When I tell people about the business I am in, the next question is, “What is coaching?” My response: “Coaching is a deliberate process using focused conversations to create an environment that results in individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained improvement.” The key words we focus on are growth, action and improvement. All of these require a change in the person being coached.
Since we are in the business of providing coaching services to organizations that pay for coaching of multiple clients, we need to take it a step further. We need to clarify the key factors in order for clients to have a successful coaching experience.
Factors that ‘must’ be present in a coaching relationship include: confidentiality, client-driven growth, facilitated improvement and action-focused. Let me explain from the client perspective.
Confidentiality – a client must be assured that what is discussed with his/her coach will be held in confidence. In coaching, we want leaders to stretch outside of their comfort zone. This is not easy and requires a leader to discuss concerns and assumed constraints. To do this, confidentiality must be present in the coach-client relationship.
Client-Driven Growth – The client must decide and initiate the focus topics for coaching. In order to get clients to engage in change and growth, they must be the driver of it. When a boss comes to us and says, “I want my leader to work on these particular areas,” the first thing we ask is, “What is the leader’s commitment to working on these things?” Motivating a leader to take action on something she doesn’t fundamentally want or believe, doesn’t work. The client must be in the driver seat of the change and growth.
Facilitated Improvement – This is a process of helping clients to discover for themselves the actions/behaviors needed in order to move towards the changes they want to make. Facilitated improvement is the true value of what coaching can provide. I believe this is why coaching has become such a success. Instead of giving a leader consulting/advice, the coach draws out from the leader the appropriate thinking or action needed in the given situation. We tell leaders, “I don’t live in your environment, and you know best what is needed.” It is the job of the coach to ask the high yield questions to move the client toward discovering new answers. By having the client discover the answers, it also increases the chance for new behaviors to happen, because the ideas have come from the leader.
Action-Focused – Focusing on action means the leader is constantly taking action between the coaching sessions. If coaching is going to be successful, it must to move beyond good conversation into improved action. The leader must commit to taking action and then follow through.
How do we make coaching successful? These are some of the key success factors.