Although it’s a best guess, today is the day which is credited as being Shakespeare’s 448 birthday! So it seemed appropriate to publish this post today.
This was originally published as a bonus article in the Coaching Confidence weekly email during June 2011. To start getting your very own copy each week enter your details under “Don’t miss a thing!” to the right of this page.
What can we learn from best practice in other fields?
Both this week’s Monday post and next week’s will focus on two workshops I have recently observed. Some of the following will specifically talk about a different industry with different job titles, yet I invite you to consider the points that you, as a coach, can take from this experience.
To help, I’ve added a few coaching questions to consider throughout this piece, however, feel free to ask your own coaching questions as they occur to you.
Last week I spent a delightful, if somewhat rainy, day in Stratford – Upon – Avon. The Royal Shakespeare Company (the RSC) was having an open day with various events scheduled throughout the day.
For those who are not aware of The RSC they are a theatre company who see their “job to connect people with Shakespeare and produce bold, ambitious work with living writers, actors and artists.”
The first workshop I watched was led by the RSC’s “Head of Voice” Cicely Berry. We were first treated to a bit of history about how in 1969 the RSC was the first theatre company in the UK to employ someone specifically to work with actors just for voice. It was felt that the training that the young actors were getting did not prepare them to “fill spaces.”
Being a new approach, Cicely Berry described how she was working on her feet, figuring out strategies and techniques as she went along.
She described how one of the issues she saw was that often actors lost connection with characters by conforming to what the director wanted.
Coaching is often discussed as being a “new field” and I do see some coaches figuring out new strategies and techniques as they go along – ones that work for themselves and their clients.
However, I also see some coaches who have lost connection with themselves – either because they are conforming to what a respected “expert” has wanted or by their own interpretation about who they “should” be as a coach.
A coaching question to consider: if you were working on your feet figuring out strategies and techniques as you went along, what would you be doing different?
As head of voice, Cicely Berry says “My job is to get them [the actors] free from their left hand side of the brain, understanding and really hearing it for themselves.”
A coaching question to consider: Are you aware as a coach what your role is working with your clients?
I know, personally I can have many different roles depending upon the client I am working with and where they are at any given moment. Certainly, as a coach one of the roles that I am aware that I do is to assist my client to hear their own inner wisdom – instead of listening to the stories and logical reasons they had been telling themselves.
As it was a workshop you probably won’t be surprised to hear that we also saw the actors participating in various exercises designed to emphasis various technical aspects.
One of these exercises was about recognising the beat and rhythm of a particular piece as the underlying rhythm gives incredible energy and makes it active.
A different exercise focused upon demonstrating that it Isn’t necessarily the volume you speak but reaching out with constinents etc that means you can be heard even in the back row of the auditorium.
A coaching question to consider: what else could you do to add incredible energy to something you are currently working upon?
Even though more mature in her years and walking with the use of a stick, she still got up during exercises to stand in the middle of the action. She made sure that she was monitoring what was happening and what each participant was doing. Often the exercises involved lots of movement and quick changes in direction. In the middle of this if any actor turned unexpectedly in her direction she just put a hand in front of her and stood her ground so they didn’t unintentionally bump into her.
A coaching question to consider: What more can you do to be more in the middle of the action?
As I watched I was aware that if we were to use labels that coaches would be familiar with there were numerous examples that we could use.
For example, after explaining an exercise she asked a variation of the question “Do you mind doing that?”
You may be familiar as a coach with checking someones willingness to an action. This phrasing not only does that but also being a closed question she was inviting a straight forward yes or no answer without any “story” associated with that.
At the end of each exercise the participants were asked, “What did you get from that?” giving them the opportunity to reflect and reinforce the learning from the exercise.
So my final coaching question to consider this week is: “What can you learn/take from this post?”