Coaching is the answer….


Ghandi - be the change



I was at an ADI meeting last night, and a couple of ADIs were there representing their ‘franchise’ to us. This is a franchise with a specific ……… this is not intended as a vindictive or malicious post….. I think I should avoid specifying anything about them, and their professional preferences. There is a place for all of us after all 🙂

I feel I need to mention ONLY what it made me feel…. and I am not even sure I can manage to express it clearly…. maybe it will come with time and making a start.

…. it is more an observation of where my own professional priorities lie… It refreshed, for me the, key factors of why I chose to Coach rather than stay with the pure instruction I used to believe was the only and best way.

It reminded me of my Coaching ‘Eureka Moment’ of “***This is IT!!***”
“THIS is what has been missing from me and my tuition. This completes me”

Last night, I heard phrases like
“they only want to pass the test”,
“you tell them this, and they don’t listen”
“we do ‘this’ with everybody – and that is better so they all get the same”
“it is a fact that you have to practice manoeuvres over and over and over and THAT is the only way ‘they’ learn”

I couldn’t bear it. I honestly began to tremble – not with anger, or animosity but a pent up something that made my adrenaline surge. I had anticipated being of a ‘different perspective’, and I assumed I would find it easy to just keep quiet as I usually do. I just couldn’t do it.

I feel so strongly —- but what is more I do not want to offend or hurt these colleagues of mine. I want them to ‘see what I see’, as I see them and see their passion and conviction. But I want to share the joy of watching someone unravel a task and solve it by themselves….. and ‘OWN IT’!

I really find it sad that our parts 1,2 and 3 fail our profession so badly (not the trainers – the set up!)

I am not sure I have been clear – I do not want to criticise – but I do want to share how joyful our job can be.


A simple question…. and a eureka moment

I posted this on Facebook:tips icon for webpages

“Has anyone tried using ‘Siri’ or Google translate etc during sessions with people whose first language is not English?


I have not tried yet – but I miss the deep questioning that I can do when communication is ‘easier’. The ‘learning’ just does not seem as efficient”

and then I asked one of my ladies……….

UPDATE to Siri or Google Translate post:

As I said I would – I asked the very next Client if she thinks she would benefit (at any point) in using a translation device.

Sometimes the best things come from a conversation starting point. So here is a bullet point account….

She said “To be honest I don’t know how I feel or how to overcome my worries no matter WHAT language I use!! It makes no difference!” To which we both had a massive laugh!!! It was a very bonding moment somehow.

I paused, and she went on talking a bit about how she is scared to do 30 in a 30 (I never urge or force her to do this – I know It will come when she is able!) we just slug along the roads at her pace, with the wind of passers by in our hair… those pesky overtaking cyclists!! hahahha! [joke]

Anyway – back to today. She explained about being scared to do 30 and she didn’t know why and also – more importantly it turned out, scared to stop AT the give way line —- always quite far back from any line… even though spacial judgement not the issue.

…. then……” there was a really loud….
“… OH!!!…”
I know what it is!!! When I was ‘back home’ (country of birth) I had finished a long shift at the hospital (Doctor) and I was very tired and I had my friend on the back of my motorbike. In ******** [her home country] you just pay and bribe yourself a licence – no test! and no one knows or drives using the rules! It is scary and dangerous. It never worried me then…


… the car in front of us stopped so suddenly, and I couldn’t stop and I hit it! Our crash helmets flew off and the car was a bit dented but no-one hurt, thank goodness….. but I think I am scared of T-junctions because of that, and of driving at the normal speed — just in case…..”

we spoke a bit longer and I said I know you had the plan of more roundabouts for today, but may I make a suggestion? She said yes, and I asked how she felt about learning ‘E-Stop’ for a few minutes first?

We went to a quiet road. I asked he to just experiment with stopping quickly. With clutch – without clutch – same time etc. Then I asked her to REALLY stop!!!!! Which she did (more laughs) [I have not mentioned or included test standard or expectations today – that is for later!!]

She was quite animated about how good it was to ‘understand’ the brake more and how it works! I asked how good is the car at stopping quite soon? She knew her speed and said – “yes – very good to stop and I was doing just more than 30! [Big smiles!]. I like this!”

