When is it time to finish coaching? And how do you end the relationship elegantly when you feel it’s time to part company with your coach?
Often, decisions about ending are determined in advance. There’s frequently an understanding that the coaching is a finite arrangement. This is partly philosophical: an assumption (not necessarily valid) that a client risks becoming dependent on their coach. Partly, it’s budgetary: the number of sessions is determined by the funds available. Whatever the reason, your coach will likely have a well-rehearsed model for bringing the coaching to closure.
Sometimes coaching disappoints. But it’s a sign of the determined positivity that grips much of the coaching business that this isn’t well acknowledged.
As Steven Berglas, a psychiatrist turned executive coach noted in 2002, purveyors of coaching have an interest in inviting prospective clients into a story of readily attainable transformation. Coaching contracts are mostly short-term. This is ripe ground for clients forming misguided expectations of a quick fix. Coaches might reinforce this with an emphasis on behavioural change, the linearity of which defies the complexity of human experience. Because coaches mostly hold to a professional ethos of facilitating a neutral process, they can implicitly absolve themselves of responsibility when the product doesn’t deliver.
How do you know when coaching isn’t working? You might find yourself going through the motions: turning up for the sessions but not really engaging with the endeavour. Or you might be engaging wholeheartedly with the sessions but feeling that the process as a whole is not producing the outcomes you had hoped for.
The work you do between coaching sessions is as important as the work you do when you’re with your coach.
Coaching can be conceived as a staging post for the stuff, in the world beyond the sessions, that the client wants to work on. It’s a safe place to try out different ways of being. Coach and client reflect together on what the client brings and might formulate ideas for action. There may be an opportunity to rehearse in the session. But it’s not like learning a musical instrument, where the pupil practises in private before performing publicly on the stage. For the most part, the client practises on stage as they put the ideas into practice directly in their everyday life.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finding a coach is harder than finding a doctor, lawyer or most other kinds of professional service. Coaching is a fast growing profession, but strangely invisible and not clearly defined to its market. People often reach a coach through word of mouth; but chances are you won’t know many people who have experienced working with a coach. Alternatively, you might pick up a flyer for a coach who works in your neighbourhood; but how do you know if this person is the real deal or a quack? Continue reading “How do you find a coach?”→
In the first part of this series, we looked at what coaching is and in what circumstances it might make sense to turn to a coach. This post is about how to work out what you want from coaching.
I’m not thinking here specifically about your goals for coaching, although this is a part of it. It’s more about how you like to learn and develop and what kind of coaching experience would best suit you.
Coaching is a young profession and not well understood. The barriers to entry are low and the standards and methodologies variable. No surprise, then, that I find that people who approach me for coaching often have little idea what to expect.
So I’m embarking on a series of posts for people who are thinking of working with a coach. It will try to shed light on what coaching is and how to use a coach. Among other things, we’ll look at criteria to use when choosing a coach and how to get the best out of coaching once you begin. But we’ll start with exploring how coaching can help you and when it might benefit you to work with a coach.
Let’s try first of all to pin down what coaching is – a surprisingly difficult question to answer. If you have explored coaching at all, you will have quickly find that no-one ever seems to call themselves simply a coach. There are life coaches and executive coaches, NLP coaches, ontological coaches, co-active coaches, performance coaches, wellbeing coaches, fertility coaches. I could go on. I don’t intend to get into the distinctions in approach between the various methodologies or niches within the profession. Having explored a variety of philosophical traditions in coaching, I can see that they all offer a certain wisdom. I’m more interested here in some of the common factors which underlie coaching, whatever tradition in which it’s rooted. The reason for this is that, for prospective clients, the label given to a particular kind of coaching is less important than the quality and professionalism that a coach has to offer.