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The end of Yannick’s Nuggets? 😱
Let me start with bit of housekeeping:
After a number of months getting the backend of my business more organised with the help of Martin, we’re now very close to launching a brand new Coaching Lab website. That also means Martin is now free to fully step into his role as editor-in-chief - which on the one hand delights me, but it also makes me a little nervous, since we’re going to be changing up the format of these Nuggets, and you never quite know how such changes land…
But I have to admit: these Nuggets just kept getting chunkier, and I do write a LOT these days. While it did take some convincing (in part this TED talk did it) I now fully agree that it’ll be wise to send out much shorter Nuggets that people will actually read - instead of throwing a bunch of my thoughts your way, at the risk of getting filed away in the “I’ll read that later” void.
So, in true “the king is dead, long live the king” fashion, this is the last edition of Yannick’s Nuggets as you got to know them. Going forward we’ll start with a different approach, back to basics in a way (shorter and more digestible) but at the same time new and very much improved thanks to Martin’s skilful editing and guidance.
I hope you’ll continue to find value in what I’m sharing - and any feedback you’d like to share as we’re experimenting, is more than welcome!
And now, back to the show ;)
I think that’s the missing part of the “work hard - play hard” equation.
And, this past month I learned that the hard way, as my body decided for me that it was time for a break.
In a word, my last 6 weeks or so have been bonkers… fortunately, in a good way!
- A milestone Positive Psychology conference in Reykjavik where I got to run a symposium with some of the leading figures Positive Psychology Coaching
- A DJ gig at Noisily, my favourite festival in the world
- My first invited keynote presentation
- Celebrating my birthday in Mexico
- And finally, off to Germany, to prepare for my upcoming move, and to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday (the man is a legend!)
So as far as work and travel goes, it was definitely a case of "Work hard": Most weeks I only had a few days of “desk-time”, yet somehow managed to pack all my client conversations into those slots.
The weekends were extended, and packed with what I love most - definitely "play hard"!
In August, I had a few days blocked out to rest, but that didn't quite play out that way.
About a week into my stay in Mexico, halfway through my only 5-day work week that month, Montezuma decided to take revenge and it was time to take an actual break, to clear my schedule, and do nothing for a day. I'll spare you the details, but let’s just say it wasn't very pleasant.
Fortunately I seem to know the right people over there, and I was amazed at how quickly you can get your hands on the right kind of medicine without ever leaving the bed. And it's amazing how quickly that stuff kicks in these days! I wrote this intro as I was about to fly home, end of July, feeling pretty confident it wouldn't be the worst trip of my life - and fortunately, it wasn't!
So what did I learn?
Well, I’ve been “on” since the birth of Leah 7 months ago, and while it can be challenging to take some time off when you’ve got kids, it’s definitely doable - and it should be a priority.
I also really need to take better care of my body. My attention has been solely on other people for some time now, and you simply can’t pour out of an empty cup. Making self-care a priority seemed counter-intuitive to me, but it’s clear to me that something needs to change.
I can do 6 weeks of intense work hard/play hard, but that’s it. As I’m entering my 40th year of life, I gotta build rest into my schedule.
I'll pause here (get it? ;) ) and, as usual, we'll continue with some bits and pieces from my mind. If any of it resonates, make it swing! I always love to hear from you guys.
What I’m listening to
The Visionary Collective - Visions (Vol.1)
This is the album that Leah was born to, and it’s a wonderful compilation. Calm but steady. Smooth, yet pulsating with energy. Born in beats. What could go wrong?!
What I’m reading
Fresh off the press: Existentialism in Pandemic Times: Implications for Psychotherapists, Coaches and Organisations - Edited by Monica Hanaway
A fascinating take on the Covid-19 pandemic through an existential lens. While I contributed a chapter summing up my thoughts on “existential resilience”, I was a lot more interested in what my existential colleagues had to say. If you’re keen to understand more about existentialism but you always felt that philosophy lost touch with everyday living, this book is for you.
What’s the nature of change and transformation?
Do we really change? Or are we just finding our way back to who we have been all along?
Do people actually transform? Or is it more a process of figuring out which part of our narrative has been imprinted on us by others, and which part of the narrative is in fact ours?
