There are 5 easy steps to get started with Neil’s Wheel…
Step 1: Watch this 11 minute introductory video
Step 2: Read these helpful notes
There is no ‘one way’
Neil’s Wheel has been designed to be used by anyone. You can use it just by yourself or with an experienced coach/thought partner.
In working with Neil’s Wheel, please know there is no ‘one way’
- Use your own style and standards so that it works for you and feels right.
- Feel free to stop, start, meander in whatever way works for you.
- Notice if there is anything you feel like avoiding. That may well be ok. It may also be a way you are telling yourself that there is something important to explore here, and to stop avoiding it.
This applies to everyone working with the wheel.
- The wheel seems to be exceptional in revealing people’s ‘map of the world’; their passions, drivers, values, beliefs etc. And similarly their biases and prejudices. This can be true for you, whether you are working on your own wheel, or supporting someone else with theirs. So if you are working with another person, agree how you will call each other out on that. It’s important that everyone owns ‘their stuff’, and that the space to do this work in is safe enough to enable you to ‘be real’ and comfortable with what’s arising, whether that itself is comfortable or not.
- For this reason we suggest that the first time you work with the wheel, you work with someone who ideally has experience and training with this catalyst for conversations, and who certainly is serious about their own personal development, and so who won’t derail your experience, or be daunted by it.
- Encourage yourself to get beyond your normal ‘script’ to find something you don’t already know – or perhaps didn’t know you knew.
Consider working with an experienced coach/thought partner
If you choose to work with someone else, they can ask the great questions, support you and challenge you in the way you find useful. They can help you gain deeper insights into your own thinking and experiences, invite new perspectives and much more. This catalyst for conversations can be the basis of the coaching, or a support to any coaching conversation or assignment.
If you do decide to work with a coach/thought partner, it’s important that you discuss and agree how you will work together. Do not skimp in this area. Ensure your coach knows what you want and don’t want in how you will work together. Discuss what to do if strong feelings emerge. Think about what you want. Know that if they are a professional that they will welcome you asking for what you want (they can’t always guarantee to give it to you, but they will always discuss it). Contracting is vital – time, roles, expectations… This can be an opportunity to explore each other’s beliefs, passions and frustrations.
- Before each session give yourself some time to prepare. Spend time thinking, reflecting, researching, imagining in advance. Do not put yourself under pressure. And know you can just turn up in the conversation and see what emerges in the moment.
- Ensure your coach gives you the space to think and feel and express yourself in the way that you want.
Checklist for coaches and clients
- Have we both seen the ‘How to use Neil’s Wheel’ video and explored the additional resources? The ‘5 Freedoms’ and ‘Four Mantras’ are particularly important.
- Are we going to use this in a single session; at the beginning, middle and end of a series of sessions; as the focus for a series of sessions?
- Are we open to ‘beyond now, beyond self’ thinking’? This means a) having concern for what is happening socially, environmentally and economically locally and globally, and with that in mind b) looking at the impact, consequences and legacy of the work together immediately and as far as future generations, and both its direct effect and ripple out into the world through the people and places it will affect.
- For the coach: Are you clear on your own preferences, biases, passionate causes and other factors that may show up? Have you used Neil’s Wheel yourself, as client, with your own professional coach/thought partner? How will you ‘own’ this?
- Have we clearly discussed and agreed the coach’s role in using this tool? Experience so far is that best results are when the coach predominantly uses a pure coaching approach – clean language, highly curious, non-directive, supportive, challenging (in a pre-agreed way) and spacious.
If you are a professional coach…
To enable your clients and yourself to get the most from this tool, especially if you haven’t used it before, we provide resources and dedicated learning experiences just for you. You can find out more on the Just for Coaches page.
The 4 Mantras
As more and more people use the Wheel globally, and provide their feedback, we are deepening our learning about what leads to a great experience with Neil’s Wheel. And what doesn’t. So for all you coaches, here is a gift gained from professional colleagues’ feedback so far – 4 Mantra’s to guide you as you work with the Wheel:
- “There’s no ‘One Way’ “ : Offer the gift of the 5 Freedoms to your client. Remember that a session doesn’t have to include all the segments. And (with clear contracting of course) be open to bringing and integrating your own style and practices, and invite the client to fully access theirs – perhaps you like somatic techniques? Or coaching in nature? Or…
- “Let the Wheel do the work” : The nature of the Wheel, together with the 5 Freedoms, allows the client many ways to engage, express and explore. Practice and play with doing “No more, and no less, than is necessary” (as my Tai Chi instructor names it). Many coaches report this is a lot less than they expect, and they find that in trying to help their client they can actually get in the way. If you’re not silent for significant parts of the conversation you’re probably doing too much.
