Narrative coaching

Narrative coaching

 
 
00:00 / 00:43:49
 
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Guest Bio

David Drake

David has worked on narrative coaching, change and leadership initiatives for 70 organizations, including Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Google, Nike, PwC, Westpac and the Australia and US federal governments. Clients appreciate his systemic and innovative approaches. He is the founder of the field of narrative coaching and the creator of the Narrative Coaching Labs for practitioners and Narrative Design Labs in organizations. David has trained over 10,000 people in 14 countries in his methods.

He has started a global community of licensed Narrative Design Partners to bring this work to the world in new ways. David is also the architect of integrative development, which brings together adult development and organization development in a unified theory of change. Narrative coaching is an integrative practice that can scale to any size.

David is the author of 40 publications on narratives and coaching and editor of The Philosophy and Practice of Coaching (2008, Jossey-Bass). His new book is Narrative Coaching: Bringing New Stories to Life (CNC Press, 2015), and his next book is as co-editor of SAGE Handbook of Coaching (Sage, 2016).

Guest Host 

Jill Livesey

Jill has worked as an Executive Coach since 2006 in the areas of banking, financial services, pharmaceutical, professional services, and the public service. In career coaching, Jill has worked with people at all levels across all industries who are looking to re-align their role, gain a promotion, or take an entirely different career path.  Jill held organisational leadership roles for 17 years in London, New York and Sydney. Jill draws on this experience of managing large teams, often remotely located, for working with others to quickly sift through the mass of complex information to get to what matters and what can make the difference. 

Jill’s experience of managing constant change and motivating teams while providing extremely high levels of client service and delivering major and complex projects gives her useful insight for coaching managers and leaders in today’s turbulent business environment.  Her personal experience of transitioning into roles within companies and countries and returning from parental leave also informs her coaching. 

Jill’s passion for strategic career management – having the right people in the right roles for the right time – has seen her working with many clients looking to assess their career to date and identify steps and skills to work towards their future path, benefitting the individual and the organisation.

SHOW NOTES

 

What are the narratives of the culture? What are the narratives of the different genders, cultures, ranks within the company, and how are they aligned or not aligned? How are they really supporting diversity and inclusion or not? How are they responding to the emerging narratives around them, in their society, in their market. And more broadly even the planet.

In organizations, people have a thousand moving parts, moving a thousand kilometers an hour, with a thousand different deliverables and variables. And so what we find is that over and over again, most of our, particularly more seasoned clients, don’t really need any more training. So we’ve actually as a business by and large stopped training because we don’t find it very effective. And we even find coaching sometimes too slow and too cumbersome. And so what we’ve found more and more is that most of our clients know the right thing to be doing. They know the best practice, they just don’t for a lot of reasons. So really our focus right now in helping clients move to a more optimal state, state of mind, state of being sort of presence from which they can then make new choices.

Transcript

 

Jill Livesey:

And perhaps start by asking you to explain what is narrative coaching?

Dave Drake:

So narrative coaching is experiential and mindful process by which we listen to people’s stories and help them to understand both the what’s happening in their stories, but also to recognize that there’s part of them that’s bringing their resolution to what they’re seeking into the stories themselves. And so we find that in our society we tend to rush and try to get somewhere in a coaching conversation. And what we find is that when we slow down and use silence and presence, we actually start to notice many more layers of stories that are originally visible to help our clients really understand and hear themselves saying what’s really true and important for them. And then harvesting that in a way to help them translate that into action.

Jill Livesey:

So hence the idea of you have everything you need before you.

Dave Drake:

Right, so everything you need is right in front of you, is our sort of cardinal rule. Everyone we teach over and over again.

Jill Livesey:

And how do you see that being used to good effect in organizations?

Dave Drake:

So in organizations, people have a thousand moving parts, moving a thousand kilometers an hour, with a thousand different deliverables and variables. And so what we find is that over and over again, most of our, particularly more seasoned clients, don’t really need any more training. So we’ve actually as a business by and large stopped training because we don’t find it very effective. And we even find coaching sometimes too slow and too cumbersome. And so what we’ve found more and more is that most of our clients know the right thing to be doing. They know the best practice, they just don’t for a lot of reasons. So really our focus right now in helping clients move to a more optimal state, state of mind, state of being sort of presence from which they can then make new choices.

