A much needed skill in these key moments of negotiation/ contracting, is the capacity to speak one’s truth in such a way that each person is invited further into the conversation, and new possibilities are named as they emerge. No blame, no power-over, no ego. Just a commitment to joining the conversation so that the best outcome for all is achieved. So, well done Bishop of London.
It’s been so interesting this week to see the shift in the attitude of St Paul’s, to the demonstrators. This is the stuff of contracting and re-contracting. Full marks to the church for changing its position after dialogue with the demonstrators. Full marks too, not only for a key figure to get out of the way, but for the Bishop of London to ensure that no blame was attached to anyone and to focus simply on the need for a new direction. There were meetings and meetings, of course, much reflection and courage as re-negotiations took place at many levels.
Working as coaches, mentors and coach supervisors, takes us into very similar territory – often, we engage in conversations with several people before an initial contract is established for a piece of work – and re-contract as the work proceeds. There can be testing moments in those conversations: differences in intention, difficulties in negotiating shared outcomes and how to monitor these. Witness the employer who asked me to ‘sort out’ his coaches through supervision! A new conversation was needed right there, as I sought to increase his understanding of what supervisors do and of the actual benefits of supervision for his coaching team. I also needed to listen to what he needed from a supervisor. Together we spoke about what he expected, what his coaches wanted from supervision and what I could offer; slowly we both began to see what was possible. Happily, this was much more than he had originally expected. I was able to take on the commission because through dialogue, we were both willing to learn something about the other, to expand our ideas and to re-contract for the work.
What would increase your capacity for generative dialogue?
If this question interests you, you might like to have a look at ‘Pause for Breath – Bringing the practices of mindfulness and dialogue to leadership conversations’ by Amanda Ridings, published earlier this year. I learn so much from this superb analysis of advanced dialogue process.
Edna Murdoch 2011
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