Supportive Techniques for Group Coaching Practice

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Students come into this series at different levels and set different goals, but we all support each other through the process. In this video, I speak about providing and receiving unconditional support without judgement- and without sacrificing honesty. 

Supportive techniques for coaching group practice

NOTE:  MAKE SURE YOU COVER “RECEIVING COACHING: A PRIMER” FIRST, **BEFORE** LOOKING AT THIS ONE. That’s important, so go back and do that now, before looking further here. Then, come back!

Welcome to my Group Coaching Series!

I have a special practice of working with groups, one that I developed over a period of many years, especially through the Performance Prep Series that I ran for over ten years live in New York City, and I’m excited to bring the benefits of this coaching format online, to connect dancers all over the world with a network of support within the safe “container” of this work.

BENEFITS OF BEING PART OF A GROUP COACHING ENVIRONMENT

-In witnessing the work of others, you can learn the practice of unconditional support, and how to be open to and patient with someone else’s process. Practicing this kind of acceptance also helps you with self-acceptance.

- The group coaching environment is a great illustration of my view that the audience is the same as us, and that our ability to look at ourselves with honesty and self-support translates to our capacity to do the same for our audiences. The process of performing for others and witnessing their performances brings this reality home.

-The learning is not limited to your own work; you can learn a lot by watching others respond to coaching and try new things. Some of these you will be able to apply to yourself, saying, Wow, I do that too! and in other cases, you may say, Wow, that person is very different from me in her challenges and responses! And it will give you greater insight about yourself too

- If you are a teacher, you can learn from a different teacher’s coaching approach, and maybe get some ideas you will be able to apply in your own work (I may offer coach trainings in a future program, if you’d like to learn my methods more formally, so please notify me at support@gingercity.com to get on the waiting list for that).
Just be sure to put yourself in observer mode and take yourself out of teacher mode for this group coaching experience. I know that may be hard, but please make it a commitment to do that! My coaching process approaches all dancers as being equals, regardless of their level of experience as a dancer or teacher, and I ask everyone to help contribute to this feeling.

CONFIDENTIALITY AND HOLDING PRIVATE, SUPPORTIVE SPACE FOR EACH OTHER

- CONFIDENTIALITY.  Everyone is different in their threshold for disclosure, so let’s play on the safe side. Don’t speak to anyone outside our group sessions about anyone else’s specific process, or even that they are a part of the group (and you may want to keep that same policy for yours too, depending…) – don’t assume it’s ok to share something, even if you would not personally be upset if someone shared similar details about you. When I give an example of a previous dancer I have coached in my own teaching work to make a point, notice that I make sure all personally identifiable details are absolutely hidden, so that it is the example and not the person that is the focus.

- MUTUAL RESPECT.  Respecting others’ bravery and honoring their vulnerability is key to a successful group coaching experience. I have the utmost respect for dancers who are coming to receive coaching, and this is a value I hope to instill in all of you too. In getting coaching, it doesn’t make you any less of a star, and it doesn’t mean you are “less than,” even if you may feel vulnerable at times. Coaching is an investment in yourself, when you feel ready to get to your own next level as a dancer and performer, and you are ready to allow a third-person perspective to give you additional tools for your work. Let’s hold this space of respect, unconditionally, for everyone, regardless of their level of experience, age, physical type, gender, or any other factor.

- KEEP THE DRAMA ONSTAGE (NOT OFFSTAGE).  There are many ways to coach performers. Some teachers pit fellow coachees against each other in competition. I absolutely reject this approach in my own work as a coach, and never want to create drama around the coaching process, for anyone. I do sometimes point out similarities in personality or constitutional qualities in two performers, or in a famous icon that I’d like to see you “try on”. In each case, my intent is to give you an example that is outside yourself so you can take the third-person observer perspective, and then try to apply what you learn to your own experience in performing. It is not to compare you favorably or unfavorably with anyone else. My aim is to create support, and a sense of friendly acceptance, even of not needing to take something so seriously, so that you can feel comfortable trying those things that might initially feel a little scary emotionally, in a safe space where everyone is invested in each others’ growth. Comparing you to someone else also can help unite you two in common goals, cheering each others’ progress in addressing similar issues and giving you a partner that you can relate to in the experience of working on them. If you ever feel uncomfortable about this or any aspect of my coaching process, definitely speak up (either publicly or privately), and I will gladly address it. 

-WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM.  In my coaching space, I am opposed to anything that creates division or competition, or causes anyone to feel less safe trying things out in the coaching process, and will gently but firmly put a stop to it if I perceive it in any way under my watch. 

-SHOWING UP FOR EACH OTHER. As part of the commitment to the group coaching, you must be there to witness the other members of your group, preferably all three meetings, but at least two of the meetings. Get on the call early so you are sure to be there from the beginning. I know that last-minute emergency things may sometimes come up, so if you have to miss, please let us all know (not just me). If you can show up only for your own slots, that is not good form for the group series, and you’d be better off doing the solo coaching option for this round. 

- NOT THE RIGHT FIT FOR GROUP COACHING? It only rarely happens, but if you or I perceive you are not a good fit for my group coaching setting, or if you feel you’d prefer the private coaching option for any reason, I can still coach you privately and will gladly move you to the solo option.

