Posts Tagged coaching

Applied Chaos

Using the Chaos Theory of Careers in Counselling

I would like to thank Dr Jim Bright of Bright and Associates for contributing this guest posting as a follow-up to an earlier post of mine on The Chaos Theory of Careers. — David.
Romanesca broccoli

A fractal cauliflower (or broccoli) – how applied can you get?

A bit of background

The Chaos Theory of Careers (CTC) characterises individuals as complex systems subject to the influence of complex influences and chance events. However, over time patterns emerge in our behaviour that are self-similar but also subject to change.  Career trajectories/histories/stories are examples of such complex fractal patterns.

Our careers are subject to chance events far more frequently than just about any theory other than CTC and Happenstance Learning Theory would suggest.

Our careers are subject to non linear change — sometimes small steps have profound outcomes, and sometimes changing everything changes nothing.

Our careers are unpredictable, with most people expressing a degree of surprise/delight or disappointment at where they ended up.

Our careers are subject to continual change. Sometimes we experience slow shift (Bright, 2008) that results in us drifting off course without realising it, and sometimes our careers have dramatic (fast shift) changes which completely turn our world upside down.

We (and therefore our careers) take shape and exhibit self-similar patterns, trajectories, traits, narratives, preoccupations over time.

We (and therefore our careers) are too complex to be easily captured and put into simple boxes, interest or personality codes. Even much vaunted narrative is an over-simplification.

Constructivism proposes that we are pattern makers; we can find connections and structure in almost any stimuli. CTC has at it’s heart the idea of emergent patterns.  In seeking to understand these exceedingly complex and ever changing patterns we all will construct meaning from our experiences of these patterns and the constructions that we place on our experience of reality (Pryor & Bright, 2003). In contrast with several recent theories, we contend that there is more to reality than just constructions of it (See Pryor & Bright, 2007).

In summary, CTC and any counselling process based upon it will have to take into account the following concepts:

  • Change — e.g. Bright (2008), Jepson & Chouduri (2001)
  • Chance — e.g. Chen (2005), Krumboltz & Levin (2006); Bright et al (2005), Bright, Pryor & Harpham (2005)
  • Complexity — Patton & McMahon (2006); Lent, Brown & Hacket (1996); Bright et al (2005)
  • Fractal patterns — Bright & Pryor (2010); Bright & Pryor (2005); Bloch (2005); Savickas et al (2009)
  • Emergence —  Pryor & Bright (2004); Bright & Pryor (2010); Morrowitz (2003)
  • Attractors — Pryor & Bright (2007); Bright & Pryor (2005)
  • Constructivism — Savickas (1997); Savickas et al (2009)

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A strengths-based approach in careers guidance

I would like to thank Elaine Denniss from The Careers Group for contributing this guest posting. — David.

World's strongest kid

‘… One cannot build on weakness. To achieve results, one has to use all the available strengths…  These strengths are the true opportunities’ (Drucker, 1967)

In preparing to facilitate a recent Guidance Forum on using a strengths-based approach in careers guidance, I revisited some of the positive psychology and strengths-based literature. Because of this, I have been reflecting further on how I can incorporate some of the ideas, theories and approaches into my careers work.

The positive psychology and strengths-based movement has been gaining momentum over recent years with a growing body of research demonstrating the benefits of positive emotion and focusing on our strengths for our life and our work.   In emphasising strengths rather than weaknesses, positive psychology moves us away from the Negativity Bias whereby we find it easier to pay attention to what’s wrong or areas requiring development.  The concept of strengths appeared in business literature with Peter Drucker (1967) and subsequently through the vision of Donald Clifton of The Gallup Organisation and the work of Martin Seligman in the field of positive psychology.

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The danger of goals and power

Archer aiming for the target

How long will it take to hit the target?

Two of the frequent aims of career coaching or counselling are to empower clients and to help them develop amibtious personal goals. Nothing could possibly be wrong with that, you might think.

However, according to studies performed by Mario Weick, from the University of Kent, and Ana Guinote, from University College London, people who experience feelings of power can seriously underestimate how long it will take to achieve their goals.

Weick, M., & Guinote, A. (2010). How Long Will It Take? Power Biases Time Predictions Journal of Experimental Social Psychology DOI: 10.1016/j.jesp.2010.03.005

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RIASEC hats

Hats

Which one of these is realistic?

In The Careers Group hold regular guidance forums. These are informal learning meetings for careers advisers to discuss any guidance related issues. The last forum was run by a couple of colleagues, Jeff and Tracy, who have some experience of different forms of coaching. During the meeting, Jeff demonstrated a technique to help people address a difficult situation they may be facing. This involved getting the ‘client’ to look at their situation from a number of different angles (literally by moving around) and different perspectives.

In this particular example, the ‘client’ had to perceive the situation from the viewpoint of their colourful stripey shirt, the window, the clock, their cat, etc. Each viewpoint really represented a different aspect of the client’s personality. The stripey shirt represented their fun-loving side. The clock represented their meticulous, slightly obsessive side. The window represented their forward thinking side. Etc.

All of these perspectives were generated by the client with spontaneous, intuitive guidance from Jeff. It was fascinating to watch and I could see how useful it might be to help a client break out of habitual ways of viewing their situation.

I have also observed an adviser experiment with a similar technique in which she got the client to look at her situation from the perspective of a hero or role model. Again, this was an inspiring bit of risk taking which worked really well.

However, in both cases I was left wondering how many clients or advisers would be comfortable with that level of improvisation and whether there might be some more structured way of approaching it.

