What Happens In Coaching?



When I started “coaching” back in 1994, I didn’t have an answer to this question. While 20 plus years have passed I think there are people out there still who wonder what the answer to that question is. That’s why I wanted to address this in Part 2 of my series of blogs on coaching. In fact, I didn’t even realise that I was coaching people back in 1994. It was almost an unknown reality here in Australia. It was some years later that I realised that what I had been doing with an increasing number of my professional clients was actually coaching them.

In 1994, I had a counselling and psychotherapy practice. A significant change took place in my work around that time. Jeff Kennett had become Premier of Victoria in 1992 and had proceeded to sack 55,000 public servants – teachers, nurses, welfare sector workers and then amalgamated local government resulting in the loss of many jobs there.

I found myself seeing, for “counselling”, increasing numbers of people in middle management overwhelmed with the change process they were being called to implement with little support or training to make it happen.  At the same time, another change was happening in organisations here in Australia as a philosophy of economic rationalism shifted the goal posts as all business decisions became subservient almost solely to economics – even in the more people-oriented human service sector. This significantly challenged the value systems of these not-for-profit and public service practitioner managers.

These people were highly competent and experienced managers. They did not need counselling.  They needed coaching but, as I said, back in the mid 1990s coaching was virtually unknown here in Australia and  counselling was all there was for practitioners who wanted to work through challenges they were facing in their individual professional lives. Without identifying at that time what I was doing, I actually coached these people to empower themselves for the change they were being called to lead, to re-discover their strengths and to “re-model” their leadership and management skills for these new and different challenging circumstances. People came feeling failures and left feeling empowered and with new energy and enthusiasm for what they were being asked to do.

So What Really is Coaching?

Coaching is first and foremost a relationship between you and your coach. It is highly personal, highly confidential and calls for mutual trust. The desired result is that you will grow professionally and personally. It is all these characteristics and the fact that coaching is very immediate – it discusses what you faced and grappled with that morning – that gives it an edge as a learning and development experience.

The reason I held off for so long before getting a coach was because of the confidentiality issue. I’m in a senior position and I was concerned that people would find out about it and cast judgment. The coach I finally went to does not advertise who she is working with. In fact, in the end it was me who told people I was seeing a coach when they began to ask me what I was doing because I had changed so much.  

Manager Insurance Company.

Coaching is not a chat or a discussion, nor is it therapy or counselling. It is a  focused learning and development process that asks for real commitment from you for it to be successful. Coaches all have their own processes but essentially coaching will help you

  • clarify the vision you have for your professional and personal life,
  • set goals and objectives that will enable you to make that vision real,
  • develop strategies and skills for achieving your goals and objectives,
  • develop your self-awareness so that you have a much better understanding of yourself – where your strengths are and what challenges you most, and how these qualities affect other people with whom you live and work,
  • resolve specific issues that emerge for you either personally or professionally,
  • optimise your leadership potential and capacity.

You Are The Driver of Your Coaching Experience.

Coaching is a self-directed process. You set the ‘agenda’ for your coaching sessions, but the most significant “work” happens outside the coaching session. It is what you do following a session that will determine the value of the coaching experience for you. You need to prioritise time outside the coaching session for reflection on what you discussed and for taking action on what you committed yourself to do. If you haven’t time to do that “work” between sessions, coaching is a waste of your time and money. You certainly will not achieve your objectives.

When you talk about things with your coach and then take responsibility for making them happen, you can experience great energy, a sense that you are in control of your life, a pro-activity you may not have known before.  People who have engaged in coaching often say that the most valuable aspect of coaching is the heightened sense of accountability they come to feel for their own growth and development. Hopefully this will happen for you also.

Coaching Calls For Both Reflection and Action.

Coaching can bring you to the awareness of the enormous potential you have for changing your life and can empower you to grow that potential. It encourages you to identify and own your values, feelings and beliefs. As well, it opens up the difficult and uncomfortable questions, the ones that left unanswered limit your potential for advancement in your chosen field. A good coach will engage you in reflecting on how these issues impact on your personal and professional life and what you need to do to transform those situations into opportunities that will empower your life.

Good coaching will both affirm and challenge you and a good coach will achieve the right balance between affirmation and challenge. A coaching relationship that is primarily affirmation may feel good, but if it becomes too comfortable it will bring little growth; one that is too challenging and confronting can be very stressful and threatening to the point where it becomes a barrier to growth.


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