Good coach, bad coach?

Coaching. You know, the thing when you get paid to help others say and do the things they’ve been wanting to say and do. I’m a coach. And I like getting better at what I do. The web is full of articles on how to coach professionals. Coach the coaches, as it were.
With a healthy dose of reluctance, let’s see if I hold up against the commandments of coaching…

As I said, the internet is full of it. Coach-the-coach articles. I stumbled upon one by Greg Thompson, President at Bluepoint Leadership Development. Sounds right up my alley. The commandments below come from an article titled ‘The Top 10 Coaching Mistakes’. Shall we place a bet? I’ll do my best to score at least 4. Here goes…

Mistake 1. Not saying what needs to be said.

Coaching conversations can get emotional and even confrontational. When I coach, I like to assure myself that everything that needs to be said, is said. That’s a bit of toughness midway the second sentence of me explaining my coaching style. Too soon? I never said I was a coach for everybody…

Mistake 2. Working too hard

I currently coach a few design bosses to progress in their careers. How that works: I create a model in which we can order questions and challenges my coachees might have. After our conversations, I fill in the model, order all comments and share the updated file. Along with a few dates for our next conversation and a few considerations to make or questions to answer.
Then I, too, prepare our next conversation. I take notes and visualise connections. Partly because it helps me think, partly because there’s a chance that this doesn’t get done otherwise. I am allergic to loose ends, so tying them up comes naturally to me. Things move quickly this way. We get somewhere.

What makes a good coach is the growth of her or his coachees. Do I help people grow by doing part of the work? That’s a yes-or-no question. My answer: it has helped quite a few of my coachees to get somewhere.

Mistake 3. Doggedly following a coaching system

First of all: as a two-time dog owner, I can say that ‘doggedly following’ means different things to different beings.

Of all coaching systems I’ve (co-)created, DESIGNLADDER was the most eloquent one. An app that helped designers make creative decisions and build a career plan.
I still use the basics of that model today. It’s simple and very open to different approaches. Showing the model leads to very different reactions. Some of my coachees directly start to tear apart the model. When they’re done, we can start talking. Others feel relieved that they are offered a means to order their thoughts.
Personally, I rarely find systems that work for me, unless I’ve created them myself. So I can empathise with those who tear apart mine. And while I offer a coaching system, I will happily discard it and have a freeform conversation. But I will take notes and make sure we progress. Take it or leave it.

Mistake 4. Neglecting to ask the other person how you can be most helpful

Usually, ‘the most helpful’ isn’t something that’s obvious. It takes finding out. In some cases I feel that I need to ask. In others, we go on that journey. Finding out what needs to be done is part of doing it.

Mistake 5. Owning the outcome

Guilty as charged.
The thing is: when my coachee and I decide what the desired outcome is, we make that decision thoroughly. At that moment I sort of ‘become’ the person I coach. So the decision, and the commitment to it, is not just theirs, it’s mine too. This give me enormous motivation: I want to make the outcome happen. And in that same fashion, I might get a little irritated when, in our next talk, I find out that we’re going to reconsider our direction once more. I might not hide my disappointment if no progress has been made, and there’s no particular reason for it. In the end, I’m really happy to say that one outcome I enjoy owning, is a loyal friendship with quite a few of the people I’ve coached.

Mistake 6. Giving lots of advice

Loads of advice and little direction: how does that help? I give some advice and plenty of direction. Want the slightly more nuanced explanation? Well we look for direction together of course. I help paint a picture for each scenario. Then we commit to a direction. And co-incidentially, that is also the moment I start firing on all cilinders. Full speed ahead in the direction chosen. So we actually get there. Sometimes I need to check if everybody is still on board by the time we get there. Admittedly.

Mistake 7. Finishing without a commitment

The outcome of a ‘Tim Selders Coaching Experience’ is pretty much always a fully committed coachee. But that commitment can point in two opposite directions. My coachees usually report either one of these options:
– Resentment
– Insight and action
In both cases, they are 100% committed to the outcome. Well, that’s something!

In conclusion: does all this make me a good coach or a bad coach?

Anyone deserves to know this before they give me a call.

Based on this coach-the-coach article, I regularly break several of the coaching commandments. So: bad coach? To some, probably, yes!
But really, all this has confirmed something to me: I’m not a coach for everybody.
My coaching style demands initiative and determination. Working [too] hard is a strength in my eyes, not breaking a rule. So is owning the outcome. Not everybody appreciates my Spartan way of working. From those who do, I get great critiques. They say it’s what they need to make it to the top of Olympus.
So: good coach? I think I can be, too.

Still thinking about making that call? Pick up the phone if you’re ready to break a rule or two…

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