During the next hour she sped TWICE to my knowledge in a 30 limit!! 😀

Funny how asking a disconnected question about using Google or Siri can produce a result of feeling confident to stop right AT a give way line AND do 30 in a 30 without me suggesting, struggling or mentioning anything!


She even brought up that I COULD ‘push her’ to do more, and then we laughed when I said – “yes, and my Dad was hit with a stick at school to make him learn”…. she certainly got the point!

As I said earlier – I know that the speed issue will resolve itself when she is ready to address it!!!! Today she became ready… 🙂

[smug mode disabled!]

If it’s stupid and it works… it’s not stupid

Ruby read writeMay I introduce ‘Ruby’ and her preference for learning how to do a manoeuvre………..

… yes it took a while for her to write out how she would ‘Reverse around a Corner’, but boy! did she nail that first attempt afterwards!!

In her words “it was ok, but I will stay closer to the kerb next time”. She never wavered afterwards.

The great ‘briefing debate’ continues…..

I think that over the years, you guys (the ‘Learners’) have proven to me time after time that you can work out how to do all of the things needed in your own ways… and I have the skills to bring the best out of YOU!

Trust yourselves now and after the Driving Test to solve

and evaluate your own driving techniques!



Sharing the overload…

Yesterday – we shared the load – it all just seemed too much for F to manage all together… all at once …

It was overwhelming!


  • I coped with the pedals

  • She coped with steering into the bay

Boom!! Sorted perfectly in the lines!


What F realised was that she CAN do both aspects separately. She can do each thing on its own. She just needs to practice doing them together!

  • She can steer into a bay

  • She can use clutch control to move ultra slowly

  •  – Just not at the same time!

And Today???? She did it all — on her own — Clutch and steering — and in the bay independently! 

It is amazing what a good night’s sleep, acknowledging what you CAN do, and deciding that you want another go can do! It was a pleasure to see her achieve her goal!


How do you brainstorm…. ?

What are the ways you like to brainstorm and come up with new ideas or plan a more successful approach to an issue?

How many of us write a shopping list – then forget to take it with us – but somehow we remember most of the items anyway… for me, writing the list helps to cement a neural pathway to remembering what I need… Or in the case of driving, cementing memories so that the clutch, gears and rules at roundabouts etc become ingrained and integrated into my long term memory.

It works even better with a shopping list is when I write the items on the list in the order that I will find them on the shelves; isle by isle, as I walk through the supermarket.

Here are some of my customers thoughts and ideas depicted as they prefer to do it… methods as varied as the people who do it! Basically, they used their own thoughts and musings to lay down and form unique memories.


Rhyanne mind map  A Mind map preparing and ensuring all is well before her test



 ipad image t junctionUsing the ipad to work out all the possibilities…



simple list  Hazards – what where and how to keep on top of it all…


Playing with toy cars

‘Playing’ with toy cars


Thawing from a Frozen Moment  Problem solving – “but then I just freeze, Fiona!! I can’t think!”


Pictures and pen

A Diagram and a dry-wipe pen


notes  A business coaching session – nothing to do with driver education

Reflective Log L


An ipad Reflective Log App


Reviewing videos (other people make mistakes too!) 🙂




Guest Blog – By Woody – “do we try too hard”?

A colleague of mine called Woody wrote this:

Do we try too hard

Don’t try too hard …..

This latest blog post is my reflection from my days as a ski instructor and compares this with driver training Coaching and other sports.

I hope you find it interesting.


Years back I was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to work in some of the most stunning locations in Europe up in the clouds of the Swiss French and Italian Alps

I was a ski guide and instructor for 10 fantastic winter seasons at the time I didn’t quite realise just how important a coaching approach was to helping people to ski particularly myself.


The term instructor , was correct at the time , because what we used to do was tell people how to ski. The more I skied the more I recognised there was always something more to it.

For those of you that are keen skiers you will know the feeling , one run is just amazing, everything clicks into place and parallel turns just seem to happen with hardly any forced thought or even excess energy involved. It just clicks into place, the next run down the mountain and it’s like you’re back to beginners stage again, the skis feel awkward , the snow feels wrong and the weight just doesn’t sync with your movements .


So why does this happen and what is the connection between this and learner drivers.

