Pursuing Professionalism and Rigor in Coaching; The usefulness of peer coaching for personal and professional development by Yvonne Thackray and Larissa Conte

Coaching as we understand it today is part of an evolutionary process in elevating human potential. As societies continue to realize that each individual has greater potential to live beyond their limitations, coaching has tapped into that growing awareness while filling a gap left by the decline of lifelong structured developmental experiences like guilds, formal mentoring, and initiations.

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At the same time, rapid commercialization of coaching has resulted in a proliferation of practitioners without clear standards of practice—reminiscent of the Wild West. This poses challenges to coaches and clients alike. This has also led to a continual reinvention of terms for coaching without actually making sense of what coaching is and how it can make a difference alongside all other approaches that support a similar agenda. Self-appointed professional bodies and related institutions started with good intentions, yet seem to be disconnected from actual market needs. Without clear guidelines of what is a legally defined ‘professional’ coach, it leaves clients exposed and demands coaches self-direct their own learning whilst checking and comparing how their approach is developing with respected peers.

Working independently as practitioners, the challenges and opportunities coaches face are often quite a lonely affair. There is no set organisational system we need to follow, and so we usually author our own growth paths to the best of our ability. We often want to improve our coaching skills and behaviours (e.g. rigor of practice, clarity of approach, what we aim to deliver, etc.), as well as our business skills (the type of clients we want to attract, pricing, agreements, etc.).  Quickly scanning the broader field of coaching, the majority of the available ‘trainings’ and ‘supervision’ seem to focus either more on business development or personal development, less so on both ‘personal AND professional’ (PP) development.The obvious challenges of designing and engaging in one’s own PP learning curricula were the main impetus for us—Yvonne and Larissa—to develop a collaborative relationship of reflection and writing as peers in the coaching space.

What we mean by peer coaching

  1. Amongst peers, we share coaching conversations to further articulate our triangulated thoughts about the practice of coaching
  2. More broadly, we belong to many different peer coaching relationships/groups

In our peer coaching relationship with each other, we’ve decided to report on our learnings. Some of these learnings are sourced from other peer coaching relationships or groups we also participate in.

How our collaborative process emerged

Larissa was introduced via a mutual acquaintance in London to Yvonne, who’s the founder and one of Leadership Team members at the good coach. We quickly fell into a routine of meeting over Zoom for 90 minutes every 3-4 weeks (often with a 12-hour time difference) inspired by our mutual interests, shared curiosities, and reciprocal coaching that satisfied each of our PP agendas and the good coach’s agenda.  We decided that we could benefit from each other’s individual learnings and explore the finer points of coaching together. This resulted in our agreement to appropriately share and discuss, through periodically reporting on the good coach, our experiences of coaching in how we practice - how enriching that might be!

This naturally led us to disclose more about ourselves to really begin to get to know each other, including our foibles. Managing what we would then disclose from our conversations, we’ve contractually agreed with each other to share what we deemed to be relevant and pertinent to each article.

With the current information and understanding we each have of our practice to date, we share what we consider to have been important shifts in how we practice. It means our sharings can be considered to be still quite broad and high-level (macro level) as we’re still in the early stages of recounting events[1]. Yet, it’s still a useful starting point that provides us with relevant evidence to systematically build toward a more common understanding and draws on our respective, diverse experiences as practitioners. We appreciate that while we are able to consider similarities, there are inherent risks in declaring patterns because they can minimize the complexities and personal differences we’ve each overcome to get to where we are now. We’re still learning from each other about our collaboration, and we’re beginning to map our surface features representing distinct edges or common typologies of our coaching in the hopes it may help serve others on their unique paths.

Our expectations are that each of our articles deepens our PP knowledge bank and add value to the field overall. We both do not feel that what we’re offering is the ‘final solution’, but rather a ‘snapshot’ of what’s been most relevant to date from our ongoing experiential learning and what’s been of most value in our practices.

