Today I had a great conversation with a trainee coach who was talking to me about what she was learning on their course (not ours – but I didn’t hold that against her ;-) She asked me about the sort of coaching I do and I explained that I work with clients, initially for a 6 month period, on a defined ‘issue’ or ‘topic’. She asked me why 6 months and why did I not work with clients for extended periods of time – did I not think that they would benefit from an ongoing coaching relationship? Surely I would want to continue to work with clients to achieve new goals after these 6 months?
It got me thinking about how I work as a coach and challenged my views on coaching and I figured there are probably a lot of people who have differing views on what coaching is and how long a coaching relationship should be, so for what its worth – here are my thoughts, presented through my top coaching tips:
1. Coaching needs to resource your clients
In coaching, it’s important my clients learn, grow and develop through the coaching relationship – if they don’t then I’m not doing my job right, and it’s equally important that they apply this learning. This can be done between sessions but the real test of learning and growth comes over a long period of time. Through coaching I expect my clients to develop the ability to challenge their own thinking and build strategies for overcoming obstacles that they frequently meet. This ability to ‘self coach’ is the added value that coaching provides to clients in the long term.
2. Coaching should uncover “ah – ha” moments
Most people that come to coaching will think and behave in repetitive ways. Over time they have formed habits and strategies that they take to the workplace and apply elsewhere in their lives. These habits will be unconscious, second nature. Through coaching, I hold a mirror up to my clients and challenge their ways of thinking, this often leads to moments of realization and breakthroughs in thinking and behaving. These ah-ha moments are rewarding for clients because they get to experience the excitement of possibility and change.
3. Coaching is future focused
Coaching is about taking action, moving forward and achieving - and achieving is addictive. You want your clients to believe in their own capability, you don’t want them to become reliant on you as a coach. A coach is a catalyst for change and a cheerleader for support. Once a client builds the resources they need to take action, it’s time to let them fly.
4. Coaching is purposeful
Coaching works best when the client has a clear need or purpose. That might be a specific goal or it might be a state such as dissatisfaction or being unfulfilled. Either way coaching within a defined parameter, such as 6 months, creates a sense of urgency for your client, which in turn encourages action. Change is not easy and if a client knows that you’ll be hanging around for the next year -18 months, they might be less inclined to make those big audacious actions that are needed to shift the needle.
5. Coaching goes beyond the Grow Model
I was at a conference recently and had the pleasure of hearing David Clutterbuck speak. He said that some of the Worlds most effective coaches allow the client to “have the conversation that they need to have with themselves”. In these conversations, everything slows down, less questions are asked with more powerful thinking taking place. A skillful coach very artfully creates the environment where this conversation can take place, and as a result, clients often end a coaching relationship clear on their goals. Typical coaching talks about the GROW model and the need to follow a structured path from Goals – Reality – Options and Way Forward. This type of conversation can be very useful for a client and it certainly has its place. For lasting change to take place within a client, coaching goes beyond the GROW model.
Clients are welcome back anytime
Even though I coach for a defined period, I do sometimes re-contract with clients. It may be appropriate in some circumstances to continue coaching beyond 6 months. This might be because the clients needs were more complex, or external factors happen during the coaching relationship that requires additional time. Clients sometimes also return to coaching after taking a break, for example 6 months or 1 year. You don’t know what you don’t know and only by going ‘out there’ and trying new things do clients learn what other challenges they face. I love it when a client returns to coaching because it shows me that they have been applying what they learnt through coaching and respect me enough as their coach to trust me again to support them. The client is ready for their next chapter of learning.
If you want to learn more about coaching or leadership development based in coaching principles then please contact me now. Thanks for reading. Zoe