CHAPTER 1: CRISIS
Mapping my Journey: I had lost my job in the Civil Service, after suffering from a heart condition (‘Arrhythmia”) which required surgery and was burnt-out after a few years in post taking my employers to the Court Tribunal. I felt rudderless and bereft of choice, although I had been able to attend counselling sessions through the National Health Service (NHS). I was close on 50 years and still single, living in East London, miles away from my preference of Kensington. “Disaster comes only because of ignorance” – Judah the Prince
Hence one becalmed spring day, with the sun shining and the birds singing, I took a walk in the local park, to ponder my destiny [situation], “What to do?”. There were no sudden flashbacks, but the mist slowly passed away from my eyes to unravel the path traveled and I looked for a pattern.
This was surely a crisis point, but I realised it had been long in coming and averted only due to my previous stamina and aggression. I had always had a hard time being employed and this had replicated through my jobs in Lagos (Nigeria), Connecticut (USA) and now London (UK). The true constant being my behaviour and aversion to rules. “Something had to give”, before I finally cracked.
As the days followed I mulled my options, realizing my focus was to look onwards and forwards, without getting bogged down in an ephemeral search for resolving my complex character. It was obvious that the most successful sports people had coaches and the quote by Google Chairman & CEO, struck a chord. “Everybody needs a Coach” – Eric Schmidt
So I fell back, on one good skill I had, Research! This included attending events on the benefits of coaching and how to find a coach. But, old habits die hard and I have always had a penchant for the extreme, hence found it hard to decide on the best suitable coach. Extreme logic took over, and my new rationale then was to actually train as a Life Coach in order to be able to rank the best one for myself! So, of course I had to check out syllabus at the various training Academies, draw up a budget and make payment to NMC, which I found to be suitable. The bonus was the charismatic founder told a good story and gave a good pitch on how this could also be a business.
The path to counselling: During and after the toxic events and well after my exit from my civil service job, I had been experiencing severe neck and back pain (myofascial pain syndrome) after my (non-invasive) heart procedure and was on a prescription of pain killers which gave me mood swings and depression. I was lucky to be referred to the NHS Counselling service, well before my coaching journey and the few sessions I attended with “Talking Therapy” gave me a sense of balance. The best of the sessions was that I did all the talking and the counsellor simply nodded, listened and only gave prods to lengthen my answers. This was my first experience of the instance of “Active Listening” as a tool in therapy, there was no judgement on my responses and no advice given, which allowed me the space to accept my guilt and shortcomings to override the suicidal thoughts I had built up. “Man is born free, but is everywhere found in chains” – St. Ramalingam
Behavioral Insights: Talk about closing the gates after the horse has bolted! After my retreat from the Civil Service, I took an in-depth questionnaire on “Discovery Transformational Leadership” by Insights™ and made a startling discovery. Apparently my style was unsuited to the Service. To quote snippets from the report.
▶ Leading – Rigid on code of conduct and needs to lighten up a bit.
▶ Team – May use a style that tends to be directive more than supportive.
▶ Communications – Can be over-sensitive to criticism and reacts with self-defence.
▶ Development – Enjoys the challenge of being coached by a competent and assertive coach.
▶ Vision – Needs to ask more “What if” questions and be innovative at start of solution process.
Road to Recovery: I also took part in a patient recovery programme run by Expert Patients Programme CIC and got a certificate for attending said course on “Chronic Disease Self-Management course” in Nov 2010. This helped with an Action Plan especially with managing my prescription. I embarked on an Acupuncture treatment but found that pain relief was only temporary, while I got fed up of having pins stuck down my back. I attended several rounds of Physiotherapy until the consultants explained they could not alleviate my condition any longer. However, the journey to wean myself off the pain-killers took another year, and this involved attending physiotherapy and mindful exercises. This all helped to put me on the first steps to embarking on my coaching journey.
Attending Coaching school: Back to school again and the course work, in heavy ring-binders, duly arrived by post in a Big carton Box. The course had a good structure made up of two parts. The First part was Distance learning with Tele classes tied up with the modules in coursework material, Practical coaching hours to be logged (over Skype) and submission of Book critique and reflective essays along with a final assignment (for publishing)!! The Second part was a three day residential course in the country side, which was a useful spur to action since I had to complete half of the coursework before I was eligible for this.
However, I looked forward most to the three day residential part which did not disappoint. It was held in a stately home, Northwest of Oxford City area and took me about 2 hours travel by train and broke my curfew of never getting past the M25! It was invigorating to meet fellow practitioners and the tutors, while I took copious notes. But the best was yet to come!
It was one of the break periods and I ambled about and fetched a coffee, which promptly spilled and made got me hot under the collar. And then this young lady pops up by my shoulder and tells me “Wow that was fantastic!”. Aha, my head swiveled about and before I could give a withering look, she disarmed me with a smile.
Arianne, her name was I found out, explained that the perspective she took was that the spill occurred on the linoleum floor, and just on the edge of the plush carpet, so a disaster had been averted.
It was about Perception! I found out that Arianne was French and had flown in from France for the residential; she had signed up as a career change from a marketing background and of course had a lovely accent on her very good English. And that’s how we built up rapport and the basis on which I made my decision to have a peer-coaching arrangement with her, during and after our course completion.
I had signed up and paid for the Coaching course in July 2009 and the estimated schedule was to complete in fifteen months with the award of a ‘Life Coach Practitioner Coaching Diploma’. And it was then eight months after the start, and grinding away at my coursework modules, that I then attended the residential course in February 2010. The thrill of meeting Arianne at the Residential course sparked a revival in my enthusiasm for the coaching work and we setup a Skype coaching meetup after her return to Paris. It was a mutually beneficial arrangement with benefits for me as a client.
Mentor coach: However, I was not on my lonesome as one of the perks of the course was to provide me a Mentor coach to guide me through client coaching and provide me with training feedback.
Working with my Mentor Coach was an invaluable aid in developing my practical coaching skills. In the mentoring sessions, the Mentor Coach acted as ‘the Client’ while I was the Coach. The feedback provided as part of each session helped to develop my skills as a coach. There were several telephone coaching calls taking place at intervals throughout the length of my training, which I used as a practical learning guide.
Coaching sessions with my Mentor Coach were scheduled in conjunction with additional coaching practice – study buddy, reciprocal, or practice coaching. My Mentor Coach ‘the Client’ helped to guide me through a number of issues, which commonly arise in coaching relationships, and trained me in both coaching skills and in how to deal with these issues/topics.
Oh! And there were all the log books I had to fill. Through this period I was still ill and on pain-killers but the focus on my learning path pulled me through some difficult periods. The Tele class modules helped to anchor my feelings and exercises on Beliefs and values elicitation, amongst others, were very useful. The target was to have completed the course by November 2010, and I had some flashes of brilliance receiving a Distinction for the Book critique submitted.
The struggle: But I struggled with the written assignments and the final submission. This had nothing to do with the course standard, it was a reflection of the conflict and stress I had gone through, alongside the legal defense I had to make to the Employment tribunal to prevent my civil service dismissal, had diminished not only my work ethic but also my drive to succeed in my endeavours. I had always pushed myself to achieve targets with a competitive mindset and I was now bereft of this mindset.
The coaching course had given me insights into how to achieve balance and change gears and one of the best was to learn to pull yourself to achieve targets. The toolkit on saboteurs clarification had also helped me identify the issue as apathy. So this book is now being written and published ten years later as my final written assignment. Please don’t tell.