Johnnie Moore

Cabbages… and coaching

... and not getting attached to rules
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

coaching and facilitation as improvisation

Transcript of this video:

I was talking with a friend this morning about our

experiences of one-to-one coaching.

I found myself reciting a story that I first heard

as a kid many years ago.

It’s one of those sort of brothers Grimm-

style, children’s stories.

And in, in it, a widow sends her son to the market

to buy a donkey.

And he arrives home many, many hours later,

laboriously heaving the donkey in his arms,

in a great sweat.

And she chides him, “Fool

You don’t carry the donkey in your arms.

You should attach a string and lead it home.”

And then the next day she sends him to the market

with instructions to buy a cabbage.

And you are smart people,

you’re probably ahead of me here.

He arrives home later with the brussels-sprout-size remains

of a cabbage on the end of a string,

and she chides him for that.

And there are several iterations of the story,

but I think you get the gist. I mentioned it to her

because I think in facilitation, in coaching and in,

and, you know, any, anything else,

I suspect involving human beings, it’s very easy

to apply a simple formula as if it’s always going to be true

and inadvertently end up pulling on a cabbage on a string.

Now, some of these formulae are often helpful.

So for, for example, many coaches

and facilitators will tell you some version of,

the client or the group already has the answers.

And it’s your not, not your job to try

and do the work for them.

But that’s not always true.

And sometimes in, in a coaching relationship,

if I think I’ve got an answer

and if I think I understand the problem, I’ll suggest it.

And then others, will tell you to not to,

not to bring your own emotional

experience into the conversation.

And in many contexts, that’s wise advice,

but I don’t always follow it.

And I’ve often shared often quite a vulnerable emotional

experience of my own because I’ve sensed

that it will be helpful to the other person.

And I think there’s a slight danger in this notion

of the client having all the resources,

of not actually trusting them to have the intelligence

to perhaps make their own decision about what use or to make

or not make of whatever it is you share with them.

And I think what I’m driving at here is

I think a facilitation

or coaching relationship is a relationship.

And good stuff happens in that space between people.

And if you get too fixated on somehow staying outside

of it, you might be depriving the relationship

of the very thing that makes it work.

Now, I know that social science research has all sorts

of issues of replicability,

but there’s reasonable evidence from the world of therapy

that the key thing in successful therapeutic relationships

isn’t so much the specific technique that the therapist uses

(or if you drill down into the detail of the technique

that they claim to be using). And it’s

actually actually much more to do with

what you might call the shared faith of client

and therapist in each other.

And I think that that would map onto

group work and coaching work.

It’s fundamentally relational.

And I think my approach is really to see it as

a careful improvisation, not in a sort of comic

or performance sense,

but a continuing series of exchanges in which we are

seeing how this relationship will work

and seeing if we can discover things together.

And often seeing if we can keep each other company

in uncertainty without grasping for the easy answers

that any formula

like a cabbage on a string can end up being.


Photo by Eric Prouzet on Unsplash

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