I want a coach!
Seems like a pretty straightforward request, right? Not necessarily, there is a lot of confusion and complexity out there for that somewhat simple request.
Even just trying to google ‘I want a coach’ comes up with all kinds of hits and if you just type coach, you may end up with a luxury bag. Now if that’s not what you’re after it may pay to spend a bit of time defining what you actually want. Is it even a coach? You may find you’re actually after a mentor or a trainer; and while we’re at it, let’s throw a facilitator into the mix as well.
So, how do you define them all?
A mentor is someone who…
has the expertise or experience in the field that you are wanting insight into. They’ve experienced it and have a point of view on what has worked or works for them. They need to have that technical knowledge to be able to provide and offer advice, tell you what has worked for them and help you come up with a solution using their prior knowledge. They may ask you open-ended questions to help you get there, ultimately though, they are driven by what they know.
What about a trainer?
This is someone very much sharing their technical knowledge, giving you a solution that they know works for them. They may use facilitation skills and techniques to delivery their training, this doesn’t make them pure facilitators though. Ever had a personal trainer? How often did you question what they were getting you to do? Or, did you just go with the flow, as they were the ones with the know-how?
When it comes to delivering learning we use facilitators over trainers. Why? A facilitator takes a coaching approach by delivering the content in a way that fits the organisation’s context. They will bring the group together, facilitate the conversations and learning to achieve the desired outcome in a way that gets you, the learner, to come up with the solutions you need to try for your specific situation. They provide the opportunity for those in the room to share their experience and enable us to learn from each other.
Now for coaching
This is confusing in itself, as there can be a number of different ways of looking at it.
Does life coach come to mind? This was a term used back in the day when we very much saw ourselves as having distinctly separate home and work selves. The life coach was there to ask you questions about the different facets of your life, helping you to come up with your own solutions to your own problems, in a way where you were brought into to what you were trying. A coach will work with you to come up with goals you want to achieve, actions you’re going to complete to reach the goals, and check in with how you’re going. With the change in times, attitudes, perceptions and who we are as humans, we’re who we are 24/7, we don’t magically turn into someone else when we’re at work or home.
Pure coaching, takes an holistic look at who you are and what you want to do to become a better version of yourself. I like referring to coaching, as being your guide on the side. They don’t need the technical knowledge or expertise of who you are and how you got there, that’s you. What they excel at doing, is asking you the harder questions to uncover why things are as they are, what are you going to do to change them, where you want to be and how are you going to make it happen? A coach isn’t there to offer you advice.
Now this isn’t to say that your leader can’t be your coach. They can definitely have coaching conversations with you, ask you powerful questions so you come up with your own insights and learning. In fact, I’d go as far to say as this is how a leader moves from being good to great. They’re not always going to be there to give you advice, you need to come up with your own path. When your leader is coaching you, they shouldn’t be giving you advice, that’s not coaching.
We Kiwis love our sport. More often than not we see a good old sports analogy thrown into the mix to get a concept across. Often we hear coaching being aligned to sports coaches, personally I don’t agree with this.
You wouldn’t see your coach on the side of the field asking you coaching questions in the final minutes of the game about what you think you need to be doing. They’d be giving you very clear instruction of what you and the team need to do to make the final play and win the game. That’s not pure coaching.
You can see why there’s a lot of confusion when it comes to coaching, and sorry to say it doesn’t stop there. Finding a coach that works for you is important. You wouldn’t pick any plumber off Google would you? You’d check their rating, qualifications and see if they’re a Master Plumber. I’d do that too
The same can be done with finding a coach. You may want to find one who, as an accredited coach, uses a coaching framework that you can associate with (believe me there’s a few out there, it’d take a whole other blog) and you want, wait need, to find a coach who fits with who you are. Most coaches will suggest a coffee catch-up first to see if you have the connection. Take advantage of this and make a decision afterwards. If you don’t connect you’re going to end up resenting what you’re trying to achieve, the steps you’re meant to be taking and the coach themselves. If it doesn’t work, call it. You both need to be happy and comfortable in the relationship.
Gemma Sides is the Leadership Design Manager here at Inspire Group, an international learning design provider. She develops learning experiences for leaders of varying levels, from emerging to senior, giving them the time and opportunity to discover, reflect and grow.
University College London (UCL online): Coaching
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