Can we re-programme ourselves, choose a different path, or even have a different character? Or are we destined to be who we have become at a fairly early age, and then you just need to find a way to “stay true to yourself”?
I’ve been asking myself these kinds of questions lately. Most recently this was triggered by being invited to deliver a keynote at the 1st Annual Summit on Transformative Coaching in September. But there’s also been a few podcast episodes (this one and this one, and most recently this one), as well as a recent brainstorm/recording session with my Lab Assistant Daniel Lev Shkolnik, that had these questions back in rotation.
To be honest, I haven’t quite made up my mind on this. And, it’s not nearly as black & white as we might want it to be.
What’s clear to me, having accompanied so many journeys of change and transformation, is that, yes, we can change.
We can transform, which to me means that we have free will to choose - at least to some degree - who we are becoming, through how we show up and the choices we make.
It’s a little tricky though, because we arguably are what we consistently do: If we decide to always tell the truth, we are (or will become) a person who’s honest. If you decide to commit yourself to a project and work hard to make something happen, and you do it consistently, you’re not a person who’d rather relax and let the world take its course.
But what if every single day you’re struggling to tell the truth? What if each day it’s a challenge to turn up to work, and you actively have to make yourself get into gear, and remind yourself of your commitment? It can take huge amounts of energy to maintain the person you’ve chosen to become.
For some it gets easier with time, some manage to “fake it til they make it”. Or the benefits they receive from their new way of being reinforce the transformation and it starts feeling truly authentic.
Others really struggle and their new persona continues to feel odd - perhaps not consciously, but something feels off.
It’s a topic I could write about at length, but I’ll stop here for now, to leave you with this question: What do you think? Can we reprogram ourselves? Or do we need to find a way back to who we are, and that’s the “transformation”?
Avid readers of these nuggets know that it took me a while to figure out how to make eye contact via Zoom.
The thing is that unless I mentioned the setup, nobody ever commented on the eye-contact it enables.
Now I’m sure the feeling that the other person makes eye contact (compared to looking slightly down, as tends to happen during video calls) does something in terms of how connected we feel, and I’m sure it creates stronger relationships, especially when you meet someone for the first time.
But the truth is: I don’t know for a fact that it does. And even though it only takes a few hand motions and clicks to set it up, these days I’m no longer using it as much as I used to.
I had always wanted to put this to the test, and at last weekend’s ECPP conference (more on that below), two of my colleagues gave me ideas. And I wonder if any of you reading this, would want to take this up as your dissertation or an independent (publishable) piece of research.
The first idea: To overcome the challenge of measuring “the coaching relationship”, I randomly found myself in the presentation of Marjolein Stefens, who put a lot of time into validating whether the Working Alliance Inventory for Coaching really does a good job in assessing how connected coach and client feel, which would be ideal as an assessment tool for what I’m trying to measure.
The second idea: A simple-yet-genius workaround came from Programme Leader of the MAPPCP programme & editor of the Coaching Philosophy Journal, Andrea Giraldez-Hayez. She suggested that instead of assessing the coaching relationship, one could simply give a 10-minute presentation to research participants, and afterwards ask them to rate how engaging they found it, how connected they felt, and perhaps a few other measurements.
A good reminder not to think too complex when trying to figure things out.
So for anyone who feels called: if you’d like me to supervise this, or “steal” my idea for your research project, get in touch and I’ll tell you more!
The first weekend of July was very special to me.
Imagine Yannick stepping onto the floor of this massive theatre, to attend the opening address of the 10th European Conference of Positive Psychology (ECPP) by the Icelandic prime Minister, followed by a speech from the Minister of Health and the opening keynote...
After which Yannick looks down at his programme, and realises: "This is the exact same room I'll be presenting in on day three! Da fuck?!? :D"
Part of me was relieved that they set up room partitions for all the talks that followed so that the room would "only" fit a few hundred people. Another part of me was disappointed and set some new career goals!
Anyway: How did I get here...?
Let me take you back to 2018, when I stepped onto a stage at the 9th ECPP, in order to challenge an idea that had been floating around in my field. Specifically: the idea that there’s a marriage between coaching and positive psychology.
