A Beautiful Way to Coach by Fiona Parashar

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A Beautiful Way to Coach by Fiona Parashar

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Category: Business and Finance
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Lesley Mason
Reviewed by Lesley Mason
Summary: Although aimed directly at executive coaches, this book is a valuable tool for anyone doing any kind of coaching, including self-coaching. An easy, insightful read, with full directions for running your own Vision Day
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 184 Date: May 2022
Publisher: Routledge
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1032116037

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Full disclosure: I may not be the best person to review this book. It is aimed at coaches and I am not, never have been, a coach. Except in the sense that any of us who have ever tried to help someone without actually telling them what to do, are coaches. In that sense, as a team leader in a former life, I did quite a lot of coaching (and was subject to a lot more – some good, a lot not-so-good – I suspect my own efforts with my team were likewise). Also in the sense of self-coaching. I have done, and still do, a lot of that.

So what am I doing reading this book, using this book, and being audacious enough to review it? Truth is I bought it out of curiosity. I was at an on-line launch for the book and Fiona’s description of her Vision Days appealed to me. I wanted to see if there were things in there that I could use with someone I am currently helping / supporting / trying to mentor – without committing them to a full day, which I know would send them scurrying for their burrow. I also wanted to see if I could give myself a Vision Day, to bring me away from their vision and back to my own.

Visioning is a core concept in most, if not all, coaching techniques. Fiona’s slant on this is to do three things. Firstly, she combines it with positive psychology. That’s the first thing I learned reading the book, that there is actually something called positive psychology that works not on figuring out what is ‘wrong’ with people, but with identifying and amplifying what is ‘right’. That resonates so much with my ‘focus on the good stuff’ approach to life.

Secondly, she stresses the value in taking a whole day away from the normal places, work spaces etc, investing time is important to the process, that very aspect of “a whole day away” signals significance. It says, I want this, need this, matter enough to give myself this. It takes it right off the to-do list where things get squeezed in between other things, and the ‘next meeting’ intrudes on the present one.

Thirdly, she takes at least some of the process out into nature. She invites nature to co-coach with her. And Nature, being who she is, cannot resist joining in.

The structure of the book is to firstly explain how the programme came about, then to set out in detail what the Vision Day looks like. It’s a short manual on how to run one. Then there is a look at some of the practical challenges and considerations coaches will have using the material with their own clients, and it wraps up with a conversation with Professor Peter Hawkins on what the future of executive coaching is starting to look like. It was a last-second decision (literally as I was on my way out the door) to take the book with me on a recent break. Maybe I could find somewhere beautiful and spend a day working through the programme. The whole Vision Day programme is laid out in the book, from the pre-work, through the day, and into the follow-up. I can do this for me, I figured.

If I were a coach reviewing this book, I would tell you about what it has changed in my thinking and my practice. I would give you early feedback from clients on my new approach and/or speak about any potential barriers or resistance I might have. As it is, I’m not and I just want to share my “general reader” experience of using it rather than just reading it.

I found my beautiful spaces. One was a hotel room which had nothing going for it other than that view was of trees. Big tall Victorian windows and all I could see through them were tree branches in full summer leaf. The other was an equally Victorian park, more trees, but also running water, wildflower patches, bridges, butterflies, ducks and geese. And jackdaws. All of these things turned out to matter, to me personally.

It took more than a day. I spent some time understanding the back-story to the programme, the evolution of it, and the foundations upon which is stands. This is a development of previous approaches, not something suddenly materialising out of the ether. It has a solid theoretical and experiential base, which I’m sure will be very familiar to coaches, in whatever field they work, but might be new or only vaguely familiar to general readers. Much of this must have been familiar to me, because I see that although I have turned down page corners in the early chapters, it’s only when we get into the “How” section that I also started underlining things, writing in margins etc.

That’s the point at which I picked up my journal, turned it upside down so I could write from the back-page in and keep this work together. I suspect I knew it would need more than a day and should explain why. Using the book for self-coaching is a very different thing from either using it to (re)design your own approach to coaching others, or the actual experience of enjoying a facilitated Vision Day. I was having to (a) learn the process and then (b) apply the process from both ends at once as coach and client. Of course, it took a few days.

But I loved those days. My supposed writing retreat / walking holiday became something else entirely. It was a chance to sit and be “with” myself and reconnect with my own vision. I did the work seriously: answered the stimulus questions, did the strengths profiling questionnaire (some surprises there), and worked through each of the exercises – having first of all looked to understand the theoretical underpinnings and purpose of them.

Did I tweak them? Of course I did, but not hugely. I tried to stay faithful to the process. As a result I filled 52 pages (A5) with notes, crossings out, doodles, sketches, writing down the things I would have said to a coach in the room, and reflecting back on those from a coaching position. Some things reinforced what I thought I already knew, but some were what my friend would call “the learnings” – the reminders of oh, yes, I do that – and some were surprises. There were a couple of “Ping!” moments when I realised I have been looking at things the wrong way round, which have enabled me to unwarp some of my thinking.

I have followed through on one of the commitments I made as part of the exercise, but I’m more intrigued by the things I’ve done that weren’t down on the page, but I can see were prompted by the process and in particular by coming back to the power questions I generated towards the end of it.

I know I will come back to my notes, back to the book, and can highly recommend it to anyone who is a coach, or who coaches under the radar (parents, teachers, managers), and particularly anyone who is serious about going after their own vision and is willing to coach themselves to get there.

If this resonates with you, but you’re dealing with younger people we can also recommend Nine Ways to Empower Tweens by Kathleen Boucher and Sara Chadwick - TheBookbag.co.uk book review

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