Potatoes planted – top left hand corner plot 1

I did some weeding and planted potatoes in the top left hand corner of our plot today.

Next Allotment potatoes plantedweek I think weeding is on the agenda!

Thought it a good idea to use the blog again to share photos and information about our lovely new plot. Let me know if you want a quick guide on using the blog.

Welcome to all our new Grow Club members!

Copy of the potato harvesting instructions below.

Allotment potatoes instructions.JPG

Learning in the Digital Age – Post 1


I am in week 2 of a Learning in the Digital Age course at the University of Birmingham. Writing blog posts is part of the assignment and this is the first of four posts which I will be sharing on here. The course is cleverly designed so that we experience what it is like firsthand to be a learner in the digital age.

Today we discussed Flipped Learning and in this blog post I’m going to reflect on why this topic is important and what I found most interesting about flipped learning.

Let’s start with a definition from the book Flipped Learning (Talbot): “Flipped learning is a pedagogical approach in which first contact with new concepts moves from the group learning space to the individual learning space in the form of a structured activity …. and the resulting group space is transformed into a dynamic, interactive learning environment where the educator guides students as they apply concepts and engage creatively in the subject matter”.

Rather than the teacher doing the work, the situation is flipped based on the rationale that “The person doing the work does the learning” (Matthew Winslow, Eastern Kentucky University). I found it particularly interesting to reflect on how this enables students to practice working like professionals. Putting students at the heart of the learning, enables:
  • Self-teaching
  • Self-assessment
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-confidence

We experienced the above in the session by completing our own mini research project and creating a Canvas e-learning resource in a 30-minute activity. This was engaging for me as a learner and in a short space of time I gained an insight in to the topic we were assigned “self-regulated learning”. I reflected on the impact of this and how the learning was enhanced through “doing” rather than the lecturer simply disseminating the information.

I’m inspired as a result of the session to do some more reading on the topic of flipped learning and will look again at a book sitting on my shelf called “Who owns the learning” (Alan November). book-who-owns-the-learningThe book provides ideas and techniques to help students own and direct their learning.

I work with students to help them plan for their future career and will reflect on insights shared by Danielle, our course leader, about how self-regulated learning enables students to develop the life and career skills for an agile and adaptable approach required in the workplace. Our main assignment for the course is to design a resource or learning activity integrating appropriate learning technologies. With this in mind I’m building a list of tools and techniques including the tool used in week one: http://www.menti.com.

Coaching in Uncertain Times: Exploring Otto Scharmer’s Theory U

Looking forward to this session in November at Coaching Connections:

“Lucy Mair will be facilitating a highly interactive CPD session with opportunities to gain insights, as well as to apply and share learning.

Lucy has a background in providing leadership development for key talented Senior Managers and Directors within a global leadership development programme in the corporate sector since 2001.

Qualifying as an Executive Coach with the OCM in 2012, working with a diverse portfolio of Senior Managers, Directors and Partners to enable career transition, improved performance, deeper self-knowledge and an ongoing curiosity for development.

Coaching approach inspired by the philosophy of Dieter Rams (‘wenniger aber besser’ – Less but better). Explorative of the client’s broader environment and personal context or system: as minimal as possible: helping clients concentrate on essential issues, energy and cut through non-essentials or distractions. Coaching from a place of simplicity through an open conversation, providing the client with time and space to think”.



Top Tips for effective career action planning


Image taken from the “At my Best”cards  www.atmybest.com – Be playful and stay positive with your career action planning! 

Celebrating small steps along the way
Once you have worked through the goal setting, reflection on your strengths and skills, exploration of options, it is time to write down key actions to move you forward with your career plan. Ensure that you break big goals in to small steps and celebrate completing each action you take. Even just ticking it off your list can be satisfying and help you to maintain momentum. Bigger celebrations or rewards can be built in when you have reached specific milestones.

