As the mother of two young(ish) boys I am often asked random questions like;
"Who would win a race to the moon, spiderman or hulk?" or,
"Would you rather have feet for hands or hands for feet?"
It doesn't matter how I answer, because I am always wrong, and they take great delight in explaining to me why in fact, 'feet for hands' would be much better, because you could run faster in a zombie apocalypse - of course you could.
However, when they ask me what animal I feel I am most like, they cannot argue with me. I've always seen myself tenuously linked to the giraffe. Both tall (5ft11) although most of my height comes from my legs and torso not my neck. Both patterned in a golden and brown patchwork of colourings (for those who don't know me I am covered in freckles). I often like to have my head in the clouds, and am comfortably able to reach the highest shelf in the supermarket and reach food others can't. It worked for the boys so go with me!
When they were young enough to like a bedtime story, one of my absolute favourites was the fabulous Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae & Guy Parker-Rees. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Giraffes-Cant-Dance-International-Bestseller/dp/1841215651
It's about Gerald the giraffe who freezes at the annual 'Jungle Dance' as the other animals laugh at him over his clumsy dancing. He walks away very sad, head hanging low, but then meets a friendly cricket on a tree.
The cricket explains to Gerald that everyone can dance and says,
"Sometimes when you're different you just need a different song."
Gerald looks up at the moon in the clearing and the cricket asks him to imagine the moon is playing just for him.
The cricket whips out a violin and plays a little song...Gerald then loses himself in the music and dances beautifully. To complete the story, all the animals who teased him see him in his dancing glory and realise he's actually the best dancer of all. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0wweS8P-tY
It's a sweet little story, and the words have a lovely rhythm and rhyme to them, bouncing you across the pages. As I already felt a surreal connection to giraffes, this new similarity of an inability to dance, further cemented my bond with the lanky creatures.
I told the boys the context of my bonus connection, when they insisted mummy actually was a very good dancer.....Not so.....
A number of years ago in a nightclub abroad, I was on the dance floor, having a fabulous time time, letting myself go just like Gerald, (I think the hideous vodka red bull may have played a part). Anyway, moving to the beat without a care in the world I heard the DJ say (yes over the mic!)
"Ohhh... here we go everybody, Chewbacca's on the dance floor!"
Nice. No mistaking it was about me, I was the only person on the dance floor....
I really was Gerald in that moment. However, it occurred long before I'd had read the book so had not linked to his story quite yet. Fortunately, unlike Gerald I really didn't care (vodka helped), and it has become a bit of a family joke. I even perfected the famous Chewbacca "RAWRGWAWGGR" as my party trick, to keep the humour alive and well.
So this little (extremely humiliating) story leads me nicely into a beautiful saying we have in coaching, and one of the key competencies in which the ICF assess you on during your accreditation
"Dancing in the Moment"
The premise of this is that as a coach, you don't plan ahead too much for your coaching sessions. You don't think of the next question until it’s time to ask it, or try to be insightful (or clever). You don't turn up with a toolkit or an agenda, you observe, focus, and watch out for micro movements, listen out for particular words or tones, say only what you 'see' and 'hear'. You let the client go exactly where the clients wants to go, no direction, just allowing the natural flow to happen… you stay present and enjoy the moment. The coaching session is for the client not you. Their goal, their head space, their thinking time.....their flow.......
We were told in one of our first training sessions that most often the lightbulb moments happen for your clients when you are not there. It is an important lesson as a coach. Remembering that the space you hold for a client is their space entirely, and the magic may well happen after the session, when they have time to reflect and settle into their thoughts, without you, and in their own time. Your role is to help trigger the thinking, that is sometimes all.
In one of my very first coaching sessions with 'real' client I could feel myself craving to 'achieve' something amazing, so much so that I keep losing focus on my client and what they were saying. So keen was I to impress this person, every now and then I'd look at the clock and think;
"I haven't used a single tool yet"
"This is going nowhere"
"We haven't found a goal to focus on!"
"We're running out of time and we've ACHIEVED nothing!"
"They'll never come back unless I can 'show' them I'm good...."
What I was forgetting is that being coached by someone who can truly dance in the moment, can be thoroughly exhausting in iteself, so to add the need to achieve something 'profound' on top is often too much to ask of anyone. It will go where it needs to go, in its own time.
We are taught to notice these wobbly moments, and then move on, refocusing in on the client. Part of your journalling after a session is to capture your distractions and perhaps ascertain what was going on for you in that moment. We're not to dwell on our bouncing brain, or beat ourselves up about it. This is another incredible skill that Barefoot teach you with ease. Gently encouraging you to always be kind to yourself when it happens, notice it, then reflect on it later, and be more aware of it next time.
It works....and it is incredibly liberating!
Having come from a world full of regulations and rules (rightly so btw), removing these boundaries in order to be a better coach felt incredible.
No, not all sessions have to follow the GROW model, not all sessions have to use a tool, or solve a deep routed self-limiting belief for the client. If when coaching you can really dance in the moment, you are 100% giving your client your full undivided, non-judgemental attention (even if you have a little wobble in your brain). This is often all they need, they know they have been given a safe space to let it all out, and as coach you have created your own safe space to dance in the moment. Just like Gerald did in the light of the moon.
My lightbulb moment happened at the end of that session with that client, when they said to me
"That was really amazing thank you. Just having the chance to talk it all through entirely has really helped me, I have never said it out loud before. Thank you so much...."
There you go then, dancing in the moment works for the client and the coach.
So my next lesson in becoming a 'real' coach was clear. Let it go, dance freely, be Chewbacca if you want.
And as Gerald the giraffe says....
"We all can dance when we find the music that we love"
I do completely love coaching, I have found my place in the skilled art and practice of it, and so it seems this giraffe actually can dance.
And because this wonderful woman is a joy to watch and she still makes me laugh out loud every time I watch it…. My gift to you today, watch it, enjoy and laugh… it’s good for you.