A few days after I’d added my last post “What is it exactly that you do?’, I saw a question in a LinkedIn discussion started by Liz Hall, editor and co-owner of the magazine Coaching at Work. Liz says that “many of us (coaches) find it difficult to be explicit about how we coach”. She then invites the group’s members to describe their style and how they coach to a potential client.
I’ve realized that when people and potential clients show interest in what I do, and want to know more about it, I kind of panic. Because the word coach is used in several situations which have, in my opinion, more to do with consulting and training than coaching itself, I often have to deal with the feeling of disappointment of my audience first. That feeling shows up when they realize that a coach – or at least me – won’t give them the answers they look for or specifically tell them what they should do.
I thought Liz Hall’s question on LinkedIn was a good opportunity for me to reflect upon my way of coaching and how I actually do it. And this is the product of my reflection:
I am a partner, who is willing to accept my clients as a whole. I am on their side, and honored to be invited into their world. During our sessions we’ll be walking side-by-side, and I’ll tell my clients what I see, hear and feel. My curiosity will generate questions in me, which I’ll share with them. I have no hidden agenda, and I don’t try to change the way they think. I don’t tell them what to do.
I take my clients very seriously, and am committed to helping them reach their goals and become independent. We make an agreement to focus and work on certain topics so they can achieve the finish line. That process will ask new things from them, which will sometimes be uncomfortable and unusual. I won’t make use of compliments or motivational talk at such moments, as it does not foster the development of a reflective, independent and self-critical perspective.
The essence of coaching for me is “getting from where you are to where you want to be”. In helping my clients accomplish that, I do not choose to follow a certain method or philosophy. That would mean I have the answers and the solutions to my clients’ challenges – or at least know where to find them. I do not. Nevertheless, a Socratic approach to myself and my role as a coach, and a humanistic approach to my relationship with my clients have shown to accelerate their lasting development and growth. And I also find answers to several of my own questions in Psychology.
I am myself in the process, and I invite my clients to do so as well. Openness, honesty, authenticity, coherence and congruency are part of our sessions. I do not make promises, however inconvenient this choice may be marketing-wise. Research shows coaching works. People who I have coached say it works. But unfortunately I cannot say it will work. To make sure it is working, and that it is not a waste of time and money, I regularly invite my clients to evaluate the process and our alliance. They are also invited to evaluate the sustainability of its effects a few months after the process is finished.
I wonder to which extent this description translates my style to someone who is interested in coaching/being coached.