Category Archives: Coaching Skills

Coaching Skills

Coaching and return on investment (ROI)

Myles Downey, in ‘Effective Coaching – Lessons from the Coach’s Coach’ reminds us that:

“Coaches are not retained by organisations, and line managers are not expected to coach their direct reports, for fun. The coaching is expected to produce results – measurable returns – so let the ends define the means, let the outputs guide the inputs, let the required results from coaching inform the coaching approach”

It was against this backdrop and exhortation that The York Coaching Group met to discuss the subject of Return on Investment. Three speakers – Steve Gorton of Enabling Development, Andy Chilton of Velresco and Susan Binnersley of New Leaf shared their different (but reassuringly aligned) perspectives on the subject.

Despite the much loved Kirkpatrick model, there is much to suggest that the measurement of ROI has some way to go before it can be said to be a routine, reliable and robust part of the coaching experience – and, of course, until such time as that is the case, coaching will continue to have difficulty in answering the very legitimate question asked of businesses ‘How do I know it works – where’s the evidence?’

It’s easy to measure the things that are easy to measure. Those things that are hard to measure often don’t get the attention they deserve – it’s much easier to measure sales / profit / retention than values / beliefs / behaviours and yet, ironically, the former are dependent on the latter.

Three aspects of ROI were explored – a framework to explore the subject offered by Steve; a balanced view of the threats and opportunities (plus some neat software) from Andy; application of ROI within the Outplacement market from Susan (plus an entreaty to improve career coaching within schools).

Key points that struck me during the evening (in no particular order) were:

Steve (

  1. In response to David Clutterbuck’s provocation that ‘It’s a waste of time, it’s too expensive’, coaching should be focused on the Significant, Substantial and Sustainable. (Big returns warrant effort in evaluation)
  2. We’re after soft skills for hard results, not t’other way round
  3. Design the coaching for value right from the start – 3 or 4 way contracting, clarity of business focus, work with those who can really make a difference
  4. Evaluation doesn’t need to be difficult – weekly assessments, self designed assessment processes, getting the ethos right, working within frameworks, learning logs, 360, informal feedback and end of programme questions – should be within most people’s grasp
  5. The serendipity of the ‘What Else?’ question can flag up some great and unexpected Returns

Andy (

  1. Where every £ has to compete for impact, we need to reposition organisational thinking about Evaluation – It’s not ‘soft and fluffy crap!
  2. But …. demonstrating the impact can be problematic – we can get so absorbed in the measurement we forget the point (It’s about Outcomes, coaching is simply the vehicle to get there)
  3. There are threats if we don’t do it (increased expectations, price erosion, market saturation, over regulation) and opportunities if we do do it (enhanced personal and sectoral reputation, referrals, more 360, reduced admin time if done well)
  4. Ultimately success or otherwise is measured by the coachee – whatever that means to them

Susan (

  1. There’s a spectrum of response to outplacement coaching, from those organisations who don’t offer it, through those who do but are really not interested in the outcomes, to those who do and care
  2. It should be made accessible to everybody, not just senior people
  3. The four stages of the process – Stabilise / Explore / Secure / Perform – provide a great framework for evaluation
  4. Whilst the quantifiable outcomes (x% back in work within y weeks) are tangible and pleasing, it’s the qualitative outcomes – increased confidence, greater resilience, more positive attitude that enable the quantifiable outcomes.
  5. Sometimes a fair amount of work is required at the ‘Stabilise’ stage before moving on – there is an art in knowing when people are ready to move on
  6. The result of getting it right is enabling people to ‘Grow old with no regrets’

What a lovely epitaph!


Peter Lumley

September 2015

Leaders: born or made?

“It’s an age old question. Are leaders born or made. And if they’re made can we return them under warranty?” (Scott Adams, The Dilbert Principle)

“… and, if they’re made, how do we keep them in top condition?” (Steve Gorton, Enabling Development)

Reflecting on Leadership

If leadership is so important, why are effective business leaders so rare?
Who can you identify as a truly effective leader in your own experience?
What links Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher?
Why do people so often separate the act of leadership from the leader?
Is leadership as something people do rather than who they are?
Are we now experiencing a greater culture of managerialism than leadership across practices and politics?
As business and society moves from the machine age through the information age towards the biological age, how fit for purpose are the traditional methods of “leadership” through position power and command and control? (Think dictatorship in business and government)
Can we become leaders through academic study or is it a “contact sport”?
Is a more holistic and balanced approach the way forward?