Dave Drake:

And so one of the things that I’m most known for is my lack of interest in goal setting, particularly at the beginning of a conversation because most of our clients have no idea what they really want. And so we really want to equip them more with what we call structures for success, which are in the moment, how do we help them make a new choice, again and again and again wherever they are in their day. And over time that sort of accumulates into a new habit, a new story and a new way of being in the world.

Jill Livesey:

So in a sense that’s more like them carrying their coach within them.

Dave Drake:

Correct.

Jill Livesey:

And if there was a… We have seem to have chief officers for most things this these days. If there was a chief narrative officer, what sorts of things would we see them doing or being concerned about or making happen?

Dave Drake:

So I think one of the things that, again, as you said in the introduction, for me, I’ve never, this is kind of a double negative, but I’ve never not been able to see things systemically. And I think one of the limitations of coaching is we over-focus on the individual and the individual psychology, which is important. And what we know more and more is that most of what drives behavior is not necessarily about the individual, but about the epigenetics of how they got there. The environment in which they’re working, their social and collective narratives in which they’re operating. And so we find that, to borrow a famous sort of quote that we often end up sending change to people back into unchanged environments. And we know which one wins that battle. It’s not the person. And so we’ve found more and more of that, we want to think about narratives more broadly.

Dave Drake:

So if I was a chief narrative officer, I’d be really sort of curious about what are the narratives of the culture? What are the narratives of the different genders, cultures, ranks within the company, and how are they aligned or not aligned? How are they really supporting diversity and inclusion or not? How are they responding to the emerging narratives around them, in their society, in their market. And more broadly even the planet.

Dave Drake:

And so I find one of the things that coaches sometimes don’t want to look at is we depend on discretionary income for our practice. And discretionary income usually comes from people have discretionary income. And so oftentimes we end up helping people to cope in systems which are not healthy. And instead of looking at how do we use what we know about change to create better ways of working and better ways of relating and better ways of being in community with each other and with the planet. And so I, and this is kind of a long answer to your question, but if I was a chief narrative officer, I would think about the longer term social impact of the stories that our people in companies or our organizations are telling. And are those going to be ones that our grandchildren would be proud of?

Jill Livesey:

Which is a lovely focus. And I’m sure a lot of coaches that will really resonate with them. The idea that, the sense of fruitlessness when you’re coaching a person within a system and you feel like that system won’t necessarily support them. I love the idea of the narratives of the organization as a whole. And I’ve heard you say also that the more coaches work on themselves, the less hard they have to work in sessions when they are coaching individuals. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Dave Drake:

Yeah, so I’m part of a just came sort of humbly through looking at my own practice over the years and I’ve been coaching for over 20 years. And I think about where I was developmentally at that stage of my life in the beginning, miss back before we had coaching textbooks or coaching programs. And so we were all kind of making it up in a way. And I realized that I was working really hard with good intent for my clients, but it was exhausting. And as time has gone on, I can now coach for an entire day and it doesn’t really tire me at all. Because I no longer feel like I have to make something happen in the sessions. But rather I’m just there as a witness and a sort of a conduit for what the client is trying to achieve. And so for me, I want to help coaches to be able to work on themselves for a couple of reasons.

Dave Drake:

One is our clients can’t travel any farther than we’ve gone ourself. And so if we want to really hold space for the challenging conversations, a lot of our clients need to have and want to have, then we’ve got to be able to do that for them, whether it’s around grief or fear or uncertainty or lack of knowledge, like how do I actually lead in this kind of world we live in now? And so again, it’s not about more techniques or more tools. We don’t need any more of those. We could probably survive the rest of time with the stuff we have now. It doesn’t matter. Our clients don’t care and they don’t care about what things are called or whose methodologies in this year and who’s not. They just want to get some help as a human being to do the best they can with whatever they’re being asked to do. And so that requires a mature coach, not necessarily by age, but by sort of emotional, psychological and even spiritual maturity to be able to serve our clients in some very different ways.

Jill Livesey:

And actually it can be exhausting. Even thinking about all those tools and methodologies that you feel like you ought to keep up with rather than deepen with what you already have perhaps. Your coaching with without goals. I’ve watched your webinar, which was great. And that piece around how, if we’re that hard in the session, not only might we be adding to the to do list, but we’re actually jumping on the wheel with them. That I shuttered as I read that. Because I certainly recognize moments over time when when I’ve done exactly that. And yeah, not always helpful.

