Bill Gates said, “everyone needs a coach”. Wise words, William. It turns out that Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt and Mark Zuckerberg are all in support of coaching too. Not a bad set of advocates. However, whilst most people would benefit from having a coach, many have never considered the idea.
So, what is this coaching, anyway?
It is a question I’ve been asked a lot over the past six months. I thought I would put pen to paper (well, fingertips to… the… erm… keyboard) and explain the essence of coaching and the benefits it brings – together with a nice diagram (for those that prefer to read the last page of the book first).
There are a lot of different definitions out there. Most are accurate to a certain extent, but many miss out the important bit:
The learning which generates behavioural change within the coaching framework creates a long-lasting impact even after the coaching relationship comes to an end.
We’ll come back to this.
A very basic definition will probably read something along the lines of: Coaching moves someone from A to B.
This is indeed true, but it covers only a small portion of coaching and views it very much at a macro level. It’s too simplistic. A bit like explaining football as people kicking a ball around a field. There is a deeper level. Also, the original goal of B might actually become C or D or even M after coaching begins.
More than that, it’s missing the “a-ha” moments that happen throughout the coaching relationship. Picture the transformation of Prince Adam to He-Man (for those unfamiliar with the 1980s kids classic cartoon - Prince Adam transforms from a purple tight-wearing, slightly insecure and care-free young man to a fearless powerhouse hero of a man in the time it takes to say “by the power of Grayskull”). Now, that was most definitely make-believe (I think!) but coaching has many genuine empowering components.
So, what’s my take on it?
For me, coaching is a framework for growth and is all about the journey. In fact, the journey IS the destination. What the coachee learns in the process of growing and achieving what once felt like an unattainable goal is the real value. This is also where confidence grows.
Coaching can be defined in a neat formula:
Awareness + Choices = Change
This definition acknowledges the crucial stages of the framework. Within ‘Awareness’ there is learning. ‘Choices’ become conscious resonant choices which lead to growth and long-lasting ‘Change’.
In the process the coachee continues to develop a resourceful mindset to help navigate and be more effective in business and life in the future.
For those that prefer a visual, below is a diagram to show the three elements that develop a resourceful mindset.
An example of how coaching works in practice: John wants a new job and doesn’t know where to start. All he knows is he is completely unfulfilled in his current role. Through coaching, John learns:
Greater awareness acts as feedback to help improve the choices that are being made. This enables John to make more resonant choices on what he really wants next to bring about the desired change. Goals and ‘reflection requests’ are established during each session and John is held accountable throughout the process, moving him towards his goal. John reaches his objective of securing the job he really wants. However, the learning that occurred throughout will support John in all aspects of his life thereafter.
The same process can be applied within an organisation to a boss wanting leadership development coaching for an employee. A set of goals are established between the boss (sponsor), employee (coachee) and the coach. The same above steps are followed to bring about change: awareness + choices = change.
It’s easy to see why approximately 25 to 40 per cent of Fortune 500 companies use executive coaches, according to the Hay Group (a global management consulting firm).
I hope that’s shed more light on coaching and its impact. Still wondering if Bill Gates was right when he said, “everyone needs a coach”? Perhaps something to ponder next time you are enjoying a cup of tea and a Hob Nob or feeling stuck.