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Autumnal coaching on the beach

On a chilly, thankfully dry, very right, autumnal day I met a coachee this week on the North Norfolk coast. The cheerful beach huts with their bright paintwork and assorted stripes, spots and stars gazed at us, adding colour to our day as we made our way to our chosen spot – a newly converted hut with chairs, gas stove, fresh water and slightly higher up than the rest so we could easily see the crashing waves, foaming against the still golden sand. Plenty of metaphors available to give insights into my client’s challenges and only a couple of people in sight walking in the wild, bracing air of this wonderful beach.

He (let’s call him Sam) was here for the day, making his way from London by train the night before and staying in a cosy room before meeting me for a five hour session to work through some strategic business choices. We were in the best place – no preconceptions and judgements on the beach, no interuptions and our phones were firmly switched off!

With plenty of tea, coffee and hot chocolate, a warming spiced pumpkin soup, crusty bread, homemade biscuits, nuts and fruit to keep us going we started the day with an energizing walk down to the sea and along the firmer sand. We stopped several times to draw and reflect, adding shells, pebbles and seaweed as metaphors to the sand pictures, creating and re-creating multiple Sam’s realities. My ‘Clean Language’ skills were useful in giving him all the space he needed and yet prompting him to think outside his normal patterns.

Back to the beach hut for hot soup and reflections, we sat on the balcony enjoying the huge skies and cloud formations as Sam summarized and shared his thinking so far. He had brought an oyster shell back from the shoreline as an anchor, (excuse the pun) and I challenged his attachment to his shell and what messages it may have for him. Discarding his coffee mug, Sam was up and into the softer dry sand with a stick – taking meaning from the patterns he was creating – ideas came pouring out as I stayed out of his space and wrote down as many as I could capture. He slowed.

The wind was blowing gently as we retreated inside the hut and used the table to lay out and review his options and prioritise a way forward. It was tricky and Sam expressed a need that he wanted his way forward to be sustainable and acceptable to those around him.

Back down the beach to the firmer sand and we worked through a multiple perception exercise enabling Sam to step into the shoes of each of his stakeholders and experience his plans through their eyes. More insights and adjustments and a further walk along the shoreline ensured that he was completely congruent with his way forward.

A final check with a mug of hot chocolate in the hut ensured Sam had real clarity about where he had decided to put his attention. Pulling our scarves and coats firmly around us, we locked up and made our way back to the car park, a motivated and enthusiastic Sam to return to London whilst I went back to my home by the sea, feeling very pleased with our work and our outcomes.

Next week I’ll be working with a coach supervision client (and dog) on the beach for a much shorter session.

Not all coastal coaching is about business or work, sessions can involve personal goals, life and relationship challenges and can be used to celebrate and learn from individual successes as well as less positive experiences. Sessions can take from 2 -6 hours depending on your choice and can be part of an ongoing cluster of coaching interventions. For a chat about your needs contact me dr.sallyvanson@gmail.com

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