We must see people in terms of their future potential, not their past performance.”
Sir John Whitmore
In my work as a coach with individuals, teams and leaders, I notice that one of the starting points to getting the most out of coaching, is to define what we mean by coaching and what to expect. This is often my starting point when someone comes to coaching for the first time, so that we understand our roles, what we are doing and what we are not doing. In this blog we will explore the concept of coaching and how you can get the most out of it. I sometimes use the analogy of a peacock when talking about coaching with clients. In coaching we enable people to display their true potential (the feathers), their talent is always there, they just may not always see it.
What is Coaching?
Coaching is about giving you space to think, to create forward movement and awareness. In most other conversations in our lives, people have their own lens, ideas, advice, and solutions to provide you with – they are often listening to speak, rather than listening to support you to notice things. This is one of the key benefits of having a coach – you get to notice what matters to you, in a non-judgmental environment. People will often say to me “I can’t have these conversations with others”. What they often mean is that there is a fear of people judging them, yet when they speak it out in coaching without any judgment, the person becomes clearer about their situation or about themselves.
Having a coach is a bit like driving a car with someone at your side. You get to drive the car in the direction you choose, your coach is sat with you noticing the journey with you, the options to turn in different directions during the journey and enabling you to notice the scenery. The coach will support you to identify the ideal map and end destination too. Coaching has several key components:
If you listened to a coaching conversation, it will be future focused most of the time. Think of it like a 180-degree circle. There will be moments where we will discuss things from the past, which informs the present, and of course the future. The amount of time spent in the past is much less in coaching, compared to therapy, for example. Your coach is likely to ask you questions that ensure your discussions about the past and the present have an impact on your future focused goals – for example:
- How does this past event shape your thinking about this situation?
- Now we know this about your past, what choices do you have in dealing with this now?
Coaching brings about greater self-awareness, as the coaching provides an opportunity to look at the parts of ourselves that we aren’t quite clear about or areas we want to adapt. Self-awareness often starts with a question or curiosity that we bring to coaching, examples might include:
- How could I balance everything better?
- How do I speak up for what I really want at work?
- What would the next career step look like?
- How can I increase my motivation levels?
- What sort of leader do I want to be?
- Why do I feel so stressed?
Once we start to work on this together, we expand our understanding about ourselves, the situation, and others around us. This is hugely useful in being more effective in achieving our goals.
Coaching sessions mean that we create regular time in the diary to press the pause button. When we create this regular time and space it means we can set ourselves goals and achieve them. It is that simple. Some call it having accountability time or an accountability partner – space where you know you will work on the things that are most important to you in a productive environment.
Transactional and transformational
Our coaching needs will change each time we meet with our coach. At times we may bring more transactional topics such as “I want to present more effectively to the sales team”, at other times it may be more transformational “I want to have more confidence in myself”. Both types of coaching are useful. Transactional coaching brings about awareness and changes in the specific situation, transformational coaching brings about insights about you as a person which may positively impact many aspects of your life, not just the one situation. A more experienced coach is likely to bring about transformational moments in the coaching, even if you came with a transactional challenge to discuss.
What to consider when choosing coaching
Professionalism and Standards
Like any profession, coaching has a wide range of certifications and degrees of experience. Look out for the main professional bodies which will ensure you know the amount of actual coaching your coach has carried out, and the amount of theory/study your coach has undergone. These bodies include the ICF (International Coach Federation), the EMCC (European Mentoring and Coaching Council) and the AC (Association for Coaching).
Coaching is primarily about the relationship, so consider the person you feel you can open up to and explore with, who brings out the most in you, who you want to spend time with. This will ensure the coaching is a pleasure for you rather than a task.
Coaches have a variety of styles. Some have a package and suggested outline for each session whilst other coaches will tailor the coaching in the moment to what you need. Some coaches work a lot with tools and techniques, others less so. Ask about their ethos and experience it to see if you like it.
What to Expect
At the start of a coaching relationship, we will want to establish the focus areas for the coaching (goals/ objectives) as much as we can. Of course, these may change as we start to work together too. In addition, you are likely to experience the following things:
- You decide what you want to focus on each time we meet.
- The focus can change each time.
- You will notice things about yourself you hadn’t before.
- You get choices about where we go in the conversation.
- Your coach will not tell you what to do, they will support you to identify potential options and explore these.
- You can move around different situations, topics each time, moving back and forth if needed.
- You may not always know what you want to talk about and that is okay.
- Emotion may appear in coaching sessions, and that is okay.
- The goal of the coaching may change from the start of the relationship.
- Confidentiality is key – your coach will respect confidentiality and will discuss this with you at the beginning of the relationship. In addition, you get to decide what you communicate to others.
At its core coaching is a simple process to have a very useful conversation about you and your life – your challenges, desires, and goals. It is a very enriching, fun, challenging experience for you that brings about growth, self-development and awareness to make choices from. One of the best ways to understand coaching is to have a session!
If you would like to know more about how coaching could support you, please get in touch to arrange a no obligation initial consultation.