What is coaching?

What is coaching?

In a recent article in the financial times – Petra Wilton, director of strategy and external affairs at The Chartered Management Institute said “Many chief executives and senior managers wish they had had coaching earlier in their careers”. She went in to highlight the benefit of a coaching approach in leadership, stating that “One of the mega-trends in management that CMI is currently exploring is the shift from controlling to coaching management cultures…when it comes to getting the best out of teams and fully engaging employees, a coaching style gets results”.

High praise indeed. Based upon the level of interest, blogs, books and training courses that have been developed in its name, you’d anticipate that we’d be getting clearer on what coaching is. The reality is somewhat less clear. 

So, what’s my view?

Having coached professionally for many years now, in many organisations, settings and topics, my view is that;

Coaching is a highly effective way of helping senior managers and their teams build on the success they are seeing and think through and overcome the challenges they face. 

Largely based upon facilitating a coachee to identify for themselves how to bring about success, the skill of a coach is to empower those they coach to achieve success, in the main, through effective questioning, insightful feedback, challenge and support.

How does coaching work?

An effective coach will enable you to view a situation from different perspectives and in turn gain a greater level of clarity on what you want to achieve and really test your commitment to attaining it. 

Once you’ve clarified and committed to your goals, a key element of coaching is to explore your current reality and identify what the true gap is between where you are and where you want to be. As part of this, a coach will help you to acknowledge the strengths that have helped you to get to where you are and may draw out the blockers to your success. 

Having identified your strengths and (as necessary) blockers, you will often systematically work through these to ensure you leave no stone unturned, be it identifying new behaviours or helping you address the internal barriers that hold you back.

Once clear on the performance or behavioural gap, it’s now time to identify a range of options for moving forward. Here a coach will help you to generate as many ideas as possible, using a variety of methods and perspectives. A key element of helping you to accelerate the progress you make is by getting you to evaluate the options you’ve come up with before committing to a way forward. This enables you to identify, at the outset, the approaches you believe will have the greatest likelihood of bringing you success. 

The coach as Angel or Devils advocate…

The final but one stage within a coaching session is to commit to what you’re actually going to do and how and to agree when and how you’ll review your progress. This stage of coaching is about helping you to ensure that you hold yourself to account and carry out the actions you’ve decided upon. After all how many times have you known what to do and still not done it? Turning thought into action is a key outcome of coaching.

A significant part of coaching is to identify the right level of challenge (devils advocate) and support (angel on your shoulder) needed by the coachee to take the steps they identify. All too often in life we are capable of having what we want, the role of the coach is to ensure that we don’t take the easy route out or pretend to ourselves that we are doing everything we can, including making tough decisions, to move forward.
The final stage of coaching is to… 

Having identified a way forward, committed to an action plan with dates and deliverables defined, a coaching session will often end with the coach and coachee agreeing a date for the next session, during which the actions agreed and progress made will be evaluated and a goal for that session defined and worked through as above.
Couldn’t I just coach myself?
The short answer is that you could ‘sort of’ do it for yourself, I self coach on many occasions – however – the questions to consider are:
  • Do you? 
  • How effectively? 
  • How often? 
  • When don’t you?
  • What stops you?
  • What if a professional coach could help you do it quicker, more efficiently or ‘just’ made you make the time to do it?
One of my most challenging clients once said to me that he never realised how inefficient he was at strategising what next to do with his business until he spent half a day working with me.

A highly skilled coach uses questions, listening, reflection, summarising and paraphrasing and a high level of experience in recognising and reflecting back to you the values and beliefs and habitual behaviours that you hold you back from achieving your potential.
You may be conscious or unconscious that these values, beliefs and habitual behaviours are helping you or getting in the way of your success. Even highly experienced coaches have coaches to help them to work with their blind spots and to help them to apply their strengths to a greater degree.
The twist; a coaches experience
The great thing about coaching is its ability to facilitate change without direct experience of the topic or situation your coachee is facing. This brings objectivity and develops in the coachee capability which will be replicated by them long after a coaching programme has ended. 

Where a coach has experience of the work, situation or topic the coachee has presented for coaching however, there is an opportunity for the coach to bring insights, options and questions to the table which are positively informed by past experience. I have for example leadership, business development, sales and change experience which I can choose to apply for the benefits of my clients based upon their individual needs. 

It must be noted however that there lays a significant responsibility on my part (and those who coach) to use this experience under the intention of what will serve my clients needs the greatest. The proviso must always be that any experience, reflections or options provided during the course of coaching are purely that, insights to promote and prompt further reflection and ideas, rather than the choice the coachee should make. 

Piqued you’re interest? 

As part of making a decision to seek and be coached, it’s important that you have the opportunity to experience what coaching is. That’s why I offer an initial consultation session during which we will explore the opportunities that coaching could address for you and you can experience my approach.

If you’d like to experience what working with a coach is like…

If you’d like to experience what working with me is like, get in touch and we’ll see if coaching is right for you. I’d love to speak with you via:

Who am I? Stefan Powell…

I am yourleadershipcounsel, a father, husband, part time rock star and passionately bonkers about helping leaders get the most from themselves and their people.

What my clients have said…

“After Meeting Stefan it was his passion to understand the business and work with us as a partner…Stefan has been really valuable in guiding us as a company on our journey of cultural change, his passion to ensure we succeed as a company shines through…Thank you, we look forward to our continuing journey” Paul Hunt – Managing Director – Phoebus Software Ltd

Read more testimonials here: Testimonials


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