Isabella awoke with a bang. Workers outside had started to open up the street like you would a can of tomatoes but much louder. She dashed up, realised that she had just time for a shower, breakfast and then run for the Victoria Plaza to make it to the AC conference on time. Or so she thought. The shower was the first show stopper. No matter how she tried she could not make it produce hot water. She simply had to wash her hair in cold water. “The English are always talking about taking a cold shower, now I know why!” Apart from the water being cold the room itself had been pretty cold too. In March it is pretty harsh outside, but inside should be something else. At least in theory. In Sweden everyone accepts the idea of an existing winter and actually make heating works and insulates the buildings. In the UK and elsewhere in Europe this is apparently not the case. She remembered back when she was still a rookie coach that her mentors always nagged her about using the GROW model when coaching. The R in the model stood for Reality. “I wonder how the coaches here can handle GROW when they have no link to reality regarding their housing.” Isabella sighed and did what she had to do to get ready for breakfast. Then the next little snag promptly arrived. The breakfast was not ready yet so she had to wait for an additional ten minutes to get her tea, toast and huge amounts of marmalade. And then optional sausages fried or scrambled eggs and other not extremely healthy alternatives. You can add as many Jamie Olivers, Gordon Ramsays, Nigella Lawsons as you wish but you still cannot delete the fish and chips traditions from England. Isabella quickly devoured a toast and dashed out. She quickly went along Elisabeth Street, turned left into Eccleston Square and continued onto Gillingham Street. When she reached Wilton Road she saw Victoria Plaza on the left – finally. She had only seven minutes to spare, an ocean of seconds. Now everything was Hunky Dory as the saying goes. Her father used to play a Bowie album called that, she remembered. The time of the LP Albums seemed long time ago now. But her snag day was not really over yet. There was no Isabella Strand on the participant lists anywhere. Isabella knew she had paid and she could prove it too. She brought out the receipt she had received after paying” I have paid!” A very helpful AC lady by the name of Katherine assisted her and said “You are fine my dear, it must have been something wrong in our data sheets now, we don’t really have an designated administrator so we try to manage things on our own apart from everything else we do. Don’t worry. The main thing is that you are here.” That felt reassuring of course, but Isabella hoped that the speakers and the workshops had not also been lost in some misplaced excel sheet. But it was true – the important thing was that she was here. Isabella intended to enjoy every second of the conference.
Back in Stockholm a murderer had not lost any time either. Knowing this was one important day, timing could not have been better. All stages of the first part of the plan had fitted into each other perfectly. The only remainder of the last two days work fitted nicely into an Adidas shoebox recently containing a pair of Adistar Salvation 2. Today our murderer was wearing them. They were light and perfect for a fast running experience. Amazing that shoes made for running were called sneakers. Of course sneaking was more appropriate for the activity these last two days. First there was the contact making. No problem there. Then the process of getting in and out with the necessary stuff. Like clockwork. The visit to Råcksta and the funeral chapel there also went well as did the copying of the keys to the place. The actual business there took some studying but OK. Now the first stage was complete. Not a second was lost.
Isabella surely tried to get into as many workshops as possible, but of course she was only one person and several workshops were on simultaneously. But Isabella, being an excellent coach, knew how to set goals and how to make decisions for herself. She was tempted to attend both the workshop on cat & dog behaviour and the workshop on horse coaching but decided to focus on the Key Notes and workshops on Global issues and Creative tools. Global for business and Creative for pleasure.
She settled for a seat close to the aisle in the middle to get maximum vision of the thing happening on the stage. Isabella couldn’t believe her eyes when that helpful lady from a few minutes ago happened to be none other than the present chairwoman at the Association for Coaching! And she was holding the Welcoming Address for the whole event! So once again Isabella learned that you should always be kind to everyone – suddenly they will come back into your life and sometimes faster than you know. Isabella laughed at herself as she usually gave her friends that piece of advice even though she was told by her coaching teachers never to give advice. The real world is somewhat different from the coaching theory though. People actually need some advice now and then and on occasion that advice could make all the difference. “But it is not always easy to live by what you preach eh?” Isabella was again humbled by her own lack of perfection.
The first keynote speaker was about to enter the stage. It was supposed to be someone called Julio Olalla and he should talk on something called “A ‘Good Life’ vs a ‘Better Life’. The talk could have started better though. Onto the stage came a fairly old guy, had tremendous difficulties with the microphones and stuff so Isabella thought “This is terrible, how will the rest of the conference be? What have I paid for?” But he finally got the hang of how to be heard and could start.
And Julio was old yes, but Julio really had something to say and captured Isabella to the core of her heart as much so she said to herself “I want him every Monday morning to raise my spirits!” And Julio was of course talking about meaning and sustainability. Isabella reflected on the emerging longing for meaning that she had experienced from almost every client lately and in magazines and literature too. “We have to help people find meaning in their lives.” When Isabella read about Julio in her conference material she found that he was by some regarded as the father of the coaching profession. And she had not heard of him before at all! A reflexion on that appeared and Isabella made a note: “The fact that you have not heard about an important matter does not make that non-existent. You can never study too much. Perhaps you always study too little and make too little research? Can we trust what we read?” Trust is what coaches build their entire business on so Isabella felt that she really had to make sure she was updated, informed and could make sure that her clients could feel that she was too.
