Learn Faster, Better, Smarter with the Accelerated Learning Loop

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“In a world of change, the learners shall inherit the earth, while the learned shall find themselves perfectly suited for a world that no longer exists.” Eric Hoffer

Accelerated Learning,  is the ability to learn faster, better, smarter. It is a critical skill which will help you succeed in todays accelerated times. 

Think of something you tried to learn but failed. Perhaps a new language, a musical instrument or cooking. For many the guitar is now gathering dust in the corner of the room alongside many other broken dreams.

I believe a primary reason for failure is limited awareness of how to learn.

Learning, how to learn, has been proven to increase your performance not just moderately but as Tim Ferris has demonstrated, enable you to enter the top 5% of performers in a field. 

To deepen my own learning process i immersed myself into the worlds of five master learners:

  1. Tim Ferris – Author of 4 hour work week. Tim has applied Accelerated Learning to almost all part of his life. For example, he can master a new language in 3 months.
  2. Josh Kaufman – Author of “The First 20 Hours”. He shows how, you can go from knowing absolutely nothing to performing noticeably well in under 20hrs.
  3. Sharon Bowman – Author of Training from the Back of the room highlights the importance of neuroscience in the learning process
  4. Chris Argyris – Created the concept of Double loop learning. Applied it can create deeper breakthroughs in learning for individuals and organisations.
  5. Cal Newport – Author of Deep Work, explains the principles which can enable you to do your best thinking.

Using this method I have accelerated learning in many areas of my life. This includes guitar playing, skateboarding and software development. As I applied these I noticed patterns emerge which has evolved in the Accelerated Learning Loop, a process to help you learning faster, better, smarter.

Accelerated Learning Loop

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Connection

The desire to learn – that is, to connect in meaningful ways to the physical environment and everything in it – is innate to the brain. For you personally, this means that, in order to learn effectively, you’ll want to connect your own past experiences and prior knowledge to the topic you’re learning about. – Sharon Bowman

Connection has three parts: 

  1. Connection to place
  2. Connection to future
  3. Connection to present

 Connection to place is about creating the right environment for learning. Applying the following Deep Work principles: 

  • Remove distractions
  • Schedule focused time
  • Make yourself difficult to get hold of
  • Use background music to maximise effect
  • Sleep well to integrate your learning

Connection to future is about creating a picture of the future once you have obtained the new skill. What will have changed as a result of learning? What will be the first signs of success? I often use a Clean Setup, taken from Clean Language, to pay attention to my learning metaphors: 

  • What would you like to have happen?
  • And for that to happen, i need to be like what?
  • What do I need to learn for that to happen?

Connecting to present allows you to identify the focus area for your learning. Connection to present is about connecting to the present moment. It is understanding based upon the vision for the future where are you today. What aspect of the future is already present, what is missing. It is exploring what you may already know about the skill/topic/focus area for your learning. Even on topics alien to us there are connections we can make to current knowledge. I typical focus attention on the following: 

  1. List 5 facts i know about this topic already
  2. List 5 riddles, questions or puzzles i would like the answer to

With this deeper connection we can craft a clearer picture of our learning goals.  Now we have set foundations it is time to plan the learning. If you have a tendency to dive in, taking a little bit of time to plan your learning does enable you to learn efficiency. Remember, the power is learning how to learn so this step is important. The approach I use is DiSSS, an Accelerated Learning approach created by Tim Ferris. It breaks the planning into 4 stages: 

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 Learning from Tim Ferris I have used this approach for many topics. By crunching down and focusing on the most important elements accelerates your learning . Once you form a habit around this technique you can continue to apply it for all learning. 

Deliberate Practice

While regular practice might include mindless repetitions, deliberate practice requires focused attention and is conducted with the specific goal of improving performance. – James Clear

This step is all about practicing with focused attention. Putting in place the mechanisms to receive feedback. As a coach, I know the power a coaching relationship can have on maximising your potential. A core concept of deliberate practice is real-time feedback. This could be from a formal coaching relationship or a supportive colleague. The key thing is someone to track, critique and observe your learning in action. This will make all the difference. A common pitfall at this point is too much focus on theory not enough on practice. I have often fallen into the habit of reading a book but not applying into practice.  Deliberate practice requires you to do that. Put into practice what you learn. 

Reflect

Reflection underpins deliberate practice. But, there is a different focus on the reflection at this stage. 

  • Reflecting on the task and result created (Single Loop Learning)
  • Reflecting on the assumptions and beliefs that underpin your learning (Double Loop Learning)

Most of us will be familiar with the first type. We assess the results of our learning against some goals we have set. Did we achieve what we wanted? What stopped us getting there? The second type of reflection might be less familiar. We reflect more on the assumptions and beliefs that influenced our learning. Did I assume a certain aspect of the skill is less important? Did i avoid certain aspects due to a limiting belief.

