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To Coach or Not to Coach?

One way of interpreting this question is to ask yourself if you are the right kind of person to become a coach. And that’s a useful question to ask, because there seem to be already plenty of coaches out there. The short answer “sure, anyone can coach” sounds both arrogant and dangerous. But then how do I determine if coaching is “for me”? Here are some questions that might help whether to Coach or Not to Coach.

1. How curious are you about truly understanding other people’s perceptions, their reality, and what makes them tick?

Without a good dose of curiosity and an open mind this whole coaching thing is going to be awfully hard work for you, because you will probably feel you are wasting your time discussing other people’s issues and problems for hours and hours.

2. How good are you at listening and staying in the “here and now”?

Focused, serious listening seems to be the starting point for any effective coaching conversations. If you prefer talking to listening and are easily distracted, then maybe training or teaching are better suited for you than coaching.

3. How reliable and trustworthy are you?

As a coach, you do take on a serious mission in terms of helping another human being “sort things out” (achieve clarity) or “be successful” (achieve growth). If you are someone that inspires trust, and that others can rely on, someone who respects agreements and confidentiality, you’re in a much better starting position.

4. Can you get the balance right between supporting and challenging?

A coach that shows a lot of empathy and understanding is nice. A coach that is also able to ask powerful questions that push me beyond my current thinking is dynamite. Something as simple as “I heard you say you’ve tried everything. Can you think of anything you haven’t tried?” can really change the game.

We could argue about the degree to which the qualities above are a talent or a skill, in the sense that they can be learned and trained. Of course, you can probably get better at each of these by developing your self-awareness and engaging in deliberate practice. But assessing where you are right now, maybe with a little help from others around you, can be a good way to measure the amount of effort you will need to invest to get there.

We might also assess this question from the other side, meaning considering your clients’ perspective and their expectations. It is perhaps worth identifying who you might wish to reach out to and support through coaching. Here are some questions to consider.

1. What does successful coaching look like to you?

Does there need to be concrete results? Is it whereby the client leads up to a breakthrough moment, or rather has a series of small practical takeaways each session? Perhaps you feel simply offering the coachee better clarity is an achievement in itself? It may be worth acknowledging your own drivers or values here. Although, arguably, it is not about you, it is about them, so therefore…

2. How do you identify when it may be time to refuse or stop coaching?

As a coach you will undoubtedly listen and respond, following the flow of the conversation, yet what do you do when it becomes clear that the clients’ needs are beyond your remit? When is it necessary to suggest alternative expertise in order to best support your coachee? To keep the rudder firmly in hand and also be ready to use it. Which raises a further question…

3. Is everybody potentially coachable?

A good rapport and feeling of trust between coach and coachee is undoubtedly key to successful outcomes. As coach the first step is to ‘build the alliance’. Being coached requires consent, it is a mutual choice to delve deeper into a topic together and it can’t be forced. Assuming your clients have accepted to speak freely and are on board with the alliance, how do you handle the tides and weather that will be experienced along the journey? It is perhaps useful to have some tools and strategies to ensure that you are prepared.

Ultimately, as with many things, mastery comes with experience and is also a matter of intuition, listening and humbleness. We, coaches and coachees alike, are trying to have some understanding of the truth. Both an inner truth about ourselves and, as best we can, some kind of objectivity about the world around us. Increasingly, in today’s world, that becomes difficult. It can be useful to ask powerful questions to explore this truth, perhaps in order to find a way forward through a challenging time. Coaching offers a space of safety to explore and dig deeper together.

Through the interconnectedness of humanity in coaching, we hear each other’s stories and explore our values which may go some way to offering clarification. It is certainly a key tool for leaders to be able to effectively assist their organisations and the humans within them.

Whether or not you decide to coach formally, if you are able to learn, explore, listen and stay curious, it can be empowering to others to apply this methodology in the workplace as a manager and leader.

Which, if I may, leads me to offer something for you to think about further - what next steps could you take from here?

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