The coach approach

It’s a funny old game… although whether or not you find it amusing probably depends on whether your team wins or loses – or indeed has just been relegated from the Premiership! Success naturally focuses first on the outstanding performance of the players on the pitch, then on the effective choices of their manager in recruiting and deploying them, but often we forget the role of another key member of the team… the coach. But what exactly is coaching?

Defining coaching has never been an easy task – even for those of us that do it! As coaching happens naturally within many areas of work and life, and specialist coaching practitioners are found in a variety of diverse environments and work in different ways. So perhaps we can start by considering what it’s not; for example, managers have direct line responsibility for individuals – coaches don’t – although managers can adopt a coaching ‘style’. Mentors have more experience than their mentees in a specific role – but coaches don’t – although mentors can focus on specific tasks through coaching. Trainers teach learners to do things in particular way – coaches don’t – although trainers can utilise coaching to help reinforce learning. Counsellors often tackle deeply embedded emotional issues – but coaches don’t – although counsellors can employ coaching to tackle key goals.

As you can see, there’s lots of common ground and likewise coaches can help with management issues, share mentoring insight, offer occasional training and cope with a little emotion; but their main focus is on supporting their clients – or ‘coachees’ – in identifying, setting and achieving short and long-term goals, relating to whatever is important to them in their life right now. This can be, and often is work-related, as a significant proportion of coaching goes on either in the workplace, or outside although focusing on issues related to the coachee’s job or one they would like. But in a broader scope, and perhaps the true spirit of ‘life coaching’, is we can and do work with clients on pretty much any aspect of their life that’s important to them right now, from their career and learning, to their home and relationships, to their health and well-being, and even their hobbies and interests.

But in terms of work, the relationship between an individual and their working environment is complex, and so coachees can focus on setting goals for their ‘hard’ or technical skills, such as getting to grips with technology or improving their spoken English, or their ‘soft’ or personal skills, which could include working more effectively with others or managing their time and space more productively. In practice, most clients work on a blend of these within sessions, so might decide to adopt new technology to help them improve their daily scheduling. The rule of thumb for coaches will always be that their coachees set the agenda, and will lead wherever their own personal journey takes them; and you can never predict that… a little bit like football!

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