So what is Coaching?
Coaching, outside the sports industry, has been growing since the 80s and yet most people still know little about it. Though, it is apparent this week that coaching is significantly growing inside the sports industry too. The recent success of the young and inexperienced England squad in the World Cup has been put down to the team facing fears, being vulnerable with each other, choosing how they perceive and approach challenges and writing their own story (The Guardian, 10th July 2018).
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as ‘partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential’. It is about tapping into your most powerful resources, identifying and then making choices from what really matters to you in life, and creating the life that is best for you.
Just to be clear here, though there is coaching that purely focuses on one aspect of a person’s life (e.g. a project at work, engagement with the team), I am writing here about whole-person coaching. All elements of ourselves and our lives are inter-linked and so when we work on our selves, we need to bring our whole self to the process. The brilliance of this is that whatever single challenge we have in life, we have a mass of resources within us to handle it. Coaching is different to mentoring and consultation – in coaching the client, or coachee, is the expert. The coach works from a belief that the client has all the creativity and resources they need to move forward.
It follows that each coach brings their whole self to the process too. Which means that each great coach has range and can work in many different ways, depending on what each individual client needs. It also means that they are not going to ‘click’ with every client they come across because, well, that’s how life is.
For a client investing themselves in the coaching process, it is about identifying and exploring what it is that they really want in life and courageously stepping in to creating that. It may even be bringing what they don’t want because they may not know what they do want. Whatever it is you bring to coaching, it is a process of unearthing what really matters to you, stretching yourself so that you can bring your whole, dynamic self into the game and creating the path ahead so that you can walk/run/drive/dance it.
Coaching is a journey of curiosity. It can be disruptive, playful, vulnerable, slow and spacious, fast-paced, and many other things. The gems are the insights – sometimes a ‘ping’ moment and sometimes a gradual unfolding that goes on for days, weeks, months…. The coaches job is to ask questions, offer insights (which can be rejected!), hold the clients agenda, hold the space, challenge, champion and be reflexive; all this in service of the client. The coach is not there to fix anything or to give advice or opinions. Coaching is different with each coach and with each client so it is a hard thing to explain. The best way to know is to get stuck in and try it out!
Photo credit: Tim Goode/PA