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Getting the Best Out of Coaching……

March 9, 2010

Coaching has become a buzz word. It is the new management style of choice and you can understand why.  It honours and works with a person’s experience, releasing potential and self belief. And most importantly it can enable people to become more self managing, releasing your time for leading the way. Coaching, as a methodolgy is still relatively new and now a body of evidence is building which demonstrates its effectiveness, for example, a study by Thach (2002), showed a 60% increase in ‘leadership effectiveness’ being attributed to a coaching intervention.

To get that kind of benefit an oganisation and the individual involved need to understand and be clear about their outcome  for the coaching. Coaching is a specific intervention and is not intended as an alternative for good management. A great coach can help the organisation understand what the coaching can and can’t give them. So how do you find the coach that is the fit for you and increase your chance of getting the best kind of return on your investment?

Coaches currently, have no requirement to be accredited or even to prove that they have had any training. In fact, anyone can call themselves a coach.  I do know of one person, who when made redundant, decided to set themselves up as a coach because they had had some, found it useful and thought it couldn’t be that difficult – and that is kind of my point. A great coach can make it look easy and that kind of easy takes time, skill and practice. It is the same kind of difference as watching an olympic skater or an enthusiastic amateur. There is nothing inherently wrong with the amateur skater but enthusiasm can only get you so far. To move to the next level you need to understand both the science and art of your sport and it is the same with coaching. A great coach turns the science into an art. They know what will provide the key to unlock someone’s thinking; they will have prepared for the expected and are flexible enough to manage the unexpected.

So how do you choose a great coach for you? You could try choosing one on how much they charge, as surely a really great coach charges a lot. In my experience this doesn’t seem to be true, this is more about the industry that the coach predominantley works in (the market rate) and the coaches own view on how much to charge.

Here are some points to consider when looking for a coach…………

1. What training have they undertaken?

As there as yet no required training for someone to call themselves a coach, the standard of the training out there is very variable.  Some are short courses, some are run by private companies and some by academic institutions or bodies like the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.  In my opinion, a good coaching course should be a combination of theories and practical interventions, with the opportunity to undertake observed coaching throughout the course and receive feedback for improvement.

2. What supervision arrangements have they in place?

A safe coach will have regular supervision arrangements in place and should be able to provide you with a reference from their supervisor.  Supervision does not mean being ‘supervised’ – it give the coach the ability to have  “super vision” about their coaching i.e. be able to take an objective view, consider what is working and what isn’t within an individual coaching relationships and develop their skills as a coach. It is like having coaching for your coaching.

3. What is their coaching philosophy?

Being able to understand your coach’s philosophy will give you some indication about whether they will be a good fit for you before you even meet them. Coaches can have very different beliefs and styles and what works for one person might not necessarily work for another. Ask them about how they contract and for what length of time. For instance, as part of my philosophy I don’t do open ended contracting, I believe that  coaching  like any good journey should have a beginning, middle and most importantly an end, where the goal has been achieved and the next part of the journey can begin. That is not say, I wouldn’t  re join a coachee on another part of their journey, if appropriate. Ask your potential coach what they believe and see if this works for you.

4. What Continued Professional Development have they undertaken in the last year?

A really good coach will invest in their development to refresh their thinking, get different input and most importantly to keep developing as a coach. They will invest a certain amount of their income in their own development.

5. Are they Accredited by either the Association for Coaching  or the International Coaching Federation?

If a coach is accredited by either these two professional bodies, it is likely that they will be able to answer positively to all of the previous questions and will also provide you with reassurance that they have undertaking a minimum number of coaching hours. (Malcolm Gladwell states in his book Outliers that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert. By my calculation that would take about 8 years for a full time coach to achieve – coaching 4 people a week). Now this is not to say that someone who does not hold accreditation is not a good coach as there are plenty of great coaches out there who are not accredited. It is just that membership and preferably accreditation of a professional body demonstrates the coaches commitment to the development of the profession and some reassurance about their ability.

Now, these questions are great ones to ask and overall even if the coach can answer positively to all of the above questions, none of them will make a difference if the ‘chemistry’ isn’t right. If the coach isn’t a right fit for you, tell them. If they are a good coach they won’t take offence and will understand. If they are a great coach they will help you find the right fit for you.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. March 11, 2010 4:41 am

    I really like your writing style, its not generic and extremly long and tedious like a lot of blog posts I read, you get to the point and I really enjoy reading your articles! Oh, and merry Christmas!

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