Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Using coaching skills to help people GROW

To coach somebody is to unlock their potential. This was the inspirational message to come out of the Introduction to Coaching session held at Brunel University on 16th January. I was interested in attending this for several reasons: I had once attended and enjoyed Karen Drury’s session on Life Coaching for LIKE; I thought it might give me some extra tips to use with my students while teaching and answering their enquiries; I’m considering becoming a CILIP mentor; and finally, I had just won a book called An Introduction to Coaching Skills. I like to attend things that hit a lot of objectives and this certainly seemed to fit the bill.

There are lots of coaches out there in the world; sports coaches, life coaches, nutritional coaches, executive coaches, to name a few. You can have a coach for almost anything as long as there is a clear and SMART goal involved. This particular session was focused on organisational coaching. Organisational coaching is slightly different to other types because it must focus on work-place objectives agreed by the coachee and their line manager, but the fundamental skills and principles remain the same.

I’m going to break down the session into what I think were the key elements:

The difference between coaching, mentoring and counselling

Counselling, mentoring and coaching use many of the same skills, for example, listening and asking the right type of questions. The difference between them is actually quite small, yet still significant. A lot of counselling tends to focus on deep rooted past emotional issues which would get in the way of benefits of coaching and mentors often provide advice from their own experience. Coaches do NOT provide advice and they don’t offer solutions. It is the person being coached who comes up with their own solutions.

The key skills of an effective coach

According to the speaker, and my book, a coach should have a ‘toolbox’ of skills and traits. These should include the following:
  • The ability to ask a range of Open, Closed, Probing and Reflective questions and the knowledge of when to use them, as well as knowing when to be silent and when to just listen
  • To be able to actively listen; i.e. to show you are listening through your gestures and to summarise points back to the coachee to check for understanding
  •  The ability to be focused, ethical and honest
  •  The belief that the everyone is capable of achieving more and that this potential can be unlocked through encouragement, raising self-awareness and inspiring ideas

Multiple representations - unfurling of potential, GROW model, and
also very similar to the ones I am  nurturing in the garden mentioned below.
Found on FlickrCC.net

The GROW model

Coaches have to follow a framework when they coach and, while most of the content will come from the coachee, the coach needs to remain aware of the process they are following. There are several models one can add to their skills toolbox; the one the class was introduced to, and which seems to be most common, was the GROW model. The GROW model was created by Sir John Whitmore and the acronym stands for Goal – Reality - Options – Will. 

In the goal stage, the coachee establishes what she wants to achieve – this must be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and have a time measure. In the reality stage, the coachee’s goals are checked against the reality of the situation in the present, for example, if I said I wanted to write but had put off doing any writing because of moving house, bringing a garden back to life which hasn’t been touched for several years, and learning to drive, then one might question whether this is a realistic achievement…

In the options stage, the coachee identifies possible routes between how things are at the moment and how he would like them to be. And finally, in the will stage, the person being coached needs to commit and take responsibility for the agreed actions. For example, if I said I wanted to write but hadn’t written a blog post for a while nor had I touched the pile of books I need to review which are on my desk for several weeks, one might question my commitment. I would need to commit to finishing all my half-written blog posts at least…

I guess what I found most interesting is that the coachee does most of the work. I’d always thought that coaches tell you what to do, when to do it and would keep on at you till you had completed whatever it was that you had set out to do. Actually, it turns out, the coach’s role is to test a person’s boundaries and unlock the potential inside, potential that the person may not even know they have. 

I think we often underestimate our abilities and those of the people around us and many of us have something we’ve always wanted to do and haven’t quite got right round to doing it. Coaching can be a good way to get us to set goals, write them down and achieve something we want to. Wouldn’t it be great if we all had a personal coach? Just think what could be achieved.

I’d love to know if anyone has had any experiences of being either a coach or being coached. What difference, if any, did it make?