At that point in history, I argued that these two really only had “just started dating” and that their “relationship status is complicated”. My talk was packed with arguably wonderful puns, and I had a terrific time connecting with colleagues, students, and new friends. (You can watch the talk here).
And last month, we finally gathered again in Reykjavik, Iceland, for the 10th instalment of the conference - and as you can imagine, I couldn’t wait to follow on from where we’d gotten to in terms of the integration of positive psychology and coaching.
I had asked some of the leading figures in our field to join me for a symposium to present on and discuss whether and how we might move “towards a unified theory of positive psychology coaching”.
You might not bat an eyelid, but it was a pretty big deal for me to have Dr. Suzy Green, Prof. Ilona Boniwell, Prof. Christian van Nieuwerburgh and Icelandic executive coach Guðrún Snorradóttir, all accepting my invitation to present with me (sorry you couldn't make it, Suzy - we missed you!).
And all this brings back memories, because 14 years ago I had asked Ilona - my BSc module leader for positive psychology - about this one Masters programme in the world, and she said “Yannick, there’s a 2nd one now. Here. With me. And we’re starting cohort number two in September.” And now in 2022, we’re presenting, and hugging, and dancing together at the conference party.
I don’t often take time to recognise such milestones in my career, but at these events it’s almost impossible not to think back and reflect on where you’re at now, in comparison to back then.
Now, in terms of theory and coaching practice, the core question that emerged was whether it’s even desirable to have a unified theory, or model, for positive psychology coaching.
I was - and in some ways still am - torn.
The academic in me knows that in order to figure out if something works, in order to be able to measure the outcome of an intervention (and coaching is arguably an intervention), we have to define the concept, the approach and the methodology.
But the practitioner in me knows that every client I work with may require a somewhat different approach, and most coaches - at least to some extent - tailor their way of working to what’s needed in the context in which the coaching takes place.
If the definition is too narrow, coaches lose the freedom to tailor and adjust. Or, as people often tell me in supervision, coaches become anxious about “not doing it right” or straying from the practice they have committed to.
Then again: if the definition is too broad, nobody knows what we mean when we say “I’m a Positive Psychology Coach”... and I would really - really! - like this term to mean something concrete or recognisable. For people to understand what that is, without having to experience it, or having to commit their time to a conversation.
If we can define the approach and the methodology, we can make a case for its effectiveness. (Part of me wants to say "proof" but that's bad social science language!)
I think this is a dilemma for all evidence-based practitioners, and I hope that our appeal for coaches and researchers to collaborate more, resulted in some fruitful introductions over the lunch break that followed our symposium.
If you’re curious to know more, you can download my slides here, watch a previous, more in-depth conference talk here, or watch my YouTube channel as I’m hoping to be able to upload the recording of the symposium and panel discussion soon.
And if you’ve got a model or methodology for Positive Psychology Coaching yourself and you’d like to collaborate with a researcher to gather some data (or vice versa), let me know* - maybe I can make an introduction!
And lastly, a big THANK YOU to all my former students and colleagues who came to Iceland. You’re all amazing. I had the best time hanging out with you and thanks for the many words of support and appreciation. It means a lot!
*This isn’t a formal invitation, but I am being serious:
I would love nothing more than to see professional coaches and academics collaborate on advancing the evidence around Positive Psychology Coaching. In fact, I’d wave the flag myself, but I can’t: my calendar is full enough as it is.
But! I have a network of well-regarded and skilled professionals, and I know some of them feel the same way I do, about the role and importance of coaching in society.
So here’s my invitation to you:
If you draft a few bullet points either on the kind of research and development you’d like to do, or the coaching model you’ve developed, I’ll engage and try to make the introductions that make it possible. Let me know your thoughts!
I’ll keep this short, but it’s SO worth passing on:
At this month’s ECPP in Iceland we had one of the most cited psychologists ever - Richard Ryan - deliver a keynote on Self-Determination Theory, arguably one of the most important theories of motivation and wellbeing.
In it, he made the case that we need to foster its three elements - autonomy, relatedness and competence - wherever we can.
