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The train has left the station

Stuart White

The World in Black-N-White

You know how everyone remembers where they were when Kennedy was shot or when the Twin Towers collapsed, these events having been burned permanently into their sub-conscious?

Well it’s the same for me when my first coaching session bombed – I have picture clarity of this first ‘professional’ coaching failure and though it may seem out of scale when comparing the aforementioned momentous occasions, having a good first session meant a lot to me.  I was super nervous and full of theory and enthusiasm so getting it wrong felt monumental and I metaphorically, if not physically, died a death.  

As you can guess it didn’t go as planned; at coach school, they hadn’t taught me that some people would come wanting the coach to do the work for them towards solving their problems. Throughout the session I kept trying to emphasize the coach doesn’t solve the problems but rather facilitates a process to allow the person to solve  them themselves  but some coachees didn’t see me as facilitator but rather Stuart the consultant and wanted to tap into my knowledge and provide advice.

Nowadays I am more careful to spell out up front what coaching is and what it isn’t. Today many people are calling themselves coach but you must understand that coaching is between a professional certified coach and a client, not just somebody who claims to be one. The goal is to establish a safe, supportive and challenging relationship that promotes changes and growth. And it’s not an encouraging rah-rah-chat but a thought-provoking and creative process that will help a person to maximise their personal and professional potential. While coaching is a personal matter and the objectives vary with each individual, goals are a critical piece in the coaching experience and are normally established before, or during, the first coaching session.  

Both professional and personal benefits are reported by people who have been coached, particularly when they have been professionally ‘stuck’ and can now envision and implement their goals with new understanding. Common benefits include: clarity, improved work performance, increased resourcefulness, more confidence and….. I could go on and on because you can literally bring anything into the coaching space – except counselling matters. We aren’t psychotherapists although our mode of working is not dissimilar to the structure which a trained therapist would adopt; we help with mental road blocks, not mental health issues!

In partnership with their coach, coachees utilize a number of methods to reach a goal. This approach allows for the achievement of breakthrough goals and problem solving in business and career while developing new attitudes, skills, and resolving situational roadblocks that emerge along the way.

It is an interesting point to ponder that the 2 words used to describe teaching processes, ‘coach’ and ‘train’, both have a parallel usage and meaning in transport terminology, referring to parts of a locomotive.  This is no mere co-incidence; the word ‘train’ comes from the Latin ‘trahere’, meaning ‘to drag and ‘coach’ from the French ‘coche’, after the Hungarian village of Kosc,  where carriages were first made, both senses implying that the trainer or coach both ‘carries’ and ‘drags’ his pupil along with him. They are, if you like, taking a journey together and a good way of thinking about the coaching process is to think about how you'd plan a journey.

First, you decide where you are going (the goal), and establish where you currently are (your current reality). You then explore various routes (the options) to your destination. In the final step, which we call establishing the will, you ensure that you're committed to making the journey, and are prepared for the obstacles that you could meet on the way. In every coaching session, we measure progress against goals, action and accountabilities from the previous session. After my failed first experience I am more careful to spell out the coach role and I often tell my coachees this:

DO expect your coach to be curious and to ask questions that dive below the surface into deeper waters. You both create an environment where you can be curious together and seek meaningful answers to provocative questions. DO expect your coach to focus on advancing you based on your strength and potential, not on what’s happened in the past. While everyone will grow in a unique way, your coach will help you past obstacles like fear or doubt while focusing on the future. By exploring your values and beliefs, your coach will help you find the courage to move through your current state to the change you want to make.

DO expect your coach to challenge you. Coaches want you to discover the wisdom within, and that’s not always easy (for you or for your coach). It requires asking empowering questions and challenges you to shift even if it means calling “bull!” on your answers. Humans have an amazing capacity to hold true ideas that are inconsistent, often without noticing the disparity. A professional coach, by virtue of their active listening skills, can help identify inconsistencies that are getting in the way of progress.

DO expect your coach to use some kind of diagnostic tool or personality test so s/he can understand where your strengths lie and where you might need extra help. It’s a way for your coach to learn more about how you think and operate; it’s not designed to pigeonhole you.
Nowadays I do my utmost to understand the coachees expectations and reach agreement on how they plan to meet them, and at all times I act with unconditional positive regard. Like any professional relationship, coaching works best when trust is high and conversations are conducted in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

The coaching thing is a two-way street and even if the coach is looking after their side of the agreement there are some things that the coachee needs to do or be in order to make the coaching successful. Of paramount importance the coachee has to have intent to change and the desire for change will need to be serious. They must be ready to work and receive feedback and be willing to try new ways of learning. Honesty is important as there is no way that you can lie or pretend as then you will not get anywhere.


They must be willing to explore, challenge and change thoughts, feelings and actions that they recognise as self-defeating.  They bought a first-class ticket and their journey of self-discovery and professional fulfilment about to begin. There may be a few leaves on the track and even some obstacles blocking the line,  but eventually they will get to where they want to be and the views can be spectacular.

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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