Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Rivca Rubin: A Workshop on Mentoring, Leadership and Grow[ing]

30 November – 1 December 2018

Before the winter season set in, AirSpace Gallery received a visit from Rivca Rubin: a practitioner, behavioural scientist and Director of Imag?ne and Upwording Ltd, based in Manchester. In her own words, Rivca “assists people to live the lives they want to live; artists to ascertain their vision, locate the essence and refine their practice; companies to refine, grow purpose, align practice to values, and create working cultures where people are engaged and flourish.”

As part of AirSpace Gallery's ongoing organisational development, Rivca was selected to provide Co Directors Glen Stoker and Anna Francis, and artists Rebecca Davies and Selina Oakes with the tools and strategies to coach and mentor others, as well as to work together, fluently, as the Gallery moves forward into its future phases.

The two-day workshop was intense: from my own perspective, time was needed to let things 'settle in.' The session began with a rumination over our 'Desired Outcomes' – what we wanted to achieve from our time with Rivca. In a personalised journal printed 'Upwording – AirSpace Gallery' with Rivca's tagline “Words change worlds; yours, mine, ours,” we each jotted down a few loose ideas: collectively, we were excited but apprehensive. We spoke about what we wanted more or less of, and then reflected on the wider impacts of realising our desired outcomes – on ourvselves, our networks and the community.

One of the most useful techniques covered during the two-days was the GROW Coaching Model developed by Sir John Whitmore and Carol Wilson. For the purpose of these sessions, Rivca had adapted the GROW model and emphasised the mentor and coach's function as “facilitating their [mentee/ coachee] thinking without contaminating it with your own.” It's common sense really: in order to facilitate someone's thinking and speaking, it is vital that that same person is listened to and given the time to be listened to – a process which is so often neglected in everyday society and often a source of frustration.

So, we learnt to listen: to listen to our mentee's responses – to the language they used and the silences they required. Again, too often are we taught that 'silence' is a negative thing, when quietness can be a moment of thinking and revelation – at least this is what we were trying to learn. Another key part of the GROW model was learning how to detach yourself [as a mentor] from content, judgement and your own conclusions. For example, we [as mentors] asked the questions to stimulate thought rather than suggest responses to questions that may or may not exist.





G- began with What Do You Want? - the larger, Macro, overall goal – and ended with How Important is this to You? - the Micro goal. R- continued with What is Happening Now? - a process of positivity and reflecting on what is already in place, and then observing what is not in place. O- questioned What the Mentee Could Do with the current realities in place. W- concluded with the mentee setting themselves tasks and time scales.

In practising the GROW model between ourselves, we learnt a) more about each other b) more about ourselves c) more about how we do and do not listen. Another technique which attached itself to the GROW model was a process of 'reflecting back' – of mirroring what the mentee said to us, rather than providing new content. This was particularly challenging as, in society, we are frequently taught to speak about ourselves and what we know – rather than mirroring what someone else has said. In feeding back what the mentee had said and neither embellishing it nor adding new content, the mentee's words are solidified and strengthened. It is then up to them to acknowledge their own thoughts when fed back. This was particularly challenging.

Another tool used was eliciting new information through questions such as “What else” and “Is there anything else?” While frustrating at times, it had the potential to elicit new thought or action in the mentee. As mentors, we were asked to provoke self-feedback: asking the mentee to reflect upon their own performance in a presentation, performance or interview situation.

Towards the end of the first day, another model – COCI – was introduced to us. COCI is adapted from Deborah Barnard's Relational Dynamics Coaching and promotes non-violent communication: how to adopt a sense of acceptance and empathy without the need to agree. Before employing COCI we were also asked to either a) wait for an invitation to unpack a comment or conversation or b) ask for permission i.e. “may I share with you what I mean?”

C-lean > state the facts without judgement

O-wn > own your responses and avoid blame

C-urious > remain curious not furious

I-ntention > check your intention: recognise intention to hurt or reprimand and exchange it for an intention to connect and understand.

In using COCI, we were also asked to reflect upon basic human needs such as health and wellbeing, freedom: autonomy and choice, and safety and security. The focus of non-violent communication is to meet our human needs at no cost to ourselves or others. In relation to coaching, it is also important to separate your need from the coachee's needs.

Day two began with a reflection on the previous day's learning and putting the GROW model into practice while assessing each others' performances as mentors and coaches. We also looked at the differences between mentoring – in which mentor may direct the mentee's focus – and coaching – in which the coach guides the coachee with action points. Both however, focus on the learner (mentee/coachee) and 'advise' is rarely given as mentee/ coachee may become dependent on mentor.

Time was spent on how to open a coaching session: for this we followed the Seven Seas model (which is actually 6 Cs and 1 Qs) – Contract, Confidential, Comfort, Clock, Control, Coaching and Questions. We were also asked to 'Check-in' with our mentee at the beginning of each session.

In the second half of day two, we looked at Visualisations: a tool used to focus the mentee on the future and then to work backwards in the their minds to where they are today. This encourages a freedom in what the future could look like (with a focus on wants rather than needs) and how to get to b) from a).

'Upwording' concluded our two-day workshop. We spent a couple of hours reflecting on the use of language and how it contributes to the formation of power structures and hierarchies – and how languages of obedience and control can be dismantled. In Rivca's words, Upwording identifies “how small changes in the way we speak can create seismic impacts.” In the session, Rivca suggested that thinking and speaking are so habitual (she also noted that most things done by humans are habitual – not natural): Upwording promotes the use of active language choices to dispel coercive and authoritarian ways of communication.

For example, saying “I heard or I saw or I felt” instead of “You did or You said or You made me feel” shows that you are taking responsibility for your own emotions and actions, and not passing the blame to someone else. Upwording puts the emphasis on “I” but also highlights the use of fact and factual statements rather than evaluative ones. It also suggests that it is dangerous to place sentiments and ideas upon another person: in saying “You are….” the speaker places pressure on the receiver by stating that they are something which they have to live up to at all times. There is also the notion of a “theft of ideas” - if we suggest something to someone this limits their sense of capability to think and creative, and thus affects their self-esteem.

But, equally, there is also the manner in which you respond to a stimulus or how someone speaks with you. While Rivca states that it is better to use “How would you like it be?” and “What else could you do?” rather than you can do this or that, it is also up to the receiver to interpret stimulus how they see fit. There is always a choice – for both parties. Still, this workshop focused on mentoring and coaching and, as a mentor or coach, the task ahead of you is to elicit the best outcome for your mentee from the mentee themselves.

As AirSpace Gallery grows and develops, we (Glen, Anna, Rebecca and Selina) hope to provide further mentoring and coaching support for emerging and mid-career artists in the future. This two-day workshop, led by Rivca and supported by Arts Council England as part of our Organisational Development Bid, has enabled us to evaluate of modes of communication and models of mentoring which we plan to actively employ as part of AirSpace Gallery's upcoming programme.

Thank you to Rivca Rubin www.ifweimagine.com.

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