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What would Sooty say? Part 2 – Sweep and Soo give their perspectives too!

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

In part one of this blog I explored the beauty of silence in coaching, this follow on blog is of itself in two halves, both about Perspective – read on and enjoy!


Part 1 - Our perspectives and world views (a.k.a Weltanschauung)


We all have perspectives on everything, which is the nature of being human. When you engage in coaching it is often your perspective on a problem that your coach is there to help you with – to find a different way to look at it and unlock potential for different experiences and possible ways forward as a result.


Perspective is a powerful human trait and if you act in line with your perspectives, which we all do, then it can have positive and/or negative effects, effects that I’d argue are rarely neutral. I believe that we are all leaders in life. Leadership without authority so to speak, where you don’t have the ‘hard power’ of systems and power structures, but you do have people who follow because they want or need to. This is true of families, teams, gangs and also in the workplace, although hard power also exists in these setups as well – this is more about the former as they are more authentic.


How you use and enact your perspective is therefore really important. Very senior leaders know that it’s not necessarily what they say or do that is the point, it is often how you are perceived that’s important. This can make or break your ability to be a true leader because much of that is about influence, congruence and empathy.


Gaining a deeper understanding of your own perspective is a big part of the work in coaching. If you don’t deeply understand where you are coming from and how you see things, how your perspectives connect to your actions and their consequences, then why would you expect others to? However, this is the work of a coach, through active and compassionate listening, prompting and questioning you sympathetically and insightfully can develop a shared understanding and reach new conclusions. This, in turn, can change perspectives and make your actions more meaningful to you and to others. In itself this is a kind of growth, there is much work involved with this, and it is, I would argue in the coaching context done through dialogue, experimentation, reflection and shared learning.


As most leaders know, leadership is not about skills. It is much more about deep self-awareness, resourcefulness (by which I mean internal and external resourcefulness and connections with others) and the power of communication as ‘speech acts’ that can enable you to move from being a poor leader to a competent leader and then, if you are prepared to do the work, the potential for a great leader – a leader who is grounded and connected with yourself and others, more confident and knowing and also acceptable; something that sadly appears lacking in many leadership figures these days.


Coaching, if used wisely is there to challenge your perspectives and world view. It also allows you to listen and learn, to reach your own conclusions, and make appropriate decisions that are meaningful to you. This is also linked to authenticity in leadership. This is where you really do believe what you say and do. The worst of it, for people who rise to the top levels of leadership without authenticity, is that everyone can see and experience it – you are like an empress or emperor with the 'new clothes'. A key moral of that story is that people become exposed when they don’t listen to the perspective of others, but only those who reaffirm their own reality and perspective.


Part 2 – Collective Wisdom


The second part of this blog is about gaining insight and perspective through collective wisdom. This is where Sweep and Soo enter my story.

Puppets Sooty the bear, Sweep the dog and Soo the panda bear depicted as cartoons.
Sooty, Sweep and Sue

Sweep, Sooty’s friend is not silent at all. He can’t speak ‘words’ but he can speak volumes as he squeaks out the syllables and his intonation means you can understand him. He most often has a different perspective than sweep, and also uses sausages and bones to help him communicate which are a key part of his perspective on the world. Two of Squeak’s most powerful attributes are that he sees the world very simply and he is always funny.


Soo, who is able to speak is the foil of the other characters. She, in my analogy, acts as the protagonist and the calm insightful coach that keeps the flow and checks and balances in place. Between them, they make a formidable set of puppets whose perspectives might be very helpful if you want to start thinking outside of the box - see a link to their new shows at the bottom of this blog.


It is time for me to talk once again about my friend and mentor Dr Arthur Turner and his work on creativity in coaching, as he uses finger puppets to support the asking of questions from different perspectives. His puppets might include characters like William Shakespeare, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh (mindfulness) or any other person from whom a meaningful perspective might be useful to the coachee, there is a link to his work at the end of this blog.


The concept of using artefacts in coaching is not new. There are different approaches using tools, objects, strengths cards, story cubes as well, but puppets are more animated characters and can give another meaningful and more engaged perspective, albeit one that is derived from those in the room.


I have used puppets in my own practice in 1-2-1 coaching situations and it is so powerful to observe a coachee finding meaning in the different perspectives that this can bring; In one session the connection was so powerful I let my client keep the puppet! As a coach, you can also have these things in your mind as well, as you can ask a coachee to choose a particularly meaningful character and then ask them to consider questions from the perspective of that character, as this once again can support you in a deeper understanding of the worldviews in the room as you coach and guide and most importantly learn, as the coachee might well choose different questions than you – you can try taking it in turns!


I have also been coached in an action learning set where those in the group asked questions not only from their perspective but also from the perspective of their chosen puppet – something that was meaningful to them. This again was immensely powerful as the different perspectives and questions triggered ideas and feelings that my coaching facilitator guided me to consider. I’ve used similar techniques in learning sets that I’ve facilitated and I can tell you, it’s powerful and enlightening for all involved.


Conclusion


As you will now be aware from reading my blogs I have a high level of interest in both the Ontological and Cognitive Behavioural aspects of coaching as well as using Humour as a way to stimulate and change the internal state of my coachees so as to enhance their effect on the world around them. I think that using puppets and objects as ways to stimulate and engage different perspectives and experience for coachees has merit, especially in this context and I would urge you to experiment for yourself.


Check out Dr Arthur Turner’s paper Coaching practice, using puppets as artefacts to find out more about how to use these ideas in practice, as this has been a seminal paper and has in part, inspired this blog.


Also to find out more about perspectives and meaningful actions, look at my previous blog It is what you say and the way that you say it, that's what gets results!


I am also really pleased to say that the Sooty, Sweep and Soo puppets are still going strong, check out the link for the Sooty Show website you might learn something ;-) new.


As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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