Coaching is about facilitating positive change. People generally participate in coaching because they want things to be different. Sometimes they are restless or anxious personally/professionally; sometimes the motivator is a negative review of some kind that generated concern and sometimes the impetus is simply the urge to be better at management and leadership, especially during times of transition.
Listening is the entrée point for all coaching and my intake sessions involve lots of listening. Sometimes I’m quite lively in my listening, with the intent is to “hear” between the lines and uncover what motivates the person and what they consider to be the issues. One place to start is often with the results of a performance review or a 360-degree assessment. There is often a gap between what the company sees as not working for the client and what the client experiences as their challenge; we work to uncover those differences in the first meeting or two.
Often the client is so close to their own situation and so wrapped up in their own motives and habitual patterns that they are unable to see the truth clearly. I am not necessarily “nice” about helping them see the truth, but I am always kind and very real with them. Clients are accustomed to knowing and doing what they already know and do; they are not used to having strong, provocative questions intrude on the status quo, so the relationship demands courage. Clients become part of a very personal experiment and start to examine for themselves important questions about results and what is working. Every session will conclude with a commitment from the client about what they are going to do to move the game forward (however we have defined the game) until we next talk.
The defining feature of coaching is that it creates accountability, a measuring tool for action, and a means for reporting on learning. These vary from person to person, but the bulk of the sessions are focused on developing those elements.
Officially coaching is not about solving problems, improving performance and achieving goals, but all of those things start to happen when people get clear on what they want/need to do and how to best go about it. I work to challenge self-limiting behaviors, which range widely from person to person (and include such things resistance to change, difficulty accepting feedback, interpersonal communication and behavioral problems) and then figure out with them what will forward the action.
There is a common misconception that coaching is simply about getting things done (which I hate because most people do not need to hire a nag!). Instead it’s mostly about examining how the clients actions are or are not contributing to their and their company’s core principles. Coaching is really based on the assumption that clients are naturally creative, resourceful and capable of making good decisions. It pushes them to challenge what they think is true about themselves and their situations. Inevitably, action results from that and that action varies, depending on the initial challenge. It’s never a service just to add more to a “to-do” list; it’s powerful when action emerges that is consistent with their personal and professional values. It’s especially wonderful to see when those values align with the expressed values of the organization in a collaborative way.
Every client is different, every process is different, but you can probably get an idea of the scope of this work from your own experience and from what I’ve outlined briefly here. I hope this helps define the process further.