Reflecting on Wales Coaching Conference 2022
By Paul Laughlin, international speaker, writer, trainer & leadership mentor
It’s that time of year again for me to enjoy the annual delight of attending the Wales Coaching Conference. Sadly, the event was purely virtual again this year, but on the positive side, the chairing and content was as excellent as ever. For leaders in business & those who mentor or coach them, this year’s focus was very relevant. The focus of this 2022 conference was on Leader Performance.
Loyal readers will recognise the diversity of themes that have run through previous years’ WCC events. In 2018 the event focussed on narrative coaching, in 2019 the focus was Human-Centred-Coaching and in 2020 it was on achieving impact. As well as enjoying the relevance for me and my clients of this year’s theme, the chairing by David Tee made the whole day a delight. The man just exudes enthusiasm & inclusion in to enjoy this gathering of the coaching community.
In this post, I will share what has stayed with me from this year’s #WalesCC22. There were so many other great speakers and facilitators. But sadly I could only attend one choice after the keynotes, so no offence is intended towards those I do not mention. My review is simply sharing the main themes that I recall and which have stayed with me to enhance my practice.
How leaders and their coaches can move from surviving to thriving
Christian van Nieuwerburgh is fast becoming a favourite speaker at this event. He always really engages his audience & brings to life the application of positive physiology. In recent times he has been sharing the power of the synergy of learning from research in Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology combined. For this year’s keynote address he was very timely in focussing on the wellbeing of leaders and coaches. Following the impact of the COVID_19 pandemic and now the suffering of Ukraine, it certainly is a time when many leaders are feeling worn down.
Christian focussed on the need to tend to the wellbeing of coaches as well as the leaders they coach. He also made clear that a journey from “surviving to thriving” can only happen when a person is ready. There is to be no forcing of people here. Rather, a supporting of those who are ready to make this journey. He also shared a really memorable drawing to illustrate the 7 aspects of wellbeing that can be helpful to review with a client:
- Look after yourself (the fertile soil for all such work is self care by the coach)
- Acknowledge (what has happened and how the leader is feeling right now)
- Leverage strengths (help clients identify & play to their strengths)
- Stay hopeful (help client imagine desired future, pathways & agency to get there)
- Invest in relationships (get to know the person not just transactional coaching)
- Be playful (introduce fun into coaching or at least identifying moments of joy)
- Connect to meaning (help leader connect their work to their deeper values)
- Savour the experience (be present in the moment & help client protect time to go slower)
This is Christian’s great visual summary:
Leadership performance, how to work on the goals businesses need
Prior to this event I had not read or heard from Myles Downey. I am so delighted that he was invited. Right from the start of his talk on Leadership Performance, Myles laid down the gauntlet. He simply reminded coaches that businesses need to see clear outcomes, return on their investment. By so doing he focussed the common emphasis in the coaching world on simply improving self-awareness or where the client wants to focus. Comparing the world of executive coaching to sports coaching, he called us back to the performance agenda for coaching.
This was a breath of fresh air and a validation for a mentor like myself. All my clients have (in one form or another) a performance agenda. One of the reasons they seek mentoring is to learn from another in order to improve their performance. Even as they learn the value of coaching activity, it is still a means towards the end of becoming a more effective or impactful leader. Often with tangible results in view.
During a keynote & a later masterclass, Myles shared two models that help structure this work. The first support his work on “enabling genius“. Working to improve performance in the specific genius potential in each leader. Myles identifies the Pillars of genius as:
- Identity (you need to do the work to know yourself first)
- Desire (what enables their agency? where is their direction of travel?)
- Mindset (how they can build a mindset that supports their progress, their flow)
- Continuous learning (it’s a process and the leader needs to do the work, again like sports practice)
Later, in his masterclass, Myles also shared with us his Lead-Manage-Coach model. The above model was displayed as an overlapping Venn Diagram with 3 circles. This one is based on a pyramid image. It starts by focussing on the Why for a leader. Purpose for their leadership & developing the presence to share that effectively. Next is the What. The need for managers to put in place clear roles, projects, structures & clarity on the outcome needed. Finally is the How. This is where leaders & managers need to be able to step back & delegate/listen effectively. To empower their teams to shape how best to achieve the goals. Myles brilliantly underpinned this with models from Psychosynthesis.
Masterclasses to help coaches get practical about leadership
The afternoon masterclasses helped coaches dig deeper into their areas of interest. As I mentioned above. Myles ran a masterclass on his Lead-Manage-Coach model. I also attended a fascinating masterclass run by Dr Darren Stevens, intriguingly entitled “leadership development with a difference“. He shared his research on 50 cognitive intentions and how he can measure aptitude in being able to adopt each of them when helpful. One of the most controversial things Darren shared was that a coach cannot coach a leader who is more developed in their ability to master these cognitive skills.
Finally, to close the day, I attended another engaging masterclass from Professor Joseph Sobel In his interactive session, he built on the idea of storytelling leadership skills to reveal how they can help in coaching. After a summary of the common narrative forms (like Heroic & Servant stories), he shared tips on how to engage clients. How to help them tell their stories and learn how to develop them into narratives to engage others. It was surprising to experience how helpful this approach can be in getting to know a client, even in a surprisingly short amount of time. A good place to start is to encourage a leader to talk about an incident in their past that shaped them (it can feel safer to share than current challenges).
Let me emphasise once again that so many of the masterclasses at this event sounded excellent. I am only sorry that I could only attend a few, although I will plan to watch others through the online resources shared by USW. In summary, I would again praise the team behind this great annual event and encourage all coaches & mentors in Wales to come along in future. Hopefully, 2023 can be back in person as I have gained so much at past conferences from the networking. Meeting new people and learning from the experience and wisdom that is part of the warm coaching community in Wales.
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