It still seems like a sort of hidden secret how Coaching can bring important benefits to the Coach, not only the Coachee. Coaching might be more effective if there was more attention to the learning Coaches can get from working as a coach.
The straight model of coaching lays it on that coaching is just a sort of professional transaction, which implies the delivery of a service to the Coachee … as directed by the Coachee’s needs and requirements …. Focusing solely on the needs and requirements of the Coachee (and sponsors).
The Coach only gets their reward as a financial re-imbursement for their time … and investment in the learning that enables them to deliver the service required.
The Coach is not there to meet any other needs of their own ….
Having had the chance to study this wide field over several decades, I think the evidence is moving inexorably towards how Coach can only really deliver coaching by being a full person in the presence of the Coachee (it’s more than simply having a ‘coaching presence’).
- They are as involved in the dialogue as the Coachee.
- They can get a very important range of other benefits from this process.
- They can learn something themselves!
This isn’t simple, of course, but it is important to get it onto the table as a vital matter to give more attention to.
Personally, I have never met any other person who hasn’t had the capability to amaze me, and enrich me, through getting a sense of their experience of life/work, and how they go about it. This does cover a wide range of people – of all sorts!
What are these other benefits?
1 Learning about other People:
The central issue is still like dark matter ( as astrologists refer to it )… learning about what is a normal healthy person. A unique person, not a statistic. You know, someone, a real person, that you meet!
Coaching is aimed at working with people who have an established and healthy approach to their life and work. They are in charge of their learning …. Quite often they are so fully engaged that the coaching is an excuse for them to get some space to make more sense of all the data they have about a very busy and effective life/work.
Our greatest learning challenge:
There isn’t really much established about normal healthy life, of the unique kind, compared with the extensive study of people with problems, where there are difficulties rather than opportunities, and learning difficulties rather than a ready ability to learn.
Difficulties of this sort can make it easier to study, of course. Patterns of behaviour are more established and consistent. Therein lies the problem. A healthier life brings the issue of CHOICE. We can choose how to behave. We can choose how to perceive things – for example, is the bottle half full, or half empty – with potentially important implications.
Most of the models that seem still to inform Coaching, however, come from very different circumstances. There are still some valuable insights from these sources; but also important gaps, still:
- For example, at the Psychotherapy and counselling end, methods are designed to deal with all the issues that can get stuck in people’s attitudes towards their situation. And it requires special care to unpack the perspectives that can come with this.
All too often the learning is just – practice … without the insight to direct it.
- At another, more structured end, there is the emergence of ‘ Cognitive Behaviour Therapy ‘ – which is a straight rational approach, a problem solving analytical process for people with some ‘ negative ‘ patterns that upset normal healthy life, as we currently view them.
There is something of a telling emphasis in this approach… coupled with the other person being ‘ troubled ‘ rather than healthy.
- And Psychology, generally, – though positive psychology has started to admit there are healthy people around, who need something different, but is also at early stages.
Psychology wants to remain a traditional science – so if it is too complex, then there are real difficulties studying it.
It has been easier, ( and more urgent? ) to put immense efforts, and study, into the cases where people have a difficulty, rather than an opportunity. And if it was simple, we probably wouldn’t be still using the term ‘ coaching’!
For example, there is this term used called ‘ adult learning ‘ – or even andragogy (See Sue Young’ blog) …. Which is the filing system for a huge amount of work on how normal healthy adults best go about learning.
But this theme is still a bit disjointed, and abstract, in the insights available.
So we’re really learning about what is the other person through our interactions of what is a healthy person through our own experiences, and sharing that with each other.
2 Growing as a person … enhancing the Coach’s own 'self'
Another huge benefit from Coaching is getting to know what others can do to enhance your own ‘Self.’
If Coaching is just seen as some sort of conversational exercise around asking questions, rather than the way it can transform the coach, not just the Coachee, then we are avoiding getting to the heart of how it works.
When working with normal healthy people, the coaching circumstances are still very different from these other sources of insight that focuses more on the limited patterns of Behaviour a person can have.
As one person said to me, recently,
“Jeremy, I don’t want the nodding donkey approach, here. I want to know what you would do in my situation. I am quite capable of making my own mind up about what I will do, but I want you to show me you understand the situation / opportunities I have, and give me a fresh perspective about them.
I don’t want lots of theory and questions. Let’s talk in my language and terms about it. I assume you have done your homework; I will add to it, and then let’s have a real conversation – like being with the sort of ideal colleague”.
Of course the main route to this discovery is searching for, and finding the part of myself that the Coachee feels comfortable with, in their world.
This enables them to build the space in the relationship, and to progressively explore and find new experience and understanding about their world as it comes through to them. And this requires developing awareness and appreciation of whole worlds of experience.
And it often feels like a real privilege to have the chance to exercise awareness in other people’s worlds, and this adds to my own self.
Getting to this point is what coaching is about, yet this is still so difficult to talk about.
One thing I am certain of … this is not mentoring, as I am not an established expert in the world on the agenda - rather a fresh and independent person!
3 Learning how to find the most effective behaviours to use in being yourself!
In organisational life, Peer Coaching ( action learning etc. ) is starting to highlight how people without special training seem to be able to produce ‘ coaching ‘ type outcomes.
Ordinary people seem to be able to bring the sorts of special relationship skills as a matter of everyday learning and appreciation of others in dialogue. … to mutual benefit.
Can the Coach be ‘separate‘ – or do they need to be fully involved for the person they are?
This is also quite a challenge to coaching! Imagine if this caught on what might happen to Coaching! A future challenge lies here for all the high ground on ethics that coaches like.
There are still lots of challenges in finding the right sort of self to be in the situation.
There are matters of trust to be established. The coach does not merely utter the words ‘ trust me ‘ … and they believe trust is then established.
Personally, I meet people with lots of – normal healthy feelings – a vast variety of them of all sorts - which are as different from emotions as night and day … which is why some of the other areas of knowledge about people are still lagging behind
Even the most confident and capable people are still vulnerable … and they can have feelings about this. How to ensure these feelings are received in a healthy manner is also another still emerging side.
To suggest there is no ( Coach ) self in the room, even when it is supposed to be straight is impossible. We are present whether we like it or not.
We look at a person … then words follow, but even looking at another person already explodes with data. I don’t know how much longer we can ignore the personal chemistry of reactionsthat are unique to the presence of each person, each coach, in any situation
Because unless I am also another human being in the room finding how to empathise with and appreciate these feelings, I soon see the energy to progress further start to weaken.
We should be coming out and sharing all the benefits coaches should be gaining from coaching. Are we really doing our job, in coaching, if it is only for the financial gain! For some coaches it is the only lens through which they operate - they have no other way of knowing whether it has been of value. They often have difficulty explaining outputs from coaching … unless it is through money … as some long term consequence.
After each and every coaching session, I am a different person – as a result of the new insights and experience of another person’s world. That is an important gain for me. Does this happen for you?