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In this episode I had the pleasure of interviewing Clare Norman. Clare is based in the UK and is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with the International Coach Federation (ICF). Aside from being a coach, she's also a coach supervisor, coach mentor and much, much more.
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Imagine a Sunbeam, radiating brilliance all out into the world with light and warmth reaching every corner. In this episode I had the pleasure of interviewing a sunbeam...,
So we talk about being rather than doing, coaching, and so I hope that I have that sunbeam running through me like a stick of rock.
Welcome to the curious coach podcast so buckle up as we travel around and explore the world of coaching. Here's your host and professional coach, Stephen Clements.
This episode was recorded back in July and I have to apologize for there being such a delay in me getting it edited for release. It seems to have been a crazy couple of months as I focused on finishing up some various activities and training. however, I hope you find this episode really was worth the wait. In it, I had the pleasure of talking with Clare Norman, who is an experienced coach, coach mentor, coach supervisor, and much, much more.
Thank you. Yes, I am Clare Norman and uh, I have three strands to my business, one is around coaching executives through transitions, so helping them to figure out what to leave behind in order to have the capacity to take on new stuff. So for example, that might be if they're moving from company to company or roll to roll or country to country or it might be stepping up as a leader and what do they need to leave behind that has served them well in the past, but they just don't need it anymore. So that's one strand. My second strand is enabling leaders to use a coach approach. And the third strand is for coaches themselves. I am a supervisor and also a mentor coach for the International Coach Federation.
Hmm. There's just so many of those strands I'd love to pull it on! But maybe before we jump into them. You're currently a PCC credentialled coach?
That is correct. Yes, I'm coming up for my renewal at the end of this year. I will have been a PCC for nine years. So I'm giving myself a kick this year and saying, right next time around, you are not renewing, you are going to upgrade to MCC. So giving myself three and a half years to get the 1000 hours and that I need to top myself up, you, becoming an MCC, but I am starting on that journey right now and I'm starting to choose my mentor coach almost as we speak.
Yeah. Fantastic. So, an exciting journey ahead for yourself?
Exciting and scary.
It's funny how those two things always seem to go hand in hand. And I suppose I'm curious just in terms of how did you... how'd you get into coaching in the first place?
So way back when, I was working for Accenture and I was heading up our leaders of all levels strategy and we had a number of training courses as part of our portfolio and people were having wonderful 'a-ha' moments during the training, but they would get getting back to work and slipping back into old habits. So I was looking for some kind of transfer of learning, opportunities to help people to make that switch from the classroom into the workplace. And coaching was one of the things I stumbled across. And so that was I think 18 years ago now, that I started on my coaching journey and I have loved it ever since.
Making that transition yourself from working for a large multinational, and basically jumping into a venture for yourself. Do you mind sharing how that came about?
Yeah. So, yeah, that was me going through a big transition for sure. And having to make a good ending and so that I could make a great new beginning. So I was trying to practice what I was, doing in coaching for myself, which is easier said than done actually. When going through that turmoil yourself, you realize how, how tough it is. So in my case, as I suspect happens for lots of people who end up having their own businesses, my role was made redundant and I was looking around inside the organization to find the perfect role for me and I wanted a head of coaching role and it didn't exist. So, I decided that I was going to go and that I would look for a head of coaching role somewhere else. Now, of course, that role doesn't get advertised, does it? Because it's a person internally who has crafted that role for themselves, which, you know, I don't blame them at all. That's what I would have done if I had been able to. So, so I started applying for a few roles in leadership development, but they were very samey. They, they were, were not going to give me new learning. They were not necessarily innovative companies, who would be keen to have somebody like me working within their fold because I do tend to look at things differently and that scares a lot of companies. And so after I'd been for a few interviews, I realized, no, well I don't actually want to work for anybody else and I certainly don't want to do anything other than the perfect job for me. So that's when I decided it was time to create my own company. And funnily enough, I had said when I interviewed with Accenture, 17 years previously, that in three years' time after I had joined Accenture, I saw myself setting up my business. So it took me another 14 years to actually make that happen. And the person who interviewed me always nudged me in the corridor and said, Oh, you're still here then, you haven't seen it quite yet. So it took the redundancy of my role to give me the courage to set up on my own and take that risk and here I am today, five years later almost. And I'm really glad I've done it.
And I love the way, it sounds like you reframed that to creating your own perfect role, or finding the perfect job, you created it yourself.
Yes, exactly right. I didn't want to have a boss. So it was quite handy that I could be my own boss. I wanted to be able to do what I wanted to do every day. I wanted to focus on the things that I felt were important to the world. And so the way to do that was to do as my own company
And how long did it take for it to feel like it was the perfect job?
So when I started out, I was on a very steep learning curve around business development and selling, but I kept reminding myself, this is all about relationships. You don't have to feel like you're selling, you're just building relationships. So with that in mind, it felt right pretty much as soon as I started. Now, I'm not saying it was easy at the beginning, it felt right. And it felt good and it felt like a good fit for me. And it was a great stretch for me to have something new to get my arms around. Building a business is, there's a lot to it. So I had a lot to learn and I'm still learning, five years later.
I suppose maybe just to, to go back to your three, and pull a little bit on each of them, but I think I'd like to probably spend most of the time with you if it's okay, on maybe the mentor coaching, but we'll come back to that after a slight detour if that's okay?
So I was curious that you mentioned about coaching approach and leaders that take a coaching approach. I think I was reading one of your articles around boundaries and the thought that occurred to me was, is it more challenging or challenging in a different way for, for those internal leaders taking a coaching approach, than a professional coach coming into an organization where there are clear boundaries?
Yes. It's as simple as that. Yes, it's difficult for a leader. For example, if they are using a coach approach with somebody who reports directly to them, then that person may or may not open up to them because it does depends how much trust they have in their leader. And also because the leader does their performance management and performance management is tied to reward and pay. And so, there are certain things that an employee is not necessarily going to want to say to their boss unless they have a really exhistite relationship and very high trust. So that is difficult for a leader to coach. However they can use a coach approach so they can ask good questions that help the individual to think for themselves. And this is a place where I get on my soap box because I do think that leaders, well, I don't just think, I see, I observe leaders, telling that people want to do all of the time, so that undermining the thinking muscles of their people and yet they wonder why their people keep coming to them and asking them what to do or, what would you do or I've got this problem, I'm not sure how to handle it. And the leader, partly because they want to get through this quickly and partly because actually they want to show their expertise, in some cases, they simply give the answer. They get frustrated with the employee for coming back and back and back asking questions about what should I do? And yet I would argue that it's not the employee who needs to change, It's the leader who needs to change. They need to move away from giving an answer immediately into asking a question that helps the individual to think for themselves. And the more questions they ask, the more the employee will build that thinking muscle. The more they build that thinking muscle, the less they will come back with questions because they will be able to think for themselves. The leader will have created an independent critical thinker. And surely that's what we need in our organization. So not just people who can take orders, but people who can think for themselves. So the role of the leader is to use a coach approach to ask questions that help people to think for themselves. So it's different though from 'coaching' because I agree with you that there, there are much clearer boundaries if you use an external coach or an internal coach who is not part of the person's day to day work.
Yes. And it's an interesting distinction between a coaching approach and 'coaching'. Do you think it's getting better or worse from either, both from, from leaders being able to ask questions or people being able to do their own critical thinking, as the, I suppose the next wave of generations enter the workforce.