Dave Drake:

No.

Jill Livesey:

And you also talk about how you don’t teach anything that you haven’t applied to yourself and you just refer to that a little bit there. And I know you’ve experienced some really significant threshold moments in your life. What’s one of the biggest learnings for you that you’ve got out of that work applied to yourself?

Dave Drake:

So one of the ones for me is that when you go through difficult things, it’s easy to lose perspective about yourself, about time, about reality. And so I think one of the things that came out of one of those periods of my life was a lot more compassion. And so the fundamental starting point in working with our clients is we are talking one human being to another human being. And we don’t know what they’ve been going through. We don’t know what’s been really happening for them. And so for me, I find that even though I’ve never had a huge ego, it’s become more subtle now. Because you start to realize that in the end we’re all doing the best we can. And so I find that now I end up with a more open and receptive stance on reality. I no longer, do we need to stop?

Jill Livesey:

No.

Dave Drake:

I wasn’t sure what all that was meaning. So, I think so often coaching gets caught up in trying to create an ideal world or an ideal scenario and how things should be. And we have all these fantasies through our models and things about creating all of these ideal states. And in reality that’s just, I think creates more pressure for everybody. And so what I find is that we in narrative coaching, because we focus so much on ourselves as humans and our clients as humans, we end up with this really interesting paradox where our conversations feel more ordinary and yet they often end up being more profound.

Dave Drake:

They feel much slower, but they actually take less time. So when I do demonstrations now, they’re generally 78 minutes. Because we don’t need more. Most of our coaches spend far too much time gathering, far too much information, most of which is never going to be useful. And this adds to the confusion of what’s going on. And so for me, through my difficult periods of my own life, I’ve just really come to be convinced that what we’re really after is what is the crux of this person’s issue? What’s really happening for them, what’s really important to them? And helping them put that into perspective and find a way to go make that happen.

Jill Livesey:

And you mentioned a demo I saw somewhere online where people can go and watch you do that.

Dave Drake:

There will be soon. So where we building our entire website as we speak and one of the things we’re going to have on there is a series of demos that we’ve done over the years. It’s just these technology things take longer than you think.

Jill Livesey:

They do, don’t they?

Dave Drake:

So, but that, by the, probably by December, these will be up on our site and a chance to see what that looks like.

Jill Livesey:

Wonderful. And we’ll add to our show notes that we’ll have for the podcast. We’ll add to that as we’ll keep them up to date with short evolves there. Now you mentioned grief and I wondered is there any situation where narrative coaching doesn’t help? I think about grief, I think the old stories, you had someone that knew stories you don’t.

Dave Drake:

Yes.

Jill Livesey:

Are there any situations where narrative doesn’t work, would you say?

Dave Drake:

No.

Jill Livesey:

I thought you might. And so can you explain a little bit? I know it’s a huge topic in a short time. It keeps playing a little about how it might help in the situation of grief as in loss of a person grief.

Dave Drake:

I will say that there are some people, some clients have a harder time accessing narrative coaching if they’re not reflective at all. They’re not used to introspection, they’re not interested in anything that isn’t in the outer world kind of piece. But we find less and less of those because people are realizing there’s actually a lot going on inside themselves, they need to pay attention to. So in terms of grief, so we’re actually putting together a symposium next year on attachment theory, grief and trauma. And kind of the ways in which those intersect for a lot of people. And so one of the things that we’re trying to do in what we do in the narrative coaching model is in the first phase of our model is called situate. And it’s really just about helping the client to situate themselves in the conversation, in this moment with their coach and in their own story.

Dave Drake:

And so we’re just helping them to be here now. That’s it. We’re not trying to figure out why they’re there or where they want to go and just helping them to be here and sort of drop into a state where they actually can do something meaningful in coaching. And in grief that often shows up as the sense of loss. And so we just meet them in that sense of loss. And what we find is that, and you know Elizabeth Kubler Ross is the most well known resource on death and dying, etc. Most of her work has been completely misunderstood over the years. And sort of bastardized as these things happen when we bring them into the marketplace. But in our work, we’re trying to help people to just understand what the loss of a story feels like, means to them, what sense they’re making of that, and then put that in the broader context of their life.

