Yes, coaching has become a global trend. Not really a fad because it has been around formally for at least three or four decades. However, the coaching and coach training market is frequently populated by “gurus”, unrealistic promises or just lack of (any) science behind the services. In this blog we explore what value can be expected of a coach training program for various organizational stakeholders. The purpose of the blog is to bring clarity around outcomes of coach training, as well as inform any future decision making. To be transparent, we are a coach training provider and we are talking about the way we do coach training but hope the informative purpose will prevail 😊.
Learn how to support others to set goals
One of the mock questions as part of the coach knowledge assessments is what is a necessary part of a coaching session. The tempting answer may be creating an action plan, but the correct answer is: an agenda identified by the client. In a way, setting goals early on in the session serves as a sort of an “anchor” for anything that will happen further in the session. Interestingly, research about coaching effectiveness also points to a finding that coaching clients in general improve their goal setting skills. All this means: we really need to start with a goal. Good coach training should make that very clear and upskill the participants to be fully ready to set goals for the overall coaching process and for the particular session. For leaders, these goal setting skills naturally translate, for example, into the skill for co-creating the meeting agenda which is clear and outcome focused.
Level up your rapport building skill
Great working relationships are at the core of the coaching process. Coach training programs should therefore aim at upskilling the general rapport building skill by supporting a mindset of openness, curiosity and willingness to understand client’s internal frame of reference. From our understanding and appreciation of other’s perspective naturally comes trust and psychological safety. Coach training programs should aim to expand the current mindset of participants so they are able to connect with a truly diverse base of clients. For leaders, these skill translate into the general ability to support and work with diversity in teams and organizations.
Listening is already an intervention
Listening is more than hearing. It is our ability to receive various cognitive and emotional messages, to process them and respond to them in real time. Good listening skills are most frequently recognized as being great at summarizing. When our summarizing of what we have just heard adds on the initial client’s understanding of the situation, we have really started to listen as a pro. In that case listening becomes already an intervention. Good coach training should aim at removing any limiting mindsets that interfere with our ability to listen. In the beginning of coach training that is usually a mindset of thinking what to say next while at the same time listening to what the client is sharing. For leaders, exceling in listening comes as a great way to develop a dialogue and improve overall collaboration.
Ask questions (and design experiences) that shift mindsets
In coaching we use questions as an expression of our general attitude towards exploring and discovery. We tend to think that powerful questions need to sound “fancy”, but in reality powerful questions usually build on great listening. Sometimes the most powerful questions are pure “joining words”, which further push the client to structure their thoughts. For example, if a client says it would be great to get some feedback on his or her ideas, we could insert a couple of joining words, such as: “because?”, “by whom?”, “in order to?” and so on. In short, power of our questioning often comes in form of simplicity. In general, great questions share one thing in common: they are able to shift mindsets in individuals or teams. Great coach training programs level up these questioning skills by putting participants in various challenges on what to ask next, followed by immediate feedback on those skills. For leaders, asking powerful questions means being able to reach the mindset of their co-workers and collaboratively shift it to contribute to the overall organizational success.
Feedback may be a part of coaching
One popular misconception about coaching is that in the role of a coach you are only allowed to ask questions. However, good coaching includes also feedback. When coaching others, we need to be able to share our thoughts, assumptions, hypotheses about the client and the situation at hand. However, we need to be able to share our feedback without attachment or without any claims they are the only reality. Improving these feedback skills so that we are able to deliver feedback without the authoritative “voice” is an essential part of great coach training and also part of the leader role.
Create change without resistance
One unofficial definition of coaching could be “creating change without resistance”. What it means is to be able to partner in all aspects of the coaching process: co-create, not impose, not expect to be followed but rather create the willingness to explore together. Great coach training programs should first change the mindset that some clients are “uncoachable” and then shift the way we usually think about resistance. When we truly partner with clients, we almost never get into the situation to experience resistance as coaches. Creating change without resistance is also a generic leadership skill, that is of great importance whenever leading implies inspiring new mindsets and behaviors.
Systemic thinking – creative being
As coaches we sometimes tend to have the “incapsulated” perspectives that we are alone with our clients in a virtual or real coaching room. However, when coaching we are also (indirectly) working with a variety of visible or invisible stakeholders. Systemic thinking in coaching reminds us that the room is always full of stakeholders and that we need to address their interests, goals, aspirations and wellbeing too. Systemic thinking also reminds us that there is no “schema”, script or algorithm in coaching and that we need to adopt a mindset of coaching as a truly creative process. That means bringing our whole creative being to the coaching conversation, improvising, challenging, tolerating uncertainty and not knowing. Good coach training should allow the participants to experience at least some of these instead of comforting them that simplistic models are enough – real world practice very quickly dismantles that! Great leaders also benefit from systemic thinking especially in leading through complexity.
Recognizing and applying ethical practice
We need to acknowledge that client’s best interest comes first. This applies to confidentiality and privacy matters, translates further to organizational reporting of coaching effectiveness, as well as the best practices on when to say as a coach: “Listen, it seems I am not helping you towards reaching the goal we set for this coaching process”. Great coach training offers simple and clear advice on best practices regarding ethics in coaching. And leaders also benefit from these insights too.
Coaching in and for remote workplaces
More and more frequently we are seeing coaching dominantly being delivered in and for remote or hybrid workplaces. That is why coaches need to be comfortable coaching online, whether individuals or teams. Modern coach training programs model these online coaching skills, online facilitation and use of digital coaching tools. Benefits for leaders are immense and translate into general ability to collaborate better in online environments, have more effective online meetings or 1-1s.
Understanding when and how coaching creates value
In the end we need to acknowledge that coaching is not a panacea. It doesn’t work for everything and at some points may be completely useless. Great coach training makes it clear when to coach and when to mentor. What situations require consulting rather than coaching. Or when it s appropriate to refer a client to psychotherapy. As internal or external coaches we need to be able to understand when and how coaching is creating value and when that is just not the case.
Next time you consider dismissing coaching, hiring a coach or applying for a coach training program, you may consider what great coaching and coach training really look like. The value for various stakeholders can be quite huge, but we need to be aware of what is realistic to expect and when we are settling for less than we can get from coaching or coach training.