Coaching - the word that either leaves us with very positive or very negative feelings, due in part to the pseudo-psychological techniques that are sometimes used in this almost mystical practice.
Now, I am in no way a purist, in as much as I don’t think there is a sole and unique way to do things or to think about things, especially when it comes to the practice of coaching.
However, I do have difficulty in accepting “band-wagonning” , when people see a slight opening and then proclaim that this is what they do – which is much the case for a lot of forms of what is commonly termed, “coaching”.
It seems that today, anybody and everybody is some sort of coach, especially if the practice is carried out by somebody who has, or claims to have some sort of specialist knowledge that they are all too willing to impart on others.
Coaching is rarely, if ever a controlled practice in terms of having a unified governing body, such as doctors or dentists. In fact anybody can put up a sign and claim to be a coach – and many do! be it a life, executive, imaging or any other form of coaching that is the flavor of the month, there are coaching associations and bodies that attempt to regulate the profession, but membership is voluntary.
It is this desire to consolidate their positions that often leads to the “Guru stance” that some coaches take, speaking a language that only their disciples can really understand but that will cast a mesmerizing spell over those who are within earshot of their utterances.
I say mystical as the activity of coaches is often shrouded in secrecy, which is vital for some aspects such as confidentiality and a clear deontology.
Some coaches use a toolbox that contains Transactional Analysis, Neuro Linguistic programming, Emotional Intelligence and a host of other techniques and tools borrowed from psychology or pseudo-psychology (depending how you view it).
It is not a bad thing that different tools are used by different coaches for different issues in different contexts as long as the coach operates within a clear deontology with the client / clients well-being at the heart of all that they do – basically there are no bad tools, only bad coaches.
Coaching, when carried out professionally by competent coaches is a great way of helping overcome problems, boosting well-being and personal development, actualizing professional competences and helping achieve, through their own resources, peak effectiveness.
Due to the fact that effective coaching is a specialised field, it has an almost exclusive technical and exclusive vocabulary, much like any other specialised profession.
The problem with this is that it can then be misappropriated by almost anyone who can weave a few buzzwords together to form sentences that confuse so much, that people often take what is said as being read, and this happens in so many fields – take your insurance policy for example, or a mechanic at the garage tells you that you need to change your timing belt – not many ask too many questions beyond “What will that cost”?
If you ever get the feeling that you are getting ripped-of at the garage or elsewhere, then you could also get that feeling when talking to a coach, or worse still being present while two or more coaches speak together – if you feel you are listening to a foreign language, then you’re not altogether wrong.
Just take a look on any social network to see people who punt themselves as a “Marketing Guru” or “MLM coach” or “Social Media Coach” – my advice is that anyone who calls themselves a guru has already given a clear sign that they are not in any way that what they claim to be, and thank you for warning me.
If they purport to be a coach then everyone has a right to ask about how they go about their coaching, their qualifications and their experience and why not, their references – this is invariably a great way to weed out the wheat from the chaff.
An effective coach doesn’t tell people what they should be doing, nor show them how to do the right thing, but rather helps awareness and insight in others in order for them to reach their full potential, pretty much by themselves and herein lies the skill – the ability to facilitate the emergence of the potential in others in a non-obtrusive way.
Coaching is not psychology, nor psychotherapy, nor personal development, nor teaching, nor training, nor mentoring and this inability to class coaching into a tangible category is often frustrating for both potential ‘clients’ and competent coaches, because there are many who practice among the charlatans.
In my view coaching does not deal with dysfuntion in the psychological meaning of the term, although many coaches do tread this very dangerous path, which can do no good (once again in my opinion) to both parties.
It’s as if people are hard-wired to find a similitude with something that they may know something about – OK, it is also a feature of the way that we learn by connecting categories, but there must be commonalities in order for that to work.
If I say to someone that I do Soft Skills Training – invariably they will say “OK, you coach people in ….”, well no, didn’t you notice the operative word “training”?
Of course I understand that this is also a way for people to gain insight and understanding for themselves, invariably used as a form of active questioning. Although if I say that I am a coach, this is often greeted with an “OK, interesting” as the person scuttles away before they are met with a barrage of incomprehensible psychobabble.
So how do you know if you are getting coaching?
I guess there are a hundred ways to answer this question, but there needs to be, at least, an element of the following in any coaching scenario:
- You decide on the course of actions that you are going to take
- You are in charge of your own developmental or learning objectives
- You decide when the coaching contract will finish
- Your coach helps you to formulate decisions but doesn’t take them for you
- You feel uplifted after a coaching session – ready to take the world on
- Your coach brings structure to your learning
- Your coach asks questions – doesn’t tell you what to do
- The sessions are more like a conversation than a training session
- You feel stronger and less dependent on your coach
- Your coach helps you see things more clearly
I’ll just say in my defence that I hate any form of complication – if there is an easy, clear and concise way of expressing what I do – I’ll take it, which often confuses people and earns the wrath of (some of) my ever-so-eloquent and silver-tongued coach colleagues, who value complication highly.
This is what I will try to elucidate in the next couple of posts – the buzzwords that coaches use and what sense we can make out of them – although at times I may just be using my own interpretation, so any comments or advice are always welcome.