There is something about the, the younger generations use the older generations as role models. So if the older generations are telling rather than asking, then I think it's likely that the younger generations will do the same as leaders and managers because that's all they know, that's what they've received. Having said that, if they're in an educational establishment that is asking them questions where they need to think for themselves, then perhaps they are more likely to join the dots and realize that it's crucial to be asking the people around you questions rather than giving them information. So there's a thought that's going through my head there about, okay. So I, came out of the consulting world, I wasn't a client facing consultant myself, but of course consultants are meant to be the experts. And so, it's difficult when a person is in an 'expert' role where in their role they are expected to advise their clients. And it's the same in hospitals for example, where, you know, doctors are expected to be the expert in diagnosing and you know this proliferates across multiple different cultures where people have been trained to be the experts. And so it's really hard for them to move out of their expert model into asking questions that help other people to become experts. I do a lot of teaching in organizations where people say, "Oh, but I'm so used to telling people what to do, quickest thing to do. And it just, you know, enables me to move on and get on with something else." But actually what they don't realize is that they're perpetuating that whole cycle
Mmm. Perpetuating rather than breaking it. And
yes, I, I'd like to help them to break that cycle so that they can just stop for a moment. Think, okay, what question am I going to ask the individual? And it could be as simple as, well, what do you think? Or, what, what are the kinds of things you've been thinking about so far and how might you build on those and what are the pros and cons of each of those? So, you know, there's multiple different ways that we can ask questions and so there's something about helping people to ask good, succinct, pithy, powerful questions and not to sell their questions. So I see a lot of that in people who are training as coaches but also leaders as coaches. Who ask a question multiple times stacked on top of each other to try to explain the question or clarify the question. When actually, if they simply ask the first question, it was a good enough question and it would have landed and the person would then have had the opportunity to think for themselves rather than getting confused by the multiple questions landing on them.
It all sounds so simple, doesn't it?
Oh it does, but it's because it's ingrained in us to be the experts.
And I suppose that actually brings us nicely on to supervision and mentor coaching. So how did you decide to make the move into, into supervision, mentoring?
A couple of things. One, I realized that I really liked coaching coaches and so it seemed like a natural progression to then move into supervising coaches. And then the other reason was because I knew that by learning how to supervise, I would also be sharpening my own coaching edge and putting myself under scrutiny. So it was a good self development tool for me to go through that journey to learn how to be a supervisor. And then I, Hmm, I'm trying to remember how I got into mentor coaching. I think it was just a natural progression from there. I was doing a bit of mentor coaching before I went to my supervision training. So yeah, I said I have built that over period of time so that I, I do actually feel like I'm an expert mentor coach now.
I think on your website it says you've been doing it for over six years now. is that correct?.
I suppose maybe, we better start at the beginning as well, in terms of, for those that don't know, what is mentor coaching?
So mentor coaching is observed coaching, with feedback, against the ICF competencies. So a coach would either work with a mentor coach on a one to one basis or in a group. On a one to one basis, the way that I do it is that I ask the coach to bring recordings of their coaching and we stop and start the recording and we reflect on how well are they are putting the competencies into practice. So we start off with the piece at the beginning around contracting and we start, stop it when they've finished the contracting and we reflect on how thorough was the contract, how, how clear were both parties about what the intention was. And so that's one to one. And then group mentor coaching, and again, this is the way that I do it, there are other mentor coaches available who perhaps have different ways of doing it.
But in group mentor coaching, I have seven coaches who take it in turn to coach each other with the rest of the group observing them. And, then we start with the coach giving themselves feedback. One strength and one stretch. Then we ask the thinker, what's one thing that the coach did that moved their thinking forward and what's one thing that the coach did that got in the way of their thinking. And then we ask the observers, what did they notice? And help the thinker to get to new thinking, and what did they notice that prevented the thinker from getting to new thinking? The ICF is the only coaching body, as far as I know, that requires mentor coaching. I used to think that mentor coaching was second best to supervision, but I have definitely changed my mind in the last six years, because what I notice is that mentor coaching really shows up the blind spots, which supervision does not necessarily, because we can shine a light on those blind spots by observing a person, whereas supervision is self reported.
