How should the working relationship with your coach develop? It’s worth thinking about this if you want to get the most out of your coaching. Clients sometimes take a while to realise that it’s not the best strategy to sit back and let coaching happen to them. Coaching is a two-way street and it pays to lean into it.
Book review: Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text, by Simon Western
Simon Western seeks to challenge and expand our view about what constitutes coaching but, in so doing, he also challenges and expands received wisdom on what it means to be a leader in today’s complex and fast-moving organisations.
Coaching is a young practice, scarcely a profession. On the one hand, it has an inferiority complex in relation to other helping professions, particularly psychotherapy from which it takes much of its sense of good practice. On the other, it is rapidly being colonised by big management consultancies and business schools who recognise coaching’s threat to their turf. Talk of codifying what coaching should be through accreditation and even regulation is a sure sign of vested interests attempting to appropriate ground for themselves.
Western’s book, Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text, investigates coaching as it is practised rather than how it is conceptualised in the literature. The strength of this approach is that it resists the tendency to reduce and constrain how coaching is defined. Instead, Western celebrates its diversity – from new age influenced life coaching through to corporate coaching interventions with their solutions-focussed processes and returns on investment.
Last night, I attended a stirring call on the coaching profession to wake up and recast its responsibilities in relation to a world that is messed up and in crisis. The call was made by Aboodi Shabi, who one might reasonably describe as a leader of the coaching profession in the UK. Courtesy of a platform with the London Coaching Group, he extemporised on themes I have advocated myself, most recently in my presentation to APECS. But Aboodi made the case with a passion and bluntness that challenged me to stand up for this agenda with much greater clarity. A theme of the evening was how coaching could “come out” as a profession that engages with society’s problems. Aboodi’s message resonated with a good proportion of his audience, although it also provoked fear and dismissal among a vociferous minority.
When you begin work with a coach, the first session can have a significant influence on the how the coaching programme as a whole plays out. It is the coach’s responsibility to facilitate a constructive session. But, for a client, it can by useful to understand the potential dynamics of your first session. This can help you both to evaluate how your coach is doing and to optimise your contribution to making the coaching a success.
For many coaches, their main objective in the first session is to establish rapport with the client and the foundation of a relationship based on mutual trust and respect. You might be forgiven for bringing a little scepticism to such aspirations. Is there any kind of professional who wouldn’t claim to aspire to trust and rapport with their clients? Coaching is different, though. Professions such as lawyers, doctors, architects even many kinds of therapist, are trading on the expertise that they can apply to fixing a client’s problem. This implies a degree of inherent disrespect for their clients – that is to say, a conviction that the client lacks resources to address their issue. Coaches’ expertise is not applied to solving a client’s problem but to helping the client find their own strategy or solution to whatever challenge they face. In short, they trust the client’s resourcefulness, the client’s expertise in their own situation.
I’m looking forward to the APECS symposium on the future for executive coaching on 18th June. As part of a group working on the social and business context for coaching, I’ve submitted a discussion paper. I found it a useful opportunity to pull together the themes I’ve been developing at this blog over the past few years. I’ve been receiving a number of requests to access the paper even ahead of the symposium, so I’m posting it here with the following caveat: my thinking on this is a work in progress rather than my last word. Feedback, critical or otherwise, most welcome.
Anglo-Saxon capitalism is experiencing a shift in the socio-economic paradigm by which we organise ourselves. In the period after the Second World War, a consensus was established around social democracy, with its emphasis on welfare, corporatism and mitigating inequality. As this became dysfunctional, it was replaced by a consensus around free markets, managerialism and shareholder value which, itself, is now being called into question by systemic failure. What replaces it will be contested. It could be a more benign form of capitalism in which organisations accept responsibility for greater stewardship of the public realm or it could be something much closer to fascism or something else again. What role, if any, should coaches play in helping executives both to recognise the shift and to play a role in shaping a constructive outcome?
In a previous article, I discussed how personal development occurs through connecting “the doing self” and “the being self”. Here I’m going to look at some of the interesting things that happen when we bring the being self into the equation. We often think of coaching as concerning the task-focussed, doing self that wants to bring about change. Paying attention to the being self actually disrupts the doing self’s action orientation by creating a pause for reflection.
How is personal development achieved? It’s a concept that is central to coaching, an assumed outcome for both coach and client. But the ways in which coaching supports personal development are not clearly understood by clients – at least when they first contemplate coaching. This is partly because of the way coaches market what they do.
If you have been following the guidelines in earlier posts in this series, you should have been able to find one or two coaches with whom you would be confident to work. But what should you be paying for their services?
The price of coaching is a bit of a vexed issue. At first glance, there is not much transparency of pricing. Rather than post their rate on their websites, many coaches prefer you to ask. If you do this a few times, you’ll find that prices for coaching vary a great deal. You can pay anything from £50 per hour for a life coach working in your local neighbourhood to a four-figure sum for an executive coach working in large corporations.
The project was an opportunity for me to take further my life-long interest in narrative. My background to this was as a journalist who naturally makes sense of things through shaping events and information into stories. When I first experienced coaching, I was drawn to becoming a practitioner because I noticed an affinity with my earlier career as a reporter – asking challenging and open questions, cutting to the chase, synthesising and summarising on the fly. While my approach has changed since then, I realised that this story-driven frame of reference was still influencing my style as a coach, even though I wasn’t consciously nor explicitly make it a part of my coaching model. So I decided to use my research project to bring some rigour to my belief in the relevance of narrative to coaching.
Before you work with a coach, you should aim to meet two or three before deciding which to appoint. In part 3 of this series, I argued that you should never be choosing from a field of one.
When it comes to the meeting, your main purpose is to establish whether there is the potential for a good working connection between you both. At one level, this is a job interview and you are the recruiter. There is a certain amount that you have to ascertain in order to make an informed decision. You have to be clear in advance what information you need to get out of the meeting.