Editor's Note: Following up on Natalie Tucker Miller's Inside Scoop column about the IAC's new Learning Agreements, I sat down with Angela Spaxman, Past President of the IAC, who just completed her first Learning Agreement Proposal.
Linda: What was your role in creating the Learning Agreement process?
Angela: I was a witness and a conversational partner in creating the concept of the Learning Agreement process. We (the IAC Executive Committee and Strategy Committee) had been searching for years for a way to have a truly progressive system for encouraging, supporting and accounting for continuous learning among our professional members. We knew that the conventional process of awarding Continuing Education Points had too many limitations to make us feel proud of our system. One day, current IAC President, Bob Tschannen-Moran brought up the concept of "giving yourself an 'A'," which comes from Benjamin Zander's book. It was a very exciting moment when we realized the potential and advantages of this idea and the idea continued to develop over the next few days into something we absolutely loved.
Linda: What was your experience in submitting a Learning Agreement Proposal?
Angela: Even though I was one of the designers of the Learning Agreement concept, I still felt a little nervous about having the review meeting with Natalie, one of the Certifiers. I guess we are all so deeply programmed to assume we will be judged, that I also was unconsciously holding several unconstructive beliefs about the whole process. I thought I would have to defend my proposal, whereas in fact I was encouraged, supported and guided in how to make it meet my needs even better. I thought I would have to prove myself to an assessor, but actually it was a very enjoyable and empowering process. It felt like a masterful coaching session, and as a result, I was very pleased with the value I received compared to the money I paid.
Linda: What are some of the activities you designated in your proposal?
Angela: Actually, the activities I designed were quite conventional …taking some yoga and meditation courses and participating in a ReciproCoach mentoring round. Natalie, my reviewer, helped me realize I could be a lot more creative next time in finding many different and perhaps more subtle and less expensive (!) ways to meet my objectives.
Linda: What will you measure or track over the year in preparation for submitting your Completed Learning Agreement?
Angela: It really is useful to have a written record of what I am trying to develop in myself as a coach. I have reviewed my objectives about once per quarter and I've noticed several new ways that I can work towards them. When I submit my Completed Learning Agreement, I will be reflecting on the whole past year and making some notes about what I have achieved.
Linda: What are some suggestions for coaches who are designing their own Learning Agreement?
Angela: I have two suggestions:
1) Try to be as practical as you can with your learning agreement activities. Be inventive to find activities that truly fit your needs and will have a real impact on you, rather than focusing on what can be measured, or what are the standard ways of learning. You don't need to attend a course, hire a coach or read a book, although those are excellent ways to meet many objectives. You don't need to have evidence like a piece of paper or a certificate to prove your learning. The best evidence is really in the behaviour and attitude changes that you will witness in yourself, or that others will see in you.
Natalie and I laughed over the example that if you want to improve your ability in Mastery #4, Processing in the Present, you could commit to scrubbing your kitchen floor mindfully, once per month, and then do a self-assessment of your progress in being present and aware. Now that is efficient!
2) Connect your learning objectives clearly to the Masteries. There are many ways to do this. Virtually all of your true learning objectives as a coach can be aligned with the Masteries, since they really do cover everything that a masterful coach does. For example, if you're going to take a course on assessments, you could connect that to Mastery #9 if your intention is to offer those assessments as a new system or structure that is relevant to your clients' needs. Or, if you're going to start a regular meditation practice, you could connect that to Mastery #4 if you intend to use that practice to help you be more clear and aware in the present moment. If you're going to work with your own coach this year, you could use that relationship as a model for Mastery #1, and by experiencing a deeply trustful coaching relationship, improve your own ability to form such relationships.
It's okay to work backwards from the learning you are already intending to do. The Learning Agreement is meant to strengthen your clarity and commitment for your learning goals as a coach.
It's essential that your learning objectives are connected to the Masteries, because that's how we know that your objectives, no matter how diverse they may be, actually are connected to your effectiveness as a coach.
Linda: What did you appreciate about the process?
Angela: My favorite thing about the process is the implied trust and respect I feel from being empowered to determine freely what I most want and need to develop in myself and how I am going to do it. To me, this is one of the highest values of coaching that is expressed directly through this process.
Linda: How do you hope the process will evolve?
Angela: I hope over time we can communicate more clearly what this process is really about. Some of the wording in the descriptions can be improved for this purpose. For example, perhaps we should call the Review Session a Coaching Session, which is more accurate and less likely to make people fear the process.
I'm sure that as more people go through the process, we will have many more examples to help members create Learning Agreements that are personally enticing and effective. After the first experience, we will learn to approach the process with positive anticipation rather than dread!
Angela Spaxman was the Founding President of the Hong Kong International Coaching Community and is the Immediate Past President of the IAC. Angela has been coaching for 10 years. She is a Career and Leadership Coach for managers, professionals, business people and coaches. You may contact her at http://www.lovingworkandleading.com.
Linda Dessau, CPCC, is the author of Write Your Way to More Clients Online. She offers ghostwriting, editing, training and consulting. If you want better results from your online writing, visit www.ContentMasteryGift.com to discover Linda's content marketing secrets.