TIP TWO: Get supporters and build your peer network
It helps to know you are not alone with your job search or clarifying the direction you want to take, others are in a similar situation. Surround yourself with like minded friends and peers who can help you to stay positive and share ideas with you. Join a group which meets regularly. For Postgraduates at the University of Birmingham we run the Postgrad Careers Club which meets once a month. In addition to friends and peers, build your network of professional supporters, get a mentor and speak to a careers adviser.

TIP THREE: Keep adding to the “funnel”
Make sure you do regular activities and diverse activities to achieve your goal. Think about what you want to come out of the funnel and what mix of activities needs to go in. Develop new skills in line with your career interests, do some networking and build in time to research job opportunities.

TIP FOUR: Link new habits to existing ones
The best way to stick to a new habit to ensure you regularly work on your plan is to attach new habits to existing ones. For example Postgraduates wanting to combine writing their dissertation with searching for a job can set aside 30 minutes per day of their routine to research jobs websites or write applications. Set a regular time to do this, and build career planning in to the overall plan for completing your dissertation.

TIP FIVE: Commitment and accountability
If you are lucky enough to be working with a professional coach then they will certainly help you to commit and be accountable, knowing that you have regular meetings  to review progress means you are more likely to stick to agreed actions. If you don’t have a coach then find other ways to share your action plan with others, tell your friends or peers what your actions for this week are. It’s also useful to share what you think might get in your way to achieve your goals, pre-empting barriers to carrying out actions can help you overcome these potential blocks.

TIP SIX: Develop a Growth Mindset
Develop a growth mindset rather than a fixed approach, remember we can all learn and grow from experiences. As we work through any plan we build our experience, the unexpected can happen and opportunities can appear out of the blue. Use experiences both positive and negative as an opportunity to grow and develop. Don’t limit yourself with a fixed approach. It is good to have a plan which is flexible and evolving, with you growing and developing as you move forward. See the previous blog on resilience which references the work of Carole Dweck on Growth Mindset: Resilience and Teams – Coaching Connections

TIP SEVEN: Stay Buoyant and have fun!
You will experience good days and bad days when job searching, looking for that promotion or wanting to find that spark of interest to clarify your career direction. Find ways to stay positive and build your resilience. Be playful with the plan and have fun! Being playful is just one strength which will help you when career action planning. Think about playing to other strengths to get to where you want to be. More on playing to your strengths in a blog soon and you can find out more about “At My Best” cards at the Work Positive website: www.atmybest.com

Resilience and Teams – Coaching Connections

IMG_6761The photo was taken when I took a walk one lunch time to recharge and build my resilience to tackle a busy afternoon at work. This resilience was needed later in the week to plan for a replacement session for the March Coaching Connections meeting on the topic of Resilience and Teams. We  designed a format which drew on the collective knowledge and wisdom in the room.

Frances Hayes introduced the session and invited participants to join small discussion groups, each focussed on a  specific aspect of resilience.

The space felt buzzing with ideas and reflection and I had the joy of participating in really deep and meaningful conversations.

This comment by one of the participants sums up what emerged from our experiential session and this blog summarises some of key discussion themes and resources referenced during the plenary at the end of the session.


Nicky Lowe facilitated a group which discussed the four energies of the corporate athlete. These energies are physical, emotional, mental and spiritual and are referenced in the work of Tony Schwartz. Taking time out to recover was one of the key points shared and it sounded like the group had explored in particular the theme of spiritual energy and purpose.

This Harvard Business Review Article has a useful visual of the High Performance pyramid detailing the four energies.

We are delighted that Nicky will be leading a session on “Insights into Systemic Coaching” at our August meeting, further details will be on our Coaching Connections website soon.


Sean Russell facilitated a group which looked at growth mindset as part of a broader discussion on the topic of resilience. The work of Carol Dweck was introduced, her book “Mindset” explores the idea that we can grow our brain’s capacity to learn and to solve problems. “How the way we think shapes our success”. Carol’s TED talk is another way to find out about her work.


