The Launch Pad #1 – Review, Renew and Reset: thinking and feeling our way to a better future

“Good afternoon, and welcome to Guildhall Coaching Associate Airlines. Your cabin crew for this flight are JoTrevor and Chris, who will be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Pat, our chief steward for this maiden flight of The Launch Pad, was making the final announcements.

On the 6th May 2020, Guildhall Innovation had created Lockdown Lounge. Every fortnight for four months, the Lounge had been open, taking models from coaching and mentoring to draw critical and thought-provoking comments, and to help make sense of the experiences of creative individuals during lockdown.

“Our flight time will be one hour and 30 minutes, cruising at an altitude of heightened awareness, at a ground speed of multiple insights per hour.

The Loungers had covered topics as varied as perfectionism, personality traits, resilience and reframing, through the skilled hands of Guildhall Coaching Associates, all qualified Executive Coaches, all using their skills to focus a lens on our lockdown mindset in a way that was both respectful and challenging.

“The captain, Jane, has already turned on the ‘No Need To Fasten Your Seat Belt’ sign. Please ensure that your carry-on emotional baggage is in a convenient place and make sure that your seat back is set to the relaxed concentration position.”

It was now August 26th and the first signs were emerging of the easing of lockdown. Small, fragile and in need of nurturing, these green shoots were beginning to take root in our attitudes and behaviours.

“In the event of any cognitive distortion, the Guildhall Coaching Associates will immediately guide you to the nearest emergency place of positive acceptance.”

In order to reflect these glimmers of optimism, the Lockdown Lounge had closed its doors and was now reborn as The Launch Pad. A place to gather strength and resilience in order to prepare for the no-doubt bumpy road ahead. 18 travellers – never merely passengers when Guildhall Coaching Associates are involved – were receiving the final instructions from Pat.

“To make the most of your the Launch Pad experience, we recommend that electronic devices be switched off and that you bring your whole self to the flight. On your arrival at our destination, you will find that the Duty-Free Shop is entirely self-generated.”

Time to reflect

Jane, the Senior Associate for Guildhall Innovation was our Captain for this flight of conversation.

Although the winds of change have been blowing us around in recent days – blustering, flapping, gasping and screaming – she reminded us that it was beginning to feel like we were heading into a new season. Soon children will be returning to school, places of worship were preparing to open, beauty salons were thriving again and performances were starting to happen.

(The winds of change were more than just a metaphor, Jane told us, as the day’s gusts had already taken down half her pear tree…)

It was a moment to recognise what we had learned from the previous eight Lockdown Lounges and on the community of nearly 100 Loungers who had attended, making inspirational and insightful conversation with the 6 coaches who had helped to facilitate those exchanges.

But today was about reflection.

What, in those unpredictable months of lockdown, had we learned about ourselves? About what it is to be you and about the essence of you?

She invited us to consider three questions:

The Launch Pad Pioneers had just a few minutes to think about that before Jane presented the next prompt for consideration:

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To help sift through all the possibilities, Jane referenced two past Lockdown Lounges. Firstly she reminded the Pioneers of the first ever Lockdown Lounge, Know Your Strengths, which Jo based on the VIA Character Strengths.

Had the Pioneers identified any then that continued to resonate? Or developed some more strengths over Lockdown? Or – thinking forward – were there any that could now be leveraged more effectively in the coming weeks?

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What about Lockdown Lounge #2 – Creating Team You!? Who do you need around you for support, inspiration or balance, to get you to where you want to be?

Jane reminded the travellers of the Belbin character roles that Chris had explored in that session.

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And in Lockdown Lounge #3, Personality, Preference and Me!, Jane herself had explored how we best recharge our batteries – through socialising with others, or by time with a close friend, looking at the outside two scales of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator – Extraversion/Introversion and Judging/Perceiving.

A Brave New World?

Many of the tools that had been shared in the Lockdown Lounges could be useful and helpful to us as we prepare for our new future.

It was time for the Pioneers to resume their seats and prepare for the in-flight sustenance – the tasty discussions that we’d grown to love over the past eight Lounges.

We were invited to consider what is next for us and how we can set or reset the scene for that to happen. Jane gave us our first course.

No plastic trays or bendy cutlery here: meaty topics need stronger tools.

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Flight Officer Trevor allocated our fellow travellers departed into breakout rooms, with one Coaching Associate in each in the unlikely event of a lack of discussion. As ever, there was little need to intervene or facilitate.

Some of the flyers reflected the challenges that lockdown continued to pose:

“I’m sort of dreading going back”

“Zoom is tiring. I’m not working from home, I’m living at work”

“It’s not getting better for everyone”

Others had found small benefits and already had one eye on the future:

“There were things that we gained in lockdown – the opportunity to reflect and think”

“We now have time to think of possibilities – but there are uncertainties and blockages on the way”

“We need to identify small acts of kindness”

“It would be helpful to reframe – what does success look like now?”