The murderer was also good at the trust game. Without that it was impossible to get close enough in order to make the kill. And meaning was also a key factor. But only the exact kind of meaning that would accomplish the desired results of course. And it did. So far. A smile appeared and swiftly vanished. This was the first step.
Back in London Isabella was ready for her first workshop. Again another perspective but also somewhat the same. The speaker was Philippe Rosinski, an expert on coaching and cultures. So cultures was new, but again sustainability and meaning re-appeared. And there was the idea that a coach and coaching has to be multi-disciplinary. At last someone that stands up and says what Isabella had contemplated for some time. Standard coaching alone cannot do it all. Coaches have to bring in other knowledge and experience in order to really help people. “You cannot take anyone further than you have gone yourself.” Philippe also said “Spirituality is an increased awareness of a connection with self, others, nature, with the immanent and transcendent “divine”.” “Well”, Isabella thought, “If I try to market “the divine” to my clients back in Stockholm they will think I’ve gone mad! Or will they?”
If you look a hundred years back in history everyone knew where they belonged and they all thought there was a God. Today most people have doubts on themselves, their abilities or if there exist something more than what they see. Isabella was lost for a moment in her own thoughts when she realised the workshop just had ended. Finally a coffee break! Isabella stumbled out of the session and found her way out to the coffee tables and all the other coaches that ran about hunting for cookies and a coffee buddy. She squeezed herself in , found a cup and a biscuit and then pointed herself to one of the round tables standing by. “Can I have a corner?” She realized that round tables did not even have corners but what the hell….
Isabella was in luck and happened to stand by quite nice coaches eager to communicate and do some networking. The compulsory exchange of business cards actually seemed to be honest this time and that Isabella just might hear from some of them later. Not just a show. She also overheard several conversations on a number of subjects during that coffee break without actually take part in those discussions. Being an observer and a listener had its merits. But when she dared to open her mouth to try her best English skills her tongue felt like on crutches but everyone seemed to understand her anyway so she kept on trying. A coaching conference was the perfect place to try in as people at such an event were interested in other people and not only interested in their own businesses. So she could take a chance or two here. And really – the coaches took her under their wings. Isabella talked a lot with a nice man called William whose heart was into sustainability and also shared her feelings of that we rush too much and that we should slow down to actually achieve more. “We have never had so many ways to communicate and we have never felt more alone.” Isabella agreed and replied “And we have never had access to so much information and we have never felt more confused.” They both smiled and sipped on their coffee. Isabella felt she had found her first friend in the UK.
The murderer in Stockholm was not out to get friends but was enjoying the first steps with a coffee in a café close to Hötorget. The metal chairs made the occasional noise on the wooden floor, a glass of water was placed on the table beside the plate with a Swedish cinnamon bun. It was a moment of stillness, but if you had looked close enough the spark of a strange fire in the murderer’s eyes would have made you worried. You would of course not know that it was a killer you saw sitting there. No other signs of that would show. Who is a murderer and who is not is never apparent, not even to close relatives or colleagues. Even your closest friend or sister can be a killer if the situation is right! So next time you see someone in a café he or she can be capable of not just taking a bite of the cinnamon bun. The killer did just that and finished the coffee. Time to get home to plan the next step.
“What is your next step?” Isabella had a moment before getting to the next workshop and had just overheard this question and could not help smiling. All coaches she knew over-used that question to the point of being almost ridiculous. And some of them tried it even before the client had a chance of even being close to setting a target. Many clients have not a clue. They do not know where they want to go or where they start from. “Imagine for a while that you visit your train company’s website to get a ticket. It is quite impossible to get one if you cannot state from where and to where.” Coaching has the same dilemma. So many times the coaching process starts with trying to find out these things, sometimes even to find out who the client is. Some clients do have an unrealistic image of themselves. Isabella had recently encountered many clients like that when she was job coaching. The recession in combination to a general lack of self esteem creates all sorts of problems. Some problems even crossed the border into the therapeutic area. She had one client that she had to send to a therapist she collaborates with just three weeks before. It turned out that woman had been sexually abused most of her youth, from the age of eight to fourteen at least. She had very blurry memories but was filled with shame and hatred. Isabella tried to treat her well and even accompanied the client to her therapist friend and said that she could call her at any moment if she needed to. “It is always too late to have a happy childhood.” Isabella almost cried there and then at the conference when that memory hit her. But she was there to enjoy herself and to learn new things. “Inspiration” was another word that was applicable. Isabella looked in the schedule to see what was up next. The subject was “The Secret of Transformative Change” and seemed to be about creating a coaching culture in companies. Isabella had always thought that coaching might be an effective tool to use in relation to companies so she looked forward to this one.