Inspirational Leaders

• know who they are
• direct rather than dictate
• recognise sensitive points in the system
• make choices – palatable and unpalatable
• bridge the gap between reality and vision

Powerful voices and profound contributions

Inspirational Leaders understand who they are, tend to have a more powerful voice and make a more profound contribution any organisation. My own script has two versions:

Academic – “Leaders lead by virtue of who they are. If leaders want to be more effective with others they first need to be more effective with themselves”.

 Real life – “Until you get your own act together, how can you help anyone else get their act together?”

So what does this mean in your context?

  • What do you exhibit to your colleagues and clients?
  • Would they follow you – even just out of curiosity?
  • What more do you now want to do to enhance your leadership style?

Steve Gorton
May 2015


Steve Gorton works primarily as an executive coach to help people start thinking again, bake bigger cakes and make that change from management to an inspirational leader. He is a founder member of Coaching York.
After his MBA he founded Enabling Development and is a visiting lecturer at Hull, Manchester and the Open University Business schools. He can be contacted via Coaching York or +44 07939 023285


Ting and the art of listening


The sound of Listening

A cup of coffee with a new colleague recently introduced me to the Chinese word for ‘Listening’ – always good to add some depth to the core skills of coaching, training or consultancy – all of which disciplines happen to contribute to the Lumley weekly crust.

Now why would I be interested in some Chinese linguistics? After all, I am well versed in tried and trusted Western models based on identifying various layers or levels of listening (from Ignoring through Pretend, Selective and Attentive to Empathic Listening).

The Ladder of Listening

One way of capturing these ideas in a practical way is through mnemonic acronyms such as the Ladder of Listening. It goes like this:

Look at the person
Ask questions
Don’t interrupt and
Don’t make assumption
Emotions (be aware of yours!) and finally

Now helpful as this acronym is, it’s built around a sort of process, reminding you to build six elements into a conversation. Like many acronyms it has its complications – you have two letters referring to the same word (don’t) which actually isn’t what you’re trying to remember (don’t…. what was it again?). And the last letter is a bit of a fudge. It isn’t so much that you want to “repeat” what you have heard so much as “summarise.” But “summarise” wouldn’t work with the acronym.


So what is this Chinese word for listening and why do I find it so attractive and intriguing? The word is ‘Ting’, which sounds like it should have something to do with listening anyway (I hear the tinkling of a small brass bell) and, as you can see from the Chinese character below, it constitutes four elements – an ear, ten eyes, a heart, and a king.

ting v2

Loosely translated, it reads ‘listen with your ear – but with ten eyes, your whole heart and as if listening to your king’. Now that summarises the whole idea in a single visual image. Powerful and compact I would say.

‘I give you my ears, my eyes, my undivided attention and my heart’ has, to me, rather more of a flow to it than negotiating a ladder.

One of the more useful cups of coffee I’ve had in a long time!

Peter Lumley
April 2015



Peter Lumley is the Chair of Coaching York and the principal of Realise Change, a consultancy that specialises in realising personal, team and organisational change through coaching, training, and consultancy. His website is

Profiling for coaches


5 key reasons why psychometrics could transform your coaching conversations

A growing trend in the coaching world is the use of psychometrics. In a report by the Coaching Psychologist, 80% of coaches say that they use psychometric reports in their coaching practice.

“Psychometric data figures increasingly in the background materials which coaches bring to the learning alliance.” – Professor David Clutterbuck, Special Ambassador, European Mentoring & Coaching Council

Psychometric tools attempt to quantify the abilities, attitudes and behavioural drivers of individuals. With the increasing expectations of coaching clients, psychometrics are an obvious contender to add value to any coaching conversation. Here we share why we believe introducing psychometrics can transform any coaching conversation

An anchor for coaching

In his book ‘Psychometrics and Coaching’, Professor Jonathan Passmore writes that psychometric profiles provide “feedback or insights which, when combined with discussion, can provide a useful way of thinking about current ways of being, and planning new ways of being.”

