Coaching: Looking for answers

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A common challenge for coaches is making sure the coachee, the person, ‘owns’ the outcome of the coaching discussions. Too often the person is looking for answers from the coach. The coach should create a climate of discussion that will encourage the person to take full responsibility for his/her learning and subsequent actions. It will not work if the person wants the Coach to “tell” them what they should or should not be doing. Therefore, the discussions should be focused on the coach listening more than talking.

As most coaching relationships have a limited timeframe, e.g. six sessions, biweekly for two months, etc., the coach should at the outset discuss the timeframe and what the person wants to accomplish. Initially they may not know, but the coach should not lose sight of the person making progress and being able to articulate how he/she is doing. Conversation is important; however, there should be purpose to the discussion. The coach should probe and question, allowing the person to challenge themselves to better understand how they think and behave.

The individual being coached has the responsibility to be open to seeing himself/herself in new ways and a desire to improve and become more aware of who they are. If the person is closed to the coaching experience, perhaps having been told by their manager that they need it, the coach may not be able to break though. Then in all likelihood it will be a waste of every ones’ time. Importantly, the individual must accept that it is his responsibility to ‘own’ whatever results from the coaching exercise — that it is his creation, not that of the coach.

There are numerous situations where a person could benefit from working with a coach. One of the most common would be where a manger is experiencing difficulty leading her team. It may be that the manager is mostly results-oriented, paying little attention to the human element of directing people, so staff are complaining to others, asking for transfers or not feeling part of the team. A coach can help, but again it is important that the manager is able to acknowledge that something isn’t working and that help is needed to figure it out.

In many cases, coaching helps when a situation has occurred in which a manager, and perhaps the organization, is confronted with a real live problem. The need for a coaching intervention can become a mandatory step in the resolution process. Organizations should think about getting ahead of possible situations by providing an annual coaching program linked to developmental/ career reviews or 360⁰ feedback results for their management team.

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