How I became an ICF Associate Certified Coach


Snip20180218_2Last week marked a significant milestone on my journey to become a coach as I received my Associate Coach Credential from the International Coaching Federation (ICF). The ICF are one of the governing bodies for coaching globally and it’s an honour to be recognised as a certified coach.

Compared to many of the certifications i’ve managed to obtain in the IT and Agile world the ICF ACC requires a high investment in training and time. Its taken me almost two years to get to this point. The journey has been a fun ride but at times navigating the coach credential process can be overwhelming.

Here is an outline of my journey and what helped me get to this point!

When does your journey start?


Check out my Coaching Toolkit for more details on the tools listed.


Know Your Onion! A Virtual Coaching Circle for you to learn Coaching


Coaching can be a confusing and daunting topic to learn. Many people are confused by the various approaches and schools of thought. Is coaching the same as mentoring? Whats the difference between coaching and counselling? Isn’t coaching just asking questions?

I started my journey 2 years ago with the same challenges and questions. I have found some answers, discovered new questions and have grown immensely through the journey.

One of the things that has really helped deepen my coaching awareness is Coaching Circles. These are small group sessions that enable you to learn collaboratively with others about coaching.

Know Your Onion! is a Coaching Circle, hosted virtually, aimed at anyone who wants to learn more about coaching. It is primarily aimed at those new to coaching but anyone is welcome to join. This coaching circle is free of charge.

We will not be learning about onions, explained below, unless someone has an onion addiction they’d like to overcome?

I want to join now! 

I want to know more. Read on…..

What is a coaching circle?

A coaching circle is a small group of individuals with common goals who want to work on those goals in a supportive and motivating environment. This coaching circle is aimed at anyone who wants to learn and deepen their understanding of coaching.

The coaching circle will be hosted virtually and will adopt an experiential learning approach which means participants will learn by doing!

Each coaching circle will be facilitated by a trained and qualified coached who will take the participants through an exercise to experience different aspects of coaching; listening, observing, empathising, questioning, integrating.

A typical session will involve participants taking it in turns to present a goal or challenge and then receive coaching from the rest of the group.

You will have the opportunity to coach, be coached or simply observe.

Sessions will be held monthly and each session will be around 60 minutes in length.

Each circle is limited to 8 people so that everyone feels comfortable to contribute.

Why Know Your Onion?

a) Its a song by one of my favourite bands – The Shins

b) Its random

c) It’s also a phrase to describe that means to be knowledge about a subject [1] which is what this circle is all about!

Register here to receive details for the first Know Your Onion! Coaching Circle

If you would like more details feel free to contact me via twitter @TobySinclair_

Here are 3 links from my blog which might help if you want to learn about coaching:

I was also recently guest on a “Ask me anything” Coaching session. You can watch the replay here


Workshop Preparation Canvas


“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” 
― Abraham Lincoln

I have run many workshops and by far the most important part to a successful workshop is the preparation. From my experience a one day workshop requires at least three days preparation and maybe more if it is a workshop i’m running for the first time.

How do I spend that time?

To help prepare for workshops I created the Workshop Preparation Canvas.


The Workshop Preparation Canvas contains the 6 P’s you should consider during your preparation:

  1. Purpose – Why is this workshop happening?
  2. Practicalities – What will be required?
  3. Participants – Who needs to be there?
  4. Products – What are the inputs and outputs?
  5. Process – What is the agenda?
  6. Principles – How do we want to work?

This canvas was inspired by the 5 P’s of Michael Wilkinson and the awesome facilitators that have inspired me over the years, especially Ellen Gottesdiener and Jean Tabaka.

I hope this canvas helps with your next workshop!





3 amazing ways neuroscience can supercharge your coaching


Neuroscience sounds like a complicated topic. I was never very good with science at school and when I heard about science stuff I would often break out in a cold sweat. However, over the past year i’ve been immersing myself into the world of science. As a coach, i have found an understanding of the the brain and body incredibly helpful in supporting the transformation of my clients.

Last week i attended a course entitled “Neuroscience for coaches” led by Amy Brann who wrote a book with the same title. I signed up for the course because i wanted a way to learn more about how neuroscience could supercharge my coaching. I attempted to read a few books on the topic but often found them difficult to read so wanted an experiential course to help immerse me into the topic.

Amy’s teaching style was great and really helped me quickly grasp some of the concepts of how Neuroscience can really help coaches.

The 3 ways i learned that neuroscience could supercharge my coaching were brain basics, the neuroscience of change and neuroscience of emotions:

1 – Brain basics


As a coach i think its important to understand the basic structure of the brain. This helps you understand more about what could be happening inside the brain of your client. An appreciation for how the different parts of the brain interact, how neural pathways are formed and brain chemistry. A very simple technique we learnt was the Peter Siegel hand model which is a simple way to explain the structure of the brain. I learned about the 4 common brain networks; Executive, Salience, Default and Limbic and also about the chemistry of the brain; oxytocin, dopamine, adrenaline, cortisol and serotonin.