Using accessible language, with visual, memorable models, psychometric reports offer an anchor point in your coaching conversations. Whether you are exploring strengths, ideas for personal development, development action points, challenges or aspirations, these anchors can be revisited to check understanding and continue the dialogue.

Enhances coachee awareness

A good psychometric can help to streamline the initial needs analysis phase, by allowing the coach to facilitate discussions about comfort zones, development areas, challenges and goals, linked to the psychometric data. If using a personality measure, coaches will have a wealth of data to help prepare for their sessions – which will help deepen the quality of the conversations and help to build rapport quickly.

Helps Coaches become more mindful

Psychometrics offer a great way for coaches to reflect on their own behaviours, language, preferences and styles. By doing so, coaches can deepen their own self-awareness and provide some interesting opportunities for their own development.
A thorough examination of your own style (using a psychometric), before comparing with that of your coachee, can help open up a series of choices. Will you be actively challenging your coachee by asking them to step far outside of their comfort zone? Will you need to subtly adjust your own language to ensure your questions are received in the best possible way? What type of follow-up will the coachee appreciate?

No hiding places

The purpose of psychometrics in coaching is to let the ‘real’ self shine through, which can sometimes seek to challenge a coachee’s subjective perceptions. Validated, reliable information can be presented, using researched models and dimensions. Some clients who are very data-driven will appreciate a tangible set of data as a backup to the coaching conversations, which can also help both coach and coachee to access ROI.

Boosts commitment

Psychometric profiles can provide a structure for future development points and actions. Based on their psychometric feedback, is your coachee more likely to commit to follow-up that’s driven by theory, or action? Is there a chance they might over-commit to actions? What level of information will your coachee need in your record of the conversations? Having all of this knowledge as part of your coaching practice will help gain meaningful, measurable commitment, in a way that plays to the strengths of your coachees.


May 2015
Mark Gilroy


Mark Gilroy is a Director of TMS Development International Ltd,, specialists in personal profiling.

Leadership development and ... horses!

Leadership development is the number one priority of HR

Before you are a leader success is all about growing yourself.
When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.’ Jack Welch

Leadership – an organizational priority

A recent survey conducted by Emergentics International revealed that Leadership development is the number one priority of HR and organizational development leaders, with 25% of respondents putting it at the top of their priority list. With organizations needing to meet ever-higher financial goals and growth targets, the emphasis on people development provides a window into the way companies are seeing their ability to rise to the top.

So what is leadership?

The Oxford Paperback Dictionary defines a leader as ‘one whose example is followed’. Leadership is that elusive quality that companies are looking for and yet, in my opinion, is so often lacking in organisations. Given the multitude of companies offering leadership training and the circa £3billion spent on external training annually in the UK, how come our companies are not some of the best performing in the world? To my mind, leadership and management are too often confused. We expect managers to lead and yet leadership and management involve completely different skill sets. Indeed, the Peter Principal invariably plays out in organisations. The Peter Principal states that ‘people are promoted to the level of their incompetency’. This is why all too often people get promoted only to fail in their managerial role because what they really need are leadership skills.

Complete leadership starts with the vision and builds relationships with the people that share the vision and who will take on the task of achieving the vision. This differs from management which uses structures, rules and processes in order to control and predict results in a more stable situation. Frank S. Greene notes that ‘the success of management is seen in the industrial empires where people can be used interchangeably and as replaceable parts.’

The need for strong leaders

In order for any business to be successful it needs strong leaders and particularly so in this age of globalisation because whilst an individual might be able to mask their lack of leadership skills in a small organisation, in my experience once they have to manage across multiple locations they will be found out. Great leadership involves developing a blend of vision, relationships and execution and as an organisation expands, the need for the leader to communicate that shared vision to a diverse set of people becomes paramount because unless the vision is shared, the organisation will never meet its goals. It will become like a ship bobbing up and down on the ocean with no clear direction of where it is heading and wonder why the business fails to move forwards.

So where do horses come in?

