1. Home
  2. Blog

People open up in a different kind of way with clean questions


Rachel Gilmore has so far attended just five days of training with us – Clean for Teams plus a couple of modules of our Systemic Modelling Programme – and so I was intrigued when she told me that she had already started using clean with her clients and was getting better results than with her existing methods. I caught up with her to find out more…

It’s 18 years since I first came across Clean Language and I have been working in the clean field full-time for the past 10 years. Inevitably Clean Language, and the clean ethos, feels quite normal to me. So it’s always interesting to talk with newcomers to the field and to learn how their experiences of clean compare with other modalities they use.

After university, and having no idea what to do with her degree in European Studies and Spanish, Rachel took a job as a waitress with Pizza Express. Someone there spotted she had management potential and sent her on a management training scheme where she learned all kinds of skills, including how to train other people. This experience made her realise that training was her ‘thing’ and she went on to gain a training qualification and to work for organisations such as Selfridges, where she set up a new induction programme which gave all new recruits an NVQ, Hemsley Fraser, which involved training diverse subjects in three different cities every week and Channel 4 where she set up an internal coaching and consultancy service.

Rachel describes herself as someone who loves going on courses, learning new things and putting them into practice immediately – and she had plentiful opportunities to do this at Selfridges (who funded her Masters Degree in HR Development and Consultancy,) and at Channel 4, where she qualified as a professional coach and Myers Briggs practitioner. After a year out travelling, Rachel set up her own business in 2008 and has been in demand as a corporate coach and facilitator ever since, all her work coming through word-of-mouth and networking. She loves all aspects of her work, loves seeing people on their journeys and loves the lifestyle that self-employment offers, allowing her to build her work around her family.

Rachel first came across Clean Language about 7 or 8 years ago when her own coach at the time, Jenny Rogers, recommended Clean Language: Revealing Metaphors and Opening Minds by Wendy Sullivan and Judy Rees. She loved the book and, wanting to put what she was learning into practice, set up a study group with a few other coaches for peer learning and practice. She says,

I found Clean Language to be really effective and I gained the confidence to start using it with clients. I wasn’t doing whole clean sessions but would often work cleanly with metaphor.

Having taken time out to raise her young family, it wasn’t until 2016 that Rachel had time to attend a course in Clean Language. She chose Clean for Teams as “the first step to refresh my skills” and says she was a bit overwhelmed at first as she found it hard to switch off from domestic issues.

But I was blown away by you and your style of facilitation. You came across as really warm and genuine. Later I came to realise that this was in part because you were using clean. If you are using clean, there is nothing to not like. I am pretty good at what I do – and I have assessed other facilitators and coaches – and I can be critical of other facilitators but I didn’t experience any of that critical side of me in this workshop. I also realised I really liked the comfortable atmosphere created by being in a home rather than a training venue.

Rachel immediately joined our Systemic Modelling Professional Level Rolling Programme and completed her first module just before Christmas. She found this to be:

Brilliant - exciting and energising. It gave me new ways of looking at things and I started to feel refreshed. And I really like the other participants. I know I have a lot to learn and I can learn a lot from these people. They, and Marian, have given me really valuable feedback. I can be a bit of a lone ranger in how I work and rarely get feedback normally.

Given Rachel’s pattern of putting new learning into practice immediately, it won’t come as any surprise that even after just 3 days of training, Rachel was soon trying out her new skills. She says,

I was fortunate; I had three teams lined up in my diary. I usually work with groups over a number of sessions, but each of these had asked me for a one-off session.

My first group was the least successful – I took too long answering people’s questions in the ‘What would you like to know before we begin?’ section and this slowed everything down.

But the second and third groups went really well. One was with a small team of five very bright people who’d had a really tricky year and I kept the agenda very emergent. The Clean Set Up provoked ideas for Developmental Tasks, so we created some of those, there and then. I also asked, “Are you noticing what I’m doing?” and then put the clean questions up on a flipchart, just as you had done in our training. I was integrating ideas I had learned on the training with my existing ideas and models and it felt very natural. A lot of emotional things had happened during the year and they were able to speak about these – individually and collectively – and to let go of them in a healthy way.

The third group was a large group of 11 people. I met up with the boss a couple of days beforehand and did a Clean Set Up with her. She said she was comfortable with not over-planning the day and when I suggested I did with the team what I had done with her, she said, ‘Go for it.’ (I hadn’t mentioned Clean Language or Clean Set Up, I just did it.) When I got there, I felt some people in the group were skeptical; they had never done anything like this before. But I watched the cynics become really engaged. Of course, this reflected my own process when I attended Clean for Teams.

In fact I watched all three groups move to a more genuine place than I have observed when working with traditional models. People opened up in a different kind of way with clean questions than when I have delivered models such as SWOT analysis or Myers Briggs as way to analyse what has been happening. It felt like everyone in the room was working on the stuff that was in the room – and although it is hard to pinpoint why, I felt they benefitted more.

They all said they wanted to do more and when I asked ‘What will you do differently as a result of today?’ they came up with lots of interesting and exciting ideas. One man, who I had classed as a cynic, and who had started the day in a blaming stance saying to his boss, “You do this… you do that” started using “we’ language: “We need to do …” He ended up committing, in front of all his colleagues, to start a lunchtime choir to help build morale.

Rachel took her second Systemic Modelling module last weekend. So what are her aspirations for using clean going forward?

I want to use clean more and more, but I don’t want to throw all my old methods out. I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I want to work out ways to integrate it into how I work.

No… that sounds like I will be putting clean into the traditional methods. I would actually like to use Clean Language and Systemic Modelling as a framework for how I work, so that I put what I do already into clean.

This means I’ll be giving people a better service. I think people will get accelerated learning and accelerated meeting of their objectives. And I think this in turn will give me even more satisfaction in my work.

The other day I was working with a different group and there was a big drama. I didn’t use clean and afterwards I reflected that I could have done and it would have been much better for everyone.

One of my existing techniques for creativity is a box of objects I have that is tied up with a ribbon to look like a gift and I ask people to pull out objects and describe them. Learning clean is like having a box like that with all my clean stuff in, that looks very attractive and tempting. I can lift the lid and play with it, be creative and then put it away. But it is stays tempting. And when I am ready I will start to carry it around with me, and taking it to my clients more and more. And then it will just become part of me.

I think clean will also start to differentiate me from my competitors. It will be something unique about me. And even if it is just me being refreshed and they don’t know anything about it, I think they will find working with me fresh, progressive and different.

Image by Fruchthandel_Magazin from Pixabay 

Related courses

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

Blog categories
Adventures in Clean
Book Reviews
Clean Ambassadors
Clean Interviewing
Clean is like ...
Clean Language
Clean Language Questions
Clean Space
Client Stories
Life Purpose
Practice Group
Structures for Living
Symbolic Modelling
Systemic Modelling