The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Monday, January 27, 2014

You've Been Framed

A right how do you do

I’ve had a number of instances in this past week where I’m particularly reminded of what it is I do, or what it is I endeavour to do, or what I say it is in terms of answering the question, “So what do you do?”
Needless to say, it’s this: “I coach processes; I mentor people; I change perceptions”
Now, the ‘What do you do’ question is fairly standard, especially in meet-up contexts – from business networking, right down to filling in your registration form for e-Harmony!
However, regarding the matter of questions about ourselves, I’d like to shift the frame we generally put around the commonest meet-type question of all, “How do you do?”
These days, where parlance is much looser than in the past, HDYD (to give it a con-textual acronym) is more likely to be “How Are You?” or, more expansively, “How are you being?” or, textually, RUOK?


When I refer to framing it is about the meaning and focus put upon any course of thought or action.
So, in practical terms with (say) the Greeting Frame, when it comes down to it, “Are you OK?” is much more the question we get asked when someone sees us slip and fall. So in framing terms such a question would, very loosely, have just a few toes of one foot in the Greeting Frame.
Now, in case you’re beginning to feel I’m in a Waffle Frame here, just imagine the idea of going up to someone who has just slipped and fallen and asking them, “How do you do?”
Totally out of context, isn’t it?

Incidentally, if a player I’m coaching makes a repetitive error in practice, I’ll probably ask – with tongue in cheek, “How do you do THAT?” 
There’s an implication, a pre-supposition, that goes with such a question that repetition shows a degree of acquired competence. So the funny side of dropping the ball a few times is:- can they please show ME how to do it so I can get as good as they are. The desired effect usually happens, particularly for these reasons:
  • ·         The inner search for ‘how’ they are doing it, in order to tell me, gives them insights as to how to change their actions for better outcomes
  • ·         Realising that the Competence Frame includes errors as well as successes
  • ·         The ability to laugh at what we do disengages the behaviour from our identity
This is one of many examples where for me - as a coach, mentor or perception changer - the Frames I work in, the Frames I am DOING what I do in, are hugely important for the people I am working with.

Rocket Science

Now, when we meet a rocket scientist, we might ask “How do you do?” in the Greeting Frame, and “What do You do?” in the Getting-to-know-you Frame – but I doubt very much if we’ll ask “And How do you do YOUR rocket science?”
Rocket Science is a highly specialised field and, since most of us operate outside of it, we’ll assume all rocket scientists do Rocket Science the same way. We’ll have no idea of how many ways there are of doing it, and what makes one rocket scientist better than another – except perhaps if we know the successes and failures of their particular rockets. Then we might apply the Judgement Frame to the rocket scientist we’ve just met!

The “I Know Something” Frame

So here, now, is the point of my going off at a tangent into rocket science. Most adults know things, through accumulated knowledge and personal experience. And the trouble with most frames is that most adults will arrive at “Coaching” or “Learning” and put a big frame around it called the I-Know-Something Frame.

“Mum, Dad, can you help me with this bit of homework?” will be one of the regular instances where adults attempt to bring this Frame into use. The trouble is there have been some frame changes in this subject since they were at school, and they’ll look at the homework and be bewildered, or various other shades of grey matter.

Now there’s another thing about adults and this particular frame:
They run what the coach, teacher, educator, says past their own knowledge and experience and then apply Judgement. And Judgement Frame outcomes in this context can range from “I’m stupid”, “It’s changed a lot since I did it”, “What a daft way to teach. Why have they changed it” right up to “This is ridiculous. I’m right and they’re wrong. I’m going to speak to the school.”

Now I’m very comfortable with the philosophy and rationale behind the way I coach performance, sport, and junior sport in particular. I’ve crossed many a bridge with certain parental behaviour and attitudes when it comes to the HOW of some of my methodology – particularly on the technical side. I’ve written elsewhere mentioning instances of where a child has said, “My Dad says do it this way ...” whilst I’m showing how they might do it better by “Doing it ANOTHER way ...”

I was talking to someone who runs a junior sports club where he struggled to equate the “I-Know-Something” Framed parents with the money they are paying to the club he runs. He feels they have a RIGHT to expect “a coaching experience” for their child in exchange for that money – which is perfectly right and fair of course. However, they don’t have a right to demand the coach does it the way that they say it should be done.

The Learning Frame

For me, the Learning Frame looms large over everything I do with and for clients. And I also put myself in there as well, for I have learned much from my clients over the years which has been really useful for me.

Now within the context of Learning, there are many different types of Frame. Some work better, some are less effective; some are particularly good for certain individuals, whilst for others a different one would be the ideal mode of application.