I facilitated a discussion starting with a reflection on “what is resilience?”  We then explored how a strengths-based approach can help us to build our resilience. We used “At My Best” cards to reflect on a personal success and to articulate strengths. Throughout our discussion we made links between strengths and resilience and how we use strengths in our work with clients. “What strength shall I use in my work today” and “taking time out to reflect” were two of the practical tips emerging from the discussion.

You can find out more about “At My Best” cards at the Work Positive website.

Personal and Professional Development and resilience

Frances Hayes did an excellent job of setting up the session overall and also facilitating a small group discussion which drew upon personal and professional development building resilience and how that impacts when working in teams.

And finally, Lucy Mair shared details of a book about resilience by Dr Carole Pemberton. She also shared information about the session which she will be facilitating at Coaching Connections on 14 May, when she will be talking about how she found her coaching “voice”, more information will appear on the website soon.

Next month on 9th April Lesley Matile will be leading a session on Giving and Receiving Feedback in Coaching.

Whether you were at the session on Saturday or you are reading this to catch up with what you missed – I hope you found this a useful summary – let me know your thoughts and reflections.

“The Business of Coaching”

The Business of Coaching Graphic SI Oct15 v3 copy

At Coaching Connections on Saturday 10 October we explored the following questions in small peer groups:

  • What is involved in being a freelance coach and what strategies might be used to ensure a healthy life work balance?
  • What strategies might be employed to maximise opportunities to use and publicise coaching skills amongst appropriate audiences?
  • What lessons can be learned from starting up your own business?
  • What approaches have been effective in growing coaching businesses and opportunities?
  • What experiences can be drawn upon and shared amongst our pool of coaches?

The above graphic shows a summary of the ideas generated and experiences shared by fellow coaches. Thank you to Sobia Iqbal for designing and sharing this graphic. Here also are some further points arising from the discussion plus links to useful websites:

Characteristics required to start-up and build a successful coaching business:

  • persistence
  • clear vision
  • solve a problem for clients
  • resilience
  • confidence and self-belief

Writing engaging blogs to generate interest and followers:

Take a look at blog posts from Sarah Robinson who has recently launched a new website with a blogging section. She is blogging about the topics related to career and job search, with a view to attract interest and potential customers for her career coaching business. Great work Sarah!


Sarah shared that she had gained inspiration and ideas from reading others blogs such as Greg Faxon:


Other strategies for publicising your coaching business:

  • Networking
  • Building a niche
  • Effective communication of your offer
  • Focus on the “Why” not the “how you coach”

Take a look at this website for more inspiration:


This blog post was written by Jayne Sharples and the graphic written and designed by Sobia Iqbal. For more information about Coaching Connections go to: www.coachingconnectionsmidlands.com

Leadership and Coaching

At the session “Peer Coaching and Facilitating Groups” at Coaching Connections on 11 July we explored coaching as a leadership practice and here are some of the quotes and theories referenced during the session.

“Coaching is the leadership practice that makes leadership style work…. Organisations need to become more inspiring and more human in order to meet the needs of the people who populate them today. Coaching is one of the best ways to achieve this, creating greater interaction between leaders and direct reports, and thereby aligning goals and progress.” Jack Zenger and Kathleen Stinnett 2010: Coaching as a management style

The coaching style is also one of six basic leadership styles referred to in Leadership that gets results by Daniel Goleman “The coaching style focuses more on personal development than on immediate work-related tasks. It works well when employees are already aware of their weaknesses and want to improve, but not when they are resistant to changing their ways”.

The other styles of leadership referred to in Goleman’s Havard Business Review 2000 article are:

  • the coercive style
  • the authoritative style
  • the affiliative style
  • the demoncratic style
  • the pacesetting style

A CIPD literature definition of leadership was also shared in the Coaching Connections session:

Leadership is the “capcaity to influence people, by means of personal attributes/behaviours, to achieve a common goal”

We also referenced House’s Path-Goal Theory in which the leader helps clarify the “path” to the worker’s goal , and it is interesting for coaches to reflect on the regularity in which a reference to goals appears in leadership theory and literature.

