In Coaching fundamentals we looked at the evidence on ‘what effective coaches do’ to help the people they are working with. They:
- offer a confidential, non-judgemental environment for discussion
- tentatively offer insights and different ways of thinking – about the client’s view of themselves or their situation – that help their client to re-frame their situation
- help a client to develop practical actions to move forward
How, in practice, is this achieved when a client or coachee comes to you with something they want to talk through and resolve?
Probably the most well-known model for the way a coaching session should play out is the GROW model:
G Goals: What is the goal someone is trying to reach?
R Reality: How do they describe their reality?
O Options: Exploring possible ways to get to the goal; evaluating and deciding
W Wrap-up: What is to be done: actions, how will they motivate themselves to persevere if / when things go wrong
The conversation basically runs through this sequence during the coaching session. Of course, the conversation will move to and fro between these different aspects as the coach and coachee explore the issues. What seemed like the coachee’s goal at the outset may change; the way the current reality is described may change and so on. By the end of the session, though, the discussion will generally have covered all four and the coachee will leave with some actions that they have decided will help move them towards their goal.
Cognitive behaviour models are also popular as a framework for the discussion, and have an evidence base confirming their effectiveness in situations where the coachee is focusing on overcoming challenges. The most long-standing of these is Ellis’s well known ABCDE model:
A Activating event or situation: What triggers the stress or concern?
B Beliefs: What assumptions and thoughts underlie the client’s reaction?
C Consequences: What are the consequences of A and B?
D Disputation of beliefs: Challenging the truth or usefulness of the underlying beliefs
E Effective and new approaches to dealing with the situation: Seeing the situation differently
Normally a coaching ‘contract’ between a coach and coachee is agreed at the start of the two people working together. There is usually a preliminary ‘chemistry test’ session where coach and coachee meet to check they are a good fit and the coach outlines some basic arrangements for discussion.
The ‘chemistry test’ is important because the emerging quality of the relationship is a major indicator of a successful coaching experience. This does not mean that either person has to feel the other is the best thing since sliced bread, but more that there should be no instant antipathy between the two people. It does happen. Very rarely, in my experience, but coaching is intended to be a positive development experience, not an endurance event, and much better to find a decent way of saying “I’m not sure this is for me right now” than to persist when your gut is saying No.
The practical matters to be discussed at that first session should include:
A Arrangements – how many in the initial contract, length, frequency, place
C Confidentiality – which can be complex sometimes in organizational settings.
E Expectations of each other – ethics, time-keeping, ways of working together, what happens in a typical session