One of the dilemmas with any education system is where a wide range of unique individuals are taken through a limited number of Learning Frames. If I say “I liked science but was no good at languages” it is the kind of comment that says as much about my Learning Frames for each subject and the enthusiasm and communication skills of the teacher, as it does about my innate competence and level of acquired knowledge and expertise.

Built in to that scenario is our childhood and schooldays gravitation towards “liking” what we are “good at” and “disliking” what we are “not good at”.
Yet – how different would things have been if other Learning Frames had been applied to some of our subjects. Would our likes, dislikes, and competences have turned out in other ways?

We are never taught HOW to learn – or how many DIFFERENT ways there are to learning.
One of the dilemmas with any adult learning is that we often consider it from the perspective of our knowledge and experience of Learning Frames in our childhood.
I was talking with a client once about how some of their business plans would involve working abroad in a non-English speaking country. “I’m going to struggle because I was no good at French at school,” she said. After a little bit of discussion about certain aspects of her school experience of learning French, she gained a realisation that a number of factors contributed to her “no good at French-ness”, that had no relevance to her ability to speak foreign languages per se. This changed her whole perception about her ability to be effective in business in a non-English speaking country, and enabled her to move forward with a surety and a confidence she hitherto did not have.

Blowing a Gale

In terms of my sports coaching, some of the Learning Frames I apply are driven by experience and generative self-teaching using feedback loops. Now that might seem quite a linguistic mouthful – which was not wholly unintentional!

In practice we’ll do a drill, an exercise, some activity where the invitation to players is always to notice what is going on, and notice how you are reacting to what is going on. These are all processes, and we can experiment with processes in order to make them better. Unless we experiment with processes, how will we ever know if they can work better or not?

One of our recent rugby matches was played in gale force winds – probably in excess of 50mph. The physical logic is that, with passes and kicks, the ball will be blown off course – so a number of physical adjustments have to be made.
It is rather the same for any kind of adjustments to be made by any athlete in any sport in terms of adverse conditions.
So the preparatory warm-up for the players needs to incorporate a level of experimentation. They need to experiment with applying their skill-sets in the adverse environmental conditions – there needs to be an Experimental Frame to the warm-up. And one of the primary criteria of an Experimental Frame is that ALL outcomes are good ones, for they provide useful and relevant data to the experiment. So, for my rugby players, dropping the ball in practice is useful – and provided they all buy into that Frame, which means no cursing or shouting or making judgements about mistakes is necessary, then they’d get the maximum usefulness AND learning through feedback.
And thus it was in the match – where the players displayed a level of competence in handling the ball far in excess of what they might have done on a calm day. We still expected – and permitted – errors, for it was a very fierce wind. However, the experience of the well-framed warm-up released them from whatever limitations they may have applied to their expectations of both themselves and team mates.

Getting to know Your Genius

How we frame up what we do can either throw open doors or have those same doors slammed in our faces. Being flexible with our framing can lead to some amazing discoveries and outcomes as well.

One of my first school cricket coaching visits was to an urban primary school where most of the pupils came from a number of tough council housing estates. It was a year 5 class, so the children were aged 9-10. We assembled on the playground and I was introduced to the class. Then, as thirty pairs of eyes gazed at me, I greeted them with,
“I want you all to know I think you are all geniuses – but here’s the thing.”
As I paused I noticed, out of the corner of my eye, a look of curiosity and slight shock from the teachers. It was a look that said, “These kids – geniuses? You MUST be joking!”
“The thing is you don’t yet know what you are geniuses at – and part of what we’re going to discover this term is how much of a genius each of you can be at cricket.” 

Then I carried on with outlining – nay, Framing - the rest of the lesson, in terms of the activities. However, the scene had been set, the Frame established.

This was going to be fun to do, a voyage of self-discovery, and all from the pre-supposition of an unknown level of genius. 

You could say it is a pretty good Frame for Life as well.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The Wand or The Baton

I’m an avid lover of all music, all styles and genres, from ancient to modern. Plus I’m an avid lover of language and, like with music, all the nuts and bolts of language.

Now the interesting thing about them both is that they are, essentially, a means of communication – pure and simple. On a micro and a macro level they are both human vehicles for expressing ourselves to the world – to our fellow humans. When the two are put together, through even the simplest of vehicles such as song for example, the potency of the message, the communication, is doubled. Words and music can have both a magical and an intellectual effect, they bring us meaning on both a sensual as well as a cognitive level. 