This is double loop learning. These assumptions are hard to identify yourself. They are often hidden in plain sight but invisible to ourselves. A coach can help increase our awareness of these assumptions and beliefs. This double loop learning is what can accelerate future learning. Remember – It’s a loop.

 Once you have completed, remember this is a loop. 

Summary 

Applying this Accelerated Learning Loop will enable you to learn anything faster, better and smarter. Mastering each step on the learning loop itself is incredibly difficult never mind applying all of these together. However, there is a secret. You can apply these principles to learn Accelerated Learning. Meta-meta. 

What will you learn next? 

Please do share any success you have with applying the Accelerated Learning Loop

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How to measure coaching conditions – The “Agile” Shipping Forecast

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The Shipping Forecast is a BBC Radio broadcast of weather reports and forecasts for the seas around the coasts of the British Isles. In October 1859, the steam clipper Royal Charter was wrecked in a strong storm off Anglesey; 450 people lost their lives. Due to this loss, Vice-Admiral Robert FitzRoy introduced a warning service for shipping in February 1861, using telegraph communications.

Wouldn’t it be great to have a similar shipping forecast for agile coaches? A way to assess the conditions we are going to face to enable better coaching decisions. Are the seas going to be rough or smooth? Will the ship sink or swim?

The Shipping Forecast assesses 4 conditions; wind direction, strength, precipitation and visibility.

What would be the conditions of a “agile” Shipping Forecast?

I have identified 5 conditions:

Item Description Why
Shared Why There is a problem statement all involved agree with and are passionate about. With no clear problem definition, people are unlikely change. It is likely people will ask “why are we doing this”
Capacity Change takes time and emotional energy. All those involved need to the time and space to change. This often means reducing work in progress. Adding change activities on top of an already overburdened group is not sustainable. Whilst motivation may be high early on, often efforts will end in the long run.
Management Commitment There is commitment from Management within the organisation.   As high up the hierarchy as possible. This commitment translates into direct action with demonstrable leadership. Not cheerleading from the sidelines. Lack of management buy is citied by many as a primary reason for change failure. Demonstrable leadership by management will inspire change within the organisation.
Safety Phycological safety has been identified as a primary factor in the performance of teams. It is a critical factor in enabling change. Do people feel safe to voice their concerns and opinions? Or is there an atmosphere of fear? Without the right levels of Phycological safety there may be low levels of engagement in the change. There is also a risk of imposed change rather than integrated change.
Stakeholder Support Is there support from the wider community for this change. This could be sponsors, influencers of the work you are doing but not direct contributors Without support from the people around the change, they may put many roadblocks in the way. You may not need direct action from them but you’ll at least need their support.

How could I assess these 5 conditions?

I identified the key questions for each conditions and built a simple survey.

Item Measure How
Shared Why What is the purpose for this change? Ask everyone involved to write down in 100 words or less

Translate into agreement scale

Capacity My team are too busy to improve 5 – Strongly Agree

4 – Agree

3 – Neutral

2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly Disagree

Management Commitment What is the level of commitment from your direct management? 5 – Committed

4 – Supportive

3 – Undecided

2-  Unaware

1- Opposed

Safety How comfortable are you in raising issues amongst the group? 5 – No Problem, I’ll talk about anything

4 – I’ll talk about almost anything; a few things might be hard

3 – I’ll talk about some things, but others will be hard to say

2 – I’m not going to say much, I’ll let others bring up issues

1 – I’ll smile, claim everything is great and agree with managers

Stakeholder Support Our stakeholders are supportive of change 5 – Strongly Agree

4 – Agree

3 – Neutral

2 – Disagree

1 – Strongly Disagree

Each of the results are added up to give a score out of a possible 25.

  • >20: Good (Smooth Seas)
  • >10 <20: Caution (High winds)
  • < 9: Stop (Storms)

How are the results used?

At the start of a coaching engagement.

It helps identify the current conditions within the group/team. The results will help the coach create the engagement actions. For example, if the conditions suggest there is no “Shared Why” it may be a good starting point to run a vision setting session for all involved.

During a coaching engagement.

Conditions change over time so the barometer is used to regularly review. The shared why we created from that vision session a few weeks back, do we still have agreement? The barometer helps give a trend over time which provides further insights.

You can try out the “Agile” Shipping Forecast here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/6LWHJSV

Please do share any feedback and I would live to hear more about what conditions would make your shipping forecast?

How I became an ICF Associate Certified Coach

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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?

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

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

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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

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“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.

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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: http://canscorpionssmoke.com/