Blog

How to heal polarisation

By Martin Vogel

As part of my recent research into how coaches are engaging with the political sphere, I interviewed a US-based coach, John Schuster, who teaches on coach training programmes at Columbia University and the Hudson Institute. The interview didn’t make the final cut of the published article because the editors wanted to focus on the discussion of coaching and climate change. But John’s work highlights a very different way that coaches can contribute to addressing some of society’s big challenges. John is tackling polarisation: using his coaching skills to bring together people across the Republican-Democrat divide.

A Democrat-supporter, he teamed up in 2016 with a coach who had voted for Donald Trump. They organised a conversation to which each invited three friends from their own side.

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Internal coaches need external supervisors

By Martin Vogel

It’s considered best practice among professional coaches that they work with a supervisor, someone who creates space for them to reflect on their work. But how common is this among internal coaches?

There’s a long tradition of supervision being provided to support people who support other people. It grew up as a discipline to help professionals such as psychotherapists, teachers and social workers. In the competitive market for professional coaches, savvy clients understand that they should only work with a coach who is supervised. Clients of internal coaches need this assurance just as much. As do people whose managers seek to lead with a coaching style.

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How to work with a coach

By Martin Vogel

coffee

This series of blog posts guides you through the whole process of working with a coach from identifying why you might need one through to ending a coaching relationship elegantly. If you engage a coach, bookmark this page and keep referring to it throughout your engagement.

  1. Why use a coach?
  2. What do you want from coaching?
  3. How do you find a coach?
  4. Meeting a prospective coach
  5. Agreeing terms with your coach
  6. Your first session with a coach
  7. Working with your coach
  8. Your work between coaching sessions
  9. If your coaching isn’t going well
  10. When it’s time to finish coaching

Image courtesy Joshua Ness on Unsplash.

Coaching is political

By Martin Vogel

Coaching has been practised to support leadership for a few decades now. But the mismatch between leaders’ impact and the challenges we face as a society has never seemed greater.

Look, for example, at the paralysis over how to manage climate change. Politicians and executives seem clueless, or unwilling to engage in strategies that can help bring about the radical changes required to mitigate predicted disaster scenarios. The question here is how the coaching profession can engage with the climate emergency – only one of the complex political issues that shape the context in which we encounter our clients. The mismatch between the scale of these tasks and the quality of leadership with which the world can tackle them is a call for coaches to critically review our impact and responsibilities. Continue reading “Coaching is political”

A country gone wrong

By Martin Vogel

The Britain that leaves the European Union tonight is not the same country that voted to leave on 23rd June 2016. The result was a shock, but it was still possible then to imagine that the Government would help the country process it in a mature way and facilitate the emergence of a consensus about how to discharge the mandate. Indeed, in that alarming period when we were a hair’s breadth from the Conservative Party giving us Andrea Leadsom as prime minister, such appeal as Theresa May held was chiefly that she might approach Brexit in a way that could elicit losers’ consent. These hopes were soon dispelled by her speeches to the Conservative conference disparaging “citizens of nowhere” speech and charting a course to a uncompromisingly hard Brexit (a course, it subsequently emerged, she did not understand she was embarking on).

“No state in the modern era has committed such a senseless act of self-harm,” The Irish Times opined yesterday. It spoke of Britain becoming poorer, diminished on the international stage and its citizens’ freedoms curtailed.

All true. But we have lost more than our participation in the European Union and the benefits that flow from that. We have abandoned the norms and etiquette of respectful disagreement, evolved over centuries, which gave substance to our sense of ourselves as a society founded on democracy and the rule of law. From the hasty rush to start the Article 50 countdown with no clear destination in mind, to the demonisation of the judges as “enemies of the people”, the suspension of Parliament and the intimidation of MPs (which began, let us remember, with the murder of one of their number in the days before the Referendum), this has felt like a country recklessly flirting with the darkest of forces.

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Navigating trauma in coaching

By Martin Vogel

The practice of coaching deals with more darkness than is often acknowledged. From my earliest days as a coach, I have encountered people who are navigating significant difficulty in life. Trauma is a subject not easily broached in coaching. Clients and coaches often assume this is the terrain of therapy and are fearful of going there.