Key insights

This article is primarily about how we’ve used the insights gained from peer coaching conversations to shape our practices. For our first co-written piece we:

  • Offer some signposts and hard-earned knowledge to those just starting out as independent coaches
  • Give more perspectives (data) for established coaches to consider when mentoring or supervising rising coaches

Commonalities in our coaching paths

After sifting through our abbreviated autobiographical journey into coaching we became aware that the sum of each of our experiences to date had resulted in quite similar perspectives that, in turn, shaped our approach to practice. We were both struck by how driven we are by our personal motivations to make coaching part of our professional services, and wanted to learn how we can continuously improve our coaching skills as part of our continuing PP development. Here are some common patterns we found:

  • Our learning paths have primarily been intuitively led, rather than explicitly structured.  Despite all the coaching models and coaching psychological theories that exist that focuses on growth and development, it’s very hard to map that directly onto each person’s growth as a coach. Instead, it’s very specific to each individual. Our learning and development as coaches has had to move beyond over-reliant or evangelical adherence to any given model. Even acknowledging the partial nature of every model can be challenging. Rather, we engage with our practices as part of our PP with a great amount of critical thinking and inquiry from a wide range of disciplines.
  • We both created, and continually shape our careers, by listening to our passions and following our innate curiosities. This is a riskier choice compared to some of our peers whereby organisations have typically invested in their career pathways for their professional technical role (i.e. graduate training programs offered by organisations through to leadership training for managers). Without a specific framework that manages progression, we each had to develop our own continuing PP framework that more accurately reflected our different challenges in pursuing what we wanted to achieve. This demanded a greater learning curve of understanding our role, developing the self, and creating our own entrepreneurial role in an open market.
  • We’ve partnered with others to close our gap of understanding and develop our strengths.The greatest and most direct professional feedback we’ve received about who we are and what we’re doing is through intimate relationships. Learning from each of our many experiences, it’s a combination of both personal reflections and peer conversations (you might even call it coaching), particularly with those peers who are invested in us, and invested in building a relationship on a shared agenda.
  • Putting ourselves in different organizational contexts informs our ongoing PP development. We’ve both followed a path that’s taken us through diverse professional settings as employees and consultants, which has afforded us exposure to a wide variety of organizational cultural patterns. Recognizing pattern similarities (e.g. reading and deciphering contexts, personalities, systems, and cultures) gave us the opportunity to present alternative perspectives and appropriate interventions with a more coaching approach regardless of the role we held. It’s important to note that our learnings here resulted as much from our successes as from our mistakes. The mistakes helped us hone our understanding of where we could grow and recognise our limitations as coaches.

Learning and development has played a central role in both our personal and professional lives. At this point in our careers, it’s now more about continually developing the right balance of matching our experiences with understanding how we practice in order to have longevity, credibility, and respect in each of our respective markets. Making the right choices in our self-directed career development can be a circuitous route, as it requires conscious effort to know what the real learning is from each experience that matches reality, rather than our own personal worldview. Integrating those learned experiences deepens our development of understanding who we are and how we can more efficiently and effectively coach the needs of our clients in their context.


Mapping 6 key shifts that similarly influenced our individual practices

The following elements are what we consider, so far, to have been the key shifts that made a positive difference in how we each practice.

  1. Confidence
  2. Target client/Ideal audience/Knowing our market
  3. Valuing and selling our services
  4. Legitimacy and validation
  5. Exploring ethical boundaries and professionalism
  6. Partnering

While this list is neither exclusive, nor comprehensive, we offer these insights surfaced from our discussion of our growth as coaches.

1. Confidence

Working Description/Definition(s): A feeling of self-assurance arising from understanding how one’s coaching skills and behaviours are repeatedly having the desired, beneficial effects with each client.

Having confidence in delivering coaching and being able to talk with confidence about how we coach has been an important area of growth and development as practitioners. We feel this comes from experience, and also from realising that we were doing a lot of informal coaching before we formalised our practices, rather than believing a lot of the rhetoric[2]. One professional aspect of coaching is being able to talk more concisely about what it is we do and how we do it in a way that’s consistent with each of our clients. This not only translates into confidence in our ability to communicate about our practice, but also our ability to communicate with people in many different life stages and contexts, to enable both of us to mutually assess fit in the coaching relationship. When we’re with the client, this translates into how well we understand the client’s context and their desire engage us to achieve their agenda because they have decided to trust us.

