10 QUESTIONS ABOUT COACHING
This article reflects my own views, my vision and experience of coaching.
1. What is coaching?
Coaