Sara here: I have gotten some response to the post I offered about coaching. I’ve offended some and for that, I apologize. That is why this is titled “apology/apologia.” It is to say that I am sorry for causing reaction – and I would offer my argument to support what I believe about coaching with all sincerity.
I used the term “judgement” and that was a poor choice of words. Let me be clear that I didn’t mean that anyone was “judgmental” in working with other people. Language is a tricky thing. I suspect we often don’t communicate by speaking the same language.
Let me take another run at this. I was talking about the relationship that should exist between a coach and a client. I firmly believe that a coach has the responsibility to remain neutral toward client and client’s situation. A coach’s responsibility is to assess rather than vote. I substitute vote for judgement because I mean taking a position (rather than being judgmental). By refusing to take a position, the coach can be curious about the effectiveness of a client in ways that are outside the coach’s experience. Language does make creating the distinction challenging.
By the way – there are weaknesses in the world and in people, no denying. However, the job of the coach is not in the area of weakness. What differentiates a coach from other helping professions is that they to assess how the client sees themselves, help them expand their perspectives and open clients up to their own blind spots. Ergo, the difference between fixing what’s broken vs discovering new paths. In fact, in the world of neuropsychology: the work of Daniel Goleman, David Rock and others is reinforcing this understanding of coaching and its effectiveness in helping people change…creating new neuropathways rather than trying to redirect old ones.
a : a large usually closed four-wheeled horse-drawn carriage having doors in the sides and an elevated seat in front for the driver
a : a private tutor
b : one who instructs or trains <an acting coach>; especially : one who instructs players in the fundamentals of a competitive sport and directs team strategy <a football coach>
So, the other day at Take Your Brain to Lunch, I am in mid-presentation, and I say something like this: “the purpose of a coach is to tell me what I am doing wrong.” I referred to athletic coaches, people hired by the likes of Martina Navritilova and other “individual” stars. I am convinced that such an athlete cannot watch himself/herself, and thus needs a coach to watch, find the flaws, and correct. I used to play tennis (back in the days when rackets were made of wood, tennis balls were white, and the tiebreaker had not yet been adopted), and I know that’s what my coaches did for me. They saw my flaws, pointed them out, and drilled correction into me.
And I got better. (I would have gotten much, much better if I had practiced they way my coach told me to. But that’s another story).
Anyway, Cheryl Jensen, my blogging team member and the leader of Take Your Brain to Lunch, who is a personal coach, tells me I’m wrong. She says that a coach should not look for areas to correct, but instead should… well, let her tell you.
By the way, I disagree with Cheryl. Thus, this dialogue…
Cheryl, your turn.
As much as I try to avoid ever correcting people in public for fear of embarrassing them or damaging a relationship, I did indeed disagree publicly with Randy last week. When we traded time at the microphone, I offered a very different perspective. Randy is correct in that I am a professionally trained coach by The Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and the International Coach Federation (ICF), the governing body of professional coaching. Our official definition of coaching is “Coaching is a partnership with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Another cornerstone idea from our CTI training is “People are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole.” This means coaching is not about fixing what’s broken. It is about helping the client look and find what’s already within and then directing that talent, energy, and focus towards their goals. There are 3 main reasons I coach: to facilitate learning, create movement towards client goals so they can improve their performance and enjoyment from life which of course includes work. So the whole idea of looking for what’s broken and then offering advice is totally counter culture from professional coaching to me. Rather than offer answers, we offer questions for the client to explore their areas of interest. Rather than offer advice, we ask questions to create options the client wants to implement. Rather than assign responsibility, we offer opportunities that will facilitate additional learning and new insights.