Learning To Coach
What is Coaching?
BACKGROUND OF COACHING
Coaching, applied to the broader horizon of life, is a relatively new profession. The concept of an older, wiser person imparting their wisdom and learning for the development of a pupil – a mentoring/teaching role – is steeped in history and the basis for many myths and fairy tales throughout the world. More recently, the concept of coaching has been employed and accepted as normal in the sports arena. A sports coach is someone who has experience of sporting discipline and brings out the best in a player – often beyond pure technical skills.
The profession of coaching in the 21st century has built on these foundations. By extending and refining basic principles, the profession has created a discipline that focuses on the process of lifelong learning and development throughout all aspects of people’s personal and professional lives. Coaching acknowledges that all areas of life – career, money, health, family and friends, partner, personal growth, recreation and physical environment – are all interlinked, creating either balance or unbalance, depending on the sustainability of actions within each area.
Although coaching is a process that encourages lifelong learning, the discipline is not based on a dependent relationship. Coaching is about unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It 2 / LEARNING TO COACH is helping them to learn and understand their experiences rather than teaching them. Coaching is not about the coach knowing it all, giving advice and ‘fixing’ the client (or ‘coachee’), neither is it a friendly chat and collusion of behaviours. The coach creates a safe, non-judgemental environment in which the coachee can reflect, review, plan action, move forward and learn from the experience. The skills, tools, talent and techniques that a coach needs to develop are all interconnected. This coaching knowledge creates an environment, together with a high level of meaningful language, trust and understanding, that is unique to each partnership and creates maximum value to each client. This book has been written as a guide for would-be coaches, those working in the personal and professional development arena and anyone using coaching in their everyday life. Many people use coaching skills as part of their day-to-day activities, in addition to those who coach professionally in an internal or external capacity – such as managers, teachers, leaders and volunteers. Learning to Coach helps to identify the critical issues of responsibility, accountability and authority that are involved in the coaching process. Such issues emerge during any relationship that uses a coaching style – for example between managers and their team or professional coaches and their client. Anyone wishing to offer coaching to others needs specific coaching training – whether they are already qualified in a complementary field (for example, a highly trained therapist), a successful executive wishing to coach at Board level or a volunteer offering to coach young people. Coaching is a profession in its own right and this book gives a thorough explanation of coaching skills and interactions, and highlights possibilities for further training and development. It also sets the place coaching fills in the arena of professional and personal life long learning and achievement is helping them to learn and understand their experiences rather than teaching them. Coaching is not about the coach knowing it all, giving advice and ‘fixing’ the client (or ‘coachee’), neither is it a friendly chat and collusion of behaviours.
The coach creates a safe, non-judgemental environment in which the coachee can reflect, review, plan action, move forward and learn from the experience. The skills, tools, talent and techniques that a coach needs to develop are all interconnected. This coaching knowledge creates an environment, together with a high level of meaningful language, trust and understanding, that is unique to each partnership and creates maximum value to each client.
This book has been written as a guide for would-be coaches, those working in the personal and professional development arena and anyone using coaching in their everyday life. Many people use coaching skills as part of their day-to-day activities, in addition to those who coach professionally in an internal or external capacity – such as managers, teachers, leaders and volunteers. Learning to Coach helps to identify the critical issues of responsibility, accountability and authority that are involved in the coaching process.
Such issues emerge during any relationship that uses a coaching style – for example between managers and their team or professional coaches and their client. Anyone wishing to offer coaching to others needs specific coaching training – whether they are already qualified in a complementary field (for example, a highly trained therapist), a successful executive wishing to coach at Board level or a volunteer offering to coach young people. Coaching is a profession in its own right and this book gives a thorough explanation of coaching skills and interactions, and highlights possibilities for further training and development. It also sets the place coaching fills in the arena of professional and personal life long learning and achievement.
Coaching is an accepted international profession, which is now imbedded in many different cultures and languages. Learning to Coach gives an insight into how coaching is employed in given situations and what makes the coaching process successful, valuable and worthwhile, however diverse the circumstances may be. In addition, the book goes beyond the issues of delivering coaching – by highlighting the importance of building a coaching relationship that ensures a sustainable, energetic, ongoing coaching process. By reading this book you will begin to know what to expect from coaching and make judgements about the experience – whether you are the coach or the coachee.
WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF COACHING!
Learning to Coach has identified three steps to accomplish a valuable coaching relationship. These are:
- Step 1 – Initial contact
- Step 2 – Foundation of the coaching relationship
- Step 3 – The coaching process
These three steps are interwoven with four key phases of the coaching process:
- Key phase one – Create the springboard for meaningful coaching
- Key phase two – Facilitate planning
- Key phase three – Provide a sustainable relationship
- Key phase four – Closure
Chapter 1 guides the reader through the process of identifying coaching qualities, competencies and skills, highlighting learning and development.
