Pain points in coaching: Why templatization doesn't work

Posted On Apr 03, 2021 |

When working with professionals in pursue of their coaching credential, I have observed some of the repeating themes that emerge as a challenge in and also after the training process. These repeating themes (or "pain points") can be summarized as following:

Pain point #1. Coach picks a topic

A clear example would be a coach tweaking the client's topic to fit coach's personal interest or expertise, or even accepting the client's topic, but actually asking questions that move towards some other topic. 

Pain point #2. Micro-teaching

This may happen if the the attention seems to be on the coach’s own performance or demonstration of knowledge about the topic. This may be for example psychological expertise, psychotherapeutic domain knowledge or some of the principles of agile leadership. In each of the cases the coach seems to be more interested in his or her view of the situation rather than the client's view of the situation. Even if you are a domain expert, try to hold back and experiment with adding value through a dialogical exploration, rather than through micro-teaching.

Pain point #3. Coach focused coaching

Responsiveness is one of the key characteristics of successful coaching. In successful coaching, it seems that coach and client have a "flow" of conversation:

Client shares a view > Coach receives & processes that meaning > Coach gives output that is related to the clients view, but represents a dialogical extension of it > Client micro-reframes his or her own view

Sometimes the coach may just keep telling his or her own story, rather than being responsive to information client is sharing. At any point of the "flow" above, an interruption may occur leading to a decrease of the effectiveness coaching intervention.

Pain point #4. Coach tells the client what to do (directly or indirectly)

Much is already known about the coach not being there to TELL the client what to do. However, this may also occur in an implicit way. For example, the coach may lead the client to some pre-determined (by the coach) answers or outcomes. For example, the coach may lead the client towards a view that internal motivation works best, although the client started the topic with an idea to explore lack of external motivators.

Pain point #5. Coach doesn't ask for consent

Use of tools and techniques is widely accepted in coaching no matter what approach we base our coaching on. However, we sometimes may seem to be using a tool as some sort of a template that masks our inability to be present and co-create a direction of the coaching process with the client. At a minimum level, partnering in the coaching process would include a consent for the use of a specific tool or technique. At some more expert levels of coaching, the coach would be exploring what the client perceives as the next move in the process.

Pain point #6. Coach micromanages

Idea of prescribed homework in coaching may seem to be a popular one, but actually may be there just to re-assure the coach that he or she has done some good job (worth the time & money spent). Insisting that the client do what the coach has prescribed as homework is one of the critical issues that also work as a template and work against partnering in the coaching process. Instead of prescribing a homework, ask the client what methods of accountability would work for him or her.

Pain point #7. Coach is action biased

Contemporary cultures are action biased. So are coaches. Although it is widely accepted that not every coaching conversation need to include an action plan, it seems tempting to resist this pressure to produce an action. Sometimes the client would just ask for a clarification, more structure around a topic, better understanding or a vision around the topic. But the coach still may insist that the client follow a prescribed action plan. As coaches we should be open to exploring other ways we create value for the client which are not action biased.

What all of the six pain points have in common is an attempt to templatize coaching. It may be through choosing only those topics we feel comfortable with or experts in. It may be through having a point into which we try to bring the client to without transparency around it. And it also may be by using tools as templates that we use to add a sense of control in the coaching process.

In case you would like to reflect on how these "pain points" work in your case, you may visit this Miro board.

At Koučing centar we enjoy providing feedback, cross-sharing ideas and support. We are really thankful for being a dialogue partner for professionals pursuing their coaching credential.