Ok so you have done your training and in so doing bought your coaching toolbox, now how do you use these things?
Before we get into the meaning of life (coaching) lets go back in time a little.
One day while sitting in the office you suddenly notice that the world is talking about coaching. Over the coming days, weeks and months your interest grows, you start searching the web for training, information and ideas. You may even post a request for help on an industry based networking forum.
WOW then it hits you. This thing is huge. You hear conflicting comments from all around you. I went to xyz school of coaching and it has changed my life! No abc are much more practical. NLP is the approach all coaching is based upon, don’t waste your time and money on the coaching schools learn NLP. Jo Bloggs is a fantastic coach she taught me all I know give her a call.
And just to make matters worse, if you want a qualification to help others recognise your new skills, well there are no agreed standards, although as the years go on they are beginning to align (a little!).
Well who is right? – they all are! Who is wrong? Unfortunately all of them. Most providers programmes are based upon one methodology or model for development. Many are based upon the therapy models or from the basis of Solution Centred Counselling. Other providers rename their existing training provision to xxx coaching and re-brand their previous offer often without updating the content.
Interestingly many companies that have profiling tools are now re-focusing their marketing material towards the coaching arena. I am sure each tool, instrument and psychometric has its value and its place. None of them however is the Swiss Army Knife of the coaching diagnostics world. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. Appropriate uses and inappropriate uses. You would not use a fruit knife to cut bread would you…? Every tool is designed for a particular purpose – if that is the tool you need great.
The very best
Ok so what are the strategies, methods and techniques used by the very best coaches? To understand how they work we need to explore where and how they operate. Many coaches work exclusively in one arena, be it a sport, management performance etc. others work with anyone who wants to improve their performance. Some work with individuals in companies as the organisations last attempt at performance change before they start the disciplinary procedure for non-performance.
Additionally many coaches have appropriate diagnostic tools to their area of specialism. For those of us that operate across many sectors we have a range of tools to select from based upon the needs and preferences of the client. My father who was a cabinet maker, always used to say always pick the right tool for the job, use the wrong one and expect a poor finish. This is as true for personality tools as it is woodworking tools.
Now if you are working with athletes or individuals from the media, then you may get away with one approach to coaching. If you operate within one of the coaching franchises (most are Australian based) then you will coach to a set of procedures and follow a protocol. Many of the coaching schools have a system of model and you are taught to use it very effectively, Few use a broad range of approaches to identify where the client is now and where they want to get to.
It is easy to use one set of tools and their importance is reinforced by success after success, however it is easy in these situations to build up habits. Habits of practice. Habits of OUR behaviour, not related to the needs of the client. The ability and willingness to be flexible and adaptable is paramount to success. We need to react to our clients, their needs and the environment. It’s not about change for change sake – but change to give our client and ourselves the very best shot at achieving their stated goals.
There is one other common factor that all great coaches have… passion. Bucket loads of it. It’s about emotion, success, action and belief, total belief. The desire to help others is paramount in their words and actions. It’s about helping people be the best they can be, with the resources they have and the amount of effort they are prepared to put in.
The universal solution?
There is one coaching tool that most if not all successful coaches’ use: Goal setting. The very best use this on two levels:
What to I (the coach) want to get out of this relationship – how do I want to feel at the end of the programme? How will I know?
What does the client expect to achieve out of this relationship? How do they want to feel at the end of the programme? How will we know?
In addition both the coach and individual need goals and objectives for EACH session as well as the overall goal. The coach should check for validity of each sessional goal in the context of the overall goal of the programme.
It is important to keep focussed on these at all times.
The second universal tool – the reflective question
Many schools of coaching teach this method. Some teach this as the exclusive tool to use in a coaching relationship. The premise here is that the individual has all the resources they need to solve the problem, and the coach’s role is to tease this out of them.
NO! while this is a very powerful technique and for some things it is very effective. However it fails to work when the individual is working out of their understanding or knowledge base. For example, if an individual needs help with a behavioural issue within the workplace, one reason for them not adapting and changing is that they simply cannot see how they are behaving inappropriately OR they have no reference to base their learning upon. In these cases the individual needs specific help.
A solution. How we support them in the implementation of that solution may be through reflective questioning, or indeed role plays or many other approaches.
The third universal tool – a programme of 6 sessions (or a year long programme)
Ok now this one I cannot understand. How without meeting the client, understanding their needs and what it may take to deliver success can anyone ‘prescribe x sessions? Worse how can you contract to help the person meet their goal if you are setting the time table up front? Is this really for the benefit of the client or for provider cash flow and timetabling?
If your purpose is to act as segregate therapist then I can understand why you might want to meet once a month, but for improving an individual’s performance in a specific area?
The fourth universal tool – the one hour session
Whose goal are we trying to meet here? If the needs of the client are more work with them for as long as they need – if they need less fine. I generally set expectations with clients for each session to last approximately 2 hours. In my diary I allow at least 4.
If you are working to a strict process coaching model where you have semi-fixed questions, then I can see how this works. But is this really taking the client towards their goals or through the motions of a coaching process, to fulfil a contract?
Some coaches in some situations can operate very effectively with a limited tool kit. For the majority of us we need a range of:
Diagnostic tools, Coaching methodologies, underpinning knowledge in human psychology and rapport skills.
We need to constantly adapt for the client, remembering that our goal is to help them achieve their goal – not to use method x because it worked for the last client.
Qualifications and standards in coaching at the moment are at best fragmented. While this causes annoyance to many I see this as a positive point. Each flavour of coaching has its place. As soon as one standard is seen as the standard to have kudos over others we have a problem as people new to coaching will believe the approach espoused is THE approach. This in my opinion will never be the case.
As a psychology tutor of mine once said: the most important 3 rules in people development are:
1) People are different
2) People are different
3) People are different
This article is © Mike Morrison 2006-2009 All rights reserved. If you wish to circulate this article please contact the author via this site – no reasonable request refused.
The Names of people times and places have been changed to protect my clients.