LC: “Thinking back on my lifecycle as a coach, I was first paid 5 years ago. Prior to that point, I’d constantly been coaching people since 2005, but not paid for it. As I looked at different coaching bodies and their accreditation, what I needed to do was the math. I looked at the many hours in my life spent coaching, which added up to over 10,000 hours of coaching - and that was the first main way in which I gained confidence in my experience and abilities.

There have been many iterations and evolutions on my coaching path, and for me, the first main step in building my confidence was about bridging the gap between coaching as a passion and coaching as a craft/career. What’s currently available in terms of roadmaps for creating a coaching practice don’t seem very helpful. Something that’s missing for me, and what helps motivate our work together, is to first get to know oneself and the consciousness inside your own body. How do I listen? How do I learn and create alignment in my own life? What are my gifts in the process of being in continual learning and growth? What have I learned and embodied that I can use to uniquely contribute to others on their path? By learning how to be coached and coach oneself on the developmental journey, that’s a big part of where I found my positioning and niche in coaching. To know that I had experience, gave others value, and could locate myself in the field of coaching was all crucial for me.”

YT: “In a similar fashion looking back at my coaching career, I was first paid 7 years ago. I’d literally came off an overseas coach training program, and when I returned to Hong Kong someone recommended me to coach the CEO of a multinational luxury goods conglomerate. This was my first paid coaching client. It was also the first time I had to engage with business development, sales, and delivering on the coaching agenda. I closed after our first meeting, and my rate was what we’d call average for mature coaches. I was hired with no questions asked and was paid in full for the whole coaching package upfront. I started building up my portfolio of clients, checking out different rates, and the immediate questions that kept popping up for me were, 

  • How many sessions does a client really need? and
  • What is it that I’m doing that keeps bringing people back to me as a coach? For example, one client had to travel almost 3 hrs round trip for a ~90 minute conversation.

I realised in a short period of time I couldn’t follow a framework that was conflated with the norm by approved training schools and bodies because it simply didn’t work for my practice. It was useful to trial and test out their framework, and I also quickly realised that you can’t force people to follow a set template. And so my motto, since then, has always been to allow the client to self-direct their own learning and to follow that rather than having a tight structure at the start. This is really a negotiating process between myself and the client. The client wants to know what technical expertise I’ll be bringing to the conversation, and once they have the evidence they need that I’m working with them from a seemingly robust knowledge base, there is a shift in the growing relationship where they can confidently continue to take the lead supported with my style of coaching. Recognising early on that that this is a consistent pattern of how I practice, this has helped me appreciate who I work better with - confident and humble, mature and independent, autonomous lifelong learners - with confidence. Saying that, there are times when it is useful to introduce a light structure!

2. Target client/Ideal audience/Knowing our market

Working Description/Definition(s): A specific description of the clients (individual and groups) that each coaching practitioner’s approach works optimally alongside with and shares a mutual agenda.

 Economic situations can dictate who we work with as clients, and sometimes coaches, need to work with clients out of economic necessity rather than deep alignment—especially when they are first starting out. However, at different stages of our coaching career, we start to filter out and identify those clients who we are most suited to work with rather than working with anyone and everyone. Typically, those who we are better at working with help us in deepening our learning and understanding of what’s working, and more importantly why it’s working. It’s both motivating and validates more often than not why we are working hard in this field.

LC: “This is one of the hardest questions to answer in coaching. I think the reason for this is that people want to get paid, particularly when starting out. This tension can result in a Jack-of-all-trades pitch as a coach—willing and claiming to be able to do virtually anything the client needs, even though you may not be the best option for all the work. This challenge came up for me as someone with a great variety and depth of tools in my toolkit. An early, hard learning I had on this front was about the coaching/therapy line when a client with clinical depression came to me via a referral. I shared my reservations and caveats about my abilities and she chose to engage, despite the known limitations.Though we worked together for a while, it became clear that I was unable to adequately serve her. This was a powerful lesson and a case of learning about my boundaries by crossing them.