Well now to me it’s quite simple , we try too hard we think too much and we don’t believe in our own abilities.

Does this sound like any learner driver you know ?

I think that this type of block happens in all walks of life


Footballers , particularly strikers , one day they can’t stop scoring , then all of a sudden they start thinking too hard about how to put the ball in the net .

Cricketers , particularly using batsmen as an example . When they are on form they see the ball easily , they work out the speed, spin and swing of the ball and when on form that ball is as big as a beach all. Then the form dips and the ball starts getting smaller and smaller, the speed and swing become harder to gauge, is this because the batsmen is thinking too much , instead of just naturally letting the ball hit the bat he’s now trying so hard to hit the ball that he doesn’t see it.


You could probably compare this to tennis , golf and many other sports.

Driving is no different, look at how a learner thinks and acts on test day.

Look at how we as driving instructors acted on our own qualifying process particularly part 3 .

Look at the standards check, how does that make us think , do we try too hard , do we let our natural teaching extinct go and instead focus on just the marking sheet.

The best lesson I ever had was from an old Italian ski instructor called Lorrenzo, for all of his years this man floated on his skis, no effort required, his turns were liquid, he literally flowed down the mountain.

I was fortunate to go out for a ski on a number of occasions, I considered myself pretty good, but skiing with Lorrenzo was man and boy.

I asked him for some advice, ” what do you think I can do to improve” his reply

“Woody you’ve got to stop trying so hard” focus on feeling the mountain and above all focus on enjoying it”

The next line just nailed it for me “actually Woody focus on not focusing”


To me this was the answer , from then on my skiing went from strength to strength , I felt the enjoyment in skiing more and more and this only helped to improve my technique .

As an driving instructor / coach I can see the similarities, the adi tries too hard to teach the pupil tries too hard to learn.

A coaching approach particularly focuses more on thoughts and feelings, perhaps what’s misunderstood is the thoughts and feelings should be from both the instructor as well as the pupil.


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The Big Learner Relay for the BBC’s Children In Need

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The Big Learner Relay for the BBC’s Children In Need

Big Learner Relay Relay at Chelmsford

After months of planning, The Big Learner Relay for Children in Need became a reality and in November of 2014 Driving Instructors across The UK came together to make it a fantastic success.

Over 2,500 miles, over 14 days, over 135 instructors and pupils relayed the Big Learner Relay Top Box from one driving lesson to another! Over 1000 instructors got involved either by going spotty, fundraising and sponsoring or by joining the relay. Some legs of the relay had convoys of instructor cars as far as the eye could see!

We smashed our rather conservative target of £5,000 and handed over a whopping £65,500 to Children in Need in 2014 showing that Driving Instructors can make a difference.

With last year’s relay being such a resounding success how could we not do it all again this year?!

There are many ways you can get involved – join the relay, get spotty, support our merchandize shop or simply donate and follow us virtually. There is an opportunity for everyone.


Group photo BGL ColchesterI am taking part again this year so I would really appreciate you support – Please sponsor me, and you will have made a valuable contribution to suffering children in our communities The money raised gets help and support that truly benefits children’s lives!

JustGiving - Sponsor me now!



Big Learner Relay Relay at Chelmsford Coming in

The relay starts with one day in Northern Ireland on Monday 26th October. The Isle of Wight then kicks off the main route on Friday 30th October. The relay then continues its convoy around the UK finishing in Swindon on the 13th November – Children in Need Appeal Day 2015 – 15 days, 3000 miles, 180 lead driving lessons and many hundreds of instructors and pupils joining the convoy – Come and join us!
See you in the relay!

My Dad takes his glasses off to hear me better…..

Dad glasses off to listen

“I’ve done it again!…. I’ve taken my glasses off to hear you better!”

My Dad was shocked when I answered “I’m not surprised by that at all!” He could not see the logic in that statement. For me, I know my Dad; a Graphic Designer by trade, and an avid amateur artist in his retirement! It is clear as day!

