What is Coaching?
Coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximise their personal and professional potential in support of a real and desirable business outcome. Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce fulfilling results in their personal and professional lives.
What do Coaches actually do?
Coaches are trained to listen, to observe and to customise their approach to suit individual client needs. They seek to elicit solutions and strategies from the client; they believe the client is naturally creative and resourceful. The coach’s job is to provide support to enhance the skills, resources and creativity that the client already has.
Coaching is a distinct discipline that requires specific training, the mastery of a core set of competencies, and ongoing professional renewal through continuing education.
For what purpose is Coaching used?
Coaching is typically used to achieve one of the following purposes:
- Skill development: Coaching to acquire, or improve upon, specific skills and abilities.
- Performance Improvement: Coaching to enhance performance in the current role.
- Career Development: Coaching to prepare for a future role.
- Executive’s Agenda: Coaching to help senior managers define their own notion of personal success and corporate performance.
Are there situations when Coaching is not advisable?
Coaching is likely to fail where:
- It is imposed.
- The person being coached fails to commit/or is not open to change.
- Coaching is being used by the organisation to avoid dealing with a performance issue.
- The senior line manager is not engaged in the process.
- The objectives of the coaching are unclear or not agreed.
How should I look for when choosing a Coach?
When choosing a coach it is important to pay attention to a number of important indicators. These include:
- Business experience
- Coaching experience
- Coaching credentials and professional memberships (if held)
- Coaching approach and techniques used
- Approach adopted to professional assurance and ongoing development
- Tools and instruments used to support their coaching practice
It should be possible for you to get this information for any professional coach today. The modern professional coach should be focused on providing a coaching service which is:
- Outcome-focused and client-led.
- A clear and precise approach to contracting with the client.
- Attuned to and understanding of the client’s business context.
- An appropriate blend of challenge and support.
- Focused on building self-sufficiency on the part of the person being coached.
- Structured yet creative and flexible to accommodate the client’s needs.
Often individual coaches are members of a coaching panel offered to an organisation by a coaching supplier. When choosing a coach from such a panel it is important to consider certain details of the organisation which is proposing the coaching panel.
An organisation providing a panel of coaches should be able to demonstrate that:
- They have a range of coaches with different experiences to provide a ‘best match’ with client need.
- They have a robust process to ensure ‘best match’ between coach and client.
- Contracts are clearly structured on a tripartite basis between coach, client and sponsoring organisation.
- Supervision and ongoing development is part of their way of operating.
- They have a proven track record as an organisation with client organisation referrals.
How does a Coaching engagement typically work?
The coaching process typically features a number of distinct stages:
- Outline description of the client manager’s needs.
- Initial ‘chemistry’ meeting with the client manager.
- Proposal and contracting
- Problem/issue definition and diagnosis (sometimes involving 360 assessment and/or psychometric testing).
- Goal setting.
- Developing a strategy.
- Identifying obstacles and overcoming resistance.
- Building commitment.
- Action planning.
- On-going support and review of progress.
What is a Coaching contract and why does it matter?
A coaching contract sets out a clear understanding of what should take place between the coach and their client (often referred to as the coachee). The contract specifies the details of the coaching arrangement, the boundaries around the coaching conversation, the terms of confidentiality which prevail and the specific objective or goal that the client wishes to achieve with the support of coaching.
A good contract is clear, specific and allows all parties to reach a shared understanding of the coaching process. As a minimum, the contract should include the following:
- The goals and desired outcomes for the coaching programme i.e. ‘this is what we want to see’.
- The criteria which will be used to measure the success of the programme.
- The anticipated length of the programme.
- The duration and frequency of coaching sessions.
- Agreed processes for cancelling and re-scheduling sessions.
- Arrangements for evaluating the programme.
The ground rules for the programme:
- Roles and responsibilities
- Feedback to the senior line Manager/HR sponsor – normally the action or development plan, not the details of the coaching conversation
- Taking notes
All professional coaches will be required to abide by a code of conduct which sets the standard for the way they carry out their coaching practice when working with clients.
The code of conduct lays out certain ethical standards, typically comprising values such as integrity, confidentiality and responsibility. By strict adherence to their code of conduct professional coaches safeguard the professional and personal interests of their clients and the organisations from which their clients are drawn.
There may however be certain situations where coaches encounter a conflict of responsibilities and in such cases they are required to exercise exceptional professional judgement. Because such circumstances are possible a code of conduct is viewed as the framework within which professional coaches strive to work as opposed to a binding set of work instructions.
Some typical principles governing the coaching arrangement include:
- The coach and client enter into an equal relationship which is created expressly for the benefit of the client
- Coaches work on the premise that clients know what is in their best interest and can decide for themselves on the best course of action to take. Clients thus are responsible for their choices and accountable for their own actions.
- The coach is responsible for creating an opportunity for their client to explore, discover and clarify ways of working and living more effectively, resourcefully and rewardingly.
- The client’s goals, choices and resources always take precedence over those of the coach.
A code of conduct should set out:
- The professional responsibilities of the coach
- Clear guidance concerning the coach’s own competence and the limits of their capabilities
- The approach to be adopted concerning the management of the coaching process and the extent to which others are involved in the process (the line manager for example)
- Guidance for handling conflicts of interest which may arise
- Clear guidance for ending the coaching process at an appropriate time and with the client’s best interests in mind
- The terms of confidentiality and the exceptional circumstances when confidentiality may be breached
- Guidance concerning the promotion of the coach’s own business and private interests
- Clear instructions on the communication of capabilities, qualifications and experience so that misrepresentation does not occur