Search
  • Nadia Ballantine & Carol Lynch

Learning in Lockdown-TERA or Terror?



In both The Coaching Habit & The Advice Trap, author Michael Bungay- Stanier brings to the forefront; TERA, (not to be mistaken with TERROR - although I’m sure we’ve all had a few of those moments lately!) TERA is a way of understanding the neuroscience of engagement & is the acronym for the four drivers that the brain considers in determining if a situation is safe or not:

TRIBE-“Are you with me, or against me?” Be on their side. What barriers can I remove between us?

EXPECTATION-“Do I know what’s about to happen, or not?" Show them the future. Show them the process.

RANK-“Are you more or less important than me?” How do I keep them genuinely feeling important? We’re in this together.

AUTONOMY-“Do I have any say in this, or not?” Give them the choice.


Relationships & psychological safety have always been important to us at edLead however this new “space” we’re all working in has heightened the need to bring these to the forefront.

Over the last two weeks I have been reflecting on how as a coach & facilitator I can be deliberate in raising the TERA quotient. How can I best turn up & what are the planned strategies that ensure the exits are sealed & people can remain engaged during a time where there are distractions & disruptions?

Here is some of my learning so far - some new & some reminders. Maybe there is something practical for you to take into your online sessions.

“How you enter a space & how you leave a space is as important as what happens in the space”

Make time for the check-in. “What’s on your mind? What’s got your attention?”

Give people the time & space to mentally transition from whatever they’ve come from. (like the conversation I’ve just walked away from with my 6-year-old “just letting you know Mum - that’s not how Miss Cleveland does it”) acknowledge the distractions & try to set them aside.

“Be exceedingly human”

It’s been really important to acknowledge out loud that the space we’re working in is new & different. Seek to understand people’s environments & situations. “What’s going to work best for you today? Is there anything that’s come up that we need to be aware of before we get started?”

Up your empathy! Showing it with our body language might not be as clear at the moment - verbalise it.

“Clear is kind”

Clarify expectations & reset boundaries & protocols for how we participate. “What’s going to work well for us engaging on this platform? What have you learned from yours or others Zoom experiences? What has or hasn’t worked? What might be some of our challenges… so what can we put in place to try & manage these?

We might not get it right the first time but let’s have a go!”

Predictability & feeling organised feels good.

There are some natural transitions or responsive facilitation that just sometimes “happen” in a face to face PLG situation. I’ve noticed with some long established PLGs we’ve fallen into some natural rhythms.

In being mindful about ‘expectations’ & to ensure people feel safe on a new platform I’ve noticed it’s really important to reveal our process as we go. For example; “Let me pop a question to you about that... we’re going to click into the chat feature... record your response & then we’ll unpack the trends one person at a time. How does that sound to you?”

“In a moment I’m going to try & share my screen with you. I’m still learning to navigate this. You don’t need to do anything. How was using that for you?”

Having prepared Google docs & slides to frame discussion or share information has been important for easing the process & efficiently capturing ideas that could otherwise be lost.

Get comfortable with silence - again!

It has taken years of practice to achieve this & working on Zoom has both challenged & reminded me of this. For some reason silence on Zoom feels much louder than in person! I’ve had to just name it & be clear about the purpose of letting it sit.

Coaching is no longer an event. It is a way of being with each other.

I have been mindful of ensuring that everyone feels a sense of control & that I create opportunities for participants to decision make.

More than ever, what was important an hour ago may not be as important now.

“This is what we had on the agenda, but you know what you need. Where’s the most useful place for us to start? Where should we go next?”

“We could use the chat feature, or we could record our ideas on a Google doc - what is going to work best for you?”

“We’ve got 15 minutes left - what is most important for us to talk about before we finish up for today?”

Feedback & gratitude

“What has been most useful for you today?”

“What about the way we’ve worked together has / has not worked well for you today?” “What would you like more of? Less of?”

I am so grateful to every person who has ‘turned up’ over the last month & a special mention to St Pius X New Plymouth for being my first PLG. The time to connect has been uplifting, the time to not think about the COVID rāhui has felt really positive & the time to learn with & from each other has been invaluable. Thank you.