broken pottery - Image Credit: Kintsugi: Florence Blatchley

There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in

In the inimitable words of Leonard Cohen “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in”.

Thoughts about broken pottery and the Barefoot Coaching Winter Conference…

Last week a gathering of coaches at various ages and stages of their journey invested in a day together at the Barefoot Coaching annual winter conference to share, learn and connect. As always, listening to thought leaders of the coaching world gave me plenty of food for thought. 

Somewhat surprisingly my thoughts have mostly coalesced around Kintsugi – the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery. 

Julie Starr successful coach and author shared her hard earned wisdom about the 3 pillars for surviving, developing and thriving as a coach – self-care, professionalisation and self-development. Two particular things she shared really resonated, one was that “the person who benefits most from being a coach is you” and the other was that if there are cracks to be found “being self-employed will find the crack!”.  That last statement really resonated and brought the image of the repaired Japanese vase, its cracks repaired with gold to mind. Coaching wholeheartedly requires us to have really clear and strong boundaries and yet be willing to be altered by experience. We have to see our own flaws and be willing to acknowledge, honour and where appropriate highlight them.

Nick Willams spoke on thought leadership and mining the wisdom in your own experience. He said “Please don’t hoard your treasure, I want the world to be richer because we share what’s inside of us”. And again I think of the broken vase, repaired with veins of gold that tell a story of a something that was broken and then repaired and displayed in a new, more expansive and interesting form. I’m not so interested in the story of how people got everything right first time, I want to hear about the journey, the bumps along the way, how you came to be this reconfigured version of yourself. All the same ingredients but with some added golden experience threaded through. In coaching – we want our clients to feel safe enough to reveal this gold to us, and in order to work with integrity I believe we have to be prepared to examine our own golden flaws. 

Kim Morgan spoke about coaching the family at work. Bringing simple but impactful coaching skills to support both the family system and the team system. Is how we lead so different to how we parent? There will always be ruptures (most mornings over shoes in my house) but coaching skills help us to pause, connect and repair. I was reminded of Virginia Satir’s words “heal the family, heal the world”. That image of break and repair, leading to something more expansive, was threaded through everything for me.

Graham Lee shared with us how he works with people to increase their capacity to observe their own experience – essential for coaches, and a gift to clients that keeps on giving well beyond the end of the coaching. And if we stick with the vase metaphor – how to not throw the vase back and forth, how to help people communicate when they are in the “red zone” and prevent smashing the vase into irreparable smithereens!

The day brought me connection, learning and increased courage to share my imperfectly constructed thoughts.