Saturday 24 October 2015

What do I think I am doing?

I was struck, reading Brown and Brown's Neuropsychology for Coaches, by this:
By effective coaching from a brain-based perspective, we mean: The capacity of a professional coach to so understand and manage the brain processes of the person who is being coached that effective change and development within the person, plus the consolidation of change and development, is deliberately created and consolidated for that person’s benefit, bounded by what has been agreed contractually between the two people involved. 
I love the clarity of that, but is that what I really believe I am doing, when I am coaching?

And if it is, how do I do it?  

Historically, I have described my coaching to new clients like this:

Confidentiality is guaranteed, but there are boundaries to the confidentiality contract:

1 If the coaching is being paid for by someone other than the individual, then objectives may need to be agreed with the sponsoring organisation (typically the employer) - which will clearly reflect part of our initial conversation. I will always agree these with you before sending anything to your employer. That will also normally include the number and the duration of meetings, and an indication of when the coaching is completed. There is no other feedback from me to the employer.

2 I discuss my coaching work with my coaching supervisors, but do not identify individuals.

3 If you reveal that you are working against the best interests of the sponsoring organisation (typically the employer), or breaking the law of the land, then I will suggest that you stop, and tell someone as appropriate. If not, I may have to tell someone - and will inform you of that.

The mechanics of the process

When we work together the agenda is set by you: we will work together on issues that are chosen by, and important to, you.

Meetings are typically 90 minutes long, face-to-face, by Skype or phone; at a frequency to suit you (typically around every 4 - 6 weeks).

In between sessions, you will have work to do: the actions (which may include reflection, reading, as well as doing)  you have chosen as a result of the coaching conversation

What you can expect of me as a coach

I see my role firstly as to help you to see more options than you are currently seeing, both in terms of the understanding you are making of reality, and in particularly in terms of possible actions.

I may do that in any one of a number of ways. It may be simply by listening and questioning, to take your thinking to new places. It may be by bringing some relevant theory or knowledge to bear. It may be by sharing experiences of working with others on similar issues. It may be by using my own intuition. However, the intention is always to develop more options.

A second aspect of my role is to encourage you to take action. So towards the end of each coaching session I will ask: ‘So what are you actually going to do as a result of this conversation?’ Action often includes thinking tasks as well as activity in the more usual sense of the word.

A third aspect is to act as an external conscience: to help you to hold to your good intentions. So before the start of second and subsequent meetings, I ask you to send me a Success Report: a pro forma that invites you to reflect on what actions you committed to, what you actually did, what you learned, and what your priorities are for the next conversation. 

A fourth aspect of my role is to help you to reflect and to learn from experience. Therefore we start the second and every subsequent conversation by reviewing actions and learning arising.

At the end of the agreed programme of coaching, I encourage you to reflect on learning over the whole process, and to plan to sustain it beyond the end of the coaching relationship. I also invite feedback on the process, both in that final meeting, and subsequently via an online questionnaire some 3 months later. We may also agree a 6- or 12-month followup.

What I expect of you

I expect you to discuss the issues we are addressing openly and honestly.

I expect you to take the actions you have chosen at the end of each session, to reflect on them, and to report them back to me via the Success Report.

I invite, expect and welcome feedback throughout the coaching process.

What we might work on

People bring a huge range of issues to their coaching conversations. Some that come up frequently include:

Career development
Coping with unwanted change/unexpected setbacks
Emotional intelligence
Fire fighting and long-term goal achievement
Managing upwards
Organisational politics
Performance management
Personal resilience
Strategic thinking
Time management
Work/life balance

… and so on. 


What I am now considering, is whether that is still an accurate and sufficient description. It is based on a practice that focuses on skilled listening as a major factor in effective change (cf Carl Rogers, Nancy Kline etc) and also on Kolb's learning cycle. 

But it says nothing about the psychological and spiritual understandings that increasingly underpin my work. 

As I study, work with other coaches, learn from my reading and my supervision sessions, I have a growing awareness of all of these, and they inform my practice: but finding words to describe them is difficult. I don't want to talk too much about the therapeutic understandings both because I am not a trained therapist, nor do I want people to be put off coaching because they don't want therapy.

Likewise, I am wary of talking too much about the spiritual dimension, at least until people know me a little, as that is so open to so much misunderstanding, that I fear that any discussion of it may mislead more than it enlightens.

Yet, I want to be authentic and open with my coaching clients: indeed, I think that is essential for a good coaching relationship.

So over the next few weeks and months, I will be continuing to work on this: and if I get anywhere, I will certainly blog about it.

And as ever, I welcome thoughts and ideas from others, whether publicly (in the comments here, for example) or privately in conversation or by email.

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