“Perhaps I just need someone to tell me what to do. Do you think I should get myself a coach?”
It was a good reminder that many people think of coaching as consulting. It’s not surprising, because the world is frequently exposed to soccer coaches who yell at their players from the sidelines of a match, or social media business coaches who promise you the key to heaven and a SIX FIGURE INCOME. And only few of us get the chance to listen in on an actual coaching session.
I invite you to listen in to a coaching session that could have been.
Paula has recently been promoted to being a team leader, and with her great relationship skills, she has built a stellar team. She knows that her ten people team could produce the expected targets if she focused only on her two exceptional team contributors. However, Paula wants to help others grow. She also values team results more than individual results. Therefore, she coaches the ones who are struggling so they can raise their game. As she is clearly thriving as a team leader, she now wants to move up the corporate ladder again as quickly as possible. As her coach I ask: “What’s important about the next promotion?“
Paula wants to grow.
“What growth are you looking for?“ Through our exploration, she realises that this is not just about a promotion.
There’s something bigger that’s pulling her. She does not yet know what that is.
Everything is wide open, so many possibilities: She might turn to an entirely different career, perhaps at another company. She can even imagine to one day starting her own company. Then she wants to be able to lead team leaders. Stepping up at her present company to become a leader of team leaders is about preparing her for the leadership she might need to master then. “What do you need to learn?” From a conversation about what will be different and what the same when leading her current peers, the conversation flows naturally to a deeper level:
What is it that Paula wants to be known for as a leader?
Inspiration comes up. What’s important about being inspiring?
As Paula tunes into her ambition to inspire others, to lift them up, we explore who inspires her, and what it is exactly that makes them inspiring role models to her.
What I don’t do is tell her what she can do to speed up her next promotion, because there is no one way. More importantly, at the end of the day, if you cannot answer why it matters, you end up being one of those leaders who just focus on career and status, but are left empty after they have climbed the corporate ladder. And they are not inspiring as no one knows who they are and what it is that they want to contribute and create.
What I don’t tell her either is how to inspire others. Or how to be the great leader that everyone wants to emulate. Why not? Everyone needs to find their own leadership style, based on their core values.
Leading is not painting by numbers.
It cannot be taught, but it can be learnt, and leadership coaches are eye level learning partners who bring curiosity, intuition and an unconditional positive regard for the person they coach. There is no need to look good in a coaching session, which means that Paula can talk about what’s really going on and what she wants without worrying about being judged.
The bottom line to coaching is this: We don’t coach problems. We coach people.
We co-create a space to think with them, where they find their own answers and solve their own problems. This is how they learn how to do it themselves, and how to help those they lead to do it.
Coaching is a process of self-discovery.
A discovery of who you are and what drives you, of how you get into your own way, of patterns of thought and belief, of compelling purpose and what you most value in life. Building on that, coaching is about uncovering and recovering your agency: your ability to be and do in the world from conscious choice. But coaching does not end at discovery. That would make it a never moving talking shop.
The purpose of coaching is discovery and action.
Action creates a feedback loop: The action you take after the coaching session, illicits feedback from which you learn. Reflecting on this experience leads to increased awareness. And new awareness prompts the next question that we explore in the coaching session, for you then to go out and experiment some more to learn from more feedback.
That’s how we grow.