The Big Picture shows a Colourful Future

This post originally appeared on Shirlaws Online. It was written in 2007, when I was much newer to the world of business coaching. I’m re-publishing it for posterity, and because I’m amazed at how much I’ve changed in those 7 years.

I must have been about fourteen when I got sick of having my pens stolen out of my schoolbag, and started carrying them around in my top (read: geek) pocket. What started as function quickly evolved to my own version of style, and it didn’t take me long to discover the joyful convenience of always having an accessible pen. There wasn’t a moment in my waking hours when I didn’t have a pen only inches from my hand, ready to sign autographs or, far more likely, correct punctuation in public.

Fast forward more than a decade, half of which was spent pursuing a journalism career, and you begin to realise how dependent I had become on that ever-ready pen. No amount of leaking ink or ‘pocket-protector’ ribbing could come between me and my trusty scribe – I’d even settled on my preferred form of reliable and replaceable pen. Of course, I always carried two with me as a redundancy, in case one failed.

And then Shirlaws opened up for me, and this isn’t an article about why I became a business coach but suffice it to say my de-pen-dency was not an influencing factor.

Those who have spent time with a Shirlaws coach will know where I’m going with this thought. For the rest of you, some additional information: we coaches are firm believers that colours and pictures, in association with supporting data, the right questions and an abundance of love, are essential for readily communicating ideas and creating alignment in a business. There are many ways of achieving this, but most coaches around the world would agree with me that a 10 pack of Faber Castell connector pens  is a necessary tool of the trade.

Shirlaws Coach Coloured Pens
This is a webinar screenshot of me using my pens

And it’s not just the colour. I’m communicating BIG ideas to people everyday, and then coaching them through the application of those ideas to their specific needs. Marker pens make the big picture big – I’m not the first to observe that this makes me “better able to focus on the concept and less on the drawing” (from 37 Signals), and that that’s a good thing for the client.

So my ballpointed sidekick has moved on, replaced by a texta pack (two, actually, for redundancy you know) in my briefcase.

Some days, I try to see it as not losing a pen but as gaining a family of coloured companions. Sure, the reflexes still reach for the top pocket on occasion [Edit 2014; Style evolution means my shirts don’t even have a top pocket anymore!], but I don’t believe I will ever go back. I do miss the immediacy at times, but when I pull out the textas, and draw up a colourful framework that shows a client how to solve their problem, and I know that they understand the possibility in front of them, I realise I’ve moved on. Moved on to a more colourful future.

I’d love to hear from other coaches about their transition to connector pens, and from all business people who have found new ways to clearly convey big ideas. Leave your experiences below.


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