I recently took part in a webinar called High Velocity Listening: Coaching Agility for the C-Suite.* Why? Well, anything that might deepen my insight into the art of listening grabs me, so you won’t be surprised I waited all agog to hear what Andreas Bernhardt and Jeff Hull had to say for themselves. I came away with lots to think about. And I’d like to share some of those thoughts with you…
A blog post can’t do full justice to everything that was covered, but here’s an introduction to Andreas and Jeff’s concept of ‘The 3 P’s of Coaching Agility’, which are:
- listening presence
- listening perspectives
- listening personas
Even coaches need to take it easy sometimes….
Why do I say this? Because here in the UK we’ve had the most wonderfully warm and sunny weekend, full of blue skies with the occasional fluffy white cloud, the heat-drenched scent of roses, and not a little ice-cream (at least as far as I’m concerned)! Those of you who haven’t had the dubious pleasure of a wet British summer will probably not understand the full significance of being able to enjoy what for us is a perfect June weekend – but I hope you’ll be able to join me in feeling relaxed and happy to be alive…
Remember we looked at benefits and potential drawbacks to coaches having insight into coachee context? Well, now we’re going to go one step further by checking out an actual coachee context to gain some practical understanding of how ‘background issues’ might influence the experience of coachees working within it…
I’m an internal coach in one of the largest Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in the UK. So let’s briefly explore some wider ‘background issues’ currently affecting UK universities to gain deeper insight into a ‘context’. We’ll then be able to suggest ways these issues might affect employee experience in the sector, as well as understand how insight into them might help coaches in their professional work.
Last time in Part 1 we looked at benefits for coaches of having insight into coachee context, along with 5 questions that could help us build up a wider picture of a coachee’s situation. This time we’ll be looking into potential drawbacks to having wider insight.
The 5 questions we asked last time were aimed at information gathering about the organisation. This time we’re looking at the coach him- or herself. Could there be potential shortcomings or blind spots in a coach’s approach to what he or she knows about a coachee’s context? What could be the results? And most importantly, how can we as coaches strategise to avoid these deficiencies, minimising the drawbacks to having wider insight into coachee context whilst maximising the benefits?
Coachees come in all shapes and sizes, weighed down with all kinds of issues. As coaches our aim is to focus non-judgmentally on the particular coachee we’re dealing with at any one time, and that particular coachee’s experience. But to be effective, do we also need a measure of independent insight into the coachee’s context? To be aware of wider influences and potential stresses?
That depends on the type of coaching. It’s possible, particularly in 1:1 life coaching, to work quite successfully with an individual coachee without much reference to wider context. Indeed, some would argue that concentrating solely on the coachee and his or her experience is the coach’s role. However, I’d say in organisational contexts such an approach is insufficient. Somewhere down the line evidence of barriers to change will emerge which might have been foreseen and possibly avoided if the coach had even a little prior knowledge of coachee context.
That’s not to say that having prior insight into coachee context might not have its drawbacks. In this post and the next, my aim is to open up some of the issues to start exploring the pros and cons.
This time let’s pause for a while to remember the incalculable contribution to the development of coaching made by Sir John Whitmore, who died recently…
As one of coaching’s pioneers, Whitmore must have influenced just about every coach on the planet through his seminal book Coaching for Performance, which first appeared in 1992. Encapsulating as it does the spirit of coaching at its best, this work also presents one of the finest explanations around of the ever-popular GROW Model – that practical, uncomplicated approach to coaching which will forever be associated with Whitmore.
What skills does a coach REALLY need? Which tools are essential?
These are big questions. And many coaches secretly have them at the back of their minds, especially when they’re newly qualified. Have you ever heard that little voice inside saying something like this: “Okay, you’re qualified… But are you good enough? What do you REALLY have to do? What do you REALLY have to know?”
It takes time for a coach to gain confidence, and it takes practice. However, if there’s one myth I’d like to dispel which might help everyone relax, it’s this – the myth that to be a successful coach you need to be well-practised in a whole host of tools, without which you can’t call yourself a ‘proper coach’ at all.
Confidence is one of those slippery concepts, isn’t it? Everyone’s looking for it, but no-one can put their finger on what it is…
The number of times coachees present with an issue they relate to ‘confidence’ is phenomenal, especially given that it can be well-nigh impossible to pin down exactly what ‘confidence’ really means to them. It’s like a wet bar of soap – smelling lovely when it’s firmly held in our hands, but unsettlingly prone to slithering right out of our grasp…
The other day I had the good fortune to participate in Davina Whitnall’s ’60 Minute Confidence Roadshow’ along with what seemed like dozens of university-based Professional Support Staff (PSS). What an exhilarating experience! Having specialised in researcher development in Higher Education, Davina now runs her own consultancy and is a Fellow of The Higher Education Academy. She’s more than well placed to offer insights into tools that can help anyone (not just researchers) define aims regarding the kinds of confidence they need to acquire, and put practical plans in place which can take them towards generating the confidence they seek.
Remember those organisational and operational barriers we looked at last time? The ones that get in the way of establishing coaching programmes and a coaching style of interaction in organisations? Well, we’re not finished yet. There was a third category of barriers to tackle, so this time we’re turning to individual barriers to coaching.
I don’t know about you, but I felt encouraged that, by facing up to the reality of organisational and operational barriers, we could design ways of overcoming them. In good coaching style, examining the reality meant we could think of options, and that meant we could tease out things we could actually do. The same is true for individual barriers. Let’s take a look at what they are.
In a previous post we looked at coaching as a “way of seeing people,” along with its key role in facilitating the emergence of teams and community relationships based on values of respect and integrity. But before we all enthusiastically assume it’s easy to establish a coaching style of interaction and/or coaching programmes within organisations, let’s take a step back to consider the kinds of things that can get in the way. And there are many…
Yes, we have to accept that significant potential barriers to coaching can exist in organisational contexts which need to be factored into our strategies.
These barriers fall into three main categories: