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EXPERIENTIAL PERFORMANCE COACHING
An adventurer, I bring the ability to make sense of ambiguity, uncertainty, risk and context from a decade of leadership as part of 'The Junglies' - the Royal Navy's Commando Helicopter Force. a lifetime passion for being on the water, and leassons learned from the cockpit.
With a naturally service-motivated leadership style, focussing on trust, listening and support, my way has always been as guide rather than teacher. I am keen to see others fulfil their potential through first-hand experience; providing effective empowerment and careful delegation. True to my values, I have always been excited about taking the path less trodden. Allowing instinct and circumstance to lead exploration of both concepts and places, I have a consistent record of innovating processes and products.
At heart I'm happiest when on the water or in the air. I'm a sailor and pilot. I apply the skills, techniques and behviours that these environments demand to everything that I do.
What makes my eyes light up is getting the best out of people. Throughout my life, either formally or informally, helping people to believe in and achieve their potential has been at the core of everything I’ve done. That’s not to say that I’ve been perfect at it from day one of course. There have been some hard lessons learned on the way. I have learnt to avoid the temptation to base one’s judgement of potential solely on the veneer that is all the visible cues as to what someone is - skills, qualifications, job titles, even looks and height. This is a skill that allows me to see the best in people, what makes them tick, and from there really help them to progress.
“I held Rosie on a pedestal from the first moment I heard about her, let alone met her. A feisty 5-foot nothing successful dinghy sailor who was well established on the racing circuit and had virtually joined the university team before even matriculating, I felt instantly inferior. I watched her singlehandedly win championships whilst we raced at university level, stand up to some of the foremost dinghy sailors of their time, and be utterly determined. Imagine my reaction when, some years later, she asked me to crew for her. In a fleet full of ego and a natural hierarchy, what was this ‘I can’t overtake him, he’s so-and-so’, or ‘let him go past, we shouldn’t really be ahead’? Rosie had developed these limiting beliefs based on the environment she found herself in. I can genuinely say that helping Rosie to get her best results sits firmly in the category of my proudest and most enjoyable moments. But it was all about that objective knowledge: being able to remind her of what she was capable of, believing in her, and giving her the oomph to achieve it.”
I rely on two key principles in my coaching practice: the first is the importance of context, and the second is integrity. Context ensures that the motivation for any action or goal is sound, and the integrity empowers me to challenge and ask the difficult questions.
Context when I think about it has been core to all the key activities of my life. When skippering racing yachts for Toe in the Water, it was absolutely critical to retain the purpose and goal of the charity in the decision making and risk assessment I made once out on the water. In charge of the response to casualties in Helmand for UK forces back in 2008, again, the context was key. In fact, my responsibility extended to ensuring that that context was retained by those working for and with me. There was many an occasion when an understandably fired up Apache pilot had to be almost physically restrained from running out to his helicopter. In the world of consulting, and it is only in hindsight that I really understood this, it was my focus on the context of the problem that enabled me to best support clients by ensuring that I and the team I was working with honed the solution and processes to support just that.
“I was presented with a beautiful powerpoint slideset for our presentation to the industry regulator about the work we were doing to support our client. It captured the mechanics of a system that could work. What it didn’t do, for our first exposure to the regulator who had mandated the improvements required, was set out the context, prove that we really understood the challenge. Re-worked with the key message being what we were going to do to resolve this, we went away as the only team in the room that day who had earned the trust and respect of the regulator.”
Integrity has been my greatest asset and at the same time probably also caused some of the most stress. Maintaining integrity as the benchmark has provided me with a backstop, a known standpoint which enables decision making and action.
Which brings me to mission command. It’s a well-used military parlance. But I believe that in order to successfully delegate or take mission command, these two principles are key. And in providing services as a coach, my responsibility lies in holding my clients to account for both.
“Mission Command – from the British Army Doctrine Publication on Land Operations
Mission Command…is an approach which empowers subordinate commanders and promotes initiative as well as freedom and speed of action. Critically, it focuses on achievement of higher intent through mission type orders. It empowers leaders at every level and is intended to generate agility and tempo. This enables us to overcome an enemy in the most chaotic and demanding circumstances and unlocks everyone’s potential to seize winning opportunities, however fleeting… Mission Command focuses on outcomes, objectives and effects, rather than specifying the detailed ways in which these are to be achieved. Mission Command depends on: the duty of commanders to express their intent clearly…"
ON THE WATER
Being on the water is the other constant which defines me and the Vertical Coach. A place that can be as calm as it can exciting and challenging, it is my natural environment. I’ve seen first-hand during my time working with injured servicemen in the Charity Toe in the Water, whilst paddleboarding – with friends or teaching – and indeed for myself whilst sailing or kitesurfing, the evidential proof that being on and around the water has a tangible effect on people. People I take paddle-boarding rarely return talking about paddle technique. It’s usually an enthused diatribe on how relaxed, how refreshed and how energised they feel, how they’ve managed to take in the environment, leave worries ashore, and had real time and space to think.
And so that’s where the Vertical Coach was born. When I think about it, really the first time I did any Vertical Coaching, I didn’t even know that was what I was doing. Paddling with a friend on the Avon who just needed a good chat. I wasn’t a qualified coach then, but reflecting on that magical paddle, where we barely drew breath from our discussion whilst we watched kingfishers race ahead of us, I knew that there was something in what we were doing. With the benefit now of understanding coaching, I have spent much time researching and exploring how to put people into an environment where they can be their most resourceful, and do just that in my Vertical Coach practice.
Get in touch: 07737 742264
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