Why does coaching work?
Fundamentally, coaching works because it is:
Yes, you heard me right. Coaching does not work because of some fancy psychodynamic twaddle. It does not work because the coach has some amazing insight into your character. It does not work because the coach uses a fabulous psychometric tool that reveals your true self.
You already know yourself, you already know your true self and you already have the insights you need, but if they're not convenient for you, you will lie about them, even to yourself. Fortunately, everyone else sees right through you, they're just too polite to say anything, or they're using your self-deception to take advantage of you. But let's not go into that right now.
So coaching works for those three reasons above. Let me expand on those, and show you how you can replicate those 'dimensions' with your existing friends, family and colleagues.
A good coach knows that there is no good or bad, just cause and effect. If a client tells me they have made a mistake or done something bad, I have to ask why they're telling me in such a loaded way. Are they trying to get me to give them sympathy? Or absolve them of their sin? They will be unsuccessful because I don't care. Stuff happens as a result of other stuff happening and when stuff happens it causes other stuff to happen. And so the great cycle of life continues. People react to each other, and people react to circumstances, and that's how we get through life, so get over yourself. What's more important is what have you learned from it, and how will you use that learning to do something different next time?
A good coach tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear. If you want sympathy, or absolution, or a soft touch, you're not getting it from me. You can get that from most of your friends and colleagues, and where does that leave you? Right where you are, feeling sorry for yourself. If you're complaining about your situation at work, then I'll ask why you created it in the first place. If you're complaining that no-one listens to you, I'll ask if you ever say anything worth hearing. And if you're being hard on yourself unnecessarily, I'll ask you to give yourself a bit of credit once in a while. What you want, fundamentally, is to maintain the status quo, so you will tend to seek out relationships that maintain your current course. If you want to change that course, you need challenge. And let's not forget, you wouldn't be seeking coaching if you didn't want to change course. On the other hand, whilst you might want to make changes, that's often easier said than done, partly because you can't see yourself, so you can't see all the changes that you need to make in the right perspective. So challenge is vital, even though that doesn't have to be scary or disruptive.
If you wait until you need to talk, it’s too late. You might already talk to your friends and colleagues when you have a problem, but it's too late. The problem exists because you created it. You didn't learn your lesson last time, you didn't reflect and learn and you didn't change your approach, and the same problem keeps happening over and over, with different people and in different places. If you adopt a reactive approach to coaching, your focus will always be remedial, on finding a temporary fix for the current problem only. And the pattern will repeat itself. What you need is to talk to your coach because it's time to talk to your coach. That scheduled conversation forces you to step back and reflect on what you've been doing, and enables you to plan your strategy, and that enables you to make changes. The timing of coaching sessions is often more important than the content of them, because if you're committed to the process, you will prepare for a session, and will have actions to implement afterwards, which extends the reach of the process of change into your daily routine.
How to replicate the coaching relationship
- Think of 2 or 3 people who you know, who know you, and who you trust.
- Ask those people if you can have regular conversations with them, where you talk about what's going on in your life and work, and they give you honest feedback on what you're missing, what you've ignored or what you may have distorted, and where they suggest some actions for you that are relevant to the changes you want to make.
- Set a series of regular discussions with them in your diary.
- Keep track of those discussions and measure the results that you achieve.
- Get on with it!
A person doesn't have to be an amazing coach, or even a coach at all, in order to provide you with neutral, valuable feedback. You simply have to commit to accepting their feedback, no matter how much you don't like it. The worse it feels to hear the feedback, the better you can feel about the fact that at least one person cares enough about you to tell you what everyone else knows but is hiding from you.
What if you think you're so self aware that you don't need a coach? Trust me. You are not self-aware. Not even one little bit. You don't even know there's spinach in your teeth.
Peter Freeth is an executive coach, working with global businesses to develop their future leaders. He also wrote a super little book called Coaching Excellence which has all of this good stuff in it, and more.
Matt Hatson says, "A straightforward, no holds barred guide to the steps to coaching mastery. As well as boiling down the real keys to an effective coaching session, it also explores the behaviours that coaches sometimes have that hold them back from making a real difference. A powerful read from start to finish, and a book that I'm revisiting constantly to help refine my skills and push through the fear, whoever's fear it happens to be."
Greg Schweitzer says, "This is literally one of the best books I have ever read about coaching! Peter Freeth gets it. His fresh insight and creative approach come with a deep profundity and clarity that demystifies the process of coaching. His insight into the proper place and use of models, listening deeply and linguistic representation provide an uncomplicated depth to be the best coach possible. Thank you!"