Finally we shared the results of a study by Falbe, C.M. and Yukl, G. (1992) Acad. Man. J. 35 to consider “What leadership tactics have proven to be the most effective in the workplace?”

The top three tactics out of nine were:

  • inspiration
  • consultation
  • personal appeals

All classified as “soft” rather than rational tactics.

Leadership at this Coaching Connections was explored in the context of embedding peer coaching in to a leadership development course with a focus on six steps:

  • individual goal setting
  • exploration of effective peer coaching
  • teaching of basic coaching skills
  • peer coaching in practice
  • evaluation
  • coaching embedded in organisational culture

I believe that as well as employing and working with a professional, external coach we can gain great benefit from integrating coaching skills in to our everyday working lives. In this article I have referenced an approach to embedding peer coaching in to a learning environment, and aim to run future training sessions on this for experienced coaches. If you are interested to find out more please email me: jayne@js-coaching.co.uk.

Future blog posts will develop the theme of peer coaching further and also consider self coaching and the manager as coach.

Using words, film and pictures to get across key messages


I recently published a guest blog for the new Professional Development Network website for Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. The website is a place where researchers can share content about the professional development projects they are taking part in, including the Knowledge Exchange in Design project.

In my blog I look back to how over the last year we have shared content about Knowledge Exchange in Design in words, film and pictures. It’s great working with the artists at BIAD, because the visual is always integrated in to the work we are doing and I’ve really become to appreciate the power of using words in an interesting way, and going beyond this by including pictures and film. To see the blog go to: http://biadpdn.com/2014/02/21/ked-in-words-film-and-pictures-by-jayne-sharples-2/.

My next blog will be about a workshop I am developing in which I’ll use the visual of stairs to illustrate a step by step approach to career development, and an open door to describe the application process and step in to a new job.

Also, coming up at Coaching Connections is the Power of Visual Coaching Techniques, which promises to be another opportunity to help us tap in to the power of the visual: http://www.coachingconnectionsmidlands.co.uk/Sat-8th-March-2014.html

The Power of Visual Coaching and Effective Marketing

visual coaching workshop

I was delighted to receive a visual representation of our March session at Coaching Connections – a flyer showing what the session will include, what it will look and feel like.

I reflected on how Anna Geyer, who is delivering the session had used an effective way to get her message across about “The Power of Visual Coaching Techniques”. I often have conversations with fellow coaches at Coaching Connections about the ways in which we market our services and grow our businesses.

Topics we’ve discussed include:

– know your target audience and find ways to communicate your message to them. Make sure your networking and communications are focused. Build up a niche offer for your target group, and understand what problems you are solving for them.

– encourage word of mouth referrals. When you have one satisfied client, it can be a stepping stone to getting repeat business and referrals.

– understand your value proposition, this is linked to the first point of knowing your target audience. It is important to know what they value and what problems you are solving for them. They don’t particularly need to know all the details of how you coach, they need to know the benefits it will bring to them.

– have a good visual and verbal communication. This takes us back to Anna’s flyer, which is visually engaging and gets her message across. It makes me want to go to her session on March 8th. In addition to a website, a flyer, a brochure, make sure you have a short introduction to your business ready to share when you meet prospective clients in networking situations. This is often referred to as the elevator pitch.

Coming up in Coaching Connections meetings we will have the opportunity to focus on the marketing of our coaching businesses. For example in April we will be having group discussions facilitated by the Pickleshed and we will invite members to explore if they wish the topic of business development and effective marketing in their coaching groups.

The power of peer conversations is one of the key benefits of coming to Coaching Connections. In April we will experience the power of group coaching, structuring conversations for the benefit of each individual in the group.

To find out more about the “Power of Visual Coaching Techniques” on 8 March go to http://www.coachingconnectionsmidlands.co.uk.

