How Coaching Works?

Coaching is one of those activities that pass unnoticed through most people’s lives, and when done correctly, the person who receives it will feel energized and inspired. So how does it work? I will dive into it in today’s post.

Some Preliminary Ideas

I’ve been obsessed with behavioral science since I can remember. I’ve read hundreds of books, both academic and not. One of the most powerful ideas I’ve got over the years is about language. Humans have many ways of communicating, some verbal and some not verbal. I used to think that we used spoken language to express logic and communicate with others, but It didn’t cross my mind that we created language also to make sense of the world both inside and outside us.

This idea then highlights the importance of learning to put your feelings into words to rationalize them and put them into perspective. The challenge is that we also use verbal language to conceal what other forms of language may be communicating, leaving much room for interpretation that we have to unravel.

If understanding what we feel wasn’t hard enough, there is another layer of complexity to add. Whenever we have strong feelings about something and emotional needs we must meet immediately, our assessment of a situation gets clouded. As a result, we tend to take rushed actions to calm ourselves down quickly, often making the situation worse. That’s why talking to our trusted loved ones and getting additional perspectives is foundational in our lives.

The last layer of complexity comes from others’ ability to communicate. Almost everyone is primarily concerned with their own needs and wants. Without the proper awareness, even a well-meaning friend or family member could inject their own needs and wants or trauma into our heads, leading us to further confusion.

The Role of a Coach

The role of a coach is not to replace formal mental health therapy but to help you organize your thoughts and find actionable ways of getting unstuck.

Let’s not confuse getting unstuck with telling you what to do. When someone tells you what to do, that recommendation likely comes from a context and perspective that’s not yours; thus, it may not work for you. Additionally, the less information anyone has about a problem, the easier it seems for them to solve it. So, more often than not, the solution someone else gives you is simplistic, and you could easily have considered it already. Then, a coach’s job is to help you navigate the possibilities you have thought of, rationalize your feelings, and only, if necessary, suggest options you might not know. But the ultimate owner of the decision and way forward is you.

The Coaching Process

In my coaching sessions, I use Alan Fine’s GROW model. I like this model because it’s closely correlated to building trust, which is essential to help anyone effectively.

GROW has four stages:

  • G – Goals: The part of the session where the coach helps identify what the person wants to achieve, I.E., Decide whether a new job is what they need or understand why their manager’s feedback.
  • R – Reality: Then, the coach gathers as much information as possible from the person through pointed questions, paying attention to the person’s language and deep diving into specifics.
  • O – Obstacles and Options: After gathering a picture of the person’s context that’s as accurate as possible, the coach tries to understand their perspective by exploring what is on the way to the goals. Additionally, weigh the options the person has considered and try to bring additional perspective by suggesting new possibilities.
  • W – Way forward: The final step is to select an option, commit to it, and define a way to track the progress.

This process should make the coachee feel empowered. By the end of the conversation, the coach will schedule a follow-up session to build accountability and a sense of urgency.

Building Trust

From the coach’s perspective (or anyone who wants to play the role of a helper), building trust is essential to helping anyone effectively. We build trust foremost by showing genuine interest in the person’s dilemma and avoiding any display of ulterior motives the coach could have.

Helping anyone involves a power dynamic and accepting help being vulnerable. But, then, any display of intentions from the coach other than genuine interest will bring the person into a defensive state that will render the coaching session useless.

The coach must be aware of their drives. So often, when someone offers help, they unconsciously want things like feeling good about themselves (feel superior), processing their problems, projecting their trauma, pushing their agenda, or even making the situation look worse to get additional business.

As a coachee, I encourage you to be alert to your coach’s motives and even have an open and honest conversation with them before the coaching session; this will help you get the value from the session you’re paying for.

In Summary

Coaching could be an effective tool for anyone to navigate a situation and explore options while bringing awareness to their feelings and perspectives. However, this process requires the help of a trained coach with excellent communication skills and self-awareness to avoid confusing the person. Also, anyone seeking coaching should look for a coach that connects authentically with their problems and perspectives.

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