Driving  (Con moto)
I like to tell stories, to use metaphor in particular, to bring a broadened perspective to clients who are looking to change some things in certain areas of their lives.
We all use the narrative of our lives to help make sense of things – of the world, if you like – so we can move forwards along our various pathways. We generally like to seek the familiar and the comfortable – for we all know how to ‘manage’ the familiar, don’t we?
Sometimes the pathways we travel contain ruts and potholes – but if the road is familiar, then we know where they are and we can steer round them, avoid them. Even if we happen to drive over them and feel the ‘bump’, then we’ll assure ourselves that our vehicle is tough, our tyres are strong enough and though there may be a little collateral damage – that’s ok, because we’re still able to get from A to B.
Now, occasionally we’ll break down or get stuck – mainly because of the way we’ve driven our metaphorical vehicle, the way we’ve ‘conducted’ ourselves. We’ve suddenly gone ‘off-road’ through bad navigation or poor driving and we’ve wound up amongst some ‘familiar’ that is no longer familiar! It’s our driving, our narrative, our habits that have got us into this particular place, quagmire, quicksand ... you name it!
Now, anyone who has ever got a vehicle stuck in mud knows that trying to get out using the way of driving that got us in there in the first place, is only going to end up with the wheels spinning and the vehicle sinking even further in.
We need a helping hand to push us, or tow us, out of the issue.
Or ...

We need to change the nature of what’s happening between the tyres and the boggy surface. This will change the vehicle’s perspective about its interface with the world.

The Music of Our Lives
For each one of us, the course of our lives is backed by a soundtrack. There is a music to our lives that accompanies us every step of the way.
When our lives are in tune, and we are playing along to that music – then everything is as good as it can be. We are an amazing and accomplished orchestra, artfully, effortlessly, sensitively, joyfully, sympathetically and humbly playing the symphony of our lives.
Every small part of ourselves is a separate instrument, each playing its own section of the score – sometimes in solo, sometimes in ensemble. Sometimes playing SO well that there is no need to even look at the score – we are playing intuitively, playing from the heart.
However, things can happen to the score that we know – or we might be required to play some new and unfamiliar music. A breeze might blow the papers around; some of the instruments may go slightly out of tune. Now the music doesn’t quite feel the same, or sound as good.
Another thing that can happen is that one particular instrument or section of the orchestra may decide to play in a different way - to be more dominant, less sympathetic, to be ‘out of sync’ with the other instruments.
And so on ...

I think you can get the notion that how our own ‘personal’ orchestra plays the music of our lives can – as a performance – be measured from moment to moment, on the very broadest spectrum. It is a spectrum that ranges from the most profound and sublime, right through to total and utter discordant chaos; from agony to ecstasy; from heaven to hell.

Conducting or Magic
And, so it is, when their wheels are spinning and some of life’s music doesn’t sound so good, that people will seek out that ‘helping hand’ that I mentioned earlier.
And for some I am privileged to be – for a short period of time in their lives – the ‘helping hand’.
Now, although I work a lot with clients of all ages, and in a wide variety of contexts, I may be a helping hand – but I am certainly no magician.
For me, magic is in the eye of the beholder – rather like beauty.
Magicians perform their magic in the eyes of the beholders and, some might say, that certain hypnotic and changework processes are magic, also. The thing is that all that seems magic is mere process – it is the perception of the beholder or the recipient that pivots the processes into magic, usually seemlessly, depending upon the craft and artistry of the magician.
For my clients to change the sounds of their performance, to get out of their stuck situation, there are certain things that need to be in place in our relationship.
If my helping hand takes the form of towing them out of the muddy field, or of tuning their instruments for them – then very soon they will land up exactly back in the wrong place again. Doing it for them, applying Magic, gives them a solution that will be very short lived.
My helping hand needs to take a different form – and I need to be more in the nature of a conductor for their orchestra. I need to be the facilitator, the focal point, for their performance. They need to be ‘in sync’, which is my part in the process - and they need to be in tune which is their part. They have to be acutely aware of their own instrument so they can adjust it so that it sounds right at any time they need to.  That is their responsibility.
My part then remains the interface between their playing and their performing; I am their conductor until such time as they can see, hear and sense their own performance – and be happy with its quality and return to their best playing of the music of their lives.

The Wand or the Baton
There is a great deal of similarity to both the wand and the baton. – yet, when all is said and done, these are just diverse labels for identical artefacts.

Place the baton into the hand of a magician or a wand into the hand of a conductor and what happens to the meanings we have ascribed?

And will they, as holders, perform differently?

Friday, January 3, 2014


My ethnicity is British – so, although I started out like all human babies by using my hands as utensils, I was taught to eat ‘properly’ with knife, fork and spoon. That methodology applied for all food, including oriental cuisine, so dexterity with chopsticks was a million miles away from my capabilities – and an experiential proven!