Dave Drake:

And so in that we’re going to start to discover where is grieving going well for them or something they’re managing well and where’s grief proving hard. And so that’s where we then drop into search to understand what does this person, it’s the one of our core operating question, what does this person need next right now? And that’s all we’re asking. We don’t answer it and where they’re going. We answer right now what do they need to continue their journey. And so it may be talking about the lost person and may be being angry at the lost person, and may be their own issues for themselves that are emerging now. And so we’re just trying to figure out, and our model has a sort of a spiral in it. So we’re sort of gaging how large that spiral needs to be at this point in time given where the client’s at.

Dave Drake:

And so we can do this because we’re not actually coaching them through a methodology. The methodology that we use is really a change process that mirrors how humans naturally change. So then we can look at where are they in that process, what are they going to need next? And so if someone’s just starting in that grief journey, that spiral of through all four phases of the change process may be quite small because they’re just trying to get their whole head and heart around what just happened. And then as they began to have more ability to work with the what’s happening, they can sort of expand out that spiral to kind of look at what’s to be learned here, what’s to be done here. And so we’re just tracing them and following them on that journey and seeing where we could add some value to them.

Jill Livesey:

Okay, lovely. There’s some, it’s kind of elegant simplicity in terms of being with them where they’re at and working out what next from there when something can seem so enormous.

Dave Drake:

It is the most common piece of feedback we get from particularly from experienced coaches that they really can seriously declutter their practice. And I remember years ago, I had a very, a dear friend and a very experienced coach in the UK. And one of our one day programs and it was all experiential. We weren’t teaching anything really. We were, but not through talking, and she was starting in on one of our activities for the mid day and she had just happened to walk by me as I was staying there as they started.

Dave Drake:

And she said, “It can’t be this simple.” I said, I just shrug my shoulders and said, “Well, let’s see.” And she came by like 20 minutes later she goes, “Damn it is that simple.”

Jill Livesey:

Fantastic.

Dave Drake:

And I said, “Yes.” It it takes a lot of development for yourself to make it simple. It doesn’t come easily, but the more you, and the more you develop yourself and your own buddy to use what we call radical presence, then the simpler things become. And you realize that all this stuff that you may have learned, some of it will be helpful. And most of it not, it’s not necessary.

Jill Livesey:

And a lot of it I imagine will have helped you to get to where you are today in order to have that radical presence. You get into it.

Dave Drake:

Right. Otherwise, I mean if you had… We’re doing some repairs and maybe a repainting of your house, you wouldn’t leave the scaffolding above till the job was done. You’d take it down because it’s ready to go. So I think sometimes coaches depend too much on their scaffolding and come to realize that it is not as important as they think.

Jill Livesey:

And I noticed in the way you write and talk that you use quite a lot of metaphors, which again is very aligned to that whole narrative concept. How important is it for coaches to be able to think and talk in metaphors?

Dave Drake:

I think it’s huge because metaphors are wonderful because they’re wonderful bridges between the real world and the imaginary world between sort of logic and emotion, the real and the imagined, et cetera. And so they sort of provide a way into kind of how the client is narrating what’s going on. So often coaches want to go through the front door, but the front door tends to be pretty defended for most of our clients.

Dave Drake:

And so we’re always looking for side doors, ways to kind of get into the conversation that are through a material in the client stories. We don’t bring in our own constructs or our own words for the most part. We use whatever language is there, but we’re looking for openings in the story, which then are openings for the client, which are then openings for the issue. And those metaphors are great for that because, it’s the way that the person’s trying to figure something out. And because they say, well is it like this? No, no. They’re saying no, it’s not like that. It’s more like this. And Oh, okay. So tell me more about this. And so we, rather than trying to analyze the metaphor, we just go right into the metaphor and we’ll actually create what we think of a serious play, an encounter with the metaphor itself as if it’s real and in the room.

Jill Livesey:

And conversely, if you have a coaching counterpart who is more of that sort of left mode of thinking and perhaps doesn’t think so well in let metaphors, does that mean they might be harder to coach in this way or there’s some way of sort of opening up into that world of metaphors for them?

