Q: What is the difference between coaching and an animated conversation with a colleague?
A: The coaching conversation has a structure to it, the purpose of which will emerge as the coaching process evolves into a strategy. This is different from bouncing off ideas with a colleague, although part of the process of coaching also involves exploring ideas and options. A conversation can be ‘linear’ in approach whereas coaching takes a holistic view of the entire environment in which the individual is operating.
Q: Coming up with the right questions with which to address a problem seems easy enough, how does a coach help?
A: Albert Einstein said ‘No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.’
In the coaching relationship the client is encouraged and supported to explore deeper levels of thinking. Coming up with new ideas that go beyond logical reasoning, the imagination needs to be set free in an environment where all ideas, however crazy they may seem can be explored without the constraint of ‘censor’.
Q: I can act as my own sounding board by doing a SWOT analysis.
A: A SWOT analysis is useful and is used in coaching, but as the coach acting as a scout for you, I am an additional resource to help you distinguish between situational and transient factors versus those that are innate and require attention. By acting as your sounding board, in a private quiet environment, the coach enables you to sift through what the real issues are away from the turbulence of the day to day business problems and prototype ideas before they are ready to be expressed.
Q: I have a great team of colleagues on which I can bounce things off.
A: The coach is independent and can also challenge in a way that encourages enquiry on the validation of evidence. The risk of ‘group think’ is mitigated. The status quo or ‘sacred cows’ can be challenged without censor. Deep thinking and the necessary inner silence that accompanies this is encouraged. Contemplation is encouraged whereas meetings may have the implied pressure of decisions needing to be made without sufficient attention given to proper reflection.
Q: I’m bright and resourceful and I talk to myself and talk through things, if I don’t trust others. So what extra would a coach add?
A: Coaching is about self-development and learning. We are all the co-creators of our reality and part of the coach’s role is to work with you to uncover the inter-relationships and the existing dynamics within your organisation in order to work with you so as to identify which relationships need to change and how. At the same time the coach is a partner who works alongside you and who is motivated solely to support your success; someone immune from but aware of company dynamics; someone who takes the time to listen and respond with integrity and who is acting towards your highest and best good. The coaching relationship creates a dynamic and a power which is beyond the individual relationship you have with yourself.
Q: Does a coach give advice?
A: The coach’s primary role is to act as a partner, facilitating the leader’s attainment of their goals. During appropriate interventions such as doing a brain storm exercise together, options and ideas can be raised by either party providing useful information consistent with the leader’s goals. The coach may respectfully and robustly bring differences to the table and offer different ways of thinking about an issue; however the clients’ agenda remains with the client.
Q: My organisation wants to get value for money – what if we start focussing on personal stuff?
A: The sponsor, client and coach agree upfront what the objectives are so that the coaching is aligned with the needs of the business and the developmental needs of its people. This in turn will make it strategic in nature. Effective coaching contracts should always link development to results, so that performance and ROI can be measured. However, coaching does treat the whole person and it is possible that personal issues will come up. Confidentiality between coach and client is paramount. Should personal issues take over the coaching session, both coach and client will discuss how best to deal with this so that the client receives the appropriate support while ensuring that the business gets value for its money.