During March I’m running a series of guest posts on “Diverse Coaching & Mentoring” – you can read more here. My aim is to create a space to explore, challenge, celebrate and raise awareness of diverse perspectives and applications of coaching & mentoring.
I’m delighted that the first guest post in this series comes from Simon Heath. A writer and commentator on Workplace and Facilities Management issues he is also a very talented freelance illustrator, animator and cartoonist. You can see some of his artistic talents here and I recommend following his blog “Work Musing“. Simon is also one of most genuine & affable people out there on Twitter – you can follow him at @SimonHeath1.
Simon’s guest post is utterly honest and I sincerely hope is just Part 1…
How not to write a blogpost about coaching and mentoring
At David’s invitation, I wrote a guest post for his People Performance Potential blog on the subject of coaching and mentoring. I should probably point out that I consider David to be something of a mentor for my blogging efforts (in fact, I refer to David and Neil Usher (who goes by the Twitter name of @workessence) as my fairy blogmothers). I tend to rein in my natural inclination for irreverence when I’m writing for someone else and this was no exception. It was a fairly conservative piece on how rewarding I’d found it to coach and mentor a number of people throughout my career and a few tips for a successful mentoring relationship.
David took a read through it, slept on it and decided something was not quite right. He couldn’t put his finger on exactly what was wrong but he told me so in a characteristically straight but balanced manner with a small degree of self-effacement. Now, I’m too long in the tooth to be precious about criticism in whatever form it comes, and I’ve always said that to have a good mentoring relationship, the mentee needs to be proactively involved and utterly open to constructive feedback. David’s comments made me go back and take a long hard look at what I’d written and an equally hard think about what I was trying to say.
I had been too formulaic and safe in my original. I realised that in actual fact I did not have anything earth-shatteringly new to say on the subject. The more I considered it, the more I came to realise that the answer was simply to write nothing at all. There are better commentators out there with more compelling tales to tell.
So, there you have it. A blog post about not writing blog post about coaching and mentoring that turns out to be about coaching and mentoring.
Your “safe” might be my “earth shattering”. Look forward to hearing more from you.
Good point – how do we ever know? We judge and offer what we have confidence in, less often what we don’t have confidence in and sometimes what others give us confidence to do. There’s a balance between encouraging support and coercing someone to do what you think they “should do”… though hand on heart I also look forward to hearing more from Simon 🙂
Oh how I love irony….
There is something rich and beautiful in the letting go of the formulaic & safe… and I’m with Meg – it’s potentially earth shattering & powerful….
In this blog, I enjoy the acknowledgement and dance of the relationship between you both ( as mentor/ mentee) That whole gesture/ response thing… I can see a step in, a move back, and consideration, repositioning, .. all the time refining and re-evaluating, but not heavy….rather elegant…
Coercion would be blunt, heavy… this is co-creation…. how cool is that?
And what transpires is a piece which is short, authentic and packs a real punch.
Lovely observations Julie – there’s a lot between the lines to read and the metaphor of dance is well suited I think. Thanks.
Simon. I may be wrong, I often am and I think it’s a shame that David put you off/dissuaded/talked you out of it/insert words of your choice here, particularly given the theme is about Diverse Coaching and Mentoring. I read the invitation and the blog policy and neither imply such editorial control, not to me at least. Personally I think it’s unfortunate the piece didn’t see the light of day, very often when I press publish on things I’m unsure about – it’s those posts that I learn most from. Like Meg said – your safe might be my earth shattering. Cheers – Doug
The nature of any coaching or mentoring relationship Doug is that people on the outside often don’t see the whole picture – that which happens in the coaching/mentoring conversation. Similarly, with guest posts here there are private dialogues which you the reader are not privy to. That’s as it should be.
In terms of editorial control I’m not quite sure what you are saying… No guest post here has ever been adjusted or amended by myself – the author has final editorial control. Without exception, I always offer my support to help represent the author in the best possible light whilst maintaining integrity and authenticity. My feedback on draft guest posts is always given in this spirit. I do however assert my right to publish posts that fit in with my guidance on guest posts – I’ve turned away blatant self-promotional posts, asking the author to consider an alternative style that does fit.
Simon’s second post (above) was what he offered in response to our private dialogue as was his prerogative and to be honest it wasn’t what I expected! However, I loved it, appreciated the richness of it and wanted to publish it straight away. I sincerely hope this post is just Part 1 and with my support & great respect I leave that to Simon.
Well, firstly I’d like to thank all of those who have taken time out to comment on my guest post both here and on Twitter. One of the most gratifying things about blogging is the responses it provokes. I started blogging as a way of getting my thoughts down somewhere where I could test them against received wisdom and to satisfy an urge to talk about what affects us in and out of work in an irreverent but insightful manner that simply wasn’t possible when I was part of the corporate machinery. I try to be as honest and authentic in my writing as possible. I have felt an incredible sense of liberation now that I am free to speak with my own voice and this sense of freedom has helped me to make decisions about my professional direction with a clarity that wasn’t there previously. It has led me to turn away from conventional opportunity that would have kept me on an unfulfilling career path. I had been undoubtedly successful in my various roles over the years but routine and the petty pressures of big business sap the energy and intrude on family life in a way that I could countenance no longer. I have never met David Goddin in real life. Our relationship has been entirely conducted through social media. However, as with any successful coaching or mentoring relationship, we have developed a mutually respectful, open and honest dialogue which has helped crystalise my thinking and develop my capabilities. I am entirely open and receptive to feedback and suggestions and it is given in an insightful and carefully considered manner.
I also want to address directly Doug’s comment that seems to suggest that David may have dissuaded me from publishing my original draft. In all honesty, I would have been embarrassed to have it see the light of day. It quite simply was not authentically ME. It was written to be safe. It was not written in my natural style and was overly conservative and not especially insightful. In short, it read like a corporate blogpost. Thanks to David’s feedback, I avoided putting out something that fell way short of both what I wanted to say and the way in which I wanted to say it. I’ve read it back a few times now and it’s just not good enough. As mutual decisions go, it was bang on the money.
I will be back with Part 2. I promise to try and be as earth-shattering as possible.