It’s Not About the Coach
- Posted by Liz Gooster
- 2 Comments
- challenging coaching clients, coaching client responsibility; business coaching; contracting, Marshall Goldsmith
“Too many people think that a coach — especially an accomplished one — will solve their problems. That’s like thinking that you’ll get in shape by hiring the world’s best trainer and not by working out yourself.”
This quote, from über-coach Marshall Goldsmith’s article, ‘It’s Not About the Coach’ (you can read the full thing at http://www.marshallgoldsmithlibrary.com/cim/articles_display.php?aid=93) has been resonating with me for two reasons. First, because of Marshall Goldsmith himself. Hearing about his uncompromising methods and astronomical coaching fees was the first time I’d ever consciously given any thought to business coaching. It piqued my interest and his name stayed with me. I had lunch last week with the two business contacts who’d regaled me with these tales over 5 years ago and as we chatted I was reminded of their role in bringing coaching onto the horizon of my awareness. And second, because it encapsulates the experience I had with a practice client recently. She was keen for business solutions; I didn’t go far enough in explaining that as coach it wasn’t my role to provide them. The result was that much of the session felt frustratingly unproductive for her. It was only when we moved beyond the pressing demands of the immediate task facing her, to talk more about the reasons why she might be finding it such a challenge, that things started to get back on track.
Reflecting on this session, and trying to unravel where and why it could have gone better, I feel there are valuable lessons I need to learn – or more accurately, to remember. One of the most elemental is the importance of the contracting stage, laying out clearly the scope of the coaching that will be delivered. Another critical responsibility of the coach is to train the client, especially the novice client, in how to be coached. My client seemed to be hoping I could provide concrete answers, which I think was partly due to the stress she was under, but it also surely reflects a lack of clarity from me about what I could offer.
Another issue for me to focus on in my development as a coach is building the courage to act on my instincts, even where this means being tough on the client. In this particular case, I had misgivings from the outset about where we were heading. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it, in terms of how to redirect the coaching session. Really though, I was hiding behind the windbreak of inexperience when I knew at some point I’d have to come out from behind it and face the breeze on the beach, even it was carrying grains of scratchy sand. I sometimes feel uncomfortable challenging clients and also, I risk becoming too invested in the client’s issues through a desire to help. As Marshall Goldsmith says, it’s not about the coach, and as I know from other practice sessions, letting the responsibility for action and change settle firmly with the client is much more effective. Following up the ‘coach as trainer’ metaphor, I need to get off the treadmill and back on to the gym floor.
I like to describe myself as happily ‘At Large’ in an independent portfolio career, balancing coaching, leadership development, coach training and being a mum to my young daughter. Positive psychology is a big influence on my work and I’ve recently gained an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology & Coaching Psychology from the University of East London. My interests include reading, writing, travel, yoga, Zumba, coffee and wine! Connect with me on LinkedIn and sign up for my newsletter, Positive Intentions.