2 – Neuroscience of change

Neuroplasticity is defined as:

“..the change in neural pathways and synapses that occurs due to certain factors, like behavior, environment, or neural processes. During such changes, the brain engages in synaptic pruning, deleting the neural connections that are no longer necessary or useful, and strengthening the necessary ones.” [ref]

As the definition eludes an understanding of neruoplasticity is important for coaches. In brain speak, if we are to create lasting change we need to help people create and change their neural pathways. Throughout the course we explored further the science behind change. Studies show that neural pathways are formed through emotional experiences and repeated exposure. If we are to help our clients we need to engage their emotional brain, amygdala, and form habits around the behaviours they want to adopt.

3 – Neuroscience of emotions


A third topic we explored was the brain and emotions. The amygdala is the part of the brain most associated with emotions. We explored how versatile and different everyones brains are. Emotions are often processed differently from person to person. Often we use framing for emotions either through visual queues such as facial movements or language. These can however often mislead the brain and we can interpret the emotion incorrectly. Emotions are hard to interpret and often requires a high degree of self-awareness to be fully in tune with their emotions.  Coaches often explore feelings with their clients and often ask questions such as “How do you feel about that?” Understanding the neuroscience of feelings and emotions it was clear what a big question this was. If we are to truly answer this question it requires a deep awareness.

Neuroscience is a vast emerging area. The 2 days with Amy helped me explore this fascinating topic which has really got me interested. I have already bought 2 books to read about the topic further.

Coaches who want to explore the Neuroscience of Coaching further i would highly recommend Amy’s 2 day course or Amy’s book; Neuroscience for coaches.



What masks do you wear? My experience at a mask therapy workshop


What masks do you wear?

We wear masks throughout our life allowing us to both reveal and conceal our identities. The mask we wear will often depend on our social context and our emotional state. Many people have a closet of masks, developed since childhood, which we swap and change many times a day; a mask for work, a mask for family and a mask for friends. These masks slowly evolve and change so much that many people often loose a sense of identity. Is this the mask or is it really me?

What characters are hiding in the shadows?

Coaching has often helped me explore my identity. Coaching has allowed me to reflect on situations where I have acted differently than i might have wanted and when I have felt hijacked in my thinking. As a coach I have also learnt that congruence of identity is important to forming transformational coaching relationships. Carl Rogers highlights congruence as a core condition to building a therapeutic relationship.

I have often felt followed by shadow characters, parts of my personality just below consciousness, always there, but not fully experienced. Often these shadows only come to life if provoked, such as when I feel under pressure. Jung described this as the “Id”; an unconscious aspect of the personality which the conscious ego does not identify in itself [ref]

I’m often intrigued to explore these shadow characters, to be more aware of how they can help and hinder my personal development. Throughout coaching relationships I will often help my clients explore the different characters in their shadows, often the characters which are holding them back from achieving their goals. If i’m to encourage my clients to explore the parts of themselves I too must be open to exploring myself and gaining a deeper awareness of who i really am. How can I explore the characters in the shadows?

Exploring the masks

Last week I attended a mask therapy workshop facilitated by the wonderful Steve Chapman who provides a great summary of using masks:

Masks are the ultimate permission giving tools. They allow us to tap into and unlock different parts of ourselves. They can help us to find different ways of moving, different ways of thinking and different ways of speaking. They can kick start our imagination, our creativity and get us back in touch with our natural spontaneity. They allow us to develop characters that are exaggerations or polar opposites of how we experience ourselves on a daily basis. They allow us to explore different parts of our personalities in order to get to know ourselves better and understand some of our foibles, projections and fixed self-images that keep us stuck. Best of all masks are a powerful, exciting and highly entertaining method of personal development.

The technique is grounded in Gestalt therapy which focuses on thoughts, feelings and action in the present moment. The mask is used as a physical embodiment to enable you to experience the mask in the present moment.

During the workshop Steve led us through several activities including an improvised TED Talk and a Soap Opera to help us fully experience the personality behind the masks.

My shadow characters

Throughout the day we wore different masks which resulted in very different experiences across the group. During one exercise, the mask of Bernie, a weird, bald, toothless man led me to a very emotional experience.


Whilst wearing this mask I became an old man, full of regret, broken dreams and sadness. The few short minutes wearing the mask were very intense. After removing the mask it took a few minutes for the emotion to subside.

Reflecting in the break I felt more aware of the shadow characters I mentioned earlier. Through Bernie, one of my shadow characters became real. The experience enabled me to gain a deeper awareness of my relationship with regret and with the future. It helped me to gain a greater appreciation of the present moment and what life can give today.

The power of masks

The mask workshop demonstrated the power of using masks to experience the different parts of my personality. I was very surprised at the intensity of the experiences across the day. Towards the end of the day Steve remarked that it can often take many months to make sense of what happened. Personally i’m still processing my experience from this fascinating, creative and emotional day.

