Ask 10 people what coaching is and you’ll get 10 different answers.
When we talk about coaching, as I alluded to in the introductory blog to this short series, people can often mean different things. I regularly hear people say they do coaching but in reality it will be something else, it will be a feedback session, or a calibration session, or a performance one to one, or some training, or even some mentoring. It’s rare that it’s truly coaching. And that’s ok, all of these interventions are valid and valuable. Just don’t call them coaching. And especially don’t call them coaching just because you don’t want to call them what they really are. “Yeah, it’s actually a feedback session but people know then that they’ve done something wrong so we call it a coaching session instead”. Guess what, no matter what you call it, the person still goes into that meeting with a belief they have done something wrong!
If actually, on reflection, a coaching culture or a coaching approach isn’t what you want and what you’re really after is a culture where people have the skills to be able to give feedback to one another from a place of good intention and also have the skills to be able to receive that feedback graciously then go for it! And call it a feedback culture.
Another huge barrier that I come across with clients is in relation to counselling. Once the idea of coaching not being feedback, mentoring or performance management settles in, there comes a realisation that maybe it’s a bit like counselling and this causes both resistance and enthusiasm.
As we continue to promote discussions and support around mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, we find that peers and leaders alike are increasingly exposed to other people’s business. As one human to another, when we hear of hardship and pain, we instinctively, albeit to a greater or lesser extent, want to help. And by help, I mean rescue. Most people’s first thought will be ‘what can I do to help’. Whilst very well intentioned, this can be exceptionally unhelpful. By thinking or saying ‘what can I do to help’, I’m effectively disempowering you. I am insinuating that you are not capable of helping yourself, that you need someone else to solve this for you. Most of the time that’s not true. Most of the time, we have the resources within us to be able to find our own way through, round or over whatever is going on. We might need help, but that help might be to help us see how we can help ourselves, not to do it for us.
The opposite side of this can also be evidenced, in so much as people can feel resistant to coaching if they think it is counselling as it is going to be ‘deep’ and ‘personal’ and many people would feel very uncomfortable with that, for a whole variety of reasons. Being clear about the benefits of coaching can really help with this.
Read next week’s blog for a run down of benefits of coaching on your customers and your colleagues.
This is the third in a short series of blogs on the why, what and how of a coaching approach. Read previous blogs on the website.