As I’ve defined and redefined my target audience over the years, I first asked myself ‘What can I do really well and offer as a point of value to my clients?’ Since then, as I’ve gained more experience, it’s not just a question of what I can do, but what I most want to be doing. So really assessing my capacity not only in terms of ability, but passion for the work. Now I seek clients who’ve cultivated a sense of self-awareness and want help shedding unhelpful patterns to embody a more authentic expression of who they are in their lives and work. Today I position myself as a rites of passage coach. I seek clients with big hearts, bright minds, passion for serving the greater good, desire to transform, and the courage to do the inner work.”

YT: “Rigor has, in its various forms and ways, played an important role in my journey. For me, demonstrating rigor suggests a level of competence that has been accumulated from their experiences and from a variety of resources. There is a sense of clarity, honesty and wisdom that emerges from that space of working through the various challenges of producing rigorous work.

And so, embarking on my own practice whilst (unconsciously) applying this principle to myself and others, I quickly realised that I didn’t have the capacity nor passion to be a coach that fits everyone and everything. I became weary and through my sampling I began taking a more cautious approach that then allowed me to quickly become aware of those individuals who I work best with. I quickly recognised that I have a tendency to work with individuals who’ve started their self-awareness journey with certain abilities/curiosities, rather than those on the cusp of embarking, and quite independent individuals who know their own mind and quite happy to share what they think. They know what they want. They often lead our conversations.

It also became clear that my expertise was operating in a specific context - the field of coaching -  and this led to the good coach project (See Making sense of what I do, how my coaching practice is taking shape).What becomes challenging when I do engage in conversations with many peers about their target market is that it typically spirals down to a comparison of clients that focuses on rates and marketing opportunities, rather than how they add value with clients in their specific contexts, and situations when it’s most appropriate to pass clients onto other coaches who better fit their client’s changing needs.

3. Valuing and selling our services

Working Description/Definition(s): Exchanging currencies for services provided that mutually meets and satisfies their market.

Selling our services has probably been the most pressing issue when working as an independent coach. The reality is that coaching (in the purist sense) accounts for 20-30%[3] of our overall business but our coaching approach informs 100% of our practice. It’s okay to take a blended approach - whether that’s coaching and training, coaching and facilitation, coaching and consulting, or some multiple combination. If money and rates are constantly the key focus in building and maintaining a practice, then burnout is likely and precipitated with a swift decision that an independent practice isn’t the right pathway. In coaching, this is where being ‘agile’ and having a ‘plan’ to consistently test our approach is of most value.

For us, it’s understanding these commercial pressures and distilling that question down to how to brand and sell our services with integrity.  From a slightly different lens, Yvonne began to inquire about this through her Masters in Anthropology and came across people studying about ‘commoditizing oneself’. People are very uncomfortable with selling coaching because it seems as if there’s nothing being tangibly exchanged. The reality is coaches, in general, haven’t yet developed the language set, or have that level of confidence to talk about the value at that level in their context. As coaches we are quite unpracticed talking about our practice, i.e. what we’re really doing when we’re coaching, and this ultimately led to the beginnings of the good coach.

Without following a conventional career pathway, Larissa and Yvonne had to learn very quickly the nature of the value proposition that we bring across all of our coaching clients. Similarities of approaches include,

  1. Understanding client context is critical; counter to the commonly-held myth in coaching that you don’t need to know the client’s context. It’s in understanding the specifics that we can best leverage our general experiences in a way that’s relevant to each unique client. To do this we need to excel at assessing and tracking our client’s realities.
  2. Listening intently to what they do and don’t say to reflect on their behavioral patterns and empathize with their experiences. This helps clients feel acknowledged and trust that you get them.
  3. Asking the right questions and offering informed opinions that open up new perspectives. Mature clients want to work coaches who can help them access another way of seeing their situation. Someone who can share insights based on experience and equip them to make better decisions.
  4. Creating space for reflection and learning. When the clients believe that we’re here to work on their agenda, an emergent learning space is created that needs to be continually maintained. This allows the client to work through their challenges to make cognizant sense of how they can better deal with the unknown. 
  5. Reminding them to celebrate their successes. High-achievers commonly go from one challenge to the next without taking time to acknowledge and celebrate their accomplishments. We create a space for pause and recognition not only for what they’ve done in each phase of their journey, but who they’ve become in the process.

