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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
Coaching - developing the person
Animated, Summer 2000. 'Twenty-five hundred years ago it might have been said that man understood himself as well as any other part of his world. Today he is the thing he understands least.' (1) Rivca Rubin reveals how to enter someone else's model of the world gracefully

Charlotte Vincent recently used a phrase to describe our (Kaizen's) work, which I feel sums up in part what coaching is about: 'How to enter someone else's model of the world gracefully.'(2) It presupposes that a) we each have models (and I will add maps) of the world, b) other peoples' are different to our own, and c) it might be useful to know how to enter them.

I want to define what I understand coaching to be. There are at least two types of coaches - the 'skills coach' and what I will call the 'inner world coach'. The 'skills coach' can help you to develop your particular craft, skill or technique, through focusing on your external technique and actions. This coach is most likely to be an expert in the same field, and will create environments (physical spaces) and conditions that enable you to enhance through practice. The 'skills coach' may or may not make use of tools and approaches from 'inner world' coaching.

The other type of coaching approach ('inner-world' coaching) is to work with the way you represent the world to yourself - your maps, models, beliefs and values which enable or limit you, your behavioural and emotional patterns, thinking and creating strategies and so on, which all impact hugely on the way you do something.

From where you are now to where you want to be
The ability to 'enable others to hone their communication skills for increased effectiveness, improve their performance, achieve new levels of leadership, and make the transition from where they are now to where they want to be.'(3) This may be how they do something (behavioural), what they need (resource oriented), where they are (environmental), or who they want to be (identity focused).

Coaching at its best - is predominantly or entirely process oriented and the coach does not need to know much, if anything, about the craft, skill, or the field itself. The coach is not in an advisory position, does not pass judgement, and attempts not to let his or her personal preferences interfere.

A good coach is in command of a specific range of communication skills and language tools, sensory acuity, rapport and pacing skills, knowledge of systems and value theories, change methodologies and approaches, learning models, representational and motivational strategies, etc.

It is often about how to ask the appropriate question or give the most useful piece of information or do something very specific at just the right moment, so that the impact transports the receiver to that place where the next piece of information lies ... of discovery ... of realization?

A few years ago, when I was the artistic director of Physical State International(4), I had the luxury to watch many teachers over long and short periods. I became intrigued by what some teachers managed to achieve in terms of the development of the individuals they were teaching, where others did not have that effect. This is not to say that their workshops were not exciting - the content often was very interesting and stimulating - but their teaching approach (some call it pedagogy) did not have that impact on people.

Julyen Hamilton
I began to observe more closely one of the teachers - Julyen Hamilton - who seemed to have this 'gift'; which I had not only witnessed, but also experienced as his student. I noticed that the skill was not so much in the exercises he chose, but in the way he guided people through them and in the way he gave feedback, or better, feed-forward. The key, I felt, lay in what he said and how he said it. It intrigued me how he was able to know what was going on for a particular person, what they needed most, what he could give, when to give it and in what form and context. The environment was predominantly but not exclusively the studio, the form was predominantly but not exclusively in words, and the information was given sometimes in private sometimes in public, often direct, sometimes indirect yet the person knew that he or she was addressed. At first I thought this was just a way of being, exclusive to Julyen and a few 'lucky' others. But when I began to study what makes a good communicator, I discovered that the skills were neither exclusive, nor are we born with them, but that something in that person's upbringing and education helped them develop those particular teaching and coaching aspects.

The way Julyen gave the information - tone and volume, the precise moment he chose, was instrumental. It was the moment that mattered.

That is all well and good, you say, but why do we need more people like that, is it not enough that some are good at it? (I am fine as I am.)

It seems that as a society, as a community - in this case of dance artists and animateurs - and as individuals, we have begun to move from dependence to independence. We now realise that in fact we need interdependence; achieving a sense of standing on our own feet as an individual - independence and responsibility for one's actions - yet inclusiveness and interdependence as a society and in relation to others in general. 'On the maturity continuum, dependence is the paradigm of you - you take care of me; you come through for me; you didn't come through; I blame you for the results. Independence is the paradigm of l ? I can do it; I am responsible; I am self-reliant; I can choose. Interdependence is the paradigm of we - we can do it; we can co-operate we can combine our talents and abilities and create something greater together.(5)

Becoming proactive
We are hesitantly becoming more proactive in our thinking and actions, having uncovered our quite reactive stance; the weak, suppressed artist at the hands of the strong, structure and society. It has given us the comfort that it is someone else's fault -someone else is to blame - and we at not in control. This is beginning to shift as we realise that it is not about being 'controlled' by others, but understanding how we are part of systems - how they can inform and influence us, and how through our actions, we maintain or change a system, consciously or unconsciously. Now we can begin to feel responsible.