The answer lies in the fact that horses are always looking for a leader. As a prey animal, the horse always has to be aware of imminent danger or else he could end up as someone else’s lunch. This means that a horse always has to be alert to any danger in his surroundings and also be in a position to run away should that danger present itself. To ensure that the horse can survive being a prey animal it has evolved so that its natural behaviour and physiology can keep it as protected as possible. This is why horses have eyes on the side of their head, as it gives them nearly 360 degree vision to see any approaching danger. They are also acutely aware of any changes in their environment, as this could herald the onset of approaching danger. The sense of community and camaraderie they gain from living in herds also helps keep horses safe. I’m sure you’ve heard of the idiom ‘Safety in numbers’ – well, this is the premise that horses work from. The more of them that are together, the more eyes they have looking out for danger and so the safer they feel.

Clarity, Certainty and Trust

It is because of this desire to stay safe that a horse is always looking for a leader. Can you imagine living by yourself, never being able to rest and relax for fear of being attacked and eaten? This is a tiring place to be and the reason why a horse is willing to let us take up the leadership role with them. However, and this is a really big thing, we must prove to be a leader who can be trusted and who knows what they are doing. If we have no clarity or certainty and don’t evoke a sense of trust from the horse then he will not let us lead him and he will take over the leadership position. You see, unlike people who might be quite polite when their boss is not being a clear, decisive leader, a horse has no option but to act, his life depends on it, whereas in a business we continue to tolerate poor leadership until such time that the leader is removed from that position – ironically often promoted to another position.

Partners for learning

Different from humans, horses don’t follow blindly, yet they are looking to be led. They cannot be coerced or influenced, they choose to follow. Horses have survived for thousands of years due to their ability to get along with, and depend upon, one another. They test each other to establish their position within the herd, deferring only to other horses they feel will keep them safe. In a world in which money, control and status are non-existent, horse leaders respond immediately to the thoughts, feelings and sometimes hidden agendas of those around them, and communicate with authority, purpose, authenticity and confidence – all without ‘saying’ a single word. Like some employees, horses can either be willing participants or resentful ‘herd members’, making them ideal partners for teaching self-leadership and teamwork

Julia Felton
May 2015


Julia Felton is the herd leader of Business HorsePower and the Lead Mare of the Joined Up Business Revolution. She inspires business owners to unlock the hidden potential in their people, processes and playground (environment) to create high performance Joined Up Businesses which are productive and profitable. Her innovative programmes are inspired by nature and her herd of horses, where no time or energy is wasted. Everything works in perfect harmony as an ecosystem. However, as Julia experienced, that is rarely the way in life and business.
Find out more at


Whole Person Coaching


Perhaps the most powerful instrument we have in helping our clients navigate change is ourselves

Our ability to use ourselves potently relies in large part on the level of awareness we have about the impact we make, and our ability to make choices to direct and flex our approach.

The whole person

Working lives, experience, training and development all contribute to developing a unique style or approach to coaching with our clients. All the learning that we have gathered, whether through experience, courses, professional development, in our wider lives or at work, forms part of who we are. Our experiences continue to inform our practice, confidence and the range of tools and interventions we draw on. People such as mentors, trainers or our coaching supervisor all play significant roles in developing our abilities as a coach. Perhaps the most important influence is internal: our own confidence, authenticity, openness to challenge, self-knowledge, values and beliefs. Such characteristics can be both helpful and unhelpful in our client work and shape our readiness to explore our intentions and subsequent impact.

Connecting with others

Working with others in a relational way can have a profound impact on our being. Using ourselves as instruments of change requires us to ask fundamental questions about how our personal experiences, knowledge and learning from life shape our work, consciously or unconsciously. Finding ways of being connected and engaging with a deeper sense of who we are and having the courage to own and engage with our vulnerability determines how we practice and show up with others.

For me, at the core of effective coaching is a whole person learning relationship that works alongside the researched approaches, tools, skills and techniques – they are interdependent.

Investing in yourself

Alongside my outer professional form I continue to remain committed and connected to investing in my inner ‘professional’ life. In so doing it makes possible for me to let go of seeking the ‘right way’ or holding onto the erroneous belief that there is ‘the way’. I can experience a greater sense of freedom in trusting my gut feelings and whole hearted approach to my work.

Modern life can make unreasonable demands on our ‘self’ we can feel divided and anxious, loosing connection with our true nature and potency in the world. In creating hospitable spaces within ourselves we can further connect to our passion and direction, draw on the wealth of resources we hold and cultivate kindness and compassion in our own vulnerabilities. Through renewing connection with our true nature and potency, we are more available to prepare the fertile ground for realising both our own and our client’s potential, bringing meaningful action into the world.


