“Coaching is not a spectator sport. A productive coaching relationship begins with two people with fires in their bellies: one who wants to desperately move forward and another who yearns to help that person make the journey.”
– James Belasco, Coaching for Leadership
WHAT IS COACHING?
In essence, coaching is a conversation, but one which is always (in business terms, anyway) held in a productive, future-focused environment. It is a deliberate process that uses focused conversations to create an environment for individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained improvement. Coaching is a one-on-one process based on a relationship between an individual and a coach, who formulate specific objectives and goals that are focused on developing potential, improving professional relationships, and enhancing performance. Coaching uses a formalized yet personalized approach that integrates proven technique for change with behavioral knowledge and practical experience. Coaching breaks down barriers to help achieve greater levels of accomplishment. It is a process of self-leadership that enables people to gain clarity about who they are, what they are doing, and why they are doing it.
The one-on-one coaching relationship is used to:
- Unlock an individual’s potential and maximize his or her performance.
- Challenge and aid individuals in taking effective action.
- Lead individuals to an understanding of the essence of themselves (their character) to achieve personal and professional satisfaction.
WHAT IS A COACH?
A coach is a success broker and a partner – a dedicated professional who specializes in developing and helping others excel. A coach is a part mentor, advisor, sounding board, and devil’s advocate. A coach creates a safe environment in which both parties can share insights and information, untangle the causes of limitations (sometimes self-imposed), and identify effective methods to practice new approaches. As an unbiased third party, a coach uses a variety of methods to help clients attain greater clarity, learn new, or upgrade existing, skill sets, and achieve greater job satisfaction and an improved quality of life.
Socrates said: “I can’t teach you anything; I can only make you think!” That is the primary role of a coach: to help you think wider, deeper, thoroughly and to see things from different perspectives. Your primary outcome, no matter what the objective for your coaching process is, should be improved thinking, perspectives and, hence, effectiveness.
HOW CAN YOU DETERMINE IF COACHING IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
To determine whether you or your company could benefit from coaching, start by summarizing what you would expect to accomplish in coaching. When an individual or business has a fairly clear idea of the desired outcome, a coaching partnership can be a useful tool for developing a strategy for how to achieve that outcome with greater ease.
Since coaching is a partnership, ask yourself whether collaboration, other viewpoints, and new perspectives are valued. Also, ask yourself whether you or your business is ready to devote the time and the energy to making real changes. If the answer is yes, then coaching may be a beneficial way to grow and develop.
WHAT ARE SOME TYPICAL REASONS SOMEONE MIGHT WORK WITH A COACH?
An individual or team might choose to work with a coach for many reasons, including but not limited to the following:
- Something urgent, compelling or exciting is at stake (a challenge, stretch goal or opportunity)
- A gap exists in knowledge, skills, confidence or resources
- A desire to accelerate results
- A lack of clarity with choices to be made
- Success has started to become problematic
- Work and life are out of balance, creating unwanted consequences
- Core strengths need to be identified, along with how best to leverage them
WITHIN THE PARTNERSHIP, WHAT DOES THE COACH DO?
- Provides objective assessment and observations that foster the individual’s or team’s self-awareness and awareness of others
- Listens closely to fully understand the individual’s or team’s circumstances
- Acts as a sounding board in exploring possibilities and implementing thoughtful planning and decision making
- Champions opportunities and potential, encouraging stretch and challenge commensurate with personal strengths and aspirations
- Fosters shifts in thinking that reveal fresh perspectives,
- Challenges blind spots to illuminate new possibilities and support the creation of alternative scenarios
- Maintains professional boundaries in the coaching relationship, including confidentiality, and adheres to the coaching profession’s code of ethics.
- Create a safe environment in which a person being coached can see his-or her self more clearly. Coaches listen, ask focused questions, reflect back, challenge and acknowledge the client.
- Assist the person being coached in understanding how to grow and thrive, by championing, and standing for the person’s best self.
- Guide the person being coached in setting an agenda so that he or she can grow naturally and comfortably.