WHEN TO GIVE FEEDBACK TO EACH OTHER, AND HOW TO DO IT

  • MY JOB AND YOURS.  I take my role as facilitator seriously, and I ask that you also recognize my role in that. Everyone in the course has specifically signed up and paid for my feedback, so it’s most important for me that everyone feels they are receiving feedback from me, primarily, but it is sometimes a great idea to get a variety of opinions, whether they agree or disagree with the feedback I have given. I wait for the right timing in asking for others’ feedback for the person in focus, and in those moments it is ideal if you are ready to give some feedback. 

  • PREPARE TO RECEIVE. Open yourself, make yourself neutral. Check any preconceptions or expectations, identify them as such, and let them go. Be prepared to see or feel something unexpected. Start as a blank slate or as an empty jar. This way you can be a better mirror for the performer, better able to give them an honest reaction that comes from a place of neutral observing.
  • GOOD NEWS BEFORE BAD.   A good general rule in giving feedback is to give the good news first, and anything “negative” after, being sure to include at least something positive, to make the negative part easier to accept (that’s just human!). So, start the comment with something that worked well in the person’s performance for you as an audience member—put it in your OWN perspective. Then voice any more critical feedback afterwards, carefully, in terms of how it affected you personally as an audience member, with a perspective of their own goals as a performer (which I will elicit in my questions first). Use specifics for both “positive” and “critical” feedback, so, for example, instead of “You really looked beautiful,” give a more specific comment like, “Your smooth arm movements and head angle really complemented each other beautifully, and that made me feel like you were really enjoying what you were doing, so I could enjoy it too.” In terms of critical feedback, avoid unqualified comments like “that part didn’t work for me,” and aim for more specifics: “I didn’t feel the confidence from you, maybe because I noticed you were looking down a lot” or “I had a harder time focusing on your feeling, maybe because I saw that you were using many different movements and those took my attention”.  Even just saying the first part of each of those sentences is good, because then I can probe you for why, and then it looks like that process is coming from me and not from you (it is usually better, especially for more critical feedback, if it comes from me, as facilitator, or at least that I can help steer it). 
  • DON’T BE THE TEACHER.  Try to hold back from “problem solving” or “teaching,” because that may change the dynamic in our coaching group. Aim for the audience perspective, not the coach perspective, in your own comments. For example: “for me, the energy in your hands didn’t quite reach me.” That gives me, as facilitator, a chance to offer more specific technique feedback, like on how to achieve greater use of energy in the hands. 
  • DON’T BE THE TECHNIQUE CRITIC. Please don’t give critical dance technique feedback to your fellow coachees, because I don’t want that type of thing to change the dynamic between coachees, to anything resembling a dance teacher-student relationship. It will kill the trust between you as coachees if you do this, it will kill the trust the other coachees have in me, and it will undermine the protective container for exploration that I seek to build through this process. So, let me keep the dance teacher role for myself, since that is what everyone expects of me; they don’t expect fellow coachees to be their teacher here. 
  • ENJOY YOUR ROLE: AUDIENCE PERSPECTIVE  Your role in this process is to take the audience perspective: How does the performance you are watching connect, or not connect, with the audience? I seek for your relationship with your fellow coachees to be as supportive audience members, supporting each other’s successes, getting through the more difficult parts, and emotional risk-taking. You can compare, across two performances, which one worked more for you; that can provide helpful information for fellow coachees. Try to be as objective as possible, but your subjective reactions as audience member are of course part of your response. 
  • ITCHY FINGERS?  If you are a curious teacher, a technique nerd, or just have a technique question that comes up as a result of watching someone else’s performance, you can always ask me about this in a private message or with regards to your own performance if it applies there, to avoid making it a part of someone else’s growth experience unless they explicitly want that. That allows me to bring it up in a way that benefits everyone, if I think it should be shared in the larger group, without identifying you as the source of the comment or question. Sometimes it’s better to keep these things anonymous, and let me present the point so that I can answer the question and bring the value to everyone. 
  • BECOME AWARE OF YOUR UNCONSCIOUS REACTIONS IN SUPPORTING OTHERS. How can you bring awareness to how you are being as an audience member? In a video (or in-person) group setting where you are visible live, remember that your facial expressions and reactions may affect the performer during or after their performance. Someone will not feel good if they see you checking your phone or doing something else while they are dancing, when they are expecting your support as an audience, and they might perceive your look of concentration as a frown, so try to keep it light and welcoming. Especially since our audience will be small, each member in the live session is important!

    Another thing you may want to look at, that helps keep your focus on the being and the watching: The breathwork tips I provide may help you to keep a more neutral and even supportive/accepting facial expression, such that the performer sees that you are ready to receive their performance. Keep this in mind, in helping to make space for the performer to feel brave both in their performances and in receiving feedback and coaching

Thank you for respecting my intellectual property in the content contained here and in related videos. This means not sharing the content with others, copying, or using as your own the information in my PDF documents, online program pages, video or audio programming. If you would like to share something that you have gained through my coaching series, you must first obtain my express written permission, and then assign proper credit as requested. Thank you!

Copyright 2017 Ranya Renée Fleysher. All rights reserved.

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