Placing blame leads to little if any development and we are beginning to attempt to 'understand' more and judge less. We have already embraced (with difficulty) the notion that there are many 'rights'; yours, mine, theirs, depending on where you choose to look from. Like Honi Fern Haber so beautifully writes 'there is no view from nowhere? (6), but we are still struggling and feel that our 'right' is just a little 'righter' than the next person's. If only they could see it the way I do.

Beliefs and values are changing
'Enough about me, me, me what about us?(7) Over the past 100 years, we have been developing our motivational systems from the seeking of Security (roughly up until the 60s) to Independence (now and fading), through Affiliation (current) and towards Existence (future), our thinking has developed from absolutistic to multiplistic to relativistic to systemic. These stages do not cleanly follow one another, they are intermingled, and in this society we have at least these four ways of thinking and their associated underlying values and beliefs present concurrently.

If only we could understand each other better. Well, it is possible. And if your intention really is to understand other people better (and yourself) then you can learn how to do this.

The individual has been foregrounded
The emphasis for the past few decades has been to be understood, to express oneself according to one's own rules - no longer those of the state or religion. The individual has been foregrounded and state, community, religion and cultural beliefs have taken by and large a backseat, a secondary position (though resurfacing now as a result of a lack of values and beliefs which replaced those we threw out).

For you to 'understand me - on my terms', and for me to have 'the right' to do how I please, has at times led to a dilemma in the arts. If an audience does not like a particular artist's work it seems to be the audiences' problem. If an audience does not understand a particular piece of work, it seems their responsibility to get educated and learn the artist's or the field's language - but here is not the place for this argument.

To answer the question of how does coaching relate to all this? Simply, it helps us develop as individuals and with each other. Through learning coaching skills we firstly find out more about ourselves; secondly we begin to understand other people and their maps and models of the world, and thirdly by using them in teaching or 'one-to-one' work we not only help another individual develop but also, if our coaching is good, we awaken the interest of the other person or people in finding out more, and the dissemination grows.

Developing your own 'how-to'
In the community dance/arts world it seems that some coaching takes place informally, like in so many other areas. And there is no problem with it being informal. Coaching is a skill to apply wherever required, overtly - by invitation, or covertly - in any situation which requires development. What would seem to be useful though would be a way for the individual animateur or artist working with other people, to develop their own HOW TO skills when giving the WHAT TO information. Some WHAT TO without the HOW TO can lead to physical accident or psychological problems which the artist neither intended nor knows how to avoid. Also, many artist-teachers do not know whether or when they successfully coach others - success too is accidental. Nor are they aware of the additional skills they could acquire if they really want to develop their teaching and coaching.

These skills should not be exclusive, in the long run they should not be a marketable asset. I believe that once coaching becomes more of a common skill, and more people have access directly or indirectly through their own experience, then our children will be educated in an environment whose true intention is to understand and accept each other better.

In the meantime we have to buy - the information and the training; and practice and disseminate it. And when you become comfortable with it, you begin to pass it on, in your very being. This is how I believe we can bring about a 'sustainable society'.

Rivca Rubin, freelance coach, trainer and consultant. She is the Training director of Kaizen, and Research fellow at the Manchester Metropolitan University.

1 Skinner, BF, Beyond Freedom and Dignity, Penguin, New York, 1971
2 Vincent, C, at the Liz Lerman Critical Response Workshop, Yorkshire Dance: National Dance Agency, Scarborough, 1999
3 Parsloe, E, The Manager as Coach and Mentor, Institute of Personnel and Development, London, 1995
4 Physical State International was one of Europe's major training providers for professional artists (performing and live arts) until 1995
5 Covey, SR The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Fireside, New York, 1989
6 Haber, HF Beyond Postmodern Politics, Lyotard, Rorty, Foucault Routledge, London 1994
7 Freedland, Jonathan, Enough about me, me, me, let's talk about us, The Guardian, London, 8 June 2000
8 To know more about Clare Graves' Values of Existence Model - look at DE Beck & CC Cowan, Spiral Dynamics, Blackwell: Cambridge, Mass. USA, 1996

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001