We all have natural preferences, and many of us use a primary sense to interpret the world around us. My sister on the other hand, although having additional learning needs, was pitch perfect! She would ‘object strongly’ (and very loudly!) to a piece of music she knew if it were played in the wrong key, or at the wrong speed. (This was of course back in the day of vinyl records). My sister would make up songs for everything… for example, she had specific names and an order to take her numerous medications in the morning. No song – or the medicines sung in the wrong order and all hell would break loose! All I remember is that the ghastly most bitter tasting medicine was called “Miss Potsit!!” She favoured an auditory way to make sense of her world…. and luckily the family tuned into that perfectly.

I am ambidextrous ! So guess how I ‘get a feel for the world’ or ‘make’ sense of it! As a strongly kinaesthetic person with a large dash of my Dad, I “see” and “do” my way around the world.

What do the people during your working day prefer? How do you adapt for them?

I have a strong understanding of how I can ‘tap into things’, make the ‘picture brighter’, and ‘sound something out’.

Have a good week!


First Contact…

A message I received this week… so nice to feel acknowledged. Also great to know that so many parents have realistic concerns for their children post test!

“Hi Fiona. How’s things? Could we possibly have a chat on the phone, please? *** has had a couple of lessons with a local driving instructor and I’m already getting the impression that the sole purpose of the lesson is to get her to pass her test, which, isn’t, imho, what it’s all about. I love your alternative ethos and would really like *** to learn in a more holistic way. I realise there is quite a distance to travel but I’d be quite prepared to bring her over to Colchester if need be if it equips her better for her miles on the road ahead. What do you reckon?”
DR – 05/06/15
(via facebook and my website)

First lesson already done! 🙂

Break (neck) or Brake



So today was another one of those, “well this is an unusual session….. but it feels ‘right’!!” kind of notions…

The scene:

  • Very bright Student at Uni
  • Few lessons in
  • Knows that she is finding it harder than other people might… at the moment…
  • … knows that will change once she is comfortable with the car controls
  • In her own words she ‘over-thinks’ everything – creating information overload
  • Very independent person
  • Cannot ingest too many instructions on the move – simple words only – mostly due to this wonderful independence

Her Session Goal:

  • Learn to break ‘properly’ in her words – meaning
  • At specific places (so I can practice and feel ok approaching junctions)
  • So that it is smooth when I stop
  • “So that I don’t break your neck when I stop!”
  • So that it is not sudden!
  • So that I feel safe and in control

[after a bit of discussion…]


Her Session plan:

  • Country route chosen by Student – as she feels safer as less to distract her from the plan
  • Fiona ‘in charge of observations and ultimate safety’
  • Fiona to give clear instructions as to ‘place to stop’ whilst on move/stationary (we found out that Student choice was overwhelming last session and was not successful!)
  • Student in charge of moving off, moving up through the gears, and stopping at the appointed stop location


Her session Observations:

  • Braking to a stop at the desired place was mastered
  • Use of brake had improved since last session (no neck brace required!! hahahaa! 🙂 )
  • Quite accurate
  • Proud that she was independent
  • Very happy that changing to 3rd – re-mastered after a missing the target
  • VERY happy to note that she began to introduce her own mirror observations naturally!
  • Very happy to be independent for all of her ‘role’
  • Happy to note that she understood the junctions that she ‘saw’ and knew priority
  • Felt her goal accomplished
  • Noticed improvements when dealing with other road users
  • Felt like is was a great session


What she will work on:

  • Moving off “when someone is behind her under control
  • Concentrating on her own car and what she needs to do (avoiding focus on others eg behind)
  • Driving under control when others nearby
  • Using her ‘over-thinking brain’ to her advantage when spotting hazards

Sounds like a plan to me!


I often think about what I would have done in the past. I would probably encourage/force/urge someone to just ‘keep going’. I would not have acknowledged her judgement of what felt safer (ie country roads or town junctions). I would not consider that this lesson plan as being of a sufficient standard of complexity or attainment! It would have to have been much more complex otherwise I would not feel like I was ‘giving value for money’!

If I am offering a service that is ‘value for money’…. those ‘values’ can only be set by the customer.

When I go to a restaurant I may prefer my steak…

  • well done
  • medium well done
  • medium rare
  • rare
  • raw
  • still alive

… in all honesty – I would STILL NEVER eat in this restaurant as it does not respect my values… It is not hearing what I want even with the multitude of options available…. I want Quorn! I’m a vegetarian !! 🙂