Time to Think

Apparently, it is time to have my research question challenged and for me to defend it – currently the defending isn’t going too well and I am beginning to understand why doctorates are on narrow topics. So this month I have done a lot of thinking about what I want to do my research on and why. This means that I have started to broaden my conversations and talk to different people about related possibilities. The challenge on the research question forces you to come back to what you are passionate about and what is practically possible. With the former I am very clear about it: What knowingly needs to happen to allow coachees to change/ why do some coachees change more easily than others? In my conversation with the Dr of Psychology we used the analogy of ‘How do you knowingly open the door and why do some coachees go through it and others don’t?’ I am very keen about the ‘knowingly’ bit as I have no appetite to produce yet another coaching model. I want my doctorate to make a difference in the real world.

With the latter aspect around ‘what is practically possible’, I need to bow to the experience of my academic support as I don’t want to naively start a research project that isn’t really doable either. However I am learning that although I need to widen my thinking so that I can narrow it down, I can, and will, still keep my original option in the mix. However, I do need to talk to some people closer to the neuroscience to see what is possible. It will certainly be a part as I feel that neuroscience can make our coaching practices rigorous through understanding more about human beings rather than using favourite theories.

On a side note of understanding people, I have just completed my Hogan training and have been very impressed with it. It has a lot of empirical research from the last 40 years and the research has kept up to date with changes within working life over that time. There are two aspects I particularly like. Firstly, it is about how others perceive you rather than how you think you are – it is about Reputation. It concluded, as does other research, that you are perceived the same at work and at home, although you are affected by situational demands. Knowing that most people over-estimate their characteristics, Hogan maintains that it is your reputation that is important as that’s why people choose to work or cooperate with you. Having a conversation around ‘this is how people are probably viewing you’ is very powerful. Secondly, it gives a unique finger print of you as a person and the environment you create as well as how you sabotage your relationships when stressed.

The coaching conversation from these two Hogan aspects is very rich and thought provoking. I can also link it to Attachment Theory and the neuroscience I know, which I am finding is a powerful conversation to have with my business coachees. I am increasingly grabbing opportunities in the coaching conversation to link behaviour and thinking back to their upbringing experiences and key role models. My intention is to help them realise that ‘this is not who you are, it is the behaviour you adopted (mostly) at a time when you didn’t have much say in adopting it’. I find this helps coachees to detach from their behaviours more easily so that they can look at those from a distance rather feel we are discussing their identity. It also gives hope, in that if they learned those ones they can learn other beneficial ones now. I think giving hope is important.

On the doctorate side, I am now enjoying broadening my conversations and taking some months to look around at what there is in this area. This is a key part of this module that I don’t think I’d understood until now. It does have a downside as I have found a vast amount of information that I hadn’t noticed before so holding back the thought of ‘I know very little about coaching’ is difficult sometimes: Although my friends will smile at that comment. From these conversations I came across the work of Erik De Haan. He has completed lots of research on the Coaching Relationship and has written various articles on it. His article on “Does Executive Coaching work?” is interesting (http://www.erikdehaan.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/0814page.pdf ) . It highlights the importance of the relationship between the coach and coachee above any technique used. If you want to read the full study then it can be found here: http://personalmc.nl/page/downloads/Effectiviteit_executive_coaching.pdf . I have subsequently bought his book “Coaching Relationships: The relational coaching field book”. I am thinking that perhaps I could explore this area further for my research question and underpin it with neuroscience: ‘Deconstructing the Coaching Relationship’ maybe? This would fit into my passion around ensuring coaching consistently delivers.

Finally, just to prove how difficult reading neuroscience research is, I was sent a recent paper on a five year study culminating in a ‘new map’ of the brain. This has been published in July’s edition of Nature although in this link, there is a video ‘The Ultimate Brain Map’ explaining the report in simple terms (http://humanconnectome.org/about/pressroom/nature-article-cortical-brain-maps-at-the-highest-resolution-to-date/ ) and why everyone is getting excited about it. The actual research paper is called: ‘A multi-modal parcellation of human cerebral cortex’. It is a technical read setting out the credibility of the methods used to define the parcellation of the brain and how it gives such good definition with less effort.

Now I am enjoying the break from deciding what approach I should use for my research and I have a plan to explore the areas around my topic so that I can finally get a research question. There’s a lot of reading and conversations to be completed in the next three months which I know will also give me interesting new things to use within my coaching.