And so we don't know what their blind spots aren't necessarily, in terms of their competency at least. So mentor coaching is all about the blind spots, the deaf spots and the dumb spots and bringing those out. So an individual will leave mentor coaching really understanding what they're great at and well, they are blind to. So what do they not know that they're doing? But they know now! What do they not know that they are not saying? So perhaps they're thinking stuff internally, but they haven't articulated it out loud in a form of direct communication. Yeah. So what are the things that they don't know that they don't know about themselves?
And in terms of the, so the way you do mentor coaching, you do something that seems quite scary called a lock-in?
Can you tell me more about that?
It's not as scary as that! So it's a weekend where seven people come on the Friday night. We all have dinner together to get to know each other and to create the psychological safety with a contract for what we are about to do on the next two days. Then Saturday and Sunday mornings we spend doing the group mentor coaching. So I like I described to you, they take it in turns to coach each other and to receive feedback on their coaching. And then also they get the chance to observe other coaches and to see what they might like to 'pinch' from those coaches. And then the afternoons are spent on cracking through the paperwork for their ICF credential. And this is why it's called the lock-in, because I lock them in until they're done. Not literally, of course they are free to go. But for many people, that's the piece that they find the hardest about the credentialing process, is knuckling down to do the admin piece around collating their hours, you know, creating their log, documenting all of the coach specific training they've done. And, and also they have a hard time figuring out, actually what is required of them through the credentialing process. So I spent about an hour simplifying the ICF process for credentialing such that they can then get down to business and start to do what they need to do, whether they're going for the portfolio route or the the other route. So they, in the weekend they get both seven hours of the 10 hours of mentor coaching that they need for their credential and they get the chance to get that paperwork up to date or at least break the back of it. So that's why it's called it lock-in. Now people are a bit scared of the mentor coaching piece where they have to demonstrate their coaching in front of a group of strangers. But we have created enough safety on the Friday evening that people soon get over that because they realize they're all in the same boat. They're all going to be doing this in front of each other and that there is lots of learning to be had. So it becomes a fantastic learning opportunity. People come thinking that the mentor coaching is a bit of a tick box exercise, but they leave feeling like they have grown exponentially as coaches and that they have really sharpened their edge. So, so I feel very proud of the lock-in and what it helps coaches to do with their coaching.
And Is it correct to say you have 100% success still?
That is correct. So for every person who submits their application after coming on the lock-in, 100% of those people have got their credential. Now, not everybody goes that far. So some people do give up along the wayside and actuall what I offer now as part of the process is three 20 minute check-ins. To help them to stay on that path of getting that paperwork done. Because that's the bit where they fall by the wayside. Because for some people, if they have never logged their coaching hours, for example, and are needing to submit a log for their PCC with 500 hours, that's a lot of hours to log, and also to do meet the requirements of GDPR, going out to all of those people and making sure that it's okay to include their names in the log. So yeah, these accountability calls help to keep them on track and keep them moving and people seem to want to have somebody at their shoulder giving them that loving boot.
And I suppose from my own journey, I probably initially viewed mentor coaching a little bit like that, in terms of that tick box exercise, but now that I've experienced it firsthand, it strikes me that what I've learned through the mentor coaching has been hugely invaluable and so much more than just part of it process. I'm wondering in terms of, do many people come back to it as a way of self development rather than just part of an ICF process for either obtaining or renewing a credential?
Yes. Well that's kind of the mission I'm on at the moment is to change people's perception of mentor coaching such that they see it as a form of continuous professional development that they do for life, not just for their credential. And I've had people come on the lock-in, when I've asked them to share amongst themselves, what would you recommend to each other as good CPD? I've had them say, actually, this has been the best CPD. I would like to come along to another one of these, even though I may not be going for a credential, I recognize that it's going to sharpen my edge again because it's individualized. It's tailored to them. Whereas a course with 12 or 15 or 20 people, just cannot get that individualized for each person on the course. So, that's the lovely thing about mentor coaching and supervision is it's tailored completely to the individual and where they're at now and helping them to shift. So yes, they do want to come back. Yes, I do have an advanced lock-in for PCCs who don't have to have mentor coaching for their renewal, but they can choose to use up to 10 hours of mentor coaching towards the 40 hours of CPD that they need to accumulate in three years. So that's all goodness. If people come back and want more, I'm very happy to offer.
