status, or the nature of my work) as I used to be…’ – then chances are, we’re on a mid life transition issue
- And……this applies to us too as coaches! Many of us are in a similar place, or had been in the last few years (indeed, was that why some of us became coaches?!)
- So…..how do we understand it? And importantly, how do we help our coachees through it?
As Executive Coaches we quite rightly put a real focus on our clients, ensuring we are ‘match fit’ as we turn up to see them, and giving them 100%.
But do we do the same for ourselves? Or do our busy lives mean that we never quite get round to this – taking a bit of time for ourselves and recharging our batteries?
I have to admit, it took a long time for the penny to drop for me! By this I mean, if I’m putting myself ‘bottom of the pile’ – looking after everyone else first, taking care of clients’ and others’ needs – that there are actually a few problems with this.
- First off, I can’t do it for ever, or I will burn out. No matter how strong I am and how well I think I’m coping with all the pressure!
- Secondly, I’m not actually ‘practicing what I preach’. As I work with coaching clients to support them to live healthy work lives, deal with adversity, overcome challenges, step into their higher selves – I need to be authentic and able to do this for myself. Look after myself. Modelling this is so important, whether or not I actually articulate this with my clients.
- Thirdly, from a systems perspective, looking after self, being resilient in the force field of organisational systems, and helping others to do this too, is so important in today’s organisations. I see ‘resilience’ appear more and more in organisations sets of competencies for their people and their leaders.
I was reading an HBR article today The Art of Giving and Receiving Advice. The title piqued my interest. I often get into discussions with trainee coaches, on the thorny topic of ‘giving advice’!
It is intriguing to think that there could actually be an art to giving advice, but of course, as you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
In the article Edgar Schein said that Advisers can slip up in a couple of ways:
I’ve been thinking about listening a lot recently, as I’m working with several new action learning groups. Action learning is a process whereby a small group of colleagues come together to help each other work through issues or challenges, by asking questions rather than giving advice. The process of asking questions can lead to surprising insights and new ways of seeing things, enabling the ‘issue-holder’ to find their own way forward in a situation where there is no perfect solution. Groups usually meet about half-a-dozen times, for a period of up to a year, and it’s fascinating to see the shift between questioning and listening over this time.
What I have noticed is that at the beginning of the group’s life, there is a strong drive to ask questions, sometimes at the expense of actually listening to what the issue holder is saying. Continue reading
This HBR Blog rings true for me, given my experience of working with leaders at all levels in organisations today. For anyone interested in giving these ideas a go, try Wendy Palmer’s APP (Leadership Embodiment; Centering Practice) – I find the four daily reminders really useful!