- Encourage intentional thought, action, and behavior changes when the person being coached is reluctant to do so.
- Inject enough dynamic tension into the coaching process to compel the person being coached to take action and effect positive and sustainable change.
- Identify gaps between where the person being coached is and where that person needs or wants to be.
- Help the person being coached develop a strong personal action plan to close those gaps and hold the individual rigorously accountable to that plan.
- Understand and anticipate obstacles that will slow the progress of the person being coached (including personal limitations) and strategize with the person to overcome them.
- Institute the structure necessary to ensure a sustained commitment for both parties.
- Maintain the client’s focus and vision, to help him or her remember has been defined as most important.
HOW IS COACHING DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SERVICE PROFESSIONS?
Professional coaching focuses on setting goals, creating outcomes and managing personal change. Sometimes it’s helpful to understand coaching by distinguishing it from other personal or organizational support professions.
- Therapy: Therapy deals with healing pain, dysfunction and conflict within an individual or in relationships. The focus is often on resolving difficulties arising from the past that hamper an individual’s emotional functioning in the present, improving overall psychological functioning, and dealing with the present in more emotionally healthy ways. Coaching, on the other hand, supports personal and professional growth based on self-initiated change in pursuit of specific actionable outcomes. These outcomes are linked to personal or professional success. Coaching is future focused. While positive feelings/emotions may be a natural outcome of coaching, the primary focus is on creating actionable strategies for achieving specific goals in one’s work or personal life. The emphases in a coaching relationship are on action, accountability, and follow through.
- Mentoring: A mentor is an expert who provides wisdom and guidance based on his or her own experience. Mentoring may include advising, counseling and coaching. The coaching process does not include advising or counseling, and focuses instead on individuals or groups setting and reaching their own objectives.
- Training: Training programs are based on objectives set out by the trainer or instructor. Though objectives are clarified in the coaching process, they are set by the individual or team being coached, with guidance provided by the coach. Training also assumes a linear learning path that coincides with an established curriculum. Coaching is less linear without a set curriculum.
- Athletic Development: Though sports metaphors are often used, professional coaching is different from sports coaching. The sports coach is often seen as an expert who guides and directs the behavior of individuals or teams based on his or her greater experience and knowledge. Professional coaches possess these qualities, but their experience and knowledge of the individual or team determines the direction. Additionally, professional coaching, unlike athletic development, does not focus on behaviors that are being executed poorly or incorrectly. Instead, the focus is on identifying opportunity for development based on individual strengths and capabilities.
HOW DO WE START THE PROCESS?
At Leaders in Progress, we are mindful that coaching services are not tangible and that you have little or nothing of substance to make your decision on. Accordingly, it is important to us that you experience coaching BEFORE YOU DECIDE. We therefore offer you two free coaching sessions on a no-obligation basis – you only decide when you have completed those two sessions. At those two sessions you can expect the following:
- At the first session, we will discuss what you are interested in improving or what you would like to get out of the coaching process (your coaching topic, for want of a better description), discuss what our coaching approach is and what it can do for you, and we will get a feel for how we might be able to work together within this new framework; and
- At the second session, we will:
- Discuss your current approach to your coaching topic and what you want to accomplish;
- Describe the sustainable competencies (or ‘muscles’) we would build in order for you to achieve the new possibilities;
- Outline what your specific coaching programme would look like; and
- Give you an exact understanding of what costs would be involved and what returns you and your organisation can expect on this investment.It is only at this stage that you would need to make a decision. If you don’t want to go ahead, then so be it – but we need to warn you that not many people bow out once they see just what what’s in it for them! So, give us a shout – you have nothing to lose!
WHAT DOES COACHING ASK OF AN INDIVIDUAL?
To be successful, coaching asks certain things, all of which begin with intention. Additionally, clients should:
- Focus on one’s self, the tough questions, the hard truths and one’s success.
- Observe the behaviors and communications of others.
