Coaching is Not…

Many clients are unclear of what to expect from coaching.  Some of my clients come to their first coaching sessions expecting me to tell them what to do, focus on their past behaviors, or fix them.  I explain coaching focuses on the present, goal setting, and forward movement.  As a coach, I view my clients as naturally, creative, resourceful and whole.  They have the solution.  They may not realize it, but they do!  It is my job to help them uncover the solution and to create action.

A colleague from the local ICF Chapter created the below distinctions between Coaching and other service professions.

What other distinctions stand out for you?

Therapist:  Can deal with past patterns that don’t work and with intense emotions; Analyzes problems to find out “why?”; Often focuses on non-functional behaviors; Model: something is wrong that needs fixing

Coach:  Focuses on present and future; Questions rather than analyzes; Approaches client as a whole healthy human being; Model: curiosity drives questions to help the client discover his/her own strengths and greatness

Mentor: Has a stake in the outcome; Is viewed as the expert; Typically has a student-teacher duality; Focused on career successes and progress; Gives advice and shows how to do

Coach:  Detached from outcome; Partners with client in learning; Finds out what is important to the client in the journey; Emphasis on contribution to the whole person

Manager:  Primary objective is the company’s mission; Focused on the career area and achievement; Has a large stake in the outcome; Provides solutions, direction and advice; Transmits information from one level of the organization to another

Coach:  Primary objective is the client’s well-being and success; Helps client understand the link between personal mission and company mission; Focuses on the entire person, all life areas; Is detached from the outcome; Does not problem solve, provide solutions or advice; Keeps information confidential

Consultant:  Has specific area of expertise; Shares expertise with the client; Gives advice and/or solutions; Consultant does the work

Coach:  Facilitates the process of creating awareness and responsibility; Helps the client learn how to find solutions; Client does the work


Hard, Solid Thinking Pains

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.”Martin Luther King

As I pondered Dr. King’s quote, I realized many of my clients have experienced a lack of hard, solid thinking.  I am also guilty of it.  Due to competing priorities and time constraints, some clients perceive they cannot take the necessary time to engage in hard, solid thinking and reflection.  They want quick solutions.  Some clients come up with “half-baked” solutions that do not solve their root issues.  For example, I worked with a client (client gave approval to share) who was not getting the direction and support she needed from her manager.  Her first solution was to ask others for help since her manager was so busy and frequently gave her positive feedback.  As we delved deeper into what she wanted and needed from her manager, she focused her thinking and reflected deeply.  She uncovered she needed to take more control of leading her meetings with her manager.  She created a strategy for her meetings to get what she needed to increase her effectiveness in her role.  As a result, she created a stronger partnership with her manager while taking control and changing her behaviors.  The client’s strategy surfaced over time as she became more intentional and gained clarity on her purpose.  Hard thinking involves a laser focus on an issue until a solid strategy or solution is uncovered.

A coach’s role is to encourage, challenge, and ask thought-provoking questions that lead the client into solid thinking, self-reflection, and awareness.  A coach does not serve her client by promoting the “easy” solution. Solid thinking is about understanding the true purpose, impact, and outcomes of the issue.  It is intentionally thinking through an issue over time.

Hard, solid thinking can be painful, time consuming, and definitely rewarding.  In order to achieve your goals and Dreams, take a step back and do some hard thinking.  Remember, Dr. Martin Luther King had a Dream…!!

Do You Want to Tango?

Tango dancing can be free flowing, energizing, and expressive.  And, downright fun!  There is a leader and a follower.  The follower decides how to respond to the leader in the moment.  It is a collaborative process, which encourages the development of sensitivity, clarity, trust and respect.Tango Picture

A coaching session is similar to a tango dance between a coach and client. A coach is skilled to follow the client in the moment and artfully take the lead.  The key for the coach is to be completely present. The coach’s full attention is on the client while silencing his/her background noise, thoughts, and opinions.  A coach is actively listening and naturally responding from his/her intuition or ‘gut’.  Based on the client’s responses and reactions, the coach will take the lead through asking thought-provoking questions and challenging perspectives.  The coach tangos with the client by carefully leading when appropriate and mostly following in order to create an exploratory, rejuvenating, and possibly, empowering discussion.

