I’ve often heard people say that “common sense is all that’s needed when
coaching others”. And while I think the notion is attractive, the
difficulty is that common sense is difficult to define. The Collins
Dictionary defines it as ‘good practical understanding’ – but of what
exactly? And can we be sure everyone has and operates by the same
definition? We can’t and therein lies the difficulty. Instead, I would
say that coaching others requires the coach to be skilled in a number of
core coaching competencies: setting up a sound foundation at the start
of a coaching relationship; co-creating the coaching relationship by
establishing trust and intimacy with the client; communicating
effectively throughout (active listening, powerful questioning and
direct communications); facilitating learning and results by creating
awareness, helping the client plan, set goals and identify their
required actions; and holding the client to account, by managing the
coaching process and requiring them to be accountable for their actions.
So, undefined common sense, definitely not; but coach-specific training
and lots of applied learning by doing, well yes!

The first coaching myth that needs to be shattered is the “coaching is
about telling people what to do”. I’m not sure why it’s so popular, but
it is a common notion for those not in the know. So to set the record
straight, ‘coaching’ doesn’t mean telling people what to do. Instead,
the coaching process is designed to help clients view themselves or
their presenting situations clearly enough so that they can best
determine what is going on and what is needed. Often, clients will ask
their coach for their ideas and suggestions on an issue and that is
perfectly appropriate to have the coach be a thinking partner – the
coach is their resource person, after all. In some extreme circumstances
however, the coach may need to be very directive for good reason. I’ve
had a few instances over the years where I have told a client very
clearly “no, you can’t do this”. These have been very unusual situations
– i.e. a client was contemplating a course of action that wasn’t legal;
a client too ill to work yet determined to continue on – and these are
the exception, not the rule. The thing to remember is coaching is about
working in partnership with the client, to build the client’s level of
awareness and responsibility!

Even though I am a good speller and know how to spell GROW, I like to
add an additional R into the mix! GROW, as it’s currently used as a
coaching model, means the G stands for the client’s goals, the R for the
client’s current reality, the O for the many options available to the
client and the W for what is needed to be done, in order to achieve the
goals. I like to add an additional R, for reflection (GRROW) in order to
make that part of the process explicit, not implicit. It’s such a useful
thing to do, reflection, yet how much time do we give it, in any given
busy day or week? How often do we really think about why we want to
strive for the things we do or to determine all the things we need to do
(and possibly sacrifice) to get them? And how clearly do we see our
current reality (it’s so easy not to see the wood for the trees) and all
the options available to us? Reflection takes time but it’s the thing to
do if we (and our businesses) want to really GRROW and develop.

It’s never been easier to find a ‘good’ coach, thanks to the work of the
International Coach Federation (ICF). If you haven’t heard about it, the
ICF is a “non-profit, individual membership organization formed by
professionals worldwide who practice business and personal coaching. It
exists to build, support and preserve the integrity of the coaching
profession, through programmes and standards, supported by the
individual membership”. It currently has 10,500 members in 80 countries
and has 145 chapters in 40 countries. So, if you’re looking for a coach,
look for one who is a member of the ICF and one who has a coaching
credential. The coaching credentials (ACC, PCC, MCC) means the coach has
had many hours of coach-specific training, large numbers of logged
coaching hours and has had their work checked and approved by several
other professional coaches, in some stringent processes. Check out
www.coachfederation.org to find the coaches near you!

Over the years I’ve had a few people come to me for business coaching
who didn’t want to come but were ‘forced’ to by their business or
personal partners. I never knew this until I had the person in front of
me, looking and sounding reluctant and resentful.and who could blame
them. I’ve noticed that some people don’t realise coaching is a working
partnership between the coach and the client. And like any successful
partnership, it requires both parties to be compatible, comfortable with
one another and share a desire to work together. Forced participation,
on the part of the client, is seldom successful, I’ve found. It wastes
the client’s time, energy and money and isn’t that great for the coach
either! Successful client participation is characterised by the client
really wanting to work with someone to help them enhance their
management or business practises; the client knowing specifically what
they want to work on; and most importantly of all, they’re highly
motivated to learn, try new things and do whatever is needed, to achieve
results. When all these elements come together, with a skilled coach,
the effect can be truly transformational…

One particular issue that makes my heart sink, is when working with
managers or business owners grappling with a long-standing
organisational issues, I discover they think coaching will be a “quick
fix” solution. This is worrying because coaching, effective as it is,
has its limitations. In itself, it isn’t a miracle cure (how could it
be?) but it is a highly appropriate mechanism for managers and business
owners to look at what has contributed to the development and
maintenance of long standing issues (i.e. systemic management failure
over the years; weak leadership; lack of resources, whatever); and to
consider what steps could be taken over time, to rectify the situation.
The key word in resolving long-standing issues is time – quality time to
analyse situations and problem solve – and timely action then taken, to
rectify them. So, quick fix, no, never. Timely action, yes, always.

I’ve been interested to hear over the years how “management coaching”
is, in some quarters, perceived to be beneficial for “new” managers only
and not experienced ones. I don’t agree with that notion because
managers at every level of responsibility and experience have different
needs at different times, as they go along the management path. There
are however common issues managers face at every level: having and using
effective time management techniques, for one; dealing with “difficult”
situations or personalities, for another..and, having to juggle
increasing workloads with sometimes diminishing staff levels and
resources, as a popular third. So management coaching isn’t just for the
new-bees; it’s for everyone, at every level. But what is it that stops
this happening? What is it that stops senior staff in organisations
recognising that one-on-one coaching support is highly beneficial (for
all staff) and not a once-a-year token gesture, at the generally dreaded
and often avoided performance appraisal sessions?

I never used the word “coach” to describe what I did when I started my
business in 1992, because “coach” was used mainly in relation to sports
and opera singing and not in the world of management. And it is only in
the last few years I’ve used the coach label, because now it is more
acceptable. It’s everywhere now and fast being adopted by different
sectors. Who hasn’t seen advertisements for a financial coach (financial
planners), career coach (used to be careers guidance), property coach
(used to be investment and real estate salespeople) and food coaches
(nutritionists and dieticians)? Given the label’s popularity, my hope is
that coaching isn’t seen as a fad that’s here today and gone tomorrow.
My hope is that “management coaching”, for new through to experienced
managers, becomes the organisational norm. And I hope that there are
others out there, like me, who call themselves personal management
trainers – because I’m the only one I know who does!