‘Coaching is the predominant style of working together, and where a commitment to grow the organisation is embedded in a parallel commitment to grow the people in the organisation,’ as defined by Clutterbuck and Megginson (2005).
Andrew Blench asks; Can developing and embedding a ‘coaching culture’ help school leaders – and leadership teams – secure system-wide improvement?
‘Why would I need a coach?’
This question reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a colleague.
Me: Have you thought about having some coaching sessions for yourself?
Colleague: Why would I need to have coaching? I’m not one of those ‘high flyers’!
This is a fairly common response; there is a perception that coaching is for ‘ambition and driven people’, such as elite athletes or CEOs of large corporations, but it’s not for ordinary people like me!
My own belief, gained from the experience of having been coached and of being a coach, is that everyone can and should benefit from coaching.
Building your skill set so it supports you in your ventures
What makes me say this? Because coaching is about being the best version of yourself that it’s possible to be. Who wouldn’t want to achieve this?
Coaching is about turning dreams and wishes into goals with realistic plans to achieve them. The sad thing is that many of us spend our lives wishing, hoping and dreaming of an alternative reality. Coaching encourages us to aspire and fulfil our personal and professional potential – as the saying goes, ‘Shoot for the moon; even if you miss you will land among the stars!’
It’s also about developing strategies to overcome the things in our personal and professional lives which stop us from making progress. I’ve heard many people say, ‘I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to XYZ!’ Whilst it is true to say that there are many very real challenges in life that people have to face the biggest struggle can be with what is going on in our own heads. Two of my favourite coaching questions are; ‘What could you do if you weren’t afraid?’ and ‘What would a braver version of you do?’
The mechanics of coaching
So how does this all work then?
A professionally trained coach will meet with you on a regular basis for one-to-one sessions, delivered face-to-face or even remotely via applications such as Skype or Zoom. They will use a range of techniques drawn from the worlds of positive psychology, therapy and psychotherapy. But coaching is very different from therapy in that it isn’t about healing the hurts of the past but is very much about building for the future. A skilled coach will create an environment where you will do your best thinking and problem-solving. Some have described coaching as having been given ‘a good listening to’. The professional coach will also bring challenge and will hold up a mirror to your life in a non-judgemental way, where they feel this will serve you best.
You have to be ready for coaching!
This statement reminds of the many jokes circulating about how to change a light bulb:
Question: How many coaches does it take to change a light bulb?
Punchline: As many or as few as you wish; the important thing is that the light bulb has to want to change!
The most fruitful coaching sessions I have experienced have been with clients who wanted to engage with the process. It isn’t something to embark upon because your boss has signed you up for it, or if it’s something you feel you ‘ought to do’. You need to do it for you!
So when can I sign up?
A word of caution – chose your coach well* Ask what professional body they are registered with, what code of ethics do they adhere to and where did they train? Ask if they are accessing continuous professional development and supervision.
Most coaches will offer what is known as ‘chemistry sessions’. This is where you have a short, no obligation, meeting with your potential coach to see if coaching is for you and the coach is someone you can work with.
“Everyone needs a coach,” Bill Gates says; this applies whether we are a CEO, leader, teacher, basketball player or bridge player – we all need people who will help us reach our goals and give us feedback.