Alongside knowledge, expertise and dexterity, one of the things we also model and learn in childhood, is our ability NOT to be able to do things.
This starts with pre-supposed judgements, which we either hear other people saying, or we hear it said to or about others, or – most pernicious of all – we hear it said to and about US. These are phrases such as:-
“Girls can’t do those sorts of things,” or “That’s not the sort of thing Boys do,” also “YOU couldn’t possibly do anything like that,” and “That’s too difficult for you to accomplish.”

Now some of us are fortunate enough to grow up in an environment where anyone and everyone is capable of doing anything and everything – which is absolutely wonderful, of course. It is liberating for us, at a time in our lives when we have no idea what liberating means for us and our future. In many ways I would say I was one of those ‘fortunati’ – which included travelling and living in foreign places. This resulted in a degree of familiarity with foreign cuisine - however, my parents were still judgementally old school in terms of using chopsticks. I’m sure they viewed them as being strictly for the Orientals, who would have learnt how to use them from their childhood. The view that ordinary Westerners (such as us) could never master using such complicated “eating irons” prevailed, so we all stuck with the good old comfortable convention of knife-fork-spoon.

Alongside knowledge, expertise, dexterity and limited capabilities, another of the things we also model and learn in childhood, is our attitudes.
Whilst some of these are inherently and innately our own, most of them start with pre-supposed judgements, which we either hear other people saying, or we hear it said to or about others.

The child’s mind is a sponge for everything, as we know.
In my youth, one of the by-products of that timeworn phrase “children should be seen and not heard” was a heightened absorption of attitudes – and prejudices - from revered adults. Out of respect, nothing from those sources was EVER questioned.
Nowadays, the nature of the bombardment that same Mind Sponge undergoes is quite different. The attitudes are much broader based, and I would say – if anything – that the level of bombardment is far, far more extensive AND relentless.
In the midst of all this bombardment, and the acceptance of far more ideas and attitudes from outside of our close family circle, there is still that due reverence afforded to our greatest influencers.

Yet however reverently we might view those who have influenced our lives in some way, shape or form, there always comes that moment when our reverence and respect is severely tested.

When I first played club rugby I had the highest regard for our coach. Although his role with us was voluntary, he had coached some schoolboy internationals and was well known at that level. For him to be our coach was a real privilege and, to be honest, many of us would have jumped off a cliff for him. He was certainly a catalyst and a role model in my first becoming a coach.
However, he was old school, and had the view rugby and cricket (my two major sports) were definitely not sports for women and girls. When I discovered this recently I had quite a vehement and heated argument with him – as this view is totally out of keeping with my own.
I don’t think any less of him in terms of the inspiration he gave me – however, I was thankful I didn’t model his entire range of views.

 Accepting what’s on our plate
The whole idea of blindly accepting other people’s views, beliefs, prejudices and opinions seems an anathema to us as adults – and yet as children, teenagers and even young adults, we willingly accept many things we should dismiss or, at least, question.

I can remember talking to an extremely successful and high-flying businessman regarding his relationship with food – which was not working very well for him. He had some fairly strict ideas around what should properly happen “at table” – and one of these was to finish whatever was on his plate.  For him it wasn’t just bad manners, it was one of those forbiddens.
I asked him, “Do you make your children finish what’s on their plate, then?” He nodded, but when I added, “So do you feel you’re quite strict with them?” he said that he looked to his wife to run the discipline in those areas, as a rule.
I pursued this topic a little more and discovered that his own father HAD been a strict disciplinarian and that his own compulsion to always finish whatever was on his plate – in spite of who had put it there – was down to childhood efforts to not get into trouble with his Dad. When I asked what would have happened if he had stood his ground and left something on his plate, it was clear that compliance WAS the only option.
Of course, his ability – as an extremely successful businessman in his forties – to only eat as much from his plate as HE WANTED, was severely compromised by the continued childhood strategy to avoid incurring the wrath of his father.

In the normal course of events, we are never as adults obliged to do anything we do not want to do. Yet – we do such things all the time!

The CAN’T Range of Designer Inner Clothing
I often talk to clients about the couldn’t, shouldn’t and wouldn’t aspects of their lives, and from where, what and how these have been sourced. And it is here where I talk to them about Cant, Can’t and Mental Clothing!

The definition of Cant is hypocritical and sanctimonious talk.
The best way to divest cant of its clothing of credibility or respectability is to challenge it and question it. Cant often melts in the face of such a challenge – and if you have ever encountered purveyors of cant, then you’ll know how to undermine their sanctimony!

