Coincidence. Creativity. Coaching.
I have been leadership and development coach for a long time now and enjoy how curiosity through conversation can be so helpful in supporting and challenging a coachee’s way of thinking and feeling. I am also familiar with the learning benefits for me in those conversations which arise when I take the time to reflect on them. Even though this is all part and parcel of what I do I am still surprised from time to time by the impact that chance conversations can have on us and the way we view our world. Here is the story of one such conversation which coincidentally bought together thinking about creativity and coaching.
Sometime shortly after the first lockdown was lifted in the summer of 2020, we went into Salisbury to visit artists who were showing their works in their own gardens. As it was a bit of an event, we took a round and about way into town by travelling out of the Nadder valley, where we live, into the Wylye valley. Both river valleys, along with three others, meet in Salisbury and are collectively central to much of the area’s charm and character.
Even though we had lived here for a number of years it was the first time we had driven this particular route. As we reached the top of the hill between the two valleys we were treated to a view that had us both captivated. It was a typical huge Wiltshire landscape, seemingly interminable, rolling hills, and a patchwork of fields with their variety of colours enhanced by the sun. Aside from the fields and their boundaries there was barely any visible evidence of anything man-made, quite a feat as the A303 went through the valley that dipped out of our view. Our spirits were buoyed by the view creating a sense of wellbeing and wonder that so often comes from engaging with nature, and that feeling stayed with us for the rest of the day.
There were many fine works of art on display, made all the more personal by being shown in their creator’s own outdoor space. That summer sun enhanced the experience, made particularly special by being the first opportunity to talk to anyone apart from family and neighbours. There was a sense of a shared vulnerability as we all rediscovered how to be sociable!
One experience stood out for us both. Late on in the day we found an artist whose home was outside the town centre. We approached the outside gallery by climbing a hill towards where paintings were displayed on the front garden elevated above the road, on top of a retaining wall. The overall effect was curiously like the moment we crested the hill earlier in the morning, and one painting in particular drew us in. Karen, the artist, was a fascinating and easy person to talk to and she told us about her inspirations and her changing style. The creative force within her was almost visible. We asked about the picture you see in this post, one she called Wiltshire Landscape II. Karen told us the story of how she was enjoying painting semi-abstract pictures of landscapes that she saw in her travels and around Wiltshire. We both knew we recognised the painting we were looking at and could not fail to smile when Karen talked about it being a wonderful sight she came across when crossing over from the Nadder into the Wylye valley on the very same route we had followed that morning! The combination of the painting and the story meant that we had no hesitation in buying the painting.
When I went to collect it a day or two later Karen and I had a conversation that has stayed with both of us. After we had talked for a while about painting and creativity, she asked me ‘what do you do?’. A shift in the focus of attention in a conversation can always be a little unsettling so I was not surprised that I hesitated before saying ‘I’m a leadership and development coach’. After a short pause I found myself adding ‘………………. not as creative as you’. There are many coaching questions that might be asked to explore the reason for my choosing to say that. Karen, with a quizzical smile and a twinkle in her eye, asked a very good one. She simply said ‘Really?’
That single word, and the way that it was generously shared with me, had the immediate impact of helping me realise how foolish I was being in thinking of myself as ‘less creative or uncreative’. I didn’t even realise I was thinking it until that short snippet of conversation. I recall walking away that day with much more than a lovely painting. I walked away with an appreciation that my creativity existed, even if it did not involve brushes, paint or canvas. Instead, it is the unique way I coach other people to be the best that they can be through being the equivalent of abstract, impressionist, figurative, or whatever other style might best suit my subject.
That was quite a gift from Karen that day, one that I think about from time to time, particularly when I look at Wiltshire Landscape II hanging on our wall. Since then, we catch up from time to time and remember that conversation. Just as I benefitted from clearer thinking about creativity, she has since been more conscious about the importance of storytelling when talking to people about her paintings, stories that make the uniquely individual intention and inspiration of her paintings more accessible to those who are looking at them. The mutual benefit from challenging each other’s thinking has led to friendship and fascinating conversations through which we have each come to understand more about the other’s creativity.
You can find more blogs about things that connect with leadership and development coaching at www.alpamayocoaching.com and if you are interested in Karen Welsh's creativity check out her painting at https://www.karenwelshcreativearts.co.uk/.