CPD II: What’s different?
First, some context. I am a solopreneur. Through Alpamayo Coaching I provide a variety of services including coaching, training and consultancy. I call myself either a leadership and development coach, or a whole-of-life coach. To me they mean the same thing as I think of leadership as something that we all do, in all areas of our life, in leading ourselves and others.
The context outlined above has been in play since around 2015 when I started my first coach training programme supporting my professional accreditation. Things picked up speed when Alpamayo Coaching came into being at the end of 2017. From that time up to the present day, I have kept a log of my CPD hours, as much for my own interest as it is a requirement for my professional re-accreditations. Until now I have not really thought to tot up the hours spent on CPD. When I did. a couple of weeks ago, I found the number was 892 hours. I was a little shocked!
By the way, this number is for ‘scheduled’ CPD which to me means anything that involves a provider or a peer group and dedicated time in the diary. It might have been a peer discussion group or community of practice of like-minded individuals exploring a particular area of interest. It includes webinars that have become such a big part of CPD; a way of learning mandated by COVID19 and now a habit that maybe difficult to break. It includes experiences that are free and shared between peers, paid for CPD that comes at a price, and the coach supervision that provides a place for me to process, in confidence, what is going on for me in all the coaching work that I do.
It does not include reading time on topics that inform my coaching, or reflection time on each and every coaching session I have partnered in (more that 1600 of them). I think a conservative estimate of the time taken in these reflective CPD activities is one hour of reading/ reflection for every hour of coaching that I do.
Recalculating the overall CPD effort then. That’s 900 hours of scheduled CPD (by the time I am writing this I know I have done 8 more hours!), and around 1600 of mainly reflection and some reading hours. That’s more than 400 hours per year, around 34 hours per month. Effectively one week per month is committed to CPD!? Wow!
You might be wondering if this is getting a little self-serving?! Maybe it is a bit. I am proud of the scale and diversity of the learning I have engaged in! However, my primary interest in thinking about this is to ask myself the question ‘what’s different?’ as a result of all this CPD. After all, the full economic cost of these accumulated hours is significant, so what’s different as a result? I am also encouraging you to ask yourself this question about your own CPD, along with others shared later in this blog.
Before getting into that I want to try and make a distinction between the scheduled CPD and those reflection hours that I mentioned above. The distinction is in how they might each benefit my clients.
The time spent reflecting on my coaching, either by myself or with my coach supervisor, feels like it has a direct influence on my clients. It is something that is altering my way of being, which plays out in my coaching practice, both consciously and subconsciously in a way that offers benefit directly to them.
Scheduled CPD (with the exception of the coach supervision) feels to me like something that indirectly benefits my clients. Indirectly because it is not necessarily in their service. Instead, it is in the service of my skill development, which might or might not serve their needs.
Putting it another way, the way I coach today is based on the accumulation of my experience in the more than 1600 hours of coaching completed to date. This is a direct, lived influence on the coaching that is yet to come. I am a different coach in every session as my experience has been altered by the coaching done in the immediately preceding conversation, and all the sessions prior to that.
Curiosity is something that connects coaching and learning. A coach needs to be curious about their client to be effective, and curiosity is a driver for learning. Somehow the connection through curiosity makes real the learning opportunity that comes from ‘the doing’ of coaching. Many, many jobs offer opportunities to learn simply through doing, yet I have not experienced one where doing and learning are so powerfully connected.
‘Scheduled’ CPD on the other hand, gives me models and frameworks that I might choose to use in my practice. The challenge I find with this is in the phrase ‘I might choose’. If I choose to use a certain model or framework then I am applying skills that I think are fit for purpose, not necessarily the same as what the client wants or needs. What needs to happen is that the client invites an approach through their own way of being which the coach responds to, intuitively delving into their life experience and portfolio of coaching skills.
The learning that I do during scheduled CPD makes me different too. Every topic, model and framework has a cognitive and emotional impact whether I ultimately forget the detail, file it in long term memory, or keep it much closer within my consciousness. Of course, how tightly I hold on to a way of thinking is influenced by my bias and beliefs. For me, one of the curious things about this sort of learning is that the models that excite me the most are the ones that I need to be most careful about drawing upon. The inclination to apply them without permission of the client can be powerful indeed. I try and stay open to all possibilities being available to my clients, and then use three things to test the relevance of what I choose to share with them. Firstly, I back my intuition to make connections to locate an appropriate response. Secondly, I check within myself to see if my response is in my client’s service or in my own. Finally, I invite their permission to engage.
Don’t get me wrong about ‘scheduled’ CPD. I really enjoy it and get a lot from it. Learning is a value for me. It keeps me interested, engaged, open to change. It affords me agility in the service of the extraordinary diversity I experience across all my clients.
It is interesting how much I have learned about myself throughout all of my CPD too. I have long known that I prefer knowing a little about a lot. I am a generalist rather than a specialist, and have not always been entirely comfortable about that, particularly when surrounded by people who (I believe) were specialists rather than generalists. Many years ago, one of them, an academic colleague of mine, said ‘you’re a bit of a polymath, aren’t you?’. While it was not meant to be disparaging it was not intended as a compliment! Whether I am a polymath or not is up to others to decide, yet I do identify positively with what I understand it to mean.
Many years ago, I was identified as ‘a jack of all trades and master of none’. It was something that I found hurtful then, but which is now a trait that I am proud of. I am really lucky to work as a coach where curiosity is key, and where being able to travel far and wide in conversations with clients who are very different from me is seen as a positive attribute. I realise that one of my biases is that coaching people is better served by generalism, whereas specialism, or expertise, is more connected to a tendency to solve problems for them.
I have gone rather a long way from the question of ‘what’s different?’ on the back of all of this learning. Here it is. I started out thinking that I was doing my coaching CPD to make me a better coach. Now I know that I do CPD to make me a different coach. I am constantly evolving and that is rather cool!
Here are some enquiries that you might find interesting to ponder on.
What is the difference that you notice at the end of your chosen CPD learning?
How does the difference you notice relate to your intention?
What are you becoming?
What is your relationship with generalism and specialism, and how does this play out for you and those around you?
If the exploration implied in these enquiries interests you, or you are curious about how enquiry on something that is particularly topical for you might be helpful, please do get in touch with me. You can read my other recent blog on CPD here too.