In addition to the above, we each hold a deeper awareness and curiosity of how more subtle and nuanced behaviours add to the value of what we provide:

  • Tone and body language: Different styles of tone and embodiment continually occur across contexts and clients. In order to appropriately convey understanding and connection, we listen and respond to what tone best matches each moment. Speaking with a softer tone and using informal gestures might be called for, whilst in other circumstances, a more assertive, strategic tone is needed. How it’ll be received depends on the intention and the level of readiness of the client to want to engage in their own learning. In one example, Yvonne became more aware of how her tones shift whilst doing a test run with a coaching partner who mirrored that Yvonne was talking in a therapeutic voice that might have been inappropriate for the corporation context but perhaps not for the individual. If we’re doing our work well as a coach we’re typically following the language pattern, structure, meaning and tone of our clients.

    In addition, we also need to be aware of our own personal styles of communicating and how others might react to it. When Yvonne first met Larissa, she felt Larissa spoke with confidence and gravitas whilst using a deeper tone that naturally commands attention and authority along with a hint of playfulness to connect and make space for reciprocation. Larissa experienced Yvonne as having a precision of mind that is deeply intellectually curious and committed to intellectual rigor while also having significant emotional intelligence and lightheartedness.
     
  • Boundaries: Coaching can often be experienced and presented as simply having a conversation with someone who’s a good listener, and typically likened to a compassionate friend. This is just one of many boundaries to be managed. But it’s important to understand and share how these honed skills are not something that should be freely given away in today’s capitalist economy. For example, Larissa shared that part of her early journey was constantly having coaching conversations in social settings. “I needed to stop doing this because I realized I was giving my skills away, and why would people pay for it if they could reliably get it for free? It’d be like if a doctor was freely treating everyone they encountered in social gatherings. I needed to get clear on how I show up in my various friendships—who I reciprocally receive love and coaching support from—and how I show up in my more extended community relationships where I have clearer coaching boundaries. This took the shape of general agreements with myself and clear, active listening to what I do or don’t want to give in each situation

4. Legitimacy and Validation

Working Description/Definition(s): Receiving external and independent feedback that one’s practice meets expectations of what’s considered to be both professional and ethical within and across organisations

Legitimacy is always an interesting question in coaching because anyone can call themselves a coach. Are you legitimate through certifications, tenure, clientele, reviews, affiliations, trainings, personal experience in your area of coaching, notable accomplishments, content creation and social media following etc? There are so many ways people render legitimacy in our field and coaching credentials are often meaningless on their own.

The only current way of showing legitimacy and validation for our coaching is through the people who are willing to engage our services. Prior titles, short term marketing, and access to one or many accreditations can get a coach in the door, but they don’t guarantee delivering an appropriate standard of coaching that would be consistent across the field, and specifically, to the needs and contexts of that client.

Because of the murky nature of legitimacy in the coaching industry, we’ve each found our own way to validate our work in our respective markets.

LC:  “In 2012, I started my first coaching business, Lionhearted. By this time, I’d already spent 10,000 hours coaching people—Malcolm Gladwell’s cited number for achieving mastery in a field—and had very strong reviews. But I was having a hard time selling myself in a traditional business context as I switched to working with corporations from non-profits. I kept receiving the feedback that I had the skills, but needed brand recognition to legitimize myself in the business community.

At the surface level, people wanted to see what companies my clients hailed from as a signal that I was at a certain caliber and had reliable experience. But the conversation about brand helped me understand the wider implications of creating my own brand—telling the story of my full background and skills not only as someone who could provide impactful, relevant coaching services, but as someone who could also run a business and create an enjoyable customer experience.”

YT: “My biggest concern early on was responsibility. Not responsible for the other person, but a sense of responsibility of delivering something of value that can be construed as being professional. This line of questioning personally and professionally had a knock-on effect on my confidence and legitimacy to practice. To manage this, I began investigating, researching, and comparing how different training schools and professional bodies worked on validation (legitimacy) whether through mentoring or accreditation. Spending a few years of elapsed time sorting through this it’s not an easy question to answer. For example, even the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (primarily European based self-certification professional body) (19th June 2017) is having challenges publishing a Wikipedia page because of the “lack of independent sources”.

