CSA Consiousness, Supervision, Artistry

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...thoughts and reflections from CSA Faculty, Accredited Supervisors and the Coaching Supervision Community

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  • 26 Nov 2021 10:01 AM | Edna Murdoch

    Edna Murdochby Edna Murdoch

    I read recently that the CSA mantra, ‘Who you are is how you coach’™ is a statement about psychology. My reaction to that was ‘No, that is only the beginning’. When this mantra first rolled off my tongue in a lively conversation with my wonderful colleague Aboodi Shabi, we were trying to bottom out what really made the difference in our work as coaches and supervisors. The mantra recognised that beyond all the models, tools that support the work, our identity as human beings and our capacity to relate to each other, was a key element in coaching's magic.

    Of course, psychological make-up informs coaching and supervision practice and psychological maturity affects relational intelligence in this work. But ‘who are who we are is how we coach’™ can open the door to so much more than that. More than I knew all those years ago. For over 20 years, this mantra has challenged me as it keeps highlighting the different aspects of selfhood that show up in the living field of coaching and supervision.

    ‘Who you are…..’  includes our family experience, culture, training, intellect, our ancestry, our heart/brain connection, the ecological self, professional capacities and much more.  We bring all of that to work. And yet, sometimes, we may not be conscious of all that we are.

    I am glad to see that at this time in history the notion of ‘who we are…’ is changing radically for many people. Traditional assumptions of separateness, disconnection and of our dangerous ‘dominion over the earth’ are being seriously challenged.  Our reciprocity with the living world is being acknowledged as our species takes its appropriate place at last - and there is a long way to go.  I am glad too, that technology ensures that the global brain is growing and that there is an outpouring of new information accessible by millions of people. For example, it is impossible not to notice the many on-line global summits on major human themes, taught by global experts or the avalanche of new writers and associations brimming with desire to bring about profound societal change.  And we now have more access to the traditions of native peoples across the world who have held the vision of connectedness and the sacredness of all that lives.

    “Native American societies have a lived sense of the unity of all living things, as expressed in the Native American phrase ‘all my relations,’ which has been called a prayer and a cosmology in one breath.” Dr Leslie Gray, Native American Psychologist & Shamanic Councillor, founder of Woodfish Institute

    In the last couple of years, we have been forced to look again at our identity – who are we? It seems that collectively we are in an initiatory moment; if we can grasp it, we will move into a much greater sense of kinship with every living thing, we will balance the masculine and feminine energies and will walk together with all peoples and in harmony with the more-than-human world. A necessary journey. Collectively, we will know that there is a sacred purpose infusing all of life and that we are part of that. Key figures in coaching are on board with this new vision; new practices, new associations, new trainings naturally follow.  These are innovative times, as coaching welcomes the zeitgeist and gets creative.

    Many of us can broaden the notion of self, to include Teilhard de Chardin’s words: ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, we are spiritual beings having a human experience.’ This perspective underlines the growing understanding of who we are at a communal and cosmic level - and of course, it radically challenges conventional professional practice. We must remove the limits we sometimes place on our identity as coach or supervisor – ‘who we are..’ gets bigger as our understanding grows. Teilhard also said:

    “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”

    As supervisor/coach, if I know that I am a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ and live out of that awareness, and if I experience the ‘energies of love’ and have learned how to harness them in my relationships, my conversations with others will be more imaginative, open and intuitive. Perception will be quicker, clearer and my client and I will experience those marvellous co-incidences, unexpected insights and intuitive knowings that make for powerful, elegant practice.

    This way of experiencing self-as-instrument is a game changer for coaches, mentors, leaders and supervisors. Because of it, ’who we are….’ is understood in a much bigger frame than a merely psychological one. Work with clients becomes more potent because of that. We do not have to struggle to be present or to remain present in conversations with clients. Presence is not ‘ours’ to manufacture; instead, we open to Presence when we align consciously with all that is and are awake, infused and fed from a shared source of intelligence. Tom Alee puts it this way: ’There is more to intelligence than a solitary capacity exercised within the life of one entity.  As it attunes to life, intelligence evokes a fuller, deeper intelligence in and around it.  Resonant intelligence is intelligence that grows stronger or fuller as it resonates with other sources of intelligence.’ (Resonant Intelligence)

    Living the identity of being a ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ means that coaches and supervisors are in touch with a living field of information. Indeed, we can affect our clients before we even speak with them. Or as educator Christopher Bache writes: ‘consciousness is contagious’:

    ‘‘Our personal intelligence participates in a larger collective intelligence….When one person begins to throw off layers of their psychological conditioning, and awakens to clearer, more expansive states of awareness, surrounding people will necessarily be affected….Clarified states of consciousness are contagious. This is an utterly natural phenomenon, an unstoppable effect. Our spiritual ecology simply does not allow private awakening.’

    Working over many years with his students, he notices that:

    ‘Beneath the levels of consciousness where our minds are separate and distinct lie hidden depths where they begin to interpenetrate until they eventually are enfolded within an unbroken, seamless field of consciousness.’

    So we may ask ourselves:

    How conscious am I of who I really am?

    How do I work in that ‘expanded’ awareness, ’free of the constriction of self-reference’?

    How might this affect my professional capacities?

    The answer to these questions will determine the quality of the insights that arise in professional conversations. The ‘contagion’ which Bache points to, ensures that my client and I inhabit a field of information that will provide images, connections, intuitions, breakthroughs that neither of us would have had access to with the intellect only.

    In the best moments of coaching and supervision, client and practitioner experience what it is to move into what Bache calls ‘pre-existing fields of collective consciousness’. He goes further and says that these ‘collective fields become the “working unit” of experience in these sessions. It is in these moments that magic happens, we are in a co-created space of profound learning and the work is easy, unstrained and is fed by the field of information into which we have both entered.

    It is heartening to see that more coaches and supervisors - yes, and leaders, educators, mentors, people professionals everywhere - are experiencing working with this level of consciousness. What you and I bring in our being, matters. Who we imagine we are, must have no limits - especially not the limit of relying on our psychological make-up.

    C Bache ‘The Living Classroom: Teaching and Collective Consciousness’ 2008

    Edna Murdoch

    Edna Murdoch
  • 23 Nov 2021 5:50 PM | Michael Smith

    by Julie Johnson Julie Johnson

    Very early in my coaching career – a time when there were no formal coach-training  programs nor ICF* Core Competencies – I was learning from the school of hard knocks.

    *International Coaching Federation

    A fair amount of my work consisted of coaching and debriefing the results of a pile of assessments taken by participants of a leadership program. I partnered with them in making connections between their results and their current situation and desired future.

    I clearly remember one coaching session that taught me a great deal. I had been briefed by the trainer that the participant was particularly ambitious, quite young to be in such a senior position, and a father of two small children. In addition, during the program week, he had alienated a number of his fellow participants by competing and trying to come out ahead (and making a point of doing so).

    I was VERY curious as to how he would be during our 3-hour session.

    As we went through the data, he enthusiastically accepted and elaborated on the positive feedback. However, my every attempt to point out potential areas for development and reflection was brushed away with responses like:

    • “That’s because of our current policies. I can’t do anything about that.”
    • “This is not my fault, it is caused by person A, who …. “
    • “Even though they don’t like the way I do this, I have to be tough. It’s the only style that gets things done.”
    • “I actually do this a lot, but there are some people who are jealous of me, so they would never admit that I’m actually good at it.”
    • “People just won’t listen!”

    This was new for me (yes! this indicates how early it was in my coaching career!), and I let it go on and on, until we had finished going through the entire pile. In retrospect, I should have intervened much earlier, offering to share my observations.

    We were about to part ways, and I felt very frustrated, knowing that the participant probably hadn’t gotten anything useful out of the session. I wanted to make a difference and hadn’t.

    Then a light bulb went on.

    In the 11th hour moment, I said, “So, officially we are finished. Do you have any last questions you would like to ask me?” While he probably didn’t realize it, this was very intentional. I needed permission. You might even call this ‘a set-up’, one that probably caught him off-guard.

    He paused, then sat back in his chair with elbows up and hands behind his head, and one ankle rested comfortably on the knee of the other leg (you know this space-taking position) and said, “Yeah. Could you … sum me up in a few sentences?”

    Permission granted. I took a deep breath and paused while looking out the window to pull my message together. I wanted him to realize that I was preparing something that was less easy for me to say, something that I figured no one had either dared or bothered to say to him before – resulting in a significant blind spot on his part.

    Then I replied: “During our session, I noticed that you either spent your time expanding on your strengths, or rejecting each and every possible suggestion of a development area. You gave situational excuses and blamed others. It has been quite unpleasant for me to spend all of our time in this way.”

    He shifted in the chair, dropping his leg to the floor and lowering his hands to his lap, literally folding in on himself.

    I continued: “If you are doing the same at work, you may be alienating more senior colleagues, which could damage your career.”

    And then I said one more thing: “Finally, you admitted at one point that you hold your work and professional advancement as a higher priority in your life than your family.” [long pause] “I am concerned for you that at around the age of 40, you may find yourself all alone.”

