sharing coaching

As if to celebrate the completion of just over 6 months in Cameroon, I had a great opportunity to be “Coach Caroline” once more.  Though I have coached, proposed coaching programs, written about coaching and otherwise kept up with the field, this was my first major outing to share this love of mine.

Greg and I have been in Yaoundé for nearly 2 weeks now to assist with, collaborate on and lead some of the module in the latest “In-Country Orientation” of new VSO volunteers.  I signed up to work on the review committee for ICO so I could contribute to VSO in general and have a chance to share knowledge I have accumulated to date with new volunteers.  Greg’s work in Monitoring and Evaluation is of course part of this process, so we both had a role to play in these 2 weeks of orientation.

My greatest joy turned out to be that VSO Cameroon was, in fact, open to including coaching in their new orientation of volunteers (and hopefully with existing volunteers and staff – but I can’t get too far ahead of myself!).  We called it “From Advisor to Coach”.  In addition to assisting other committee members design new learning modules, I was also able to coordinate and facilitate a few of my own:  “communication across cultures” (with Greg of course!), “working in organization”, and one I am co-facilitating on introducing the Executive Council for VSO and the Professional Development Group (which I am a member of!).  Yippie!

In the two weeks that preceded the arrival of the volunteers, Greg and I put our noses to the grindstone, our big ol’thinking caps on, and started developing the modules assigned.  We barely have come up for air since.

Sharing what you love is probably the best thing to facilitate, but it is still stressful. Lucky for me, Georgette, a fellow volunteer from the Far North (thank you, dearie!), let me run through the coaching module in advance of the “big day” so I could get feedback and a little cheerleading thrown in!  It really helped me to feel ready to step out and strut my coaching stuff with confidence.

So imagine how nervous I was the morning of… I didn’t have time for my regular “get in the zone” routine in the morning. The torrential downpour forced us to give VSO an SOS call for a ride to the office because otherwise we and our precious computers would have been soaked to the bone.  Then the power was out at the VSO office up until about 10 minutes before the start of the morning sessions.  Jinxed?  Nope… just keeping us on our toes and reminding us that this is “flexibility country”.

A few deep breaths in and out, and all was well.

Though the evaluations of the sessions will tell their own tale, I felt like I had stepped back into my happy shoes.  Something just felt good about sharing why I think coaching is a good addition to the development toolbox (read more about this here).  And it felt even better to be providing my fellow volunteer/colleagues with new tools of their own to try out in the field.

The session covered different aspects of coaching that would be useful to them.  We re-learned how to listen and encourage dialogue (yes, re-learned!).  We worked on asking powerful questions that would challenge and stretch the thinking.  We discussed how to untie ourselves from the outcomes of the coaching so we can really coach and not become coercive forces.  We spoke about creating individual accountability that was a great addition to the morning’s session about organizational accountability.  And finally, we explored feedback in coaching so that we can encourage more positive, forward-looking movement.  We tied it all into how to work across cultures – a set of skills that hopefully makes a difference to them and their partner organizations.

For a week I had been saying how this new group of volunteers seemed like a tough crowd.  That didn’t change – they still challenged me and forced me to dig really REALLY deep.  But in the end, I think enough of the 3 hours of coaching talk got through.  If nothing else, they may think differently about their interactions with their counterparts.  Even that alone has to be a positive step.

There are a few more days to go in this ICO and much work remains to be done. I still have to review all the evaluations, make corrections to the modules and assemble everything into a coordinator’s pack for September’s new arrivals – I can’t help but smile.  There’s a little invisible star next to the session plan for “from advisor to coach” and I – little old me – put it there.  🙂

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~ by Caroline Spira on May 18, 2010.

One Response to “sharing coaching”

  1. Hi Caroline

    If you have any documents from the coaching session which you think volunteers in other countries would find useful you might like to add them to the resources section of VSO’s Volzone:
    http://volzone.vsoint.org/mod/data/view.php?id=1360

    Keep up the good blog posts.

    Best wishes
    Sara, Social Media Manager.
    VSO Intenational

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