April 2015



Benita Treanor is a respected consultant, facilitator, coach, counsellor and coaching supervisor, with over 25 years experience. She is currently developing an experiential programme Living as a Whole Person to explore and reflect on core human qualities such as authenticity, curiosity, courage, creativity and purpose. To find out more contact Benita direct on 07887662961 or email

Coaching for business - Build your personal A-team


“Nobody is perfect, but a team can be.” Meredith Belbin

“I love it when a plan comes together” John “Hannibal” Smith

How many teams are you a part of? If you are part of a small organisation, your team may be the entire business. In a larger organisation the likelihood is that, even in your discrete team, you will have interdependencies with other parts of the business who may regard you are part of their “virtual” team network. Perhaps you work alone as a sole-trader in an environment where team working seems to be a difficult concept to apply in practice.  But what if you could take off all the current boundaries in which you work and were able to pull together your ideal team –  who would be in it?

Step into my world for a moment. Whilst, as a freelancer, I don’t go into an office with a team of people every day I am still part of a team. I need people around me to spark off ideas, to challenge my thinking, and to introduce me to a wider network of expertise to make good gaps in my own professional coaching skills. In addition there are the wider skills (such as marketing and business planning) that I need to run a successful coaching practice, not to mention a coaching supervisor to oversee the quality of my work and my professional development. To that end I work informally with a range of people who are as committed to my success in life and business as I am to theirs. You might call them my “A-Team.”


So how about you? Who do you have in your A-team who provides the support you need to succeed in your career? You may have your current colleagues and manager, and in a larger organisation may have a mentor assigned to you. A good question to ask, is “Who is missing?” and a useful clue to identifying who that might be, is to reflect on current barriers to success such as where you regularly feel vulnerable or frustrated. What kind of person can support you to overcome these, either through sharing the skills you need or who can offer you support in return for the skills, techniques, experience and contacts that you can offer them in return? Or perhaps it’s more fundamental than that. You have a sense of frustration but can’t pin down the root cause. These are all areas where coaching can make a significant difference.

Take a minute to see how coaching can help you, and feel free to contact me at to explore further how to identify and recruit your own A-Team.

April 2015


Geoff Ashton is a leadership and development coach, specialising in talent development and later life planning. His current client portfolio includes clients from the public, private, health, education and legal sectors. Geoff is a steering group member of Coaching York.

Supervision for coaches – why, what and who?

Why should coaches be in supervision?

The coaches I talk to have mixed views about supervision of their work. Some are unconvinced of its value, others describe regular supervision as a fundamental component of their coaching practice. Many stand somewhere along the spectrum between those poles.

Working in therapeutic communities, I was introduced to supervision in the second year of my career and quickly recognised how it accelerated my learning, safeguarded my wellbeing and served my clients. After thirty six years of both giving and receiving supervision, I value it more now than ever before.

What supervision means to me

As a coach, supervision provides me with a supportive space to reflect upon aspects of my work. I can do this in depth with an experienced, independent practitioner without the distraction of having to ‘perform’. The reflective space is contained within a clearly negotiated contract. Each session has one or more agreed foci to ensure the reflection has purpose. From the reflective space there is a bridge to my practice, formed by considering how to apply emerging awareness or understanding. Supervision is a relational process; the relationship is nourished by mutual feedback and review.

Who supervises?

Coaching is a newer profession than counselling, and it is only comparatively recently that recognised standards and qualifications have emerged for Coach Supervisors.

With a more established history, I believe that counselling supervisors can add considerable value when supervising coaches, particularly when

  • ·         aiding the coach’s understanding of relational dynamics with clients; and
  • ·         building the coach’s capacity to work in the areas of emotional and psychological intelligence.

However, there is also a need for more coaches to train as supervisors: to develop and make available their coaching eldership and wisdom to coaching colleagues.

For me, supervising the work of other coaches and counsellors constantly informs and challenges my own practice in both fields.


November 2014


Steve Page works as an independent coach, counsellor and supervisor. He is a member of the Steering Committee of Coaching York.