This week is ICF’s International Coaching Week and it’s a great opportunity to celebrate & discuss coaching. So, each weekday I’ll be hosting blogs from a variety of authors exploring an aspect of coaching. Watch out for these posts here & on Twitter #coachingblogs.
The topic for today is “Who coaches the coaches?” which has been suggested by the lovely Barbara Thompson (@caribthompson).
This post has been written by yours truly (@changecontinuum) – I hope you enjoy it!
Who coaches the coaches?
It’s not a question you hear much of is it… Who coaches the coaches? Let me try to answer it by unpicking my own experiences.
I’ve had a number of formal coaches over the years and have had ongoing supervision. A range of people have coached me and I’m not sure there has been a defining commonality other than coaching skill and a desire to support me.
Stylistically they’ve all been different. Some I felt were better than others. Others I felt better being with than some. They all helped me reflect on my needs and provided challenge when I needed it.
Do you know what though… When I think of the moments when something changed for me, the more recent ‘stand out’ occasions have come from informal coaching conversations. In a way I think this speaks to the power of asking great questions ‘in the moment’ with skill as well as care for me and what I need.
So when I look at who coaches me, it’s varied and it can be both formal and informal. However, it’s always been with professionals with coaching skill who care for me and what I need, not what they want to achieve themselves.
Never Coaching Me
Now I have to confess that my path has come across various people who would try to coach me, whether I like it or not… I suspect that there’s something about being a coach that brings you into contact with other coaches who feel the need to coach you.
I hate it. There’s nothing worse than trying to have a genuine conversation and then to feel the other person actively trying to coach you when it’s not what you want or why you’ve come together. Ironically, strictly speaking it’s ‘in the moment’ yet there’s something pernicious about it. It’s their agenda not yours. It’s unwanted, intrusive attention. Sadly, the coaches who’ve tried this on with me have always been qualified coaches…
I have to confess, it’s now actually a bit of a filter for me and in some cases a bit of a game. If it happens, I let it run just to see how wrapped up in their own agenda they get. It’s interesting how far some people will go. I don’t want to be associated with anyone who coaches like that.
So do coaches need coaching?
Just to wrap up, I’m concerned that there might be an assumption in the question “Who coaches the coaches?” that coaches need constant coaching.
In my opinion, beyond supervision, coaches don’t ‘need’ coaching any more or less than anyone else. They need to have experienced coaching. They need to be aware of when & how coaching could help them as well as others. However, to compel coaches to have ongoing, continuous coaching would just be a farce and probably another destructive opportunity for coaches to make money from coaches…
What do you think?
I enjoyed reading this – I am sure that some coaches would gain great benefit from having a coach themselves, whilst others would not and this depends on their circumstances and mindset at a given time. Surely, the essence of the issue is to understand why you should have a coach (on a formal basis). In my opinion, especially in the business environment, there has to be an agreed objective that both parties have signed up to achieving – such as a specific target or change. I have worked in places where senior executives “had a coach”, which was in reality a monthly dinner date with a trusted friend, paid for by their employer – that, to my mind is not coaching. I have also seen amazing changes in the way individuals, committed to a period of genuine coaching to achieve results, have amended their interactions or built their skills and attained pre-articulated goals. All credit to their coaches for helping them to make it happen.
Kate – thanks for reading & adding to this thread. You’ve made the point very well and it troubles me when “coaching” either becomes a co-dependant relationship or is “done to people”. The essence of coaching is for the client to see the value that coaching could bring to a particular need. That need can change of course but should never be founded on neediness. In my opinion, good (or great) coaches never let coaching happen in such inappropriate ways regardless of what the client or organisation asks for.
David, I wonder if the assumption implicit in this question is actually that coaches need special types of coaching, perhaps from “super coaches”.
The answer to your question for me is quite simple. Coaches will be coached by whoever they want to be coached by. This could be informal or formal depending on circumstances and what they want. As a coach I found a recent formal coaching arrangement to have incredible benefits for me, far beyond what I had hoped for or even imagined. But I also enjoy socialising with many coaches and often get great insights from my discussions and informal coaching with them.
I suspect I may at times have an informal “coaching conversation” with someone without their explicit permission or possibly even, my being aware that I am doing it. If I am talking with someone and they raise an issue, why would I not want to ask questions that help them or me understand it better? This is definitely making me think about the nature of informal coaching conversations more now.
Sean – you’ve dug into a some great lines of inquiry. Let me have a bash at them but please don’t think them conclusive – would love to keep digging!
Super coaches… I don’t believe coaches need a more highly skilled coach if they seek coaching. If they did then who would coach the “super coaches”? I suppose it could be argued that supervision is “super coaching”, yet it’s not and some supervisors I wouldn’t in my wildest dreams call “super coaches”… So I guess the assumption might be that coaches need super coaches but I feel this assumption would be quite wrong.
I’m completely with you when you say coaches will be coached by whoever they want to be coached by (informal or formal). It could be your coach, other coaches or even clients – that’s happened to me on a few occasions and it’s a delight.
The aspect of informal coaching I hate is when it feels as though it’s being “done to you” and it’s not what you want at all. It’s not necessarily asking an insightful or coaching question. It’s more of a pervasive role assumption – you can feel that dark shadow emerging…
So it raises the question of how can you ensure any informal coaching isn’t ill received? I feel that starting point of intent & care for the other person is critical and the basis for building empathy and connection with them. If your approach isn’t being well received you’ll know it… unless of course you choose to ignore their discomfort which brings us straight back to intent & care for the other person! So perhaps it’s a virtuous circle… thoughts?
David, I think you have hit the nail on the head there – “intent and care” will affect the “tone” of any informal coaching and will help ensure the informal coach is looking for feedback of any discomfort and will act accordingly.
I am however warming to the idea of “super coaching” – albeit in a slightly mischevious way!
Doctors have doctors. Therapists have therapists. Physicians can rarely heal thyself.
We can learn so much from peers – and it doesn’t always need to be superseded by a ‘super uber glittery coach’ – but in a mature environment by someone with different experience, a new approach, a fresh perspective. Some of the greatest learning in my life have been from a naive killer question from someone inexperienced but with the courage to ask ‘why’.
Could not agree more Betty!