As a coach I get asked all kinds of questions about what I do (not so much what I don’t do, which is in fact a really good question to ask a coach) and how I do it.
Here are some of them:
How did you become a coach?
Well, I guess you could say I grew into it. I’ve always worked in people-oriented roles – sales, business development, marketing, communication – and almost uniquely in the service industry. I specialised in change communications and learnt a lot about the psychological processes involved in individual and organisational change. I used my people skills to support people in organisations to make sense of change more and more.
Then I was lucky enough to have a coach of my own, and that was that. Next stop: Oxford Brookes University’s Business School!
So you tell people how to be better at doing things?
This is the question which I like least. No. I don’t tell people how to be better at things, that is a trainer’s job. Nor am I a consultant or a replacement for line management! When I coach I avoid giving advice, even though I will sometimes brainstorm scenarios with a client or recommend a good read.
Usually this is where I am met with confused looks. If I don’t advise people, then what is the point of what I do?
An executive coach understands the processes involved in self-development. Typically people who choose a coach have already discovered that they do not need someone who can tell them how to do things, because they already have such people around them. Instead they want to widen their perspective and way of approaching things, so they can get rid of unhelpful habits and try new things. They need their coach to point out blind spots – things they are overlooking in themselves or situations – which are limiting them. They know their coach has no interest in skating around the issue, and supports them safely and loyally to address it.
How many sessions do your clients have?
This is a piece of string question. It really depends on the individual, the questions they are bringing, how the relationship develops, time scales, whether the coaching is part of a development programme and the number of sessions is predetermined, and of course budget.
The minimum seems to be four sessions, more than 10 is less common. Clients also return for a top-up or new series of sessions.
How long are sessions, and how frequent?
This too depends on the individual’s needs and on the reason for coming to coaching. Most of my coaching clients have a session per month, sometimes more frequently if there are pressing matters to discuss or an important event is approaching. Sessions typically last between 60 and 90 minutes.
Do you have a model or approach?
Sadly, I do not often hear this question, and it’s a hugely important one to ask before choosing a coach.
I do not apply a specific model to my coaching, such as the famous GROW model, or base my work on a particular approach like Co-Active Coaching or NLP. Although these and other models and approaches can be excellent, I find it limiting to rely on a single one of them.
One reason is that a coaching intervention (a complete series of sessions) will have distinct phases, each of which needs coach and client to draw on different resources. I prefer to have more than one option available in the different phases.
A second reason is that each client has a unique set of qualities and characteristics, and brings their equally unique set of questions to coaching. To use the same approach with every client would be taking the ‘one size fits all’ view on coaching.
A third reason is that unlike many coaches, I find the idea of a model limiting in itself, and do not believe that having a snazzy acronym is necessary to have a solid, safe and professional methodology underpinning my practice. I’ll explain more about mine in a future post.
What is the question you want to ask about coaching?
Let me know in the box below…