Thursday, 18 July 2013

Article in Coaching at Work, December 2012

I recently had an article published in the magazine Coaching at Work, looking at a new, growing phenomenon - Flash Mob coaching.  This seems to be 'taking coaching to the people', popularising the art of coaching.  Here is the article:

Flash mob - the future of coaching?[1] – David E Gray, University of Greenwich

A new phenomenon may be about to hit the world of coaching. We are more than familiar with delivering business coaching, executive coaching, life coaching, sports coaching or one of their many combinations or hybrids.  Now enter Flash Mob Coaching (FMC). The flash mob has been with us for a few years. First created in Manhattan in 2003, flash mobs are a group of people who congregate suddenly at a pre-arranged place to perform a brief and seemingly pointless act often connected with entertainment, satire or free expression. The event itself is usually organised via social media sites such as Facebook, or through viral emails (messages that, largely because of their popularity, get passed from one person to another). Flash Mob Coaching gets a group (mob) of coaches out onto a city street to engage people passing by to experience a free, ten minute coaching session. One of the UK's first Flash Mob Coaching events took place in September during the International Coach Federation's international conference. 

The brainchild and inspiration of Shivani Mair, 38 ICF attendees answered the call and turned up to the briefing session. Some were new to the UK and all were certainly new to FMC. Afterwards many talked about being out of their "comfort zone", whilst others commented on being at the "growing edge of coaching". Many felt the sense of danger and personal challenge - "It was an experiment for me".

Shivani briefed the coaches, setting out the aims of the event, one of which was to develop themselves as coaches and to have powerful conversations. Clearly some were petrified by the prospect! However, having pulled on their ICF teeshirts, off they set for Hammersmith Broadway.

Over the next hour and a half, 64 members of the public experienced a ten minute, one-to-one coaching conversation as they stood on a busy UK high street.  Of course, many more people than this we're approached, and all coaches experienced multiple rejections (which some coped with better than others).  But what comes strongly through the feedback from both coachees and coaches is the level of learning and inspiration that resulted for both parties. 

Evaluation through emails and video clips (a film crew were on hand to elicit immediate feedback) provided powerful stories and testimonies of impact.  As one coachee commented, "Just keep doing whatever it is you are doing 'cos you have no idea how deep what you are doing  is. It's amazing". Others talked about boosting confidence and gaining the inspiration to take action. For others, the coaching brought out something that they had been holding back for some time. The session provided insights and the opportunity to reflect.  Let's remind ourselves - these changes were achieved in ten minutes or less!

And what about the coaches? There was a strong air of realism in the responses.  One commented that "street coaching is not for me", while another reflected on how constant rejection drained her energy levels. But others found that people would tell them their deepest thoughts within 3 minutes! They learned to overcome their fear of approaching people. "Stop worrying and just do it". The session has inspired participants to commit to launching FMC in Belgium, Sweden, the USA, Germany and Ireland.

Coaches spend a lot of time marketing themselves, hoping clients will come to them.  Perhaps in FMC we have found the vehicle for taking coaching to the people.



[1] This article appeared in Coaching at Work, December 2012.


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