Do you tango in a business meeting?  Are you always the lead?  Can you follow?

In order to foster collaboration, trust and respect, it is important to know when to put your thoughts and opinions aside to truly understand and explore the other person’s message.  You consciously make the decision to follow the person in his/her thoughts and ask questions that delves deeper.  You are curious in your questions and responses.  This enhances and expands the two-way dialogue. The discussion becomes energizing!   As a result, there is a clear understanding of the message, an increased awareness, and, possibly, ideas and/or solutions are uncovered that may not have been considered.

Who is your next Tango partner?

7 Considerations when developing an organizational coaching strategy

Coaching has hit the mainstream. It’s showing up in sitcoms, Fast magazine, and well, blogs like this one. Increasingly, organizations are figuring out how to develop a strategy to provide coaching as a service offering to employees. No longer is the debate whether to offer coaching at all, rather it is a debate on when to use an external coaching provider versus internal practitioners. In this blog, I offer three reasons why an organization should consider using internal coaches and four reasons an organization should consider using external coaches.

The case for internal coaching

Financial constraints – Coaching can be expensive. A typical coaching relationship can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 or more Having an internal staff of coaches can increase access to coaching for everyone in the organization.

Organizational integration – Understanding the internal culture and the political landscape can be critical. The Society of Industrial and Organizational Psychology suggests that internal coaches have faster access to information about the strengths and values of an organization.

Consistency in process and methodology – As a profession, we’ve made great strides, however there is no guarantee of competence. Anyone can add “coach” to their business card. Although one methodology monitoring coaches from many companies can be more challenging.

Three reasons to use external coaches

Confidentiality and the client’s agenda – Successful coaching is grounded in these concepts. A slip up in one of these areas can tank a coaching program. Even when it is absolutely, never, ever going to happen, the perception of the possibility reduces the ability of the person being coached to be honest and open.

Overcoming cultural blindness – An external coach, by definition, is not part of the organization. Social psychology theory shows that people who work or live together are influenced by each other towards conformity. An external coach sees things through a different lens, not a lens of conformity.

Avoiding accountability and role clarification Issues – Role clarification and boundaries around information management become more challenging with internal coaching. Since the external coach has one role, that of supporting and guiding the person being coached, accountability and role clarification are not at issue.

Executive needs – How realistic is it to expect an executive to bare his soul, admit to imperfection, acknowledge the desire to continue developing or expose his deepest feelings to someone who is part of his organization? Can it be done? With an external coach this is never an issue.

Regardless of the decision an organization makes regarding internal or external coaching, or both, the method works. People are fundamentally changed by engaging in meaningful conversations with a coach who creates an environment of trust and learning.

Measuring the value of coaching – 3 perspectives and 3 methods

Whether you are an independent coach building your business, an internal coach for an organization, or a company that provides coaching to others, measuring the impact of coaching is critical. It moves coaching from “nice to have” to “must have”.

Your individual client may not see the need to measure or evaluate coaching. After all, he or she can say with certainty “this is the best thing I have ever experienced”. Translating that into something useful can be challenging.

3 perspectives

The WIIFM of measurement may differ slightly depending upon your perspective.

  • As an independent coach, measuring the effectiveness of coaching not only helps your client “see” progress over time, it can help you to build your own business. Self reported benefits from the client in the form of testimonials or success stories, formally collected and then used (with permission) by you, helps build your reputation as a coach – which can mean an increase in business.
  • Internal coaches can use measurement and evaluation data to uncover organizational themes, the development needs of client populations, and challenges to implementation of company strategies. This information can then be shared with others within the organization to inform or influence talent management, recruiting and leadership development.
  • Companies like Blanchard who provides large scale coaching to client organizations benefit in the same ways. We build our reputation, we expand business, we track trends and themes that can influence strategies, AND we help our clients promote coaching or a coaching culture within their organizations.