Dave Drake:

Yeah, so ones that are tend to come more from their right hemisphere and when they’re being coached are obviously going to be using more metaphors often in their own language. And so then we can use the symbolism of metaphor as a strength to kind of go in to a space that’s familiar and comfortable to them. And the challenge for them, the dissonance for them is to make that more concrete. So what does it actually look like if you did that or, let’s talk about how that would apply to your actual life. And conversely, if you have somebody who speaks more in a traditional sort of typical left hemisphere style, they’re still using words, right? They’re just using different kinds of words. And so we can bring them in, go into their words and say, well, can you give me an example of that?

Dave Drake:

Or what would that look like? Or does that remind you of anything? And you bringing them from their words into the pictures.

Jill Livesey:

Exactly.

Dave Drake:

And so you just, the two go together in a metaphor. It’s a word, but also it’s also a symbol and so you just start with the one that’s most natural for the client and go from there.

Jill Livesey:

Right. Lovely. Who’s been the greatest influence or one of the greatest influences in your work or life?

Dave Drake:

There’s a lot of those, I think there’s two. Two that stand out for me. So one was when I was 15, I was fairly bright but fairly quiet. Friends tell me I was fun, but I was pretty quiet, and I didn’t really speak much and I never really saw myself as a leader because leaders, I always, I observed in my that age were more extroverted, more popular, more all kinds of things.

Dave Drake:

I didn’t think I was. And then there was a woman in a group I belong to who asked me to say a few words before the dinner at our leadership thing we were doing. And I was petrified because I was the only freshman in the whole group. And so I said my words and then all these other older kids came by and said, “Wow, I never could have done that.” And so that was the first time in my life I thought, “Oh, somebody thinks I have something to say.” And so that was an influence for me. And again, I think we, our clients are just people. What they want is actually smaller than we realize. And often it’s just, I want somebody to see me, I want somebody to know me, to hear me, to be with me. And so I was thinking of Mrs. T Caroline, when I think about that.

Dave Drake:

And then I think the second thing more sort of intellectually. Roger Shank wrote a book called, So Tell Me a Story in the 90s and he’s a cognitive scientist before all the neuroscience stuff, but, and he’s kind of a strange guy. I’ve interviewed him later in life and he’s really eccentric but really brilliant. But as whole thing to helping me, it helped me to make the connection between our stories and our realities that we created around us. And then I could bring in people like Paulo Ferry and others and looking at how do we help people recognize the way in which their stories are socially constructed, the way they’re neurologically constructed, the way they’re symmetrically constructed. And so how the story no longer becomes like a fairy tale in a book, but a lived entity that not only is alive in a coaching session but as malleable and you can actually do something with it. And so it just really helped me rethink what stories actually were. And, so that was really influential in the very, very beginning of the roots of narrative coaching.

Jill Livesey:

Lovely. Let’s say a leader was listening to this now and they think, well yeah, so I did leader’s coach and I’ve been taught a coaching approach to leadership. If you could distill the narrative approach in one or two ways, one or two principles that a leader, if team members was able to use with them, what might that be?

Dave Drake:

So one is we know a lot about what makes a good story. And so we, through different pieces of research and writing we’ve done and we have sort of a model that we use to help leaders be more effective. Not in sort of telling stories again because sometimes that falls into the cliche of, Oh, I have to be sort of glib and tell stories. And no, it’s more about, in a crowded workday, how do you get people’s attention?

Dave Drake:

And so we use some of Carl White’s research on firefighting teams in the bush, and why some of them died. And there often was a failure of communication and a failure of hearing communication. And so we just, we’ve done that for a lot of the big banks here in Australia. And a number of other places have in the moment. How do you help people communicate succinctly through a narrative format?

Dave Drake:

And that’s done really well for us. And the second thing that is sort of on the opposite side of that in some ways is we the leaders, the most common fear leaders have around narrative coaching is they imagine. It’s like, I’m going to have to sit there all day and listen to people talk to and tell stories to me. And I said, well, if people are taking a long time to tell stories to you, it probably means you’re not listening very well. And so we teach them about how to listen to a story that actually enables them to understand what is most important for the storyteller and how do I get that most important piece into the room. And so I think about a leader that when I did a lot of work here for my dear friends at PWC, we had a woman who was a partner in our program and she was a good participant.

