Whenever you are responsible for other people, you have an obligation to work on understanding and developing yourself as a leader.
Coaching means different things to different people. For some it’s a term closely related to sports and high performing athletes. Others see it as a way to sort out the big questions in life and others again relate coaching more to performance and achieving their potential. And then there are all the other variants. Personally, I belong to the human potential school of coaching. By that I mean to me coaching is about helping individuals and teams access their full potential.
Everybody, no matter what they do, has the potential to improve and take whatever they are doing to the next level. But sometimes we get stuck. And the ‘stuckness’ means that something is interfering and that interference prevents us from reaching our full potential or true self.
Identifying and dealing effectively with ‘interference’ is what a coach can help you with.
Coaching has always been present in our lives. From the early days of human race, people taught each other how to hunt, cook, use tools and weapons etc. However, the term “coaching” itself was first used in Oxford University in 1830 to describe an instructor or trainer. Initially, it was actually a slang to call tutors who helped students during their exams. Since then, coaching has been utilised to explain the process of helping people get where they want to be and from where they are. Today, coaching is most used in sports even its first application in sports came later in 1861.
Over time, coaching has been applied in many fields, such as leadership studies, personal development, Human Potential Movement, just to name a few.
Since around 1990s, coaching has been studied and developed as an independent subject area in itself and many professional coaching associations have been established. Today, major organisations such as the Association for Coaching, the International Coach Federation, the European Coaching and Mentoring Council work to monitor standards and accreditation, train and certify coaches.
At its essence, coaching is a conversation typically between 2 people, a coach and ‘client’. A skilled coach will help the client examine issues, thoughts or behaviours from different angles typically using questions that invite a new perspective or help the client see what they may not have seen or thought about before.
In that way, coaching is essentially an inquiry.
The most common format is one to one.
But the inquiry can also be conducted in triads or as a team.
Coaching in triads, which is something we do in all the GROW-Leadership programs, adds an extra layer to the inquiry, because colleagues will formulate different and often more insightful questions than the coach. They know from their own experience what the ‘client’ is going through.
Team coaching means having an inquiry or conversation as teams, where a coach can help teams reach beyond their self-imposed limits. This typically strengthens the relationship between team members and provides a deeper common understanding about how the team operates.
Over time, the process develops the team for greater productivity through improving communication, understanding, and collaboration.
The short answer is if you are happy with the status quo then don’t.
On the other hand, if there is something that you would like to be different then coaching is probably your best option.
At the heart of a coaching intervention is a desire for change on the part of the client. What needs to change depends. It can be a way of looking at things, a relationship or it could be behaviour.
But good coaching has an outcome. In that sense, it is not just a conversation
But, as we all know, change is not always easy to accomplish. Not in ourselves and not in others.
So what does it take to achieve change – well if you have children, you will probably by now have learnt that telling is not particularly effective. You can probably hear yourself saying “How many times do I have to tell you…”.
So when does someone change? We change when we reach our own conclusions, when change becomes meaningful to us, and not a minute before. But when that happens, we can change in a heartbeat as Tony Robins famously says.
In his book ‘Change or Die’ – author Alan Deutschman deconstructs a number of high-profile change initiatives. In the process, he discovers that there is a pattern. And the pattern can be summarised as the three Rs: Relate, Reframe and Repeat.
Relate: In order for us to see things in a new light and come to a different conclusion, we need to be in a secure setting – with a person or persons that we can relate to and feel safe with.
Reframe: Through conversation and inquiry, we have the possibility to examine our thoughts and/or actions from different angles, as we do, we reframe them.
Repeat: And when we repeat that process systematically over time, change occurs. Sometimes it happens quickly; on other occasions, it takes longer. Depends on how ‘stuck’ we are.
In a major survey conducted by Amsterdam university, their summary conclusion was: The results show that coaching has significant positive effects on performance and skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation. In general, our meta-analytic findings indicate that coaching is an effective tool for improving the functioning of individuals in organisations.
Another study featured in the International Journal of Evidence-based Coaching & Mentoring concluded:
“External executive coaching improves psychological variables affecting performance such as self-efficacy, goal setting, intra-personal causal attributions of success, and satisfaction of self-determination need.
The outcomes of internal coaching based on leadership are not as strong as those from external executive coaching.”
So there is plenty of evidence out there that it works. This is also evident in the number of organisations which are actively embracing coaching as part of their development programs.
But it is important to remember that the real power of coaching is over time. The clients’ self-awareness and sense of choice increases as they move through each iteration of the relate, reframe and repeat cycle.
Coaching is all about the relationship. Rule number one is therefore if you are not 100% comfortable with the relationship, find someone else – keep trying till you find the right fit.
So when selecting a coach, look for someone who demonstrates empathy, approachability and respect. Look for good listening skills, multicultural experience and the capacity to be non-judgemental.
Personality and chemistry fit aside, what contributes to a good coaching relationship is that the client believes in the coach. This means that the coach must demonstrate experience and insight within the field that is objective of the coaching (if you are being coached in how to stop smoking, a coach who smokes would probably not be the best fit.). That does not mean that the coach needs to be an expert in the subject matter but the coach does need to have a feel for and understanding of the environment and situation the client finds themselves in.
You should expect your coach:
– To hold you as a naturally creative, resourceful and whole person.
– Be there for your regularly scheduled calls, on time and ready to coach.
– Be absolutely straight, honest and authentic with you.
– To hold your agenda as the primary focus of the coaching relationship.
– To take risks, swing out from time to time and ask you the hard questions.
– To speak frankly and without attachment, in service to your growth, learning and agenda
I cannot vouch for what other coaches expect but here is what I expect from the people I coach:
– You call me at our scheduled appointment time on Skype or Zoom. Before your call, please take a few minutes to settle in and prepare yourself. Try to be in a place where you are comfortable, can concentrate and will not be disturbed or otherwise distracted for the scheduled length of your session.
– Bring your own agenda, your wants and needs to each session. Be ready and willing to talk all about you. This time is completely dedicated to you, your growth, learning and action. It is for you and only you.
Start out with your existing network.
Reach out to people you know and trust, who might be able to recommend a good coach they know or have used. You want someone who comes recommended and someone you trust has had experience with.
Ask the person referring a coach:
What specific things did their coach help them do?
Did they genuinely enjoy working with the coach?
Even if you get a recommendation from a friend, look the coach up (online and offline). Do they understand your business (or have experience in your market)?
Once you feel comfortable, have an introductory session call with the coach and see how you feel about them.
If it works, it works; if not, move on.
Change or Die – author Alan Deutschman
The Effect from Executive Coaching on Performance Psychology, Moen, Skaalvik; Norwegian University of Science & Technology
Effective Coaching: Lessons from the Coach’s Coach – by Myles Downey