The lockdown is of indeterminate length. I am a grandparent for ever. My enforced Coronavirus sabbatical has provided me with the opportunity to reflect on life in general and three of my key roles in particular – husband, father and grandfather. The in-depth mentoring and coaching experience I have received for almost fifty years is beyond the scope of this article, it is called marriage. (Apparently, I still have some major growth areas to work on!) My three adult children appear to have survived our parenting style and have produced seven children of their own, varying in age from 4 to 15, with another in the pipeline
Maximising mentoring and coaching
These thoughts have been inspired by my desire to be an effective grandparent and to ponder how the skills and insights of mentoring and coaching can enhance this undertaking. I have called myself a coach for eighteen years and a mentor for a lot longer. My grandchildren I have realised are my most important clients. As a coach and a coach-trainer, I believe four key skills are at the heart of the process:
- listening for understanding
- questioning for depth
- promoting action
- providing support and challenge.
We show the quality of care we have for people by the way we listen to them. This even applies to family members! Children are acute observers of the human condition and know when they are being listened to. The right question at the opportune moment can increase the depth and breadth of our thinking. Translating thought into action is the key to growth and development. As a good-natured and conscientious grandparent, I can accord my most important clients (my grandchildren) both support and challenge. The clever bit is to decide what is appropriate at any given moment.
Social distance and relationship closeness
Social distancing is designed to enforce physical separation and loved ones in lockdown provides a unique set of challenges for grandparents. We have endeavoured to be creative in maintaining and even developing the closeness of our relationship with our grandchildren. We are concerned about their physical, mental and spiritual development and have sought ways to remind them that they are loved from afar. The internet has been a great boon in this undertaking. My wife’s tenacity in grappling with technology has been inspirational and pivotal in the process.
What have we done?
- We have individual photographs and pray for each grandchild every day.
- We maintain regular contact via WhatsApp, Facetime, Zoom and Microsoft Team.
- My wife has set up a private YouTube channel – she reads bedtime stories and I provide physical and mental learning challenges.
- Responses to these challenges are posted as videos on WhatsApp.
- Our oldest grandchild created a family Easter Quiz and virtual Easter egg hunt.
The implications for me as a coach
- I could choose to shift a lot more of my coaching from face-to-face to on-line and save a huge amount of travelling time.
- The most significant consideration is that I earnestly desire a positive outcome for my clients – like Mother Teresa ‘love the one in front of me’.
- Relationship is at the heart of the process. Ultimately it is always about relationship – coach/client or grandparent/grandchild.
- Encouragement is a vital ingredient and works best as a two-way process. My oldest grandchild is a gifted and committed encourager and this has a galvanising impact.
- There is always more to learn! I seek to model the approach of a life-long learner.
I was already aware of these issues, but they have been brought into sharper focus by pandemic purdah. For all my clients, grandchildren included, relationship, encouragement and learning are the basic ingredients of transformation. Our greatest impact on others is the quality of our role model and it is well worth meditating on how we live this out, lockdown notwithstanding.
“Grandparents have the crowning glory of life: grandchildren!” Proverbs 17:6 (The Passion Translation)
As mentors and coaches, we have the enormous privilege of nurturing the growth and transformation of our clients. It behoves us to invest in our own skills and to reflect upon our practice. As the patriarch of my family, I have a responsibility to love my grandchildren in the way God loves the world. I aspire to grow into this high calling.
Dr Neil Suggett CBE
Neil works as a leadership coach, coach trainer and writer. He is engaged in designing and delivering coach development programmes in a variety of settings – locally, nationally and internationally. Most importantly, he is an ardent life-long learner committed to ‘living a coaching lifestyle’ and has written a book with that title in 2017. He published ‘Living a Christian Lifestyle’ in 2019 and is currently engaged in interviews and research for his next book ‘Living a Conscious Lifestyle’.
Neil is an Elder at The King’s Church Amersham and is committed to preaching and teaching. He supports his wife Judith in leading Bereavement Ministry at KCA. He was awarded the CBE in 2010, in recognition of his services to education at home and abroad.
Twitter: @Neil Suggett