Details of the 12 April meeting “Group coaching in action” will be available soon.

Any questions, tips or thoughts about how coaches and portfolio careerists attract customers, do share your comments or questions on this blog.

For more about Anna Geyer go to: http://www.newpossibilities.co.uk

For more about the Pickle Shed go to: http://www.thepickleshed.co.uk

The benefits of group coaching

No blog posts in October, and now two in one day! I wanted to get this post written to follow up on a great session we enjoyed at Coaching Connections in Birmingham last Saturday. I love writing blog posts which are related to a training session or presentation which I am either delivering or attending as a participant. It helps the reflection process and learning and the bonus is that you can share your thinking with others. So hope that you like this short reflection on the Coaching Connections session “The benefits of Group Coaching” delivered by Maureen Moore and Cheryl Goldenberg from the Pickleshed.

Those of you who came to the Coaching Connections August session on Authenticity will know that I use my own group coaching model called “CEFAR”, which stands for five stages of a process – Clarity, Engagement or Exploration, Feedback, Action and Review. This process provides a framework and a structure which I use when designing workshops with a coaching style of delivery. So, I have long been convinced of the benefits of group coaching and what I wanted to gain over and above this from the Pickleshed workshop was an insight in to how others work. I wasn’t disappointed.

In the workshop we had a useful discussion about the similarities and differences between group coaching and individual coaching. It was great to gain some clarity around the benefits of working in a group and how this can in some instances enhance the learning and capacity for change beyond what is possible in a one-to-one coaching session.

Some of the reasons the Pickleshed share for their group coaching model are:

– economies of scale, more impact with less money
– accountability, making it stick
– power of the group wisdom

The real value of the Pickleshed session came from the opportunity to try out some techniques which we can use in group coaching situations.

First of all we were introduced to laser speak. This is the ability to put forward a point or share information in a group coaching session without story telling or long explanations. Sometimes it is important for the coachee to have the space to talk without restriction, but in group coaching the laser technique seems a great way to ensure the needs of the group as well as the individual are met. For more about laser speak you can refer to the book “Group Coaching, a Comprehensive Blueprint” by Ginger Cockenham.

We were also invited to take part in a group activity in which we worked on a useful action to take forward for the development of our individual coaching business. Each group was asked to choose a lead member and then in a short space of time we worked together as a group, with each of us ideally having the time to speak. I think that the group which I was working in did really well, with a number of us coming away with a commitment to take action. I’ve reflected on what I think was happening in our small group which helped us to make progress in a short space of time. To help me do this I’ve referred back to the handout “Example of Group Coaching Guidelines” given to us by the Pickleshed. As a group:

– we adopted laser speak
– we were committed to achieving our own goals and helping others achieve theirs
– we stayed focused on one issue at a time (and made sure the issue was realistic in the time available)
– we kept feedback positive and encouraging
– we avoided advising, instead coaching others to discover their own answers
– we brought our best ideas to the group

OK, we only had 20 minutes in which to do this activity, so we only scratched the surface of what is possible in a group situation, but even in that short space of time progress was made. It was impactful for many of us.

It is great to hear from the Pickleshed facilitators that when working with their coaching group members over a number of sessions that the members develop coaching skills and become coaches themselves. The Pickleshed groups work because there is an element of commonality, with the participants all being women and all wanting to make a change in their lives.

So, the session has encouraged me to carry on designing and delivering workshops and training courses with a coaching approach at the heart and to see that by including follow up group coaching sessions after a training course this can really help participants maintain momentum and take action.

It is encouraging to see how Maureen and Cheryl have worked together to create the Pickleshed with professional branding and a business model which seems to be working for them and their clients.

To find out more about the Pickleshed go to: http://www.thepickleshed.co.uk.

If you are coach interested to join a professional development group please find out more about Coaching Connections here: http://www.coachingconnectionsmidlands.co.uk