- “Coach the Person” (The Wheel is the catalyst for the conversation) : This is just like the coaching adage ‘Coach the person, not the problem’. It can be easy to think that you have to guide the client around the Wheel. And it can be easy to get involved with the content. The feedback is that the best sessions come from the coach focussing very much on the client; their words, expressions, metaphors, body language, patterns, beliefs, strengths and the like. And letting go of direction and content (even if it matters a lot to you), instead simply letting the Wheel be the catalyst for further discovery, connection and conversation.
- “Recognise and own your own stuff” : In working with the Wheel, the client conversation can bring up strong thoughts, beliefs and experiences for yourself. For example, we hear of coaches recognising internal struggles when the client is not talking about things the coach feels they ought to be talking about, or where the client sees things very differently. The advice is to be very self-aware of what thoughts and feelings are coming up for you, potentially moment by moment, and have your own professional way of dealing with them. In the moment, this may be about learning to let go, or maintaining curiosity, or naming what’s happening for you, or really embedding in self a belief about the value of diversity of thought and perspective. After the conversation this could be about reflective practices, peer conversations and supervision. We’ve had many conversations about this. The bottom line is that if you think you don’t have an agenda, look deeper. There’s one or several. We certainly all have values. And they will show up. Awareness enables responsiveness.
The 5 Freedoms
There are 5 Freedoms that should always be available to someone working with their Neil’s Wheel. Together, they ensure the conversation is always honouring someone’s thinking, reality, preferences and agenda. The 5 Freedoms are:
- Freedom for people to explore their own interpretation of segment descriptors
- Freedom for people to choose which ‘parts of self’ to bring to the conversation
- Freedom for people to express their thoughts and feelings in their own way (words, scores, pictures etc)
- Freedom for people to choose what they want to put in the ‘Blank’ space
- Freedom for people to choose their journey as they explore their Wheel – where to start, where next, where to finish for the moment
And there is nuance:
- The dotted lines embracing Financial, Human and Environment are a reminder to specifically look ‘beyond self’ for those three segments. The invitation could be for them to consider what is happening from close in to local to regional to national to global, maybe to ‘as seen from space’, and explore what in some way connects with them. This is one of the very, very few places to be in any way directive. Experience says this about a gentle invitation, with the intent to increase self-awareness and self-expression. The client remains in choice. Whatever happens in response to the invitation is fertile territory for further curiosity and conversation if the client wishes.
- If contracted and agreed, it can help to offer other possible interpretations or perspectives on the segments – always as an offer to expand awareness and choice, never as a directive to lead thinking.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Where is the Wheel being used?
A: The Wheel is being used very internationally. We explicitly know of its use in Canada, the US, Ireland, the UK, Finland, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Portugal, Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Morocco, India, Singapore, the Philippines and Hong Kong. The Wheel is publicly available on the web and has been presented to professionals and international communities, so the full list is likely to be much longer.
Q: Can only coaches use the Wheel?
A: No, the Wheel can be used by anyone.
Q: Can I change the shape/colour/design of the Wheel?
A: Part of the power of the Wheel is in enabling people to understand the way that they link the various topics suggested by the Wheel, plus whatever they wish to bring to the blank segment. So total freedom of expression should be encouraged, including adaptation of the Wheel if that helps someone express themselves. Some people want to separate the segments and take it to pieces, some want there to be a hub, and of course there’s free choice for colours and any drawings or annotations you may wish to add.
HOWEVER, IF YOU ARE INTRODUCING THE WHEEL TO COLLEAGUES/CLIENTS… the Wheel is intentionally as neutral as possible, so that it does not lead the thinking of someone using it. So there are no colours, and no graphics (apart from the logo). Please do not adapt it. It has been tested and proven as it is. And changes will affect the way someone interacts with it. We find that many professionals beginning to use the Wheel very quickly want to adapt it to share with their clients. The adaptations that want to make vary considerably. What we notice happening is the coach is adapting the wheel to the way they ‘see the world’. This can be very useful for a coach to know. But it is not for them to lead a client into their (the coach’s) world unless the client has asked for that. The neutrality of the Wheel is an invitation to the client to explore and express their (the client’s) world. We find that once a professional has used the Wheel with 10-15 clients, and they witness just how unique and different people’s experience and use of the Wheel is, that the desire for adaptation diminishes.
Q: What do you mean by ‘Environment’
A: The invitation is for each person using the Wheel to explore their own understanding of each word. We are aware too that meanings can change subtly in translation between languages. Environment for many can mean the physical, natural world. But for others it may mean the work environment, or built environment, or home environment, or emotional environment, or…
See also ‘What do I do if my interpretation of a segment is very different to someone else’s?’
Q: What do I do if my interpretation of a segment is very different to someone else’s?
A: There are three important points here:
- The usefulness of the Wheel is about enabling people to explore and express their own understanding and ‘map of the world’.
- People’s understanding and insights can evolve within conversations and between conversations. We hear many stories of ‘last week I didn’t see the importance of that segment, but now…’ and similarly people’s understanding and interpretation of the segment names can evolve as they see them in a new light.
