Monday 5 February 2018

Person Centred Coaching and the Risk of Collusion

As my regular readers (if such there be) will remember, I am a big fan of Nancy Kline's work - the Thinking Environment and how valuable that is in (inter alia) a coaching context. Click here for examples of my posts on the topic...)

Indeed, having done the Thinking Partnership Programme with Nancy a couple of years ago, I am now booked on to the Time to Think Coaching Course in a few weeks, with her colleague, Shirley Wardell. 

However, as I recently mentioned, I am currently reading Blakey and Day's Challenging Coaching, and one of the issues they raise is the assumptions we work with when we are coaching. 

They point out that the coaching profession derives much of its theoretical stance from the related counselling and therapeutic professions, and particularly from the work of figures like Carl Rogers and Gerry Egan. The question is whether all the rich legacy we inherit from them is equally appropriate in the context of coaching.

A key issue here is the person-centred approach. In this style, a style which many coaches see as a sine qua non, the coach's job is to work on the agenda set by the coachee, and to facilitate growth and development by establishing extremely high levels of rapport and empathy, providing an environment in which it is safe for the coachee to pursue his or her thinking to new, risky and possibly fruitful places. Whitmore's GROW model is one example of this approach: focused on the coachee's goals as the context for the discussion; and Nancy Kline's approach is, at least in part, a more sophisticated version.

Nancy is fond of talking about helping them go beyond what they normally think, and beyond that; and the assumption is that most people have the solutions to their problems available to them, if they are suitable supported (and challenged - eg by challenging the assumptions that they are making).  

However, the risk of such an approach, as I was discussing in supervision last week, when reflecting on a particular coaching session, is that one can end up colluding with a client who, consciously or subconsciously, doesn't want to talk about a particular issues, or even has a massive blind spot about it.

An example might be someone who seems unaware that his style of interactions is quite intimidating to other people, and who is looking to improve his effectiveness by addressing other, more trivial issues. If the coach is aware of the impact of the individual's style, but is bound by a person-centred approach, and feels unable to raise it unless the client does first, then it may never be addressed; and that would seem to me to be a failure on the part of the coach. This is particularly likely to be a problem if the coach believes that rapport and empathy are so vital, that saying or doing anything that jeopardises them is unthinkable.

So that is one of the questions I will take to the Coaching Course next month: it may be that I am missing something in (or some understanding of) the Time to Think model. I will doubtless blog further about this in due course.


Incidentally, and à propos absolutely nothing at all (except, possibly, the reflection that this, and all my posts, might reasonably be dismissed as first world problems) I was re-visiting The Gulag Archipelago recently, and was struck forcibly by this passage:

I just turned my handle and thought to myself: How quickly a zek gets cheeky - or, putting it in literary language, how quickly a man’s requirements grow! I was dissatisfied because they had torn me away from the play I was writing in my dark hovel; dissatisfied because they had not given me a job in a school; dissatisfied because they had forced me - to what? to dig in frozen soil? to mix mud for bricks with my bare feet in icy water? No, they had forcibly put me at a clean desk to turn the handle of a calculating machine and enter the figures in columns. At the beginning of my time in the camps, if they had ordered me to do this blissful work twelve hours a day, without pay, for as long as I was inside, I should have been beside myself with joy! As it was, they were paying me 450 roubles for it, I should be able to drink a litre of milk every day, and I was turning my nose up and wanting more.
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago,  
Part 6: Exile, Chapter 6: The Good Life In Exile. 
Translated by Harry Willetts

No comments:

Post a Comment