Working through the evolutions of my own practice (Making Sense Of What I Do, How My Coaching Practice Is Taking Shape) and re-orientating the good coach into a collaborative project has helped me to understand how my approach is legitimized by my clients (coaching practitioners), and in turn how my clients are being validated by their clients, and how we each fit into the field of coaching. Another way of saying this, to understand how to both legitimize and validate my practice it's helped me to develop more overtly and explicitly what my niche is in coaching, and importantly continue to align with my motivations and passions.

5. Exploring ethical boundaries and professionalism

Working Description/Definition(s): This is an opportunity for practitioners to clarify their code of conduct (coaching approach), including personal and organizational behaviours, values, and their guiding principles of coaching.

We’ve each found alternative ways to independently validate our practices, and knowing how we’re doing amongst peers and colleagues in the coaching space is one way of more formally assessing the relative position of our practice. We’ve each crossed a number of thresholds where we recognised that we hadn’t made any massive mistakes nor did we do any active harm. And we’ve checked this out from the feedback we received which often required us to see beyond our personal emotions to acknowledge and realise how our behaviours impacted our clients.

One area we explored was coaching situations that resulted in limiting client engagement.

  • Coaching impact in complex systems: There’s a large area of coaching focused on tactical or technical training supported by clear rules to meet a specific organisational need. This approach contrasts with coaching people in modes of thinking and practicing dynamic decision-making based on principles. This latter approach is more fitting for supporting people in complex systems, since simple rules often don’t equip people to make situationally-appropriate decisions. From Larissa’s experiences and observations, “Being invited to participate in these systems as an outside party can position the ‘objective/non-biased’ practitioner as an ‘expert’. For some coaches, this can be his/her own mini-pulpit, and if they present their perspectives as truths—rather than disclosing their own bias and take responsibility for it—that’s one way coaches can abuse their power. Ultimately this posture inhibits dialogue and ignores the deep well of personal and institutional wisdom located in each individual.  Given this, it’s important to recognize and honor the level of power and responsibility you hold as a coach, respectfully and with humility.
     
  • Coaching impact at the individual level: It’s often very easy for coaches to suggest that the coaching didn’t have the intended outcome because the client wasn’t engaged or ready. There are situations where this is true but asking coaches to explain the reasons for this outcome can be very challenging, particularly when they’ve missed the behavioural cues. Yvonne share’s a particular experience where this became the case, “I remember working as an associate and meeting with a client, a Chinese woman who held a senior management position in a multinational tech organisation. I was there to give some feedback after they took a leadership assessment. In that first meeting, as soon as she looked at me she both directly and indirectly questioned why why I was there. I didn’t represent her ideal. Furthermore she hadn’t had an opportunity to choose. Thrown into the situation to have to prove why you’re the right person rather than sharing how my technical skills would be of benefit to her was something I was inexperienced at doing. It was simpler and much easier to rationalise and suggest that the person wasn’t ready for coaching, but the reality was I wasn’t ready. And passing ‘the ball back’ to the recipient to ask what they think of their results sometimes isn’t the answer to building that rapport!”. Again this is an ethical inquiry into professionalism that’s about honouring the client’s agenda rather than the coach’s.

6. Partnering

Working Description/Definition(s): Working with other individuals where shared interests are openly discussed and mutual benefits can be achieved through a shared agenda that leverages each other’s complementary strengths. This can behaviourally be seen by the high degree of trust, support, humour[4], laughter, and teasing[5] that represent the quality of the partnership.

It’s been interesting to learn through our individual pathways that we’ve always been looking for partners to work with interdependently. Starting a private practice is, for a want of a better word, awful! It’s good from the aspect of having control over what we do, however, we also lose that value of working in groups and teams where we can brainstorm, test ideas, and create a more powerful outcome through the creativity of group process. Finding the right partner(s) to work with is a bit like dating and has required each of us to go through a number of evolutions of asking what we’re looking for that lets our shared agenda live prosperously.