But trauma is widely prevalent. For many of us, our traumas may well be be reactivated by some of the questions currently playing out in society – the climate crisis, coronavirus, Brexit, to name a few. Coaches and clients alike are affected by these developments and their learned adaptations to trauma may well influence not just how they respond to things from day to day but also how the coaching relationship plays out. The question is not whether to consider trauma in coaching but how.

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Tuning into the cascade of experience

By Martin Vogel

I’ve written before about the stirring voice work of Nadine George. My introduction to the work last year has turned out not to be an isolated encounter but the beginning of an exploration that I suspect I might pursue for some time. Most recently, I joined a two-day workshop in Glasgow with a group of people with varying levels of experience in the method – from decades to none. Nadine’s work continues a tradition begun by Alfred Wolfsohn and developed by Roy Hart. If voice work conjures for you a technical exercise in projecting one’s voice, this is much more than that. It is a journey in giving voice to aspects of one’s self that don’t easily find expression. It’s a form of self-development that takes effect remarkably quickly. If my initial work with Nadine touched me profoundly, the opportunity to practise with a group penetrated to a further level of depth.

It’s harder to write about a group experience than about a lesson on my own. My experience is wrapped up with that of everyone else. It’s not just mine to share. So this piece is published with the consent of the others.

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Eco-supervision group in London

By Martin Vogel

trees

I’m excited to be offering a group supervision programme in collaboration with Hetty Einzig next year. If you are a coach, please join what promises to be an exciting and innovative approach to supervision, starting February 2020. The group will meet monthly for six months in central London. What we are calling Eco-Supervision is a values-based, collaborative and experimental model which explores coaching practice within the context of wider societal and environmental considerations. It is rooted in the models of Analytic-Network Coaching and Eco-Leadership created by Simon Western. We have his agreement to refer to his frameworks. We will draw also on our backgrounds in Transpersonal Coaching, bodywork, creative practices and mindfulness. 

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Creative coaching creates creative leadership

By Martin Vogel

In the knowledge economy, creativity is at a premium. But the same economy encourages lifestyles and working routines that crowd out creative impulses. This isn’t just bad for productivity, it’s bad for wellbeing. This presents a two-fold challenge for coaches: how to stay fresh and creative in how we practice; and, how to support our clients to nurture creativity in their likely busy lives.

It’s something of a paradox that modern life wrings us out. Digital technology, information abundance, the range of choices in how we use our leisure, opportunities for travel – these all offer rich stimulation to our senses and lower the barriers of entry to the means of creativity. But filling our minds with information and our leisure time with activity brings it own stresses, maxing out our capacity simply to process experience. The journalist, Oliver Burkeman, has written recently of how keeping up with the news has transformed from being a contained and relaxing ritual (reading a newspaper, watching the TV bulletin) to a civic duty that (thanks to inexorability of social media feeds) no longer has boundaries. The lost boundaries are not simply temporal they are boundaries of decency and decorum. Browsing the news today exposes us to abuse, hyperbole and dark thoughts about the state of the world – inducing in many a constant state of panic and insecurity. Hardly ideal circumstances for creativity.

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Britain’s shame: projections and substance regarding Boris Johnson

By Martin Vogel

On Tuesday afternoon, a friend in Boston emailed to acknowledge that my country was now officially more embarrassing than his. This had been a bone of contention between us: him cringing at how Trump was eviscerating the reputation of the United States; me pointing to Brexit. But the elevation of Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson to Prime Minister of the UK had tipped the scales in our favour. Thus was my attempted sabbatical from political engagement brought to an unwelcome end.

On Wednesday, I had a disturbed night. I kept waking to the anxious residues of Johnson’s first day in office, as I absorbed the seizure of government by a clique of “nepotists, chancers, fools, flunkeys, flatterers, hypocrites, braggarts and whiners“ – as Nick Cohen put it, with uncharacteristic understatement.

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