- Listen to one’s intuition, assumptions, judgments, and to the way one sounds when one speaks
- Challenge existing attitudes, beliefs and behaviors and develop new ones that serve one’s goals in a superior way
- Leverage personal strengths and overcome limitations to develop a winning style
- Take decisive actions, however uncomfortable and in spite of personal insecurities, to reach for the extraordinary
- Show compassion for one’s self while learning new behaviors and experiencing setbacks, and to show that compassion for others as they do the same
- Commit to not take one’s self so seriously, using humor to lighten and brighten any situation
- Maintain composure in the face of disappointment and unmet expectations, avoiding emotional reactivity
- Have the courage to reach for more than before while engaging in continual self examination without fear
HOW CAN I GET THE MOST OUT OF COACHING?
First and foremost, keep your appointments, and protect your coaching time from intrusions.
Secondly, do everything you agree to do, including:
- The actions agreed at each coaching session;
- Your assignment, which requires work throughout the process.
Other suggestions include:
- Ask questions. Share your doubts, concerns and impressions with your coach.
- Remember that you are the client. Ask for what you want. Tell your coach how he or she can best serve you. If your coach isn’t asking enough questions, is talking too much or too fast, or is doing something that annoys you, tell him or her immediately! Think of the coaching relationship as an alliance, whose sole purpose is to serve you.
- Be willing to stretch your thinking and attitudes during your coaching sessions. Remember, this is a safe place to process the experience and learn from it.
- Be willing to share your coaching experience with colleagues, and be willing to listen to theirs!
HOW CAN THE SUCCESS OF THE COACHING PROCESS BE MEASURED?
Measurement may be thought of in two distinct ways: external indicators of performance and internal indicators of success. Ideally, both are incorporated.
Examples of external measures include achievement of coaching goals established at the outset of the coaching relationship, increased income/revenue, obtaining a promotion, performance feedback that is obtained from a sample of the individual’s constituents (e.g., direct reports, colleagues, customers, boss, the manager him/herself), personal and/or business performance data (e.g., productivity, efficiency measures). The external measures selected should be things the individual is already measuring and has some ability to directly influence.
Examples of internal measures include self-scoring/self-validating assessments that can be administered initially and at regular intervals in the coaching process, changes in the individual’s self-awareness and awareness of others, shifts in thinking that create more effective actions, and shifts in one’s emotional state that inspire confidence.
WHAT FACTORS SHOULD BE CONSIDERED WHEN LOOKING AT THE FINANCIAL INVESTMENT IN COACHING?
Working with a coach requires both a personal commitment of time and energy as well as a financial commitment. Fees charged vary by specialty and by the level of experience of the coach. At Leaders in Progress we tend to charge according to the value received by our clients rather than in units of time. Individuals should consider both the desired benefits as well as the anticipated length of time to be spent in coaching. Since the coaching relationship is predicated on clear communication, any financial concerns or questions should be voiced in initial conversations before the agreement is made.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE DO’S + DON’TS OF COACHING?
Establish a need for coaching
Askquestionsto understand the reasons forcoaching,the coaching process, and management’s expectations
Assume or second- guess, adopt a negative (self-fulfilling) mindset
Meet with the coach
Ask questions of the coach, disclose fully about yourself, discuss expectations
Blindly “go with the programme” (make sure it is your programme), hold back
Data gathering and needs assessment
Thinkaboutyour strengthsand weaknesses, review past performance appraisals, solicit feedback from others, inviteothersto participate for your benefit, thank them for their help
Play a passive role (just wait and see what the coach comes up with), be closed-minded or argumentative about the coach’s findings, become defensive, be passive-aggressive (agree, but don’t follow through)
Develop coaching plan
Be a full participant
Pick goals that are easy or safe, don’t include others, be unrealistic about what can be accomplished
Execute coaching plan
Try out new behaviours, monitor yourself, bring questionsand observationsto discussions with the coach
Go through the motions, try nothing different, tell coaches what “they want to hear”
Solicit feedback, revise goals as needed
Evaluate based on activity and not results, treat it as a “tick off” and move on