Dave Drake:

But again was like a lot of them, they go to lots of these programs. And it was back in the sort of the middle of the GFC when it was in Australia. And she was going to speak to the CEO and his team, have a very large family owned business. And she had prepared this gigantic document as there want to do, and she was getting ready to present that document. And then she stopped, because I was just in one of David’s workshops. Like what would he tell me to do? Oh yeah, put my book down and look at the person.

Jill Livesey:

Brilliant. How long was the course? That was fantastic.

Dave Drake:

She really got the point. And so she just cut herself and put the book back down and stopped and looked up and said to the CEO, how’s it going? And then he basically, long story short, he basically had said to them, I believe that no matter what I do, I cannot salvage my family’s business, and under my watch, my three generations of my family’s business is going down. And so then she closed up the book all together and put it on the floor and said, let’s have a different conversation then. And so she basically listened to him for half an hour and then said, You’ve been a faithful client of ours. We have people in our firm who specialize in this, and we’d like to donate some time to you to help you figure out how to approach this. And then if we can be of further assistance, we can talk about that. If the things we’ve prepared for you are really good and they will be helpful, but not enough. I realize that now, but it seems like we need a different conversation here.”

Jill Livesey:

What a beautiful example. And again, I guess it’s that radical presence and being prepared to listen

Dave Drake:

And to understand what is this going back to, what does this person need most right now and not my tech strategies.

Jill Livesey:

Which is, and I think I’ve read it in some of the work you’ve done around in your heart of heart, what is it that you want right now? Which is what do you need right now. So I have a big interest and passion in career transition, helping people, if they’ve got one life on this earth in this body, then how do they consciously choose to make the best of themselves, whatever that is for them. And from kids we were asked what we want to be when we grow up. And it’s not a very useful paradigm.

Dave Drake:

No.

Jill Livesey:

People come into career transition coaching because they are frustrated that they haven’t found that answer. And so part of what we’ll do is reframe that for them that perhaps that’s the wrong question and help them to see that they’re this evolving narrative. How have you seen narrative coaching used in that career transition space in an effective way?

Dave Drake:

Yeah, so one of the things that we do is in any case is we try to help our clients figure out what is the most useful focus for our conversation. And what narrative frame would be helpful right now. And so for many of the folks who’ve used this in the career space, paradoxically talking about your career is probably the wrong frame because again, as you said, it gets a dead end street for a lot of people. If I knew that I’d be doing something else and I can’t figure out what else I need to be doing, so we in the narrative coaching space, we would look at, well, so what is the narrative frame? And it usually has to do with what’s important to you at this stage of your life. So we’d create some criteria, well, I’m feeling restless and a bit bored with working. I want to be more creative. My financial needs are not that high right now. Or my venture needs are very high. My partner’s not feeling well, she’s has an illness and so I need to kind of double duty.

Dave Drake:

So I need a job that pays well but doesn’t take too much extra time for me. And so we’re basically creating a description of their container in which they’d like the career to sit. And that for me helps people to make both more lateral choices that they wouldn’t have otherwise thought of, but also more prudent choices because they realize, okay, now is not the time to set up a consulting practice perhaps. Or maybe there is a past role you had, which isn’t ideal maybe for you personally in terms of your trajectory of your life, but sort of ticks all the other boxes of what’s really matters to you right now. And so a career is just a means to an end. So you have to figure what the end is, and then there can be some times her harder questions. And so, some questions like, do you really need that much money? And for whom are you making all that money? And is that sabotaging some of your other life needs by focusing so much money, for example.

Jill Livesey:

Lovely. So is that art of possibility with the reality of life, that perspective in a way. And in early childhood education, I know there’s a lot of work done around strengths, around growth mindset. If we’re looking to increase that equality of opportunity across the human race, what could be done with narrative work in early childhood? Whether it’s primary school or even high school.

Dave Drake:

I have two daughters.

Jill Livesey:

Trick question.

Dave Drake:

I know, how many hours do we have to answer that question? No, I have a daughter that nearly finishing high school and I listened to her horror stories about how she spends her day at school. And I said, “What an utter waste of time.” And so for me, I used to consult a lot to early childhood programs, but first for low social economic families, but also families of disabled children. And so one of the big distinctions we helped to make for these programs is a shift from a medical model to a coaching model in terms of how they approach their job and the ones that could do that just made extraordinary gains in their results for their kids and their families. And so for me, what we know from attachment theory is that the percentage of people that feel secure most of the time has dropped significantly in the last 20 years and will continue to drop as time goes on.

