By MICHAEL HEAH
Coaching is still in a “confused” state as to its actual identity. I have been in many situations where I have had to come to its defence to prevent it from losing its integrity as a replacement name for training, mentoring, consulting and counselling.
“It is the same thing, only with a different name,” is a common remark I receive. After so many experiences with this, I found that the most common thread that runs through the minds of these ‘misguided’ perceptions is that coaching is nothing more than a common activity of teaching and advising people on how they can improve their competencies by doing a task in a predetermined manner.
But is this what coaching really is? Far from it! Coaching is packed with many more ‘ingredients’ than what many expect.
The clearest meaning of coaching is a “deep learning partnership that empowers a person to gain courage, competencies and commitment to achieving their fulfilling goal”.
Going by this, it means that the coach is a “deep learning (and not any ordinary) partner” who has the ability to deepen partnerships with people.
Coaches have the capability to enter into the closely guarded “inner world” or the “heart level” of the person to be in contact with their deep seated emotions, inner motivations and undeclared feelings. This is a “sacred place” for people and is therefore not easily accessible except for those who have “special” skills and powers to make the entry.
These special skills are usually concentrated in a number of areas, and include the ability to win trust, listen deeply, ask insightful questions and raise self-awareness for discovery making.
Unless you are specially trained to acquire them, they do not come automatically to an ordinary person; not even to a capable manager who is very sound in advising and telling their people what to do. Conversations will only tend to take place at the “head” level consisting of knowledge, information, experience, logic and reasoning.
But one may ask why a coach needs to get deep into the person’s inner world. The fact is, without getting in there, a number of breakthroughs cannot take place. The person needs to be led to a state of self-awareness in order to discover how to tackle their issues.
The importance of knowing and understanding emotions, feelings and inner motivations of people cannot be underestimated because they are the true generators of action in people. For instance, it is not being unable to wake up early that causes a person to be late, but his/her dislike for the work itself or the lack of congeniality in the working environment.
So if a manager only advises this employee on time management or dishes out a punishment for coming to work late, the same problem will recur as long as the deeper-seeded issues are not addressed.
Furthermore, trust and intimacy can only be built through these deep conversations. So when managers are only concerned about getting work done, this will not help to improve their relationships with their team members.
The effective coach
This finally brings us to the coach himself who is at the epicentre of a coaching relationship. Let’s get it straight. The coach is not just an “ordinary” person with seniority and years of experience.
A coach must be passionate about helping people excel in their lives. Only then can commitment, sincerity and authenticity be clearly demonstrated to build relationships of trust and intimacy, so the person can share truthfully. Only with truth can a coaching relationship really succeed.
A coach also needs to possess the skills of listening and questioning. A good coach listens both at the “head and heart” level of the person to really make sense of what is not said as well as what is said to make full and accurate sense of their meaning.
Powerful listening helps the coach to become a powerful facilitator as well. He/she is armed with the right questions to help people search in places of their minds that they seldom visit.
Using his/her questions as the ‘searchlight’ helps the person gain insights and self-awareness to find resources, options and opportunities to move forward in a faster and better way to his/her goal in the most fulfilling manner.
It is hoped that by demystifying coaching and the coach, leaders and managers will look at gaps in their coaching skills to be filled so that they can fortify their ability to lead and inspire people to greatness.
To engage Heah for your organisational coaching support needs, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Click here for more articles.
Michael is an ICF master certified coach with Corporate Coach Academy and a faculty trainer with Leaderonomics.