“Transformation is often more about unlearning than learning” (Richard Rohr)

6th October by Kay Young

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In setting the context for her book, Transformational CoachingClare Norman outlines a scene from Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, where “Yoda wants Luke to question what he has been taught, to untangle himself from societal programming” (p.xi). It’s a metaphor that sets the scene for this book so beautifully. The invite is to unlearn conditioned ways of being, thinking, feeling, and behaving; to transform oneself and one’s coaching practice. This is an invite that’s close to my heart. I appreciate how Clare gives the reader permission, encouragement and support to let go of “old paradigms, beliefs, mindsets and scripts” (p.xiii). Support is what makes change possible.

Clare prefers to refer to the people she works with in coaching as ‘thinkers’. Though it’s not a term I warm to, I appreciate hearing how this emerged from Nancy Kline’s work on the Thinking Environment; and I particularly appreciated understanding, up front, that “it’s not just the head that does the thinking the whole body is part of the thinking” (p. xiv). Yes. Great to hear this upfront.

The book is set out in seven main chapters; each focused on the potential unlearning needed, to transform oneself, and be a more masterful coach. They are:

  1. Mindsets we learned from our parents or carers
  2. Mindsets we learned at school
  3. Mindsets we learned from our peers
  4. Mindsets we learned from work
  5. Mindsets we learned from managers
  6. Mindsets we learned from coach training
  7. Mindsets we learned from our coaching experience

Within the seven chapters; there are a total of 83 mindset shifts! Each chapter sets out clearly the ‘old mindset’ and the ‘new mindset’. I love the simplicity and clarity in this approach. Clare often brings in something of her personal story, alongside extensive suggestions on how applying this mindset shift can improve coaching practice. Much of what she writes resonates; and makes good sense to me. I can tell, from what and how she writes, that she’s a highly experienced executive coach, mentor coach, and coaching supervision; with deep experience and wisdom, all worth sharing. She draws from wide ranging leadership and coaching concepts; and often links back into the revised ICF competencies. There is an extensive Bibliography for further reading.

I love the practical nature of this book. At the end of each chapter, there is a ‘retrieval practice’; which in my head I translated into a ‘revival practice’!  This invites the reader to stop, reflect, and write. Then, with guidance, and using ‘habit change’ prompts, to commit to experimenting with something different, based on what has resonated within this particular chapter. It’s an invite to support the reader to make one commitment to one small change; with the understanding that marginal gains – small yet significant improvements - can lead to outstanding results, and transformational change.

I found myself reading through the book with a highlighter in hand; and my current coaching clients in mind and in heart. I noted which of the mindsets shifts resonated with my personal experience and my experience of developing other coaches (the majority of them!); and then, as part of the practice of stopping, reflecting, and writing, at the end of each chapter; I made notes of the mindset shifts where I sensed there was potential for further, small, yet significant improvements, that could be made – twenty in total – linked with my personal practice, and my practice as a trainer of other coaches. Later, I went through each of these; and prioritised the six that felt most important.  I have these written on a postcard on my desk. A wonderful aide-memoir.

The book is intended to support continuous professional development for coaches. It offers the potential to transform individuals and coaching practice; when it’s read with a growth mindset, and a willingness to experiment with changes in mindset and changes in practice.

As a coach, mentor-coach, coaching supervisor, and coach trainer; I’m so deeply glad to have this book now sitting firmly on my bookshelf. It’s a fabulous resource for coaches who are ready and willing to get out of their own way, get out of their clients’ way; revive their practice; and become a more effective coach. I wholeheartedly recommend you get yourself a copy.

The Transformational Coach: Free Your Thinking and Break Through to Coaching Mastery, published by Right Book Press. Order your copy here.

Kay Young is an experienced and ICF accredited leadership coach; an APECS accredited Master Coaching Supervisor; and a UKCP accredited Gestalt Therapist. She has gained the Diploma in Advanced Executive Coaching and the Master Coach Practitioner Diploma with the AoEC. Kay is an Associate with the AoEC; and an ICF Evaluator and Assessor on the AoEC’s Advanced Practitioner Programme. She most enjoys working with leaders, to influence deepening awareness, aliveness, relationships, dialogue and change; and in particular, where there’s an interest in leadership coaching with creative experimentation and psychological depth. Email: Kay@kayyoungconsulting.co.uk