Dave Drake:

And so first and foremost we need to create a rich, safe environment where kids can just be themselves, play, draw, do music, try things, learn about themselves, learn about each other, and has nothing really to do with the mechanics of preparing them to go to work, which is what most school does. And so you have people that go to work that are emotionally unintelligent, not really clear who they are, don’t know how to get along with different people.

Dave Drake:

As the world becomes more polarized, that becomes even more important. And so really what narrative coaching is an appreciation of different narratives and appreciation of respect for other people. The ability to deal with conflict in new ways, but more importantly, just to have a core sense of self, and of self with others and a sense of what they think of as a safe haven and a secure base from which to grow. That’s the fundamental building block for everything. And it’s something we don’t teach in schools, and we’re more about content and we all know adult clients have, are experts in content but couldn’t manage a team to save their life because they didn’t learn those other skills.

Jill Livesey:

Wonderful. And it’s similar with the conversations, we teach leaders how to have good quality conversations and we’re not taught that at school.

Dave Drake:

No. And again, we go back to people know how to do this. They just can’t find their way to a state from which to operate. That would be conducive to having a good conversation. So if I feel I have need to defend myself against you or I need to be superior to you or I need to get my gender across or things done, whatever skills you taught me are going to go out the window because I’ve got other pressures which are going to dominate how I show up. If I need you and I want you to help me. And we’re in this together, then you move to a different physiological state and your breathing and your openness and your way of being in the conversation and it makes so much more possible

Jill Livesey:

And therefore able to respond more creatively and less reactively.

Dave Drake:

There’s more spaciousness in your mind, in your heart, you can hear things, people will say the exact same words I may have said 10 minutes ago, but now you hear them. You hear them very differently than otherwise.

Jill Livesey:

Thank you. So although you’re best known for narrative coaching, you studied human dynamics for 30 years and as I’ve mentioned earlier, you founded the Moment Institute to bring in your words, this interdisciplinary approach to the world at a time when we need new narratives about what it means to be human together, which is really what you’ve just touched on there as well. That quite beautiful concept I feel is both simple and profound. If you were to get the opportunity to coach a world leader, and I truly am not referring to any particular one, who is resistant to move from a thinking of those old institutions versus the new ecosystems, again, to use your language. How might a narrative approach help in that particular coaching assignment?

Dave Drake:

That’s a good question. I’d want to have a leader who’s even remotely open to coaching. We don’t have a lot of those at the moment and unfortunately the kind of leaders we’re getting now are often against actually antithetical to coaching in many ways. And so for me, if I found one, so I was always a big fan of Merkel in Germany as, I didn’t always agree with everything that she did, but I kept explaining to all my German friends, you do realize she’s the only sane Western leader we have at the moment. So and I think one of the things that she did well was she just held the bigger picture all the time, and fought for the bigger picture and the longer term view.

Jill Livesey:

So true.

Dave Drake:

And I think the second thing that I would work with them on from a narrative coaching perspective is that they need, they’re under the gun and under the line light 24/7.

Dave Drake:

So there’s no place for them to rest and just be themselves and think clearly. And so I would encourage them to have more time out. I would encourage them to find some smaller wins that they can use as sort of what did we call it? Islands of sanity. And so as a way to realize that not everything’s going down in flames, not everything’s a trouble. There’s a lot of people doing a lot of amazing things.

Dave Drake:

And so I would just give them more opportunities to tell some other kinds of stories and to really look at both. And the thing about humans is that we have a very narrow window of time. And we’re very myopic about time. And so other native Americans in the state. And I know I’m doing a couple of projects here with the Aboriginal community, same thing where they have millennia of stories and time with land and perspective on time.

Dave Drake:

And so I think I would coach a leader to say, look at the history of your own country, look at the future of your own country and you have to address the political and social and media realities in which you live. But you can actually define that in ways that you would like, which again means you need some projects and initiatives which are not under the usual scrutiny but actually demonstrate the kind of spaciousness you’re trying to create as a leader. And because the reality is if I were coaching them, is to say that if everybody waits for somebody else to go first, we’re all going to come in last.

