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The Blank Page (ITWS#7)

I’m having a blank page day. In fact several of them. The truth is I’m a bit angry and frustrated and I know I should get over it. Perhaps writing this will help?!

My ITWS (In Touch with Sense) writing project has had a bit of a knock in the last couple of days. I have made the mistake of trying to be too much of a smart arse in writing something that will have meaning for other people. While I hope this is the case what I cannot achieve is offering meaning to everyone! Somehow it seems that unachievable objective has taken hold in my mind, followed immediately by the knowledge that the goal is impossible, and the inevitable consequence that I don’t bother writing anything! I have completely forgotten my intention of writing something that interests me, simply because it’s good for my wellbeing. Everything else is an added bonus! Time to get back to that original intent…

So here I am, an independent professional coach, with a small and successful business, Alpamayo Coaching Ltd. I enjoy the huge variety in what I do and the diversity of the people that I work with. I enjoy my independence while also valuing the opportunity to collaborate with partners where there is a values match, at a business and personal level. One such partner is Know You More (KYM) who have assembled a fantastic community of coaches, collectively with 300 years of experience of virtual coaching! I buy into KYM’s social purpose but was also taken by an early phrase they used to describe their business purpose. It was ‘to supercharge coaches and supercharge coaching’. Okay, a bit of a sound byte, yet one that captured the central intent of KYM: to bring the incredible human benefits of coaching to a wider community. It is a view that I absolutely share through my own sound byte of ‘Thinking about Your Thinking’ in which my wish is to grow the community and workplace benefits of coaching by developing an appreciation of self-coaching, peer-to-peer coaching and professional coaching.

KYM’s solution to supercharging coaching was to go virtual, one of the first coaching providers to do so. A central part of KYM approach is to use technology as an enabler in supporting the very human connection which is key to any coaching partnership. They created an ecosystem of coaches, coachees, clients and communities as providers of and participants in the KYM experience. All the touch points between these different groups build connections and relationships using technology as the enabler, not the driver. It is the KYM approach that the technology is part of the ecosystem, not the ecosystem itself. I suspect that if my path had not crossed KYM’s several years ago I would not be the strong advocate for the benefits offered by virtual coaching.

So, what is making me ‘a bit angry and frustrated’? Here goes with the embarrassing confession. With most people in isolation we have all gone virtual with our communications. It’s great to have that option and I don’t begrudge anyone that opportunity. Yet in the coaching world everyone shifting to virtual feels like a disturbance to my ecosystem. Is there enough coaching to sustain us all? How selfish am I in having that thought? Where is my oft stated belief in the importance of having an abundance mindset? A voice in my mind is recalling Farmer Palmer from Viz and his regular invitation to ‘Gerroff my land!’ – is that really a character type that I want to be like!?

Then there is the rush to support our front line healthcare workers with coaching support. I’m part of an army of coaches wanting to offer help free of charge to do our bit to take down this virus. Even as I rush to offer my support I am asking myself ‘is this the type of support that front liners want or need right now?’ and tending to come to the conclusion that the answer is no. Is my offer of support more about me than them? Then comes a niggle in my mind relating to the consequences of offering my expertise free for an unspecified, significant amount of time. How much risk can I carry in providing support, and how much risk can the coaching sector carry if it becomes an integral part of a wellbeing equation having established the expectation of coaching being free at the point of use. Again, how selfish am I in having these thoughts or are they justified if I sense a threat to the longevity of my ecosystem?

I guess I’m also a little frustrated because everyone seems to be a coach these days too. There are a lot of excellent practitioners out there, and there are a lot that may be excellent but not necessarily at coaching. Yet it is so difficult for a customer to distinguish between them although the professional bodies are trying to address this. Now that everyone one is connecting virtually I can’t help wondering if there is adequate distinction between using Zoom simply to have a conversation and using it to enable a coaching partnership.

Okay, okay! I know what I am doing here. I am doing that thing where I look at what everyone else is doing and wasting my time on forming an opinion on whether it is right or wrong. I am looking at other people’s offerings and wondering if I match up to them. I am wondering how much more I should be doing. I can hear Stephen Covey’s advice to concentrate efforts in your circle of influence, rather than your circle of concern. I recognise that I am not making use of the thinking and feeling that I offer to others in various coaching conversations.

So now I draw a circle of influence and sit in it and contemplate what it is that I should focus on that I can influence, that I have a level of control over. I recognise that I want to focus on the quality of what I do. I want to strike the balance between support and income generation that will ensure that my ecosystem stays intact. I realise that I want to acknowledge and learn from the work of others while not creating a sense of competition with them. I realise that I do know there is enough to go round! Importantly I realise I need to back my own judgement which has helped me grow my coaching practice as an independent as well as through partnership some great organisations, including Know You More. I recognise that there is value in being part of a wider ecosystem, one does not compromise my identify and integrity.

The blank page is no more. I feel more purposeful and knowing of where to concentrate my energy. Thanks for helping in that!

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