The Coach's Challenge
Posted at 19:58:29 by Jacky Leonard
"The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own." Benjamin Disraeli
As a coach, it’s critical to remain impartial, objective and curious, trusting that your client is the expert in everything related to them. However, we’re brought up in a culture where it’s natural to judge, compare and critique; to want to pass on the knowledge and expertise you’ve acquired? After all won’t that give your clients a shortcut to success?
When I started my coaching journey, one of the hardest things to master (and I’m still working on it daily) was to set aside my judgement and not give advice. Observing new coaches during their learning journey with The Coaching Academy, I know this can be one of the trickiest skills to master, especially when you’ve come from a background where you’ve been held up as ‘the expert,’ or been in a role where you are supposed to provide ‘the solution,’(as if there’s only ever one)! If you’re not careful, the ‘I know best’ stand can become your default position. It’s a real draw back for a coach, disempowering for a manager and frankly a little annoying in anyone.
Something that has helped me be less critical of myself and others is the NLP presupposition ‘people do the best they can with the resources they have available’ and the Stephen Covey quote “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behaviour.” I find these simple statements help me pause just long enough to extend the gap between the stimulus of the client’s comment and my brain’s response of ‘I know what you could do’. That short gap helps stop me judging the person’s behaviour, or jumping to an over critical conclusion.
Let me offer you some examples which may be familiar…the person who cuts you up on the road, the friend who insists on repeating the same sob story again (despite them telling you they’re going to sort things out), the colleague who doesn’t seem to possess an ounce of ‘common sense.’ It’s so easy to be critical. Why can’t they be more like you? The simple answer is they aren’t you; they don’t share your map of the world, your values and beliefs or your resources…and even if they did, they might choose to use them in a very different way.
After all isn’t it a little egotistical to believe you have all the answers? Remember how empowering it is when someone reaches their own conclusions…especially if it’s prompted by a timely, pertinent and insightful question from you. Appreciate that even when you have a perfectly good solution, it’s yours, based on your experience, knowledge and background and while it may serve you, it’s unlikely to help them.
Before I sign off I’d like to leave you with a poem I wrote whilst managing a certificate weekend for The Coaching Academy. It’s a tongue in cheek take on that question I hear often from new coaches…’Can I give advice?’
The Coach’s Challenge
Can I give advice? Can I tell them now?
Some clients seem so clueless about the what and how.
I know just how to help them, there’s things I can suggest
To get them closer to their goals and be their very best.
The problem is I’ve been told that coaching’s non-directive,
I’m supposed to ask them questions, be attentive and objective.
But surely that can’t be right, when I have so much to give;
I could tell them what to do and think and how they ought to live.
So explain to me just one more time why coaches don’t advise?
Particularly as we’re clearly, so brilliant and wise!
©Jacky Leonard April 2013