3 Methods

  • Post coaching surveys – informal or formal – collect the success stories. Get clients to be specific about their experiences.
  • Impact studies – an interview based study, conducted by an outside third party that can look at the impact of coaching from the client’s perspective, or those surrounding the person being coached, can evaluate effectiveness as well as illuminate unforeseen or unexpected trends and themes.
  • Correlate to targeted trends – depending on the purpose of coaching you or your client organization may track promotions, retention, employee satisfaction, cycle times for change, or any number of other measurable outcomes.

Regardless of how you choose to measure coaching, the ability to do so brings benefit to both you and your clients. What will you d to improve your ability to measure and evaluate the effectiveness of the work you do?

A Proactive Approach to Coach Training

Over the past 9 months, we have had the pleasure of working with a global client who is training HR professionals to use a coaching approach with their internal clients. So far, we have trained over 100 HR professionals through 5 global trainings, 3 days each.

From the beginning, our sponsors within the company have been very forward thinking. As a way of starting the learning process, the company decided to give each participant a pre-training call, with the purpose being 3-fold:

  1. To get to know each other before the training
  2. To start understanding what coaching is moving forward within the company
  3. To listen for the participant’s natural coaching style and tendencies

What has happened as a result of these calls has been remarkable.  We have indeed gotten acquainted on the calls, which has helped get started smoothly during the classroom training.

Regarding the second purpose, during the calls, we are discussing some key differences between coaching and a more traditional HR style.  We’ve had great comments about what people take away from the calls, including:

  • “This has been so valuable. Haven’t had a pre-training experience before, and it’s really made me think.”
  • “I like learning to ask questions instead of telling others what to do.”
  • “Your comment about going to past really helped me ‘look through the window’ to the solution.  For the future, I don’t really have to know all the background.”
  • “I need to let people think! I don’t need to tell everything to them.  I will need to deal with my impatience.”
  • “The main learning for me is to stand back and shut up, not impose my solutions.  I’m going to need some duct tape!”

In addition, the third purpose for the calls is for the facilitator to listen to each person’s natural coaching style and tendencies in order to give specific feedback on the style.  What has been interesting about this is to hear from participants about the impact of receiving feedback. Most people only get corrective feedback, and there are many others types of feedback that can be useful. Here are some comments from participants:

  • “No one has given me feedback on my style before. It was very helpful.  And, now I understand more about the training.”
  • “The feedback really encourages me and motivates me to be better at coaching.”
  • “Today’s feedback is making me think really hard.”
  • “Your comments about my behavior and conversation style are very important. It’s magic for me.”
  • “No one is giving me this kind of feedback.  I am just told what is wrong.”

What are the learnings so far from the past 9 months?  Two learnings that stand out are that a pre-training call can be helpful at a variety of levels, and that people really value feedback.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could arrange for pre-training calls to start the learning process? They seem to be very helpful. And, we definitely can certainly give feedback more often, especially knowing that the feedback doesn’t have to be corrective in nature.  People thrive on feedback, which is part of coaching.

It’s Not About You! – 5 Questions to ensure the focus is on the client.

The focus of coaching is to serve the client. Serving the client includes listening for understanding (active listening), asking thought-provoking and curious questions that lead to deeper awareness, and challenging current perspectives. It is important to understand the client’s current situation, needs, and goals. The role of a coach is to put aside what he or she thinks is best for the client and focus on coaching the client to identify the best solution.

Below are 5 questions for a coach to ensure the focus is on the client.

1) Are you eager to share a solution or a similar experience?
(A client’s experiences, perceptions, and realities may differ from the coach. Do not assume they are the same!)

2) Are you leading or listening?
(Are you offering suggestions or asking open-ended questions?)

3) Who feels better at the end of a coaching session?
(Are you providing solutions for your client or helping your client identify his or her own solutions?)

4) Are you allowing your client to work at his or her own pace or are you setting the pace?
(Are you tied to a process and prematurely pushing your client to action or allowing your client to reflect and explore in the present?)

5) Are you challenging your client based on his or her needs and vision or based on your vision for your client?
(Are you serving your client or yourself?)

There have been times during coaching sessions that I had to catch myself from eagerly giving advice or sharing my experiences. At this point, I realize I am focusing on me and not the client. Of course, I have good intentions and want to help my clients. As a coach, I know it is not about what I think. It is about zooming in on clients to support, listen, challenge, and encourage based on their goals.