That sounds like a fantastic mission that you're on.
Yes. And I want to change the way all coaching bodies view mentor coaching. So at the moment, as I said, I think the ICF is the only body that, well certainly the only body that requires it for credentialing, I'm not sure whether the others offer it or recommend it, but maybe by another name. But I'd like all of the coaching bodies to get their heads together and have aligned definitions of what is supervision, how much supervision should people have, what is mentor coaching, how much mentor coaching should people have in order to keep themselves current and at their edge and doing the best they can for their thinkers, the people that they work with.
And it's such an important point in terms of those definitions because there are subtle differences between all of the organizations around some of those definitions. So that sounds like a good place to start.
Yes. I'm starting to write a book about this and I'm seeing that as throwing a little pebble into the lake to try to create some ripples in the coaching world in the hopes that I can start off more conversations around how do we, how do we come together on this? Somebody said I need to throw a boulder into the Lake. I said, no, I'm starting small. I can only cope with so much. So let's just start there.
I guess it depends on how big the body of water is!
Well, that's true. Yeah.
And the book is on mentor coaching itself or, some other aspect?
It is, the working title, and it may not end up being called this, but the working title is 'Mentor coaching is for life' and the subtitle, 'individualized, continuous professional development'. And I'm hoping to release it at the ICF conference next May, so watch this space.
So you've drawn a working title, you've got the goal and you've set yourself a target deadline!
I have, yes. And I started working on it today, so I broke in the back of it, which is,
yeah, I'l certainly look forward look forward to hearing more because you definitely have me converted in terms of the benefits of mentor coaching beyond just credentialing, so, I definitely looking forward to that. I suppose, just conscious of time and maybe just a little bit of a random question for you, so your blog 'Being a Sunbeam", where does the, where did you get the name being a Sunbeam from?
Well, I was on a training course with Coaching Development and I was being coached by one of the other participants and I wanted to figure out what was my essence. And who was I, and I realized that I am a Sunbeam nurturing, warm, enabling growth. So it really spoke to me about who I want to be. And I'm not saying I'm perfect, I'm not always the most gracious sunbeam in the world, but that's what I aspire to be every day. And so that's where the title of the blog came from. At one point I thought about naming my business that, but I wasn't sure how that would go down in the corporate world, so I decided to stick with calling my blog being a sunbeam.
That's such a lovely image and also it sounds like a lovely reminder of your training.
It is, yes, and a lovely reminder to me every day to be that Sunbeam and to embrace all that that is and all that that offers to the world, whether that's to my godchildren or whether it's to the people I coach or the people I mentor coach or supervise, I hope that that comes out in everything that I do and everything that I am. So we talk about, being rather than doing 'coaching'. And so I hope that I have that sun beam running through me, like stick of rock.
Lovely! And just to wrap it up then, in terms of, what would be the one piece of advice that you wish somebody had told you starting out on your coaching journey?
I wish they had told me about mentor coaching sooner because what I now recognize is that I get more learning through mentor coaching, and supervision, than I have done from all the multiple training courses that I've attended. You know, there's been research that shows that attending a training course might give you about a 20% change in behavior because it's not individualized. And so I, yeah, I wish that somebody had said to me, take up mentor coaching and supervision as soon as you can because that's where you're going to get the most.
Fantastic! Clare, thank you very much for your time today. It's been an absolute pleasure to talk to you.
And to you too. Thank you for inviting me.
I hope you enjoyed this interview and I'd love to hear your feedback. Thoughts or suggestions. So please don't hesitate to get in touch by sending me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org Full show notes and a transcript of this and all other episodes can be find on my website at stephenclements.ie/podcast .Thanks for listening, and until next time, don't forget - Stay curious!