What masks do you wear?

Do you have a Bernie lingering in the shadows? Maybe your shadow character is an imposter, the inner critic who always casts doubt in your mind? Or maybe your shadow character is a creative genius waiting to be given permission?

If you want to explore your shadows and gain a greater self-awareness I would highly recommend taking part in a mask workshop!

Find out more here:


What I learned from England Rugby Coach Eddie Jones


England Rugby head coach Eddie Jones recently hosted a live, interactive coaching session at England training headquarters. As a huge rugby fan and professional coach I was eager to understand the Eddie Jones approach to coaching.

When I first trained as a Professional Coach I was confused about how it related to sports coaching. I had seen the typical media representation of sports coaches shouting from the sidelines and it all seemed very directive. Not like the coaching I had learned in my training.

When the coaching session started, the first thing I noticed was that Eddie Jones simply observed the players in action for 3 minutes. During this time Eddie said nothing.

At the players first drinks break I noticed something very interesting. Eddie Jones approached the players and I assumed this was to give them some advice on how to improve. Instead, Eddie asked open questions:

  • How are you going to get a numerical advantage?
  • What else are you going to do?
  • And what else?

After open questions Eddie offered some advice, recommending the players to catch the ball away from their chest.

Throughout the whole session Eddie gave direct feedback either to the whole group or individual players. This often took the form of open questions “After you pass what are you doing?”, “What should you be doing?”, “Where should you be supporting?” and also positive reinforcement “Well Done”, “Excellent”, “Good”.

A question was asked from the reporter “If a player makes a mistake, how do you get them to improve?” Eddie’s response highlighted his situational approach “It depends on the player, sometimes you tell them or sometimes you ask them a question to think for themselves. Its a balance between directive and non-directive.A great example of the scale of influence highlighted my previous blog post.

The coaching space was broken into two areas; Match Zone and Skill Zone.

The match zone was used throughout the whole session with an emphasis on free flowing game play. The majority of coaching was done in the Match zone.

A second smaller area called skill zone was also used. Every so often Eddie would move a few players into the skill zone. Here they would focus on a specific skill that Eddie observed from the match zone. In this case it was catching the ball away from the chest.

I assumed the skill zone coaching would be more directive but again, there was a blend of open questions and direct instruction. After a few minutes the players would return to the match zone to implement their improved skills.

What did I learn?

The Eddie Jones coaching session highlighted that sports coaching can be very similar to the individual and team coaching in the workplace. I learned that observational skills are very important in sports coaching. Eddie was asked “How do you improve your observational skills?” and his reply “Observing other coaches, sit back and watch matches and train your eye.” I also learnt that open questions can be used in several contexts and have a powerful way of creating accountability with the players. Also feedback both general and specific at regular points creates a good coaching environment.

I also learnt how dynamic and fast coaching can be. Often coaching is seen as a long one-to-one coaching session in private but this demonstrated how powerful coaching can be in a dynamic live situation.

What now?

This revealing coaching session taught me several things which I will now integrate into my own coaching. Firstly paying more attention to observation especially when working with teams. Rather than trying to coach or give advice immediately, step back and observe.

Secondly, I love the idea of match zone and skill zone. Applied to my context I can easily see this being a powerful way to coach teams in the workplace. For example, using the teams day-to-day desk area as the match zone and a separate area away from their desks used as the skill zone. Throughout the day switching between the two zones. More to come on this experiment!

“They don’t have the agile mindset” – Naïve Realism in Agile Transformations



Have you noticed anyone driving slower than you is an idiot? And anyone going faster than you is a manic?

This is known as the false consensus effect which is the assumption that most people in a situation would behave in the same way as you would.

I was made aware of this bias on the “You are not so smart” podcast where Lee Ross shares details on this and naive realism.

“They don’t have the agile mindset”

Working in agile transformations this is a common phrase uttered by many, including myself. The podcast from Lee Ross lead me to some serious introspection.

When confronted with people who disagree, I can often fall into the trap of assuming there must be a rational explanation. When I’m working with someone who hasn’t yet adopted an agile mindset I think it’s a gap in their mindset that needs to be addressed through coaching, training and other interventions.

What I don’t often think is that I have the wrong mindset.

Naïve realism is the conviction that we see the world in an objective and mediated way. Because of this belief, we think others will share our view. And we think the problem is how to make others see the world the same as us.

I often call upon my experience within agile teams and organisations as a way to influence and convince others of the agile way of being. I often see myself as being enlightened and helping others also have the same enlightenment. This prevents real transformational change from happening. It prevents open dialogue and prevents my mental model to be challenged.

Questions to reflect upon:

  • How do i stay with the not knowing?
  • How do i remain open to the possibility that it is my mindset that is wrong?
  • How do i show positive regard unconditionally no matter the position of the other person?