As she suspected the benefits of a coaching culture were overwhelming. Words like “Empowered”, “Increased Productivity”, “Innovation” and “Staff Retention” swept across the PowerPoint Presentation and Isabella took notes like crazy.
After that display of fast note taking she felt ready for lunch. And apparently so did everyone else too. Isabella had a plan for her lunch. She wanted to find something special for her son so she went out into the street and ran towards Victoria station. That task was harder then she expected so she was too late for the next keynote speaker. When she met people who ha attended they all said that the guy had been both humble, business oriented and to the point. Isabella reflected ”This is also what life is about, to make hard choices for the right reasons and live with the fact that the choices you make might lead to some missed opportunities.” For her, her son had top priority. No keynote in the world could ever change that. Even if Dalai Lama himself called her on her mobile and wanted to have lunch she would forget David. She would never forget. “Never!” Some things are really written on stone in your mind or heart or where ever it is written. Good things and bad.
Isabella was very curious to see what the next workshop was about. It was called “Creativity in Coaching Supervision” and should contain something on metaphors and imagery which was perfectly up her alley. Or so she thought. When she entered the room a table was filled with images and someone shouted “pick your favourite!” Isabella walked about a bit to see what images were available and finally decided on a picture depicting a part of a Klimt painting. Klimt was Isabella’s favourite painter. There was always an erotic, sensual element in his paintings and always a very elegant feeling to them too. Isabella would have wanted to meet Klimt and be his model if she dared. Nudity was both tempting and scary and Isabella had almost always been a bit shy. But underneath she was definitely more daring than she was willing to admit even to herself. At night and sometimes in her daydreams she was a brave woman and took the initiative to sex as many times as she did quite the opposite. She smiled at the thought. There she was in the middle of a crowd and thought about sex. She hoped that she would not blush. Normally she could keep her cool. She noted that the room was arranged for a group session and decided to take a seat between a woman and a man in the closest circle of chairs. The first task was to explain to the person next to you why you had chosen the pic you brought to the group. Isabella had already guessed this and was a bit prepared. She talked on Klimt, creativity and communication as her key subjects. She realized of course that her choice reflected both a bit of who she was but also a bit of what she longed to be. “The I am and the I want to be are like two twin sisters arguing on who is most important of the two.” But the images made it a lot easier to get to know your neighbour without the usual “ I am the title X and work for the company Y”. The conversations naturally was more on character traits, likes and hobbies. “Quite refreshing, actually.” Isabella felt comfortable with using images as she liked photography and art and could even handle a camera fairly well. He ex-husband had introduced her to painting and sketching too, but she could not master that yet. Alison, the workshop host, now handed out the next task. The idea was to work in triads with one “coach”, one “client” and one “observer”. Isabella chose to be the “client”. She should have a client case to discuss. Isabella should choose an image that best represent her client and then return to the group to be coached.
Isabella knew what client to choose. She had many thoughts on her client Camilla and her personality. Of course she should never reveal the real identity of her client. The coaching ethics were clear on that. Isabella stood by the table with all the images for a few seconds. Then she decided – “A Hedgehog is perfect.”
Isabella would never dare to confront Camilla with the image of a hedgehog, would she? Perhaps that would bring out new stuff. Isabella’s workshop “coach” asked her “Tell me about your client from the image you have chosen.” Isabella was silent for a second and then she said “She is very cute, vulnerable and a bit disorganised. At the same time she can defend herself sharply and can be hard to reach.” Isabella amazed herself by being quite able to describe Camilla in “hedgehogian” terms. In fact she could describe her more accurate as a hedgehog than as a person. “If Camilla only knew!” Before choosing theh workshop she had read “Working with metaphor and picture cards … may often surprise us with their apparent initial lack of connection to the presenting issue, but by way of association and storytelling, new interpretations and therefore solutions may arise.” And yes – Isabella would certainly take this experience with her back home to Stockholm.
Isabella had decided on one last thing to attend before going back to her hotel to call David to say good night. She wanted to listen to Jonathan Passmore to get links to research on coaching. “It is always good to tap into the scientific world.”
And as you might expect coaching does seem to work, even if you ask science. Jonathan said that initial studies did not find any strong connection between coaching and progress but more recent studies clearly shows that coaching works. He provided quite a few studies and Isabella took careful notes. She had always hoped that she could support her case better with science on her side too. She could be happy now.
After this there was also a “networking event” between seven and God knows when with a number of really important speakers. The names Isabella found most interesting were Tim Macartney with visions on sustainability and Susie Howe’s on children. Isabella planned to look them up in detail later, but now the most important vision was to sustain her relation to her own child. As always – a mother first priority is her child! She could easily kill to save David…
Anybody could actually kill if the circumstances were optimal. Optimal in relation to killing was perhaps not the best choice of words but anyway. Given the facts from World War II, The Vietnam War and Jim Jones in 1978 anything can happen. As we speak on this Thursday night in March 2010 killing is not unrealistic for some now spread on a bed in Stockholm. And more thoughts along the inevitable thread are to come later. Right now it is time for a few hours of hopefully dreamless sleep. Some dreams are best unseen.