Chapter 2 assesses the process and the opportunities of the initial client contact.
Chapter 3 reviews the foundations of the coaching relationship and identifies the elements that create a powerful springboard from which the coaching process can begin.
Chapter 4 steps through the ongoing process of sustaining a valuable coaching experience.
Chapter 5 defines the role of coaching sponsored by a third party, looking at issues such as setting up a coaching programme, and the difference between working with internal and external coaches, individuals, teams and groups.
Chapter 6 outlines the practicalities of setting up a coaching practice and underlines the necessities of aligning a coaches own values and style to their coaching method.
GET THE BEST OUT OF LEARNING TO COACH
To experience and reinforce the learning in this book ‘Coaching Homework’ has been specifically designed throughout each chapter to 1) practise skills and learn from the experience, and 2) focus on your own coaching development and style.
To gain a professional outlook and benefit from the learning experience, your practice clients need to be detached from your close circle of family and friends. You could choose a colleague at work, someone you have met at the gym or someone that has been recommended by a friend. Ask around.
You need to make it clear that – whatever the coaching objectives and aims are – you will be working with your client as a whole person, with a wide and varied lifestyle. Preoccupations with work can often have an effect on home and social life. Difficulties in one’s personal life may also be reflected in the workplace. You must remember that personal behaviours, values, attitudes, barriers, future desires and experiences are echoed throughout all areas of life and will have a co-responding affect on a client’s immediate world. Your clients need to know that too.
DEFINITION OF COACHING There are many snappy definitions of coaching – quick 60-second ‘elevator’ speeches and ‘audio logos’ are available to explain what coaching is and what it can do for the client, usually in relation to what the coach wants to (or is prepared to) offer.
The reasons for undertaking coaching, the methods used and the results achieved are unique to every individual. However, the fundamental philosophy of coaching is contained within the following simple, clear definition:
Coaching is a relationship that is designed in such a way as to enhance the process of lifelong learning, effectiveness and fulfilment.
Identifying the difference
What is the difference between coaching and other forms of personal and professional development?
The question ‘what is coaching?’ often results in a series of explanations that try to give coaching a meaningful value or possible benefit.
These explanations often cloud the understanding of coaching.
Recently, at a party, the following conversation took place between two guests meeting for the first time.
‘Hi . . . So, I work in pharmaceuticals. What do you do? ’
‘Oh – I’m a coach’.
‘Oh, you coach sports – great. What sports do you coach? ’
‘No – I work with individuals and organisations in whatever area or issues they would like to focus on to enhance their lives and potential’.
‘Okay – Is that like therapy?’
‘No . . . ’
‘Oh, you mean life coaching – like in woman’s magazines? ’
Before the conversation had finished, coaching had been likened to a voice coach, mentoring and then finishing with:
‘Oh – you’re a consultant then? ’
The coach felt stumped and quickly changed the conversation to another subject.
Coaching has become a modern buzzword, and as a result coaching has often been misrepresented in the professional arena. There are several ways to train as a coach or to become involved in other developmental arenas, such as therapy, counselling, mentoring, training and consulting. Many of the same soft skills are used across the development arenas.
They are related to people skills, i.e. behaviour or state of mind. Hard skills are related to technical expertise i.e. accounting or law.
Sometimes coaching jargon is used in a variety of professions to illustrate validity or jazz old themes. This has tended to dilute the power and real value of the professional coaching process. In turn, it also muddies the water of the value and expertise of other developmental practices.
Soft skills used in coaching.
Pacing, geography, meaningful language, asking permission
Levels and perception intuition, clearing, introducing
Powerful questions, open/closed questions, brainstorming, curiosity, inquiring
Articulation, bottom lining, humour and lightness acknowledging and championing
Learning and experience:
Perspectives and choices, reforming, requesting and challenging, structures, recalibration
‘The overall aim of counselling is to provide an opportunity for the client to work towards living in a way he or she experiences as more satisfying and resourceful’.
The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP), taken from Learning to Counsel by Jan Sutton and William Stewart.
Therapy is used in times of personal crisis, where resolution is based on a re-examination of the past in order to make the patient feel whole, resourceful and creative in their own right. Coaching starts from the point that all coachees are already naturally creative, resourceful and whole. As one coach put it, there tends to be ‘a sadness’ involved in therapeutic work, such as bereavement. The following examples of therapy juxtaposed coaching words help to illustrate the differences between these two disciplines:
- Why me/why this?_________ What’s next/what now?