Career theory to the rescue! Read the rest of this entry »

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Why am I here? (Part Two)

The Thinker

Still thinking about this…

In Part One I outlined four triggers that have started me thinking about the purpose of guidance. In this post I want to share some of those thoughts. They are not complete thoughts by any means and are mostly in the form of questions.

How green is my guidance?

When Bill Law started making comments on Twitter that an awareness of climate change should be a key component of career guidance, I had an uncomfortable reaction. ‘How is this my job?’ I thought, ‘Surely, we should be responding to the client’s priorities rather than forcing them to think about global/societal issues if they don’t want to.’

I suspect a lot of careers advisers would respond the same way. Many of us have been brought up with a client-centred, non-directive approach (dare I say indoctrinated?). We have a voice in our heads which says, ‘We are not here to influence the client. The client knows best what they want. We are merely facilitators.‘ But is that entirely true? Has it ever been true?

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(Not-so) model behaviour

Push to success

Is coaching/guidance always such a positive experience?

In an early post I suggested that the popularity of coaching might be attributable to the fact that coaching models all seem to have positive, sexy-sounding acronyms.

I have just come across another model with a cringingly appropriate name. Based on the popular GROW model, Saul Brown and Anthony Grant from Australia have come up with a coaching model for working with teams called…GROUP.

Brown, S. W.  & Grant, A.M. (2010) From GROW to GROUP: theoretical issues and a practical model for group coaching in organisations. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 3(1), 30-45.

GROUP stands for:

  • Goals
  • Reality
  • Options
  • Understanding others
  • Perform

I can’t really tell you much more about it because my Athens account doesn’t give me access to Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, so I can’t read the whole paper. Although, I did notice in the abstract they refer to ‘Scharma’s U process’, by which I assume they mean Theory U developed by Otto Scharmer. I mentioned this in my article on levels of listening. They also allude to ‘double-loop learning’. This is one aspect of transformational learning which was an inspiration for the Zones model.

I think Seasonal Affective Disorder has set in because I had a bit of a grumpy week last week. As a result, I’ve decided that I’ve had enough of positive, chirpy model acronyms and want to invent a few that reflect the sometimes disappointing reality of coaching and guidance.

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The benefits of pessimism

Normal Distribution

Normal distribution - thin tail

Last week I learnt a new piece of jargon. A ‘fat-tail event’ is something that you thought was virtually impossible, but it happened anyway. In theory, it could be very good or very bad, but it usually refers to something extremely unpleasant, such as a financial crisis.

The phrase comes from statistics. Many randomly occurring events (such as the height of the person you sit next to on the bus) are assumed to follow what is called a Normal Distribution (the classic ‘bell-shaped curve’). So you are more likely to sit next to someone around average height and less likely to sit next to someone really short or really tall. With the Normal Distribution the probability of something really unusual happening tails off really rapidly the further away you get from the average — it has a thin tail.

Fat Tail

See the fat tail!

However, some things in the real world don’t follow the Normal Distribution curve. Instead of a thin tail, they have a fat tail. This means that certain extreme possibilities are more likely than you might think.

I was quite pleased to be able to use my newly discovered jargon in a session on negotiation skills I was running last week. I was talking about the usefulness of assessing any negotiated deal by imagining how it would look if subsequent events turned out a lot better or a lot worse than you were expecting (e.g. your fixed-rate mortgage doesn’t look so good if the Bank of England cuts rates to zero).

A black swan

Does this black swan have a fat tail?

A related term for unexpected events is a Black Swan, coined by author Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is the unexpected event which you could not have predicted based on your previous experience and derives from the fact that, until they were discovered in the 17th century, most Europeans thought that black swans could not exist.

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Time travel

It's nothing to do with a nuclear deterrent!

I was really pleased by the response to an earlier post in which I described my own Zones model. People seem to have found it helpful in framing what is going on with a client during a discussion. Buoyed by this success, I thought I would present another model that I tend to use in my practice. Because of the shape of the diagram, I call it the Trident model. As usual, it has been inspired by a number of different sources (see the Further Reading list at the end), but it was mainly triggered by the debate over the differences between the Counselling and Coaching approaches to guidance and the relative merits of action and reflection.

Personally, I find it useful to keep track of the balance and focus of a discussion with a client.

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Doing the wrong thing

Dont think about the white bear

Don't think about the white bear

Don’t think about a white bear.

Try really hard not to let any thoughts of a white bear enter your head.

Keep trying…

So often when we are trying to avoid a particular thought or action, we end up thinking, saying or doing precisely what we were trying to steer clear of.

If you have ever been given feedback on your presentation skills which has highlighted a particular mannerism or repeated phrase, you will know how hard it is to stop it.

A review article in Science by Daniel Wegner examines the reasons for this annoying tendency. In How to think, say or do precisely the worst thing for any occasion, Wegner talks about two processes in the brain.
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Guidance vs Coaching

Over the last couple of weeks I have found myself in deep debate with my careers colleagues about the differences and similarities between Coaching and Guidance. I myself struggle to differentiate the two practices, so upon much probing a colleague clarified Coaching as “practice focused on goal setting and achievement where as Guidance is all about the past”

This got me thinking, both the Egan 3 Stage Model and the popular Ali & Graham Model contain a clearly defined action planning stage and there isa focus on goal setting. Yes, there is an exploration stage where practitioners are encouraged to help clients reflect on blocks and obstacles to their decision making, identify patterns of behaviour from the past that may impact future choice and hell we even work as catalysts in helping clients define their own way forward. So erm, what was the difference between Guidance and Coaching?
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