I had thought about this a lot in the context of coaching and employee wellbeing, but what struck me most as a new dad this time around, is the link to parenting, and so I wanted to share Ryan’s advice with you:
This meditation app seems to be the shit! It’s the only truly evidence-based one apparently; Richard Davidson is an absolute legend; and the app’s been shown to reduce psychological distress significantly, after only 5 minutes of use each day for a few weeks.
- Understand the other’s perspective
- Seek input and ideas
- Foster ownership and agency
- Offer meaningful choices where possible
- Minimize use of controlling language/rewards
- Provide a rationale for requested or required behaviour
- Empathize with resistance, struggles, and obstacles
Also, it was amazing to see the data of this experiment in which 2 groups (experienced meditators and non-meditators) were first given a tone, and then 10 seconds afterwards administered some pain via a (safe) heat device.
You can see that for non-meditators ALL pain receptors started firing at the tone (with no pain administered yet), while meditators stayed completely calm, then experienced slightly more pain, but recovered MUCH quicker.
If that’s not worth 5 minutes of your day, I don't know what is. I mean, you brush your teeth every day, don’t you? Why not take care of your mind a little bit each day, as well? You can get the app at www.TryHealthyMinds.org.
The excellent Sue Langley cited this piece of research that demonstrated the ripple effect of our behaviour on others. 25% on our immediate surroundings and, impressively, still 5.6% on people 3 degrees away (a friend of a friend of a friend of yours, being affected by what you do and how you show up). If that's not excellent motivation to be our best selves, I don't know what is.
Sue also mentioned a type of worm that eats plastic! Let's fucking get those guys to multiply QUICKLY!
We're concluding Season 12 with two AMAZING episodes:
The ever-inspiring Nick Bolton, Founder & CEO of Animas Centre for Coaching, shares his thoughts and his new framework for Transformative Coaching. This one's packed with nuggets and I highly recommend listening in.
Peter Hawkins is a legend in the field of coaching. It was an honour and a privilege to spend some time with him, to discuss the role of coaches and coaching, in the context of creating much needed systemic change in the world - especially in the context of climate change and, as it happened that morning, gun control in the USA. I always leave conversations with Peter deeply inspired
In this episode I talk to Tessa Dodwell about supporting people through transitions, with a particular focus on retirement and the often accompanying "lost sense of self". I really loved the conversation, as Tessa has a pretty existential lense on this work and amongst others, we discuss some of Kierkegaard's ideas on the matter.
Talking about Coaching Deep Dive
While our podcast Talking about Coaching and Psychedelics is on a summer hiatus, here are two episodes that I was invited on:
Coaching and Psychedelics
I was invited by the formidable Jascha Renner on his popular (German) Set & Setting podcast. We discuss existential coaching in the context of psychedelic experiences; the differences between coaching and therapy; and many more topics.
And another German podcast episode was released last month, in which I talk to the curiosity-driven hosts of the About the Mind podcast about existential coaching.
Catch me live
- 6th September - Yannick's Coaching Lab: Flipping the Psychological Switch with Mamoon Yusaf
- 20th September- The Coaching Cabinet: every 3rd Tuesday we meet as part of this FREE peer-support group, to connect and help each other with anything related to a) the business of coaching, b) the practice of coaching and c) anything personal. All coaches welcome! We're also on MeetUp.
- 22nd September - Keynote at the 1st Annual Summit for Transformative Coaching. I'll be sharing lessons learned about transformation and Transformative Coaching from Season 12 of the podcast and over a decade of helping people change. The Summit is free to attend, so it’s a fantastic learning opportunity. The opening keynote is delivered by Dr Simon Western.
- Talking about Coaching Live Streams - We’ve developed a habit to stream our recording sessions live on Facebook and I’ve really been enjoying the opportunity to interact a bit and comment on people’s curiosities between episodes (usually we record 3 in one go). If this is something you’d like to get a heads up on, do let us know and perhaps we can get that sorted out.
Aaaaaaand, that’s it! If you’re reading this, I appreciate you - thanks for staying with me. And I hope you found some value in these nuggets. Feel free to share a thought...
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