But in general it was the uncertainty that we were all facing that provided a continuous undercurrent to everyday issues:

“It’s a frightening thing to let go – we need to let go of the expectation that we can control outcomes”

What’s Your Preference?

Jane took over the direction of flight once more. She asked us to consider what options there might be to expand our range – to be more – now that we had reflected on who our best possible self was.

Most of us will soon be showing up ‘in the room’, and will need to be prepared for what that might look like. What is it that would allow us to step forward with more confidence?

Jane mentioned a comment that someone had made to her recently:

“We are human beings, not human doings…”

So is it possible to be more than we already are?

Sensing, Intuition, Thinking and Feeling – the Jung Ones

Jane was about to develop our thinking by expanding in the topic she had touched on in Lockdown Lounge #3.

Here she had opened a window onto the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI), which uses Jung’s theories of psychological type to create four preference pairs. Each of these, combined together, offers a four-letter code for a person’s possible personality type.

There are 16 possible personality types in the MBTI system, frequently used for organisational development because it reveals constructive use of difference between people. The MBTI recognises and respects the gifts of people different from ourselves. The first and last letters – I/E and J/P were what had been explored in Lockdown Lounge #3.

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is one tool we can use to raise awareness in ourselves – helping us to understand more about our preferred way of being in the world.

Understanding more about our preferred way of being helps us:

  • recognise when others prefer to be in a way different from ours; and
  • offers an opportunity for us to explore the opposite of our natural preferences, shining a light on our blind spots and expanding our possible ways of being in the moment, in support of our objectives. This might include the objectives of our organisation or the project we’re working on.

To recap from Lounge #3, the four preference pairs of the MBTI are:

Our preference for Introversion or Extraversion can be seen as how we recharge our batteries, and it influences our ideal social or working environment. It’s important to remember that in MBTI this is not about being shy or not, nor is it about being sociable or not.

It’s where we get our energy from.

And just what do we mean by preference? – preference is the thing that comes most easily to us. Which hand to you prefer to write with? There’s a preferred hand and a non-preferred hand.

It’s not something you have learned or trained yourself to feel, it just is a natural part of you – the preference to write with one hand over the other hand. And the consequences of doing so are greater facility, nuance, skill, speed and so on.

It’s Decision Time

Time to get to the letters we didn’t explore in June.

  • Letter two of the Myers-Briggs type refers to our preference for how we take in information
  • Letter three of the Myers-Briggs type refers to our preference around how we make decisions.

Let’s start with the second letter of the type indicator.

Sensing or INtuition (remember too that the labels ‘Sensing’ and ‘Intuition’ have their own interpretation in the Myers-Briggs world. ‘Sensing’ certainly doesn’t mean ‘sensitive’ and ‘intuition’ certainly doesn’t mean ‘gut feeling’).

These are labels to help us explore the human process of ‘perception’ or ‘how we take in information’.

Jane gave us an exercise devised by psychologist and coach Ann Holm to explore our Sensing – Intuition dichotomy.

Ann Holm invited college students (and Jane invited us) to look at this picture for 30 seconds. Then the students were asked to take another minute to write down their description of the picture.

A Friend in Need (1903) – Cassius Marcellus Coolidge

Holm contrasted two particularly different responses from the students. Here’s the first:

“There were 7 dogs at the table playing poker. The table was green velvet and the walls were bluish grey. A red lamp hung over the table and the clock on the wall showed just past 2 o’clock. There was a painting on the wall with a yellowish frame. One dog was handing another dog a card under the table.”

Facts. Lots of facts and close attention to detail. Here was the other:

“The dogs are playing poker. One of them is cheating. Maybe they are going to share the winnings after the game.  I wonder if their wives approve of them gambling and staying out all night? Do they do this every Saturday night and leave them at home? I wouldn’t stand for that.”

This student was looking for stories and narrative. They were projecting outcomes and possible reasons for what was going on.

When their MBTI profiles were compared, these two were exact opposites (ISTJ to ENFP).

More importantly to this exercise, the first had S as the second letter – meaning that they had a preference for sensing. That means that they tend to first look at the facts and use the 5 senses to gather information, before building those up to form a bigger picture. Their Perceptions tend to be realistic, specific, focused on the here and now, and practical. 

The second student, though, had N, so they had a preference for intuition. People with a preference for N tend to look to the bigger picture first, to seek out new ideas, adopt an imaginative and or theoretical approach, have a future focus, and use conceptual frameworks – before drilling down into the details.

As you’re reading this, how do you feel about your preferences? Which feels right to you?

Do you think that preference is Sensing (S) or Intuition (N)?

What do you pay attention to first and foremost? In these strange circumstances that we find ourselves in, how do you take in information? And what might a person with the opposite preference to you ‘perceive’ about this/your situation?

Thinking and Feeling

By now, Jane had given us a birds-eye view of the second preference pair in the Myers-Briggs type on today’s inaugural Launch Pad flight.

But what about the third pair?

What’s all this about thinking and feeling?

