By Chris Chittenden
Coaching is becoming one of the major approaches being used to gain a competitive edge in the business world, yet many people are confused about what coaching is and how it can be applied.
To begin with coaching is not counselling. Although many psychologists have gone into the coaching field, there is a distinct difference in approaches. Counselling tends to deal with a person's past and in "fixing" what are perceived to be flaws in a person's character. On the other hand, coaching focuses on the potential of the "coachee" and has a strong forward focus. Our approach to coaching is not about "fixing" anybody rather we seek to help people explore the barriers to having a more joyful, productive and successful life. The heart of coaching is LEARNING and helping people bring out their potential.
In the work place, coaching can be applied in many ways.
You can have a coaching conversation to help develop your skills. At Talking About, we spend a lot of time helping people develop their skills in dealing with other people with a particular emphasis on having effective conversations. We have spoken before about the importance of conversations in organisational life. Everything that we do with others involves conversations and enhancing our skills in this domain can only improve our relationships and so our productivity.
Coaching can also apply to very specific projects and problems. Albert Einstein once said, "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them." The value of coaching is not in providing people with answers but asking questions that take people to a higher level. In other words, coaches help people ask new questions; ones that they would not have asked by themselves.
Coaching can also be applied in helping people develop their career. Our experience is that people often neglect their career in the face of the everydayness of their jobs. It is all too easy to get caught up in our busy lives to reflect on the bigger picture. Coaching provides an opportunity for this reflection.
Improving your productivity is one of today's ongoing requirements. Coaching can be very effectively applied to helping a coachee become more productive in the way that they interact with others. For example, we find that most people do not get specifically what they ask others for at work. They do not recognise that more often than not it is the way that they ask which determines what they receive. Coaching can provide a coachee with a new understanding of engaging with others and minimising the waste and frustration that goes with not getting what we ask of others.
Coaching can also be about identity. We often find that people come to us for coaching in the knowledge that who they are and how they are seen is having a negative impact on achieving their objectives. Yet they do not know how to be any other way. In these situations, the coach, who is a trained observer of human beings, can explore with the coachee what they might not be seeing and how they can learn to be different.
In essence, coaching is an opportunity for you to reflect on how you do things and how you might do things better. In a nutshell, it is the process of asking three fundamental questions:
- Where am I now?
- Where do I want to be?
- How do I get there?
As was pointed out earlier in this article, people are more productive when they believe that someone cares about what they do. This understanding has led to a fundamental shift occurring in the world of work that sees managers needing to develop as coaches.
That is not to say that coaching is easy - our coaches have studied and practised for a long time to achieve their competence. However, it is certainly not beyond anyone's reach.
© 2002 Chris Chittenden