- Overcoming obstacles _____Sustainable flow
- Looks back _______________Raising standards
- Somewhat vulnerable ______Actively building
- Needs help _______________Frustration
- Pain _____________________Present/future
- Professional arm’s length Uniqueness
- Healing of emotion _______Related experiences
- Damage ___________________Missed opportunities
- Restoration ______________Unlimited scope
Mentoring is traditionally associated with a more experienced person guiding and passing on their knowledge and experience to others. The mentee could be following in their mentor’s footsteps or using them as a role model. The modern twist to this is the ‘reverse mentoring process’. This is a relationship in which a younger person has experience that they can share with the older generation – such as IT technology. Essentially mentoring is about sharing knowledge and experience. The mentoring model has been revised to also enable open lines of communication and innovation within organisations through peer and buddy mentoring programmes.
Training is used when a skill – whether situational, theoretical or practical – needs to be taught. Examples of training-related activities include using new IT software, learning how to cook or learning to use a new managerial process at work. The information is taught in a prescriptive mode.
Consultants are used for the skills and experience that they can impart in a given situation. Consultants can give specific advice to an individual about the options available and the pros and cons of the choices they make. You hire a consultant to advise you how to go about a process.
DIVERSITY – DIFFERENCES AND SIMILARITIES
The profession of coaching is practised worldwide and therefore across many differing cultures and lives. Some coaches will decide that they would like to work within a niche area of clients. This could include nationality, language or situational experience. Business and social factors have opened up access to providing coaching 24/7 globally and the newly announced diversity policy in Europe is based on six pillars which are gender, ethnicity, ageism, disability, religion and sexual orientation. Acknowledging diversity, differences and similarities has become a requirement in the coaching arena.
For many coaches, the greatest challenges come with language and social expectations. Coaching has primarily grown using the of US English. Thus transferring skills, meaning and experience directly into another language brings its own set of misunderstandings. For example, when teaching coaching skills to a group of Russian businessmen about the process of learning, the direct translation of the four steps of the learning process (see page 112, Figure 20) caused great concern. The word ‘competence’ had a negative meaning for them. The translation of competence from unconscious incompetence through to unconscious competence had no change in understanding for them. After a discussion between the translator, the English coach teaching them the soft skills and the Russian businessmen themselves, it was decided the wording should be changed to ‘unconscious lack of knowledge’ through to ‘unconscious known knowledge’. Knowledge as a word had a positive meaning for them, which fitted the meaning intended by the original English. Instances like this have therefore brought fresh – and exciting – challenges to the practice of coaching.
In other regions, creating and using a coaching model for the motivation and continuous learning for employees and individuals is desirable, but also needs to be sensitive to the backdrop of the business, family or social culture. Ideas regarding what is creating potential in a person’s life may differ in understanding and need. Those who are living a more basic lifestyle will have differing wants and needs to those in more privileged positions. This may sound very obvious, but it is surprising how many coaches can get caught up in the mode of bringing the best potential out in their clients while forgetting to service and understand the basic needs of coachees. Such keen coaches can get bogged down in coaching models and will try to teach their jargon to clients, rather than being flexible and happy to explore what has the greatest relevance and meaning for coachees that they can continue to use when the coaching sessions are completed. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, originally illustrated in the 1950s, is still relevant today for explaining the motivations and expectations of differing societies.
In the following chapter coaching skills are explored more fully. Under the headings of creating and maintaining ‘rapport’ and verbal and non verbal ‘listening’, it is essential to build a solid foundation of understanding from which to further build a coaching relationship that allows for an on-going recalibration of both understanding and meaning between the coach and the coachee.
The directive and non-directive ways in which skills are deployed by coaches have a significant impact on the process and outcome of coaching. It also makes a difference if the coaching process is informal or formal. An informal coaching relationship usually works on an ad hoc basis, with the coaching process based on a regular meeting programme. However, some professional coaches offer an aftercare service to former clients which enables the latter to have access to a coaching session should they need one. Informal coaching generally happens within the workplace where there is no regular coaching programme, with managers choosing to coach their teams when they think it is needed rather than on a regular basis or via internal coaches run a coaching clinic. Factors influencing the differing approaches are governed by the nature of the relationship between coach and coachee. This is always a relationship of accountability, responsibility and authority. Professional coaches will set up formal coaching relationships based on the needs and agendas of their clients.
Directive style coaching
The bottom third of the triangle in Figure 3 shows situations when a directive style of soft skills is used in coaching. These skills would be for training, mentoring models, and managers and supervisors of some educational programmes for chartered status in professions such as law, accountancy and the building sector. For example, if a coach is the line manager of a coachee they will come to a point where the manager will be directive about actions and goals. While they may not have a preference over how a project is completed, they do need to see certain goals achieved. However, the manager may also want the coachee to learn certain elements and practices in the workplace for their professional development, and in order to gain the necessary training to achieve this, the manager, as coach, will need to be directive about the process irrespective of their coachees’ willingness.