    I don’t remember exactly what happened in the next few moments, but we managed to say goodbye, and he headed toward the training room to close the day with the group. Out of sight, I caught the trainer and asked him to keep an eye on my participant, as I had given him a very tough message at the end of our session.

    The way the program was designed, I never saw that participant again, and my best indication of how the message was received would lie in his evaluation score of the experience. As it turned out, he scored it 5/5.

    Some of my learnings from this are:

    • Tough feedback and messages can be delivered successfully when coming from a well-intended place.
    • Offering the message without ‘permission’ would probably have seriously backfired.
    • Expressing concern (when sincere) can contribute significantly to getting your coachee to realize the potential impact of their current behavior.

    Without any ICF Core Compentencies to guide me on how to deliver tough feedback, I had to rely on my gut. In those hours before I received the participant evaluation score, I was agonizing: Was I going to receive yet another ‘hard knock’? Not this time!

    The evaluation score of 5/5 proved that coachees realize the value of receiving tough feedback from a coach and confirmed my suspicion that asking permission was key.

    And as it turns out, what I learned that day almost 30 years ago ended up aligning with several of today’s ICF Core Competencies.

    Julie Johnson


    Julie Johnson Consulting

  • 4 Nov 2021 12:06 PM | Anonymous

    Keri Phillipsby Keri Phillips

    Introductory Story

    I was visiting Manchester and, whilst walking along King Street, took a spur-of-the-moment decision to visit the recently opened George Thornton Art Gallery. I should also add that calling into art galleries is a rare event for me. However, on this occasion, because I had been getting lost in the early drafting of this paper I thought I would go somewhere a bit different, but without any particular hopes or expectations.

    I had a really interesting conversation with the person responsible for greeting visitors, Desiree Estrada Pinero. She is a jewellery designer who also works at the Manchester Craft Centre. We discussed creativity and she said that during the lockdown she had found it very difficult to produce anything. She profoundly missed her routine of getting out, catching up with friends over a cup of coffee. She also said that this was in contrast to some of her other artistic colleagues who had thrived during that time, being highly productive, some even more so than before.

    I then went downstairs to the rest of the gallery. I was particularly struck by this picture, entitled Thou Art in Heaven:

    Thou Art in Heaven

    It seemed to capture one of the key themes which, for me, had been evident in response to the pandemic; namely the reassessing of what had previously been fundamental truths. When I went back upstairs I began again talking to the jewellery designer, including my reaction to the picture. At the back of my mind the idea of including the picture in this paper began to form, along with wondering how to get permission from the artist, Matthew Leak. At that moment, the artist himself walked into the gallery and the three of us spoke briefly together about the impact of the pandemic. As I was preparing to leave I asked for his permission regarding including the picture in this paper and he happily agreed.

    In reflecting on my visit, it seemed to embody some of the points which I had been planning to convey in the paper. First, as already mentioned, this is a time which has for many triggered a reassessment of some important and on occasion fundamental truths. I am also aware that there may well be many others who would see the picture in a totally different light. Recalling the moment I first saw it, it was almost with a sense of relief that I felt that the meaning had leapt out at me. Desperation for meaning might be another sign of these times. Also Philip Stokoe suggests that in times of massive anxiety we are particularly vulnerable to false meaning (Stokoe, 2021). It may become more important than the truth, however defined.

    Certainly the search for meaning can be fundamental when grieving the loss of a loved one. ‘In the aftermath of life-altering loss, the bereaved are commonly precipitated into a search for meaning at all levels that range from the practical (How did my loved one die?) through to the relational (Who am I now that I am no longer a spouse?) to the spiritual and existential (Why did God allow this to happen?). How - and whether - we engage these questions and resolve or simply stop asking them shapes how we accommodate the loss and who we become in the light of it’ (Neimeyer and Sands, 2022: 11). Similar questions, though with less intensity may be raised regarding other losses which do not involve bereavement but are nevertheless intimate. ‘…….we ‘hold’ beliefs, and letting go of a belief is painful, it is a loss’ (Stokoe, 2021: 50).

    Also my conversation with the jewellery designer regarding the highly variable impact of the pandemic on people’s creativity was a powerful reminder that there has been some ‘good news’ as well as profound challenges and pain. I have therefore sought to bring such balance to the points I later make.

    My concluding reflection at this stage on my spontaneous visit to the gallery is that it was entirely a ‘gift from the universe’. As mentioned, I had already started the early drafting of the paper, but I then went into limbo. I was not sure when, whether or how to proceed. My chance visit to the gallery helped me move forward.

    Click here to read the full paper by Keri 

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