Mindful Coaching – The Power of Silence

Some years ago, as a member of The Coaching Foundation, I attended a workshop lead by Doctor Angus McCleod entitled ‘The Power of Silence’ (Angus McLeod & Steve Breibart; experiencing silence as a tool for change).  This experience changed everything for me.  As a novice Coach I was nervous of silence, and a pause in dialogue with my Coachee would make me anxious.  I felt the pressure to interject with a powerful incisive question of course!!

But less is more. Stay present, be mindful, relax and pay attention.  Remember that listening to that silence is good. Allowing the time for thinking/feeling to happen is powerful in itself.  Being there with the Coachee, giving them your attention, ready for when they decide to come back to a dialogue, allows the Coachee to experience an exquisite sense of the Coach simply holding the Thinking Space for them.  In the Thinking space the Coachee has permission to allow their thoughts to wander and connections to be made. This can be hugely powerful.

This is what Coaching can do, and it certainly is Mindful Coaching at its best.

However, silent attention sometimes only takes us so far, and in Nancy Kline’s work on the “Thinking Environment” (as she calls it) she tells us that asking incisive questions can remove barriers.  So if you have an incisive question you could offer it and then give your Coachee ”Time to Think”.  Our best thinking happens when we have a great question to consider and then the time to think about it.

Brexit: What’s the Plan?

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Following the chaos of last week’s referendum on EU membership, I have been horrified by the apparent lack of contingency planning.  It is staggering to realise that neither the government, not the Brexiters seem to have done anything to produce a coherent programme for implementing a “leave” outcome.  It appeared to be the same with the Scottish referendum. The Prime Minister only got away with that deficiency because the result happened to go his way – but then like now, it was too close to call. This time, his luck ran out – he gambled again, and lost.

There is nothing party-political in this view. This is a scenario that any business person would understand – that where the result of taking a risk could have enormous consequences, such as a divided country, it is wise to hedge if possible; and always to draw up contingency plans for the outcome you were not hoping for.   To do neither is not calculated risk-taking – it is recklessness.

The result was followed immediately by the start of a disintegration of the political establishment that comprises both major parties, not to mention the structure of the entire United Kingdom. Having plunged the country into turmoil, our leaders seem to be throwing up their hands and running around in circles like headless chickens.

The people in this country, like the people in any company, need decisive leadership during uncertain times, and very clear and consistent messages about the direction of travel.  Who is communicating a clear vision for the future, and the pathway to take us there? Where are the statesman-like speeches needed to rally the nation around the new reality?  What’s the Plan?   Even Baldrick understood the need for a plan!!




How to learn to be Optimistic

affirmations-441457_1280In a previous article http://www.capstickssaxton.com/…/197-3-more-ways-to-build-resilience  I pointed out that optimistic people tend to be more resilient than pessimistic types.  However the good news for pessimists is that optimism can be learned.

Martin Seligman, author of “Learned Optimism: How to change your mind and your life” reaches the conclusion that the tendency towards optimism is learned (rather than dispositional) and can therefore be trained. He has arrived at this conclusion following his studies of learned helplessness.

The ability to learn to be optimistic is important because it means that people can learn to be more resilient and to develop ways of looking at their life that facilitate rather than inhibit their performance under stress.    Remembering that our emotions flow from our thoughts, the methods that have to be mastered involve taking control of our thoughts and developing our positive thinking patterns. This is how you move your mind from the shade into the sunshine.

Seligman has designed training which helps people to learn and develop the positive thinking skills of learned optimism. The ABC model developed by Albert Ellis and used by Cognitive Behavioural Therapists is the starting point for Seligman’s training method.  The ABC model works like this:  Continue reading

The power of optimism


The origin of the word “optimism” is from the Latin optimum which means “the best”. By optimism I mean the tendency to positive thinking, finding the best in a situation; to look on the bright side; to regard a glass half full rather than half empty.

Researching this topic I came across a story about Andrew Carnegie, written by Alex Banayan, who posted it on Linked In.  Andrew Carnegie started his career with nothing and yet he became the richest man alive; worth more than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined.

According to the story, one afternoon, a young man walked into Carnegie’s office to interview him about his success. Carnegie could have talked the young man through his journey from poverty to riches, or told him about his dealings with John Rockefeller. But Carnegie talked about something else.

His optimism.

Apparently, Carnegie said the most important thing in his life was his “ability to shed trouble and to laugh through life.” He said that seeing life through a lens of positivity was worth more to him than millions of dollars.

“Young people should know that it can be cultivated,” Carnegie said. “The mind, like the body, can be moved from the shade into sunshine.”

It seems that optimism makes good business sense. By not getting weighed down by the negative, Carnegie could keep his focus on the positive, bounce back from failures faster, and see opportunities where other people didn’t know they existed.  He also seems to have discovered the fact that optimism can be cultivated…we can move our minds from the shade into the sunshine. This is something that Martin Seligman shows us how to do in his writing on Learned Optimism, which will be the subject of my next post.

3 more ways to build resilience

bouncing-159517_1280 Life can be tough at times and the pace of change seems relentless. What can we do to maintain the ability to recover quickly from challenges, such as redundancy, that come along and knock back our confidence?  In an earlier article  I described 3 ways to build personal resilience; namely take care of yourself, learn from your past, and avoid getting stuck by making an action plan.

Here are 3 more practical steps to help build and maintain our resilience

  1. Learn to be optimistic
  2. Accept change
  3. Set and achieve goals

Read more.

How to open a world of colour for black and white thinkers

Reframing is a useful technique for unsticking black and white thinking. Colour brings a fresh dimension.

Use a simple question to encourage exploration of the grey area in between two stuck positions: eg “How would it be if the grey area was shot through with bright colours?”

Visualisation of colours can bring fresh energy, enabling a stuck thinker to find new perspectives and innovative solutions. Why not give it a try.


Make Change in 5 tiny steps

Sometimes the thought of changing something can seem overwhelming.  Where to start?

I am a firm believer in the benefit of taking small steps in the direction of travel, rather than trying to tackle everything at the same time.

Small steps can add up over time, and the secret is to start with something easy.

Here is a simple 5 stage formula for making change……Read more