The main influences that drive achievement are organisational aims and objectives, not personal goals and motivation. This is a directive use of coaching skills.
Directive and non directive style
Following Figure 3 through to the middle part of the diagram there will be occasions when both a directive and a non directive style may be used. This could be the internal coach who trains and mentors managers on skills for managing teams and performance, or a Non- Executive Director (NED) whose position on the board means that they are balancing being a non-directive sounding board for the executive board, or being directive in the strategic direction of the organisation. Again, this can be the case within the voluntary sector where there are both paid officers and volunteers working together and sharing responsibilities for the effectiveness of an organisation. Depending on the relationship and motivation of both coach and coachee, it would be easier to use a directive style with paid officers to accomplish goals rather than with volunteers who need to be engaged in their performance and motivated to give their time and expertise free, and are therefore usually happy for backing with a non-directive supportive style. There can be occasions, however, when internal coaches within organisations, however much they try, will have issues with being totally non-directive in a coaching relationship. Here they have a duty to their employer and their own employee performance to maintain. This creates a conflict of interest. However good in-house coaching programmes are they are often tainted, rightly or wrongly, with being recorded in some way on employees’ HR records. This then makes the coaching process seem unsafe and less than confidential.
The top section of the triangle in Figure 3 represents the use of soft skills by professional coaches. These coaches will have spent many hundreds of hours of supervised training and will have committed themselves to continual professional development (CPD) and regular supervision. A coach who works at this level will only use a non-directive style and will usually be external to the organisation or in no way connected to the coachee. The coaching agenda and aims will be the client’s – the coachee – and will not be influenced by the coach. If the coach feels that there is an issue with the coaching relationship they can end it immediately.
The hierarchy of position and power that a coach might have over a coachee also affects the balance of accountability and responsibility that is expected within the relationship.
Many coaches carve out a niche so that they can market themselves according to the types of clients they would like to have and their existing contacts and experience. Although the list of specialist and niche coaching is endless, the commissioning of coaching can be split into two groups – 1st party coaching and 3rd party/sponsor coaching.
1st party coaching
1st party coaching is a direct relationship between individuals and their choice of coach. Individuals choose to be coached around issues that they currently have, or need to consider, in order to find an even more satisfying lifestyle (or simply to reflect where they are now). This could include looking at work/life balance, a future career path, life purpose, values, wants and wishes. 1st party coaching is future focused and totally centred around the client’s agenda.
Occasionally, a friend, family member or spouse may suggest that an individual seeks coaching for a particular issue. This is a form of 3rd party coaching, because another person has expressed an interest in the coaching process. 3rd party coaching can compromise a client’s agenda. For this reason it is important to acknowledge that two of the cornerstones for a valuable, productive coaching relationship are confidentiality and coaching on a client driven agenda – not an imposed agenda.
3rd party/sponsor coaching
Some organisations commission a coach to work with individuals or groups in order to explore business-related topics and to support employees in their positions. The organisation may have some specific areas that they would like their employees to be coached on. However, an accepted ethos of coaching is that it is a holistic process – therefore coaching can focus on both personal and business issues to complement the objectives of the organisation and the personal motivations of the individual.
It is worth taking a moment to acknowledge the power and effect that personal life, motivations and aspirations have on professional and business lives. To gain the maximum value, a 3rd party/sponsored coaching programme must include the personal goals that an individual has expressed in the foundation session. Failure to do so will dilute the permanent success of coaching objectives. See Chapter 5 – Third Party
Coaching for coaches
It is very important for anyone using coaching skills and tools to know what it feels like to be coached. The highs, lows, plateaus, ‘I feel stuck’ and the ‘Ah ha!’ moments. If a coach has never experienced these situations, they will never be able to empathise with the feelings of their client during the coaching process.
Coaching can be used in the following ways:
- A stand alone development tool in its own right for personal and professional learning
- In conjunction with a training process to reinforce and imbed the learning
- A proactive process to assess and reflect on personal and professional possibilities.
Three methods of coaching are:
- Face to face
Email and other technologically driven media. For example, Skype, webeminars or chat rooms for live email exchange. These advances in technology help to overcome issues of disability, remote working or flexitime working and enable coaches to offer more cost effective ways of delivering sessions to clients.
Such methods are usually supported by email and telephone contact and support between booked coaching appointments. Some coaches offer both face-to-face and telephone coaching, other coaches choose to specialise in one or the other.
Coaches running their own practice (or those using coaching skills in their everyday life) need to choose a method of coaching that best suits them. Learning to Coach will guide you through this process, highlighting the questions you need to ask, and looking at the possibilities that will help you in your decision-making.