Similarly with Can’t, mental clothing and the whole designer range of Can’t Clothing that we assemble for ourselves - it is only real and present in our lives because we have never challenged or questioned any of it. And here I mean challenging in the style of:
“Why can’t I do that? What or who says I can’t? If I am capable of doing anything, then I’m certainly capable of doing THAT!”
So the mindset that we build around anything, especially in terms of our capabilities and attitudes, is really all about those childhood models that we’ve played out and carried forward into our adult lives.
“I want to do X, but I don’t think I’d be able to manage that,” deserves to be challenged with at least a WHY NOT? If we don’t do that then we’ll find ourselves carrying out the same strategic behaviour over and over again, in many areas of our lives. The clothing of can’t becomes very comfortable to wear, like a favourite shirt, or old shoes.

I’m a great believer in the notion that we are ALL capable of far, far more than we’ll probably ever allow ourselves to know. I’m also a firm believer that we are ALL capable of learning how to do things very quickly as well! I’ve seen it happen, and I’ve seen it in action.

The trouble is that if we have a lot of Can’t Clothing hanging in our wardrobe, then we obviously like to wear it. So we quickly cover up the nakedness of our capabilities with the Clothing of Can’t. And with Can’t here I’ll also add in “find it difficult” and “struggle to do that” – both which are timeworn phrases that we keep in our wardrobe of Can’t.

My first eventual encounter with attempting to use chopsticks in a Chinese restaurant was typically comical and cack-handed. Before I’d reached a level of even childish competence, my food was chilling rapidly, and so I abandoned the chopsticks for fork and spoon and quickly gobbled the tepid contents of my plate.
Did I finish everything that was on my plate?
Well I was well brought up to respect the hungry and the starving, so I expect I finished what was on the plate, in spite of it having gone unpalatably cold.

Since then and up until last week I can honestly say that the number of encounters I’ve had with chopsticks usage, in my lifetime, have been less than on the fingers of one hand – and I’ll leave you to decide whether that was my left hand or the cack hand I used to hold the wooden implements!

The Emperor’s New Clothes
Early January:
It’s that time of year when people feel driven to make changes in their lives, setting themselves upon pathways of personal improvement armed with new resolve.

In terms of our capabilities and attitudes this is always a challenge – for we know that we will need to divest ourselves from our comfortable and reassuring Can’t Clothing. We are told we will need to draw upon Will Power, and will have to have inner resources in order to achieve what we want for ourselves.
Of course stripping off and showing our naked capabilities to the world can be a chastening experience, yet liberating also. Needless to say, in the ravages of the climate we live in, we will feel exposed in our nakedness ...

Until the very moment we accept that our new self is SO much better than before. For it is then that we discover that wearing this New Clothing is much better than all that Designer Can’t that we used to wear. This new clothing is what we might call the Emperor range!
Now, whilst the Hans Christian Andersen story is couched in a different metaphorical frame, I’d invite you to consider the idea that all personal change – whether via New Year’s Resolutions, or personal resolve at any point in our calendar – is merely about examining the contents of our inner wardrobe and dressing ourselves for life in a different way.

Pad Tidings of Great Joy

Last week I was visiting family, and on Saturday we went out to a Thai Restaurant.
Unbeknownst to me, at a conscious level anyway, I was wearing Emperor Clothing rather than Can’t. As a result I was about to surprise myself and fellow companions at this particular repast.

I ordered Pad Thai, and after a period of time it duly arrived – complete with chopsticks, for the use of. Without any thought or consideration whatever I picked them up and tucked in. After some minutes “Get you with the chopsticks” was remarked upon, which I acknowledged with a modicum of diffidence. I was genuinely surprised at my unrehearsed and apparent expertise – especially given my previous and few cack handed experiences with said implements.

Where did I - seemingly - learn how to use them?
How had I practiced to reach this level of competence?
Well, I’ve seen enough film footage over the years, of people using chopsticks – so there’s been an amount of visible modelling that has been absorbed at an unconscious level.
And does this need practice? Well clearly the answer here is ‘no’, although the usual answer would most times be in the affirmative.

So here is another illustration of:-
a)      how we can acquire skills without any conscious realisation we have acquired them – and
b)      how we can liberate the conscious limitations upon the unconscious capabilities we have, and even liberate the ones we don’t even know we’ve got.

This explains a number of extraordinary occurrences in Performance Phenomena, where the freedom of the Mind facilitates a freedom in the Body. The restrictions of the inner clothing that we wear can be easily put aside; more easily than we might consciously realise too!

At the end of the day, I’m more inclined to just describe my Pad Thai encounter as being uplifting, liberating, fascinating and a great joy!