Painting and Coaching - processes which connect and shape both my practices.
As an artist and a coach, I am fascinated by the similarities there are in the process of creating a painting and developing a coaching client.
You start with a positive intent. You know you have a vision and you will achieve it. It could be plain sailing or a stormy ride, you might have to steady yourself to keep steering in the right direction. However, you start quietly confident and tell yourself “Trust the Process”. You might be inspired by the goal, especially as you see the person you are coaching as “a blank canvas”, but you remind yourself, you've been there before, and enjoyed it. Taking deep breaths, relaxing, getting rid of noise and distractions, finding a quiet place …. such things are essential for both processes to start off well.
2. BE IN THE MOMENT.
When painting, the creative process takes over so rapidly that I am in the Zone or in the Flow before I know it. As a seasoned coach I focus on my client completely. There might be a plan or a structure I need to adhere to build credibility with my coaching client, but the best result happens when I am totally connected with that person in front of me. I understand and adapt to the client’s needs. I keep my beliefs and even expertise out of the client’s way - think like an Abstract Expressionist and let the painterly marks do their job. I learn to be in the moment.
3. LEARN TO LET GO
The best paintings happen when they take on a life of their own. I let go and allow the narrative from my unconscious and my evolving observations to clash and conspire. If I get lost and am not happy where I am going I wipe off the paint and start over. It would be counter-productive to start negative thoughts take over e.g. you aren't really talented, you are wasting materials etc…It takes courage to accept it as part of the journey and not give up. Letting Go is the hallmark of a successful coach, a leader or an artist. Listen, learn and change direction, when needed. As things get stormy, you might be tempted to abandon ship. However, you say we need to turn this around and you ask the client to make some decisions about where we are going. He or she is the captain, not the coach. Giving clients the space to go where they need to is critical to the outcome and to the client relationship.
4.DONT MIX TOO MANY COLOURS
One thing artists learn is to keep the palette simple. Mixing too many colours makes the paint muddy and grey. The same principle applies to coaching. Decide on your approach and techniques, use a few. Best to stick to just a couple perhaps but not a whole of host of them you want to try out in the hope that one will work. It is the same with asking questions. Sometimes it is tempting to get as much data from the client and to ask many questions, or we might simply be curious. Will we muddy the waters, make the client uncomfortable and lose their trust? We know from experience that the best decisions are asking the right questions at the right time - same with colours when painting. Decisions, decisions decisions!
5.STEP BACK, SEE THE BIG PICTURE
This is a well known fact, almost a cliche. As an artist I step back from my easel and look at the painting from different perspectives frequently. I remind myself I need to do this when coaching.
When clients tell their stories, I have to workout what is really being said. Am I getting bogged down in detail by not stepping back to get the full picture? What am I missing? Am I getting to close to something? What can others see? Then I explore perceptions with the client. I apply such checks throughout so we are both stepping back to see the whole picture.
I hope you found these 5 points useful. I do wobble at times, like we all do, but then I remind myself of the immense pleasure and learning I’ve had from being both an Artist and a Coach.