- It can be legitimate if, when working with the Wheel with others, for one person to ask if the other would like alternative perspectives on what the segment might mean. But this should ways be done lightly, without attachment and with the intent to increase choice and awareness rather than to install one person’s perspectives in another.
Neil’s belief is that everyone has their own ‘piece of the puzzle’ in responding to these times. And these pieces may vary considerably. And what for one person may be ‘essential to do’ could, for another, be seen very differently. The picture that comes together as the many parts of the puzzle come together will likely have many different colours and patterns.
Q: Is the Wheel being used in Teams?
A: Yes. Data is being gathered here. Initial findings are that:
- The Wheel can be introduced with surprisingly little initial explanation.
- It can be useful to give people time to explore the Wheel individually before working on it collectively.
- Ground rules for listening, acceptance, diversity, respect of difference etc are important.
- It can reveal subjects of importance to people that are not in the normal team or organisational narrative/dialogue/awareness.
- It can be very good at deepening awareness, understanding and connection between colleagues and bringing a team together ‘as one’.
Q: How can I introduce clients to the Wheel?
A: For people generally, and leaders in particular, the subjects raised by the Wheel are increasingly topical and sought. This site is designed to be a resource that’s freely available to the world and safe for anyone to share with their clients. So if:
- Something is coming up for a client that relates to what’s going on in the world that matters to them/ their work /their organisation.
- Something is coming up for a client that relates directly (in your belief) to one or more of the segments.
- There is another reason why you think the Wheel could be of genuine use to you client.
You can invite them to look at the site, perhaps watch the introductory video, and see if they would like to work with you on their Wheel.
If you have suggestions for what we can do/add that would make it easier/more appealing for you to share the site with others, please tell us.
Q: Does the Wheel exist in different languages?
A: The vision is for the Wheel to be available in many languages so that it can be used easily by people all around the world. A version in French has just been approved. A protocol that can be followed to enable approved translations for all languages is being finalised as this answer is being written. If you would like to help the Wheel be translated into a language other than English, please get in touch.
Q: Am I expected to have ‘just one hat on’? Can I move between various identities and roles (eg Coach, citizen, leader…) so to speak in my exploration of the wheel?
A: Feel free to bring all of yourself to your thinking with the Wheel. And that includes all the parts of yourself, the ‘hats’ you wear. You can divide each segment as you wish. The essence of Neil’s Wheel is to open new awareness and deepen the conversation. Some people will look at every segment with the same ‘hat’ or ‘hats’. And some will look at each segment with different ‘hats’. And then they may want to give an ‘overall’ answer, or they may wish to separate the pieces and explore some or all in turn. Raising insight, including awareness of connections, and inconsistencies and dilemmas, is part of the tool’s power and purpose. So the suggestion is to not be precious about the perfection of a ‘finished wheel’, but a celebration of what the exploration has uncovered, and what might/will happen next.
Q: What are the dotted lines for?
A: They are one of the very few slightly directive aspects of the Wheel. There are many tools that are self-focussed – eg What do YOU want? The Wheel works by exploring what connections there may be between what’s happening out in the world and what you may be thinking and feeling within, and wanting to do in response. So for the Finance, Human and Environment segments, the dots are a reminder to look outwards – what’s happening beyond yourself in these domains locally, regionally, nationally, internationally, that in some way touches you, affects you, matters to you, is in some way wanting you to do something?
Step 4: Use these Universal Questions
Core Questions ...
As you look at the whole wheel, you can ask:
- Which segment(s) feel most important for you?
- What are you drawn to?
- What are you avoiding?
- What happens when you consider a number of segments simultaneously?
- What do you notice about the way you are engaging with your Wheel?
- How do you want the wheel to express your thinking? Do you want to score the segments, or write (thoughts, experiences, names, places, projects, possibilities, hopes, fears, achievements, inspirations…), or draw, or consider how your wheel feels, or sounds, or…
As you look at each segment, here are some questions you may wish to ask:
- What does this <segment name> mean for you?
- What thoughts and feeling arise when you think about <segment name>?
- How does your relationship to <segment name> change when you look at it at a personal level? At an organisational/community/regional level? At a wider world level? At a longer term level? At a ‘make a dent in history’ level?
- How does your relationship to <segment name> change when you look at it at in relation to the other segments?
- How might you wish to divide this segment? For example, to reflect:
- the different parts of yourself as a person
- different points in time
- the different roles you have at work, in life, in time and in the world: leader, citizen, family member, supporter, enabler, catalyst, voice for…, creator, carer…
- What do you already know?
- What don’t you yet know?
- What are you afraid of?
- What have you learnt?
- To use the wonderful Nancy Kline question…: ‘What do you know now that you will realise in a year’s time?’
- What are you excited about?
Note: Whilst this tool has proven capability, as with all coaching and related professional services, results cannot be guaranteed. Exact results will depend upon the people using it. Please make use of support materials and learning opportunities.
Step 5: Share your experience
It’s really helpful to find out how the Wheel is working so that we can continually refine and improve it. Please share your feedback…