LC: “In my first coaching business, I hardly pursued partnership at all. I assumed I had to do it all alone and didn’t know how to structure my business or working patterns to effectively leverage partnership. By comparison, I’ve designed Wayfinding to include a guild-style partnership model where I work on experiments across different facets of my offerings with colleagues, while also keeping some work solo. I think this approach emerged because I didn’t want to co-found a venture with anyone (that felt like a marriage that I’m not ready for at this point) but I love getting to work and be in creative, supportive relationship with others.

After 10+ years of partnering with people, I’ve gotten quite clear on what I look for, and what I avoid, in professional partnerships. For me, it always starts with the person—would I want to spend a lot of time with this person? Do we have a shared sense of values and purpose? Can we laugh together? Are we committed to each other’s learning journeys and growing our relationship through this collaboration and do we each recognize that doing so is as much the work as whatever we make together? If I can’t say an enthusiastic YES to all of these, then I don’t even consider the partnership.

Then I consider our skill sets—do we have comparable levels of professional excellence and aspiration, while also bringing diverse enough expertise to the table that we can each learn from the other? Are we both oriented to a dynamic/responsive way of working that relies strongly on balancing real-time listening, planning, and execution?

Then we explore the space for collaboration—what is a discrete experiment we want to commit to exploring with each other? And what’s the clear sense of value that each of us would contribute and gain from the partnership and experiment? The experimental frame is critical for me in partnership because it allows us to date as partners—to focus on a specific project and time to get to know each other and then evaluate afterwards if we’d like to try another experiment. I have no assumptions that anything's going to go on forever. I think it's important to keep listening and to design checkpoints in the partnership. In all my partnerships, I want to keep exploring and growing together—just loving each other as human beings, really—as long as it’s mutually beneficial.”

YT:  Developing partnerships at tgc has always been core, but my understanding of how partnerships needed to be structured to support the vision changed over time. I knew I was searching for independent and experienced individuals who had an opinion about their practice and coaching, interested in the bigger picture, and was invested in making a difference that would eventually benefit everyone than a few through a much fairer and transparent process. In different rounds of finding these partners, I realized that it was not that simple to find someone who was interested in all of these aspects. They do exist! It just takes time and finding the opportunity to make something happen. Individuals who are similarly passionate about the vision and chose to engage and commit their energies, and strengths, to this inquiry and platform is how our core team and community emerged that serves the good coach.


Our collective learnings

Coaching is one of the potential professions where your personal identity is as important as your professional role. Coaching is demanding because, not only do you have to understand yourself, you also need to know how what you’re delivering impacts your client and your credibility. It’s also a challenging profession because of the distributed, undefined nature of the field.

For us, the biggest value we’ve both received as we went through this the process was the opportunity to articulate what we’ve learned through our coaching career so far. Identifying some common patterns and finding common everyday words that closely represented our work constantly gave us deeper insights and clarity of how others might perceive how we practice.

This is what we think is missing for practitioners in their PP learning—a personalised, structured approach that continuously helps them to understand their learning styles, their clients, and how their coaching approach can be measured through delivery with rigor and professionalism. Hopefully, by sharing our 6 key shifts that made a positive difference in how we each practice, this will motivate others to begin mapping out their own self-directed learning curriculum, independently or with another peer.

Question: How are you pursuing professionalism and rigor in your coaching practice?

To connect with Yvonne Thackray and/or Larissa Conte

References
[1] Examples of micro level events - talking at the behaviour level of individual differences (see for example posts by K.C. Char, Sue Young, Jeremy Ridge, Larissa Conte, Alan Robertson).
[2] Example would be how the ICF has changed its requirements (and other bodies ensuing) that coaching doesn't count until you've completed a certified coach training course. .e.g. https://the-goodcoach.com/tgcblog/2015/9/2/culture-driven-from-the-centre-comparing-two-coaching-bodies.html, and https://the-goodcoach.com/tgcblog/2017/2/28/making-sense-of-what-i-do-how-my-coaching-practice-is-taking-shape-by-yvonne-thackray
[3] This finding is similar to the survey findings carried out in Building towards an Anthropology of Coaching: Constructing Identity, Yvonne Thackray (2014)
[4] Smiling and Laughter really matter in coaching by Jeremy Ridge
[5] Teasing out the deeper understanding of how Coaching works at its best – how Teasing, itself, can be productive by Jeremy Ridge