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These notes were first presented at The Developing Group 6 October 2007

Coaching in-the-Moment
Penny Tompkins and James Lawley

 Part 1 Background - how we got here
 Part 2 Our model of Vivian Gladwell directing in-the-moment
 Part 3 An explanation of Part 2 using Systems Theory
 Part 4 Adapted model for coaching Symbolic Modelling in-the-moment

Part 1: Background - How we got here

The history of our interest in this topic can be traced to a ‘how to become a clown’ course recommended to Penny by Carol Thompson. Her description sounded so interesting that last year Marian Way and Penny attended a 5-day introduction called The Courage to Be presented by clown Vivian Gladwell of Nose to Nose ( This is not pie-in-the-face, circus clowning, but rather about participants discovering and portraying their own ‘clown within’ through improvisation.  

Marian and Penny loved the clowning and they were also intrigued with how Vivian directed, coached and facilitated people in real time while they were on stage learning to clown.  Two things resulted: Marian decided to model Vivian’s general approach to facilitating people to learn clowning, while Penny decided to focus on Vivian’s real-time ‘in-the-moment directing’.  So in true Penny fashion, James was ‘persuaded’ (along with Phil Swallow) to attend a two-day Introduction to Clowning course.  (Just for fun, take a moment to imagine James with a red nose on!)

Apart from observing Vivian during the course, he kindly agreed to be interviewed (by Marian with us present) so we could get more idea of what went on ‘behind the scenes’ in Vivian’s mind.

As a result, we created a prototype model of Vivian’s ‘In-the-Moment Directing’ which we adapted to training/learning applications other than clowning — starting with developing Symbolic Modelling skills.  We have trialed our model at two West Country Clean Language Practice Groups, and are presenting it at The Developing Group to give the group a chance to experience it for themselves and for us to get feedback on the model we are creating.

To summerise the modelling process we went through involved:
  1. Being facilitated by Vivian and observing others being facilitated by him.
  2. Interviewing Vivian using Clean Language (conducted by Marian Way).
  3. Analysing of our memory and notes of (1), and an analysis of the transcript of (2).
  4. Creating a prototype model of Vivian 'directing in the moment' (in conjunction with Marian).
  5. Creating a prototype model for 'directing a Symbolic Modelling session in the moment'
  6. Testing (4) on ourselves with Carol, Marian & Phil.
  7. Testing (5) at two practice groups.
  8. Modifying models as a result of (6) and (7)
  9. Presenting results to the Developing Group.
Penny Tompkins & James Lawley
Penny and James are supervising neurolinguistic psychotherapists – first registered with the United Kingdom Council for Psychotherapy in 1993 – coaches in business, certified NLP trainers, and founders of The Developing Company.

They have provided consultancy to organisations as diverse as GlaxoSmithKline, Yale University Child Study Center, NASA Goddard Space Center and the Findhorn Spiritual Community in Northern Scotland.

Their book,
Metaphors in Mind
was the first comprehensive guide to Symbolic Modelling using the Clean Language of David Grove. An annotated training DVD, A Strange and Strong Sensation demonstrates their work in a live session. James has also written (with Marian Way) the first book dedicated to Clean Space: Insights in Space. Between them Penny and James have published over 200 articles and blogs freely available on their website:
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