I love our garden in May. Last spring, I spent hours outside with an MP3 player, relishing the coaching sessions my colleagues had sent me to critique. This year, I’ve been blessing the person who invented the wireless laptop that allows me to work outside on ebooks, websites, teleclasses and articles and to correspond with friends and colleagues from all over the world.
Scotland’s not renowned for its glorious weather – it’s lush and green for a reason! But when the sun comes out, there’s a flurry of activity as people celebrate the chance to spruce up and preen their front gardens. Lawnmowers rev and back gardens become relaxed outdoor living spaces where laughing neighbours, friends and families spontaneously gather around sizzling barbeques to chat and drink beer. As I sit on our back steps with the sun on my face, gently crushing the fragrance of rosemary and mock orange blossom between my fingers, my garden always reminds me of my coaching.
The mossy, winding path of weathered paving stones we laid years ago leads into little secret patios inviting me to pause, still my thoughts and enjoy the birdsong or a breeze rustling through the branches. Bordering this path is a tall, dense patchwork of planting which pretty much takes care of itself now. I’m not the world’s best pruner or weeder so I play to my strengths and plant evergreens, easy perennials and ground cover. Reliable old favourites and the odd surprising newcomer. As I’m a coach who talks too much, it’ll come as no surprise that I’m a gardener who plants too densely. My narrow strip of garden’s always teaming with birds, bugs and grubby kids and you never know what you’ll discover next!
Slim, blue-green conifers, purple tipped hebes, laurels and rhododendrons form the evergreen backbone of the planting. Softening the hard edges of the paving are delicate pink flowering alpines, fat green elephant’s ears bearing spears of mauve flowers, burgundy heucheras and deep purple daisy-like blooms set against a crown of arching, russet cordyline spikes. A few well chosen plants, but all working hard. Flowing colour harmonies, contrasting heights, leaves and shapes all combining to serve more than one purpose in a small, confined space. Over the years, I’ve learned by trial and error what works and what doesn’t and now I just trust my instincts, have fun and play it by ear when I plant. I’ve learned to do the same with my coaching.
Everywhere I go in my garden, every day, every season, even in the winter as I gently brush the snow off branches bowed and about to break, I hear, see, feel and smell something different, something perfect. Every coaching session has its own rhythm too, its own harmonies and unexpected treasures, just as every coach has their own reliable evergreens and well trodden paths.
Many coaches are anxious about whether their coaching style is a ‘fit’ with what the IAC is looking for in a thirty minute exam submission. Yet, while each of the IAC examiners must wander through all kinds of ‘coaching gardens’, savouring sounds, silences, shapes, colours, movement and fragrances that resonate with their own unique perceptions, we all know that true beauty can show up in the smallest of spaces – and when it does, it’s unmissable, carrying with it the power to unite hearts and minds across time and space. A truly masterful coaching session can do the same.