Jill Livesey:

Lovely. Thank you. One more question.

Dave Drake:

Sure.

Jill Livesey:

Back to thinking about the coaching community, because I imagine a lot of coaches will be listening to this. In your heart of hearts, what would you wish for the coaching profession going forward?

Dave Drake:

Well as, as you know I’ve spent nearly 20 years sort of jousting at the coaching profession and with some success and some not. But for me, at the time coaching was the closest I could come to the work I was already doing anyways. Then there was all of a sudden a profession that matched enough and I also here in Sydney actually when I first did my public presentation on narrative coaching, I got the very first one I ever did. It was really handy because I did a demonstration at the end of the ICF meeting in here in Sydney and was, I never demonstrated that work in public and I thought it went really extraordinarily well.

Dave Drake:

People are a bit mystified by part of it because it didn’t recognize what I was doing in some ways. But then they had a really, a more traditional master coach on as part of their usual ICF program after me. And she was very good and she was also very extroverted and very goal oriented and very driven and very method focused. And her gift to me was I said, “I don’t do any of those things.” And then the contrast between myself and her was really quite clear. And so one of the things, as I feel like I’ve, I will continue to contribute to coaching and I’m doing this and I’m doing another session tomorrow night for another coaching group. So I’ll continue to grow because, and give to that community because there are a lot of my friends and colleagues and they’re trying to do a lot of good things in the world.

Dave Drake:

And at the same time in our new business, we’re actually building whole lines of business that have nothing to do with coaching. Because again, we realize my next book is on integrative development, which is bringing together training, coaching and OD into one practice in one person. And so for me, what I realized is that my heart of hearts wish for coaches is that recognizing that coaching is just a way of being. It’s a way of talking for which we get paid. But there’s a whole bunches of other ways we can get paid to show up in different ways. And we can’t just all be competing for the same C-suite clients or team coaching projects. That’s important. But it’s just a drop in the bucket because when we do that, we’re always going to be in a reactive space where we’re responding to whatever’s going on for the client.

Dave Drake:

And so we’re just basically following the clients around and yeah, we can help them be more proactive and do some new things, but we’re at their whim of what they want to work on. And so I see coaching becoming more proactive, more generative. And so we’re in the Institute, we’re looking at three basic pillars. One is spiritual maturity, to be able to work this way, one is coaching capability, and the third one is what we call social generativity. The ability to go make a difference with your coaching, not through charity. That’s just one way. But through the very nature by which we work. And so we’re looking at then creating a sort of a social measure for every one of our client projects. And if they don’t have a social measure built in, then we don’t take them as clients.

Jill Livesey:

Wonderful. And the name of the book again?

Dave Drake:

My book is that just Narrative Coaching, The Definitive Guide.

Jill Livesey:

And coming out when did you say?

Dave Drake:

The Narrative Coaching books came out last year and the integrative development book will be out next year.

Jill Livesey:

Next year?

Dave Drake:

Yeah.

Jill Livesey:

Okay. And again, we’ll put that in the show notes.

Dave Drake:

Great.

Jill Livesey:

Thank you so much for your time today.

Dave Drake:

You’re welcome.

Jill Livesey:

It’s been fascinating and I’m sure there’s lots of great insights that will both infuse and product lots of us coaches out there. Thank you.

Dave Drake:

Thank you very much.

Jill Livesey:

So we’re going to do some quick fire questions, David, before we finish. And one word response is all you need to give me. So tea or coffee?

Dave Drake:

Tea.

Jill Livesey:

Cats or dogs?

Dave Drake:

Dogs.

Jill Livesey:

Morning or evening?

Dave Drake:

Morning.

Jill Livesey:

Favorite movie?

Dave Drake:

Casablanca.

Jill Livesey:

Obama or Trump?

Dave Drake: Obama.

Jill Livesey:

Favorite food?

Dave Drake:

Favorite food, salmon.

Jill Livesey:

Last holiday?

Dave Drake:

Last holiday, 10 days on an Island in British Columbia.

Jill Livesey:

Wonderful. Thank you.

Dave Drake:

You’re welcome.

Pounéh Sedghi
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