This pair is about how we prefer to make decisions in the world, and Jane brought our attention to how this pair plays out in Myers-Briggs. Most importantly, once more she focussed in on the labels.

Feeling mustn’t be confused with Emotion

Thinking mustn’t be confused with Intelligence

Both personality types can feel and both personality types can think!

To get us in the mood to access our Thinking and Feeling preferences, Jane took an exercise devised by Charles R. Martin.

Take a minute to ask yourself if the following description seems natural, effortless, and comfortable for you? Does it describe you?

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Do you feel that the following statements generally apply to you?

  • I look for logical explanations or solutions to most everything
  • I make decisions with my head and want to be fair
  • I believe telling the truth is more important than being tactful
  • I can be seen as too task-oriented, uncaring, or indifferent

If those descriptions resonated with you, it’s possible that you’re a Thinking (T) type person.

So, what about a Feeling (F) type person? Well, they might say…

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… and the following statements generally apply to them:

  • I have a people or communications orientation
  • I look for what is important to others and express concern for others
  • I make decisions with my heart and want to be compassionate
  • I believe being tactful is more important than telling the “cold” truth
  • I am sometimes experienced by others as too idealistic, mushy, or indirect

Do you have a preferred way of making decisions? Does one of these come close to describing that for you?

Whilst we have our natural and preferred way of taking in information and making decisions, the MBTI framework offers us a powerful way to look at challenge, problem solving, communications and relationships. It helps us to appreciate the contributions of others different from ourselves and might illuminate in ways which increase the possibilities for understanding.

And who wouldn’t appreciate a little more understanding now?

Jane asked us to consider our preferred and non-preferred styles, and how they might impact on our behaviour. Do we really consider them before taking action?

What about the preferences of the person we’re talking to? Are we aligned? Would it be helpful to consider what those preferences might be?

Time to think – and time to feel

We were approaching the highest altitude of our flight so far – the second set of questions to consider.

Safe in the hands of our pilot, we were free to let our conversations wander to whatever realm they might choose to occupy – unlike any conventional flight.

To help send us on our way, Jane offered some prompts for the discussions:

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Duty-free conversations

It was inevitable, of course, that much of the conversation would turn around the potential easing of the lockdown and the long term effects it might have…

“It’s not about life being difficult – it’s just how it is”

“We could never have believed that it would last until October”

… and one of the Launch Padders brought out the VUCA acronym to describe where we are – we’re living in a world of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity…

… but soon the conversations turned back to preferences.

Many of the Launch Pad travellers appreciated the idea of looking at situations through an under-used lens. Metaphors abounded in the various breakout rooms.

“This could be like wearing different hats – there are so many different perspectives to try on!”

“Using your preferences effectively is a balancing act – you have to build up the muscles of your non-preferred side”

“Maybe when you’re in an uncomfortable situation it’s because you’re being asked to use a muscle that’s under-developed. This is going to help build communication and relationships.”

“Looking at my non-preferential side could be fun!”

We will be starting our descent…

All too soon, the flight was coming to an end. The discussions and insights had been thought-provoking and the conversations had had wings.

Our Captain, Jane, talked us through the landing procedure.

Jane pointed out that we had barely scratched the surface of MBTI in our short flight and that there were many more layers to uncover.

She reminded is that although the tool offers 16 personality types, within each of those types there are infinite differences between people. The eighty years of research since Isabel Briggs Myers first drew up her profiling tool has offered up so much more insight.

In-depth work on type and communication styles, type and change, how type might impact career choices, type and conflict, how different types typically respond to stress had all reaped valuable insights. Especially useful has been an exploration of teams and how different types contribute to the success of the whole.

Amongst the flight crew this afternoon (and in the wider Guildhall Coaching Associates personnel), there are certified MBTI practitioners in our team, ready to advise and help if the Launch Pad frequent flyers wanted to explore more – and if anyone reading this account should want to learn more.

The captain has switched off the Fasten Seat Belt sign…

And with that, the first Launch Pad flight came to land. Before disembarking, Jane asked the travellers to consider one final question:

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And with that we were free to unbuckle our seat belts and step out from the departure lounge into the outside world, warm with the glow of good friendships,  deep conversations and new thoughts to bring to our daily life.

The travellers passed on their good wishes to the cabin crew as they left…

“I’m going to find out more about Myers-Briggs now – thank you!”

“I’m planning and inventing for myself the ways to be my best self more often”

“Real motivation from today’s session – thank you”

(and if you enjoy my writing, why not buy me a coffee at Ko-fi.com/chrisbrannick? It’s not expected or demanded, but I’d be really touched. I live on appreciation and coffee… in that order)

The Launch Pad is run monthly by the Guildhall Coaching Faculty. To book a place at The Launch Pad meet up on Zoom on 4 November or 2 December 16:00 to 17:30 UK time, send an email to: coachingandmentoring@gsmd.ac.uk headed ‘The Launch Pad’.

Please note that numbers will be limited.

The exercises offered to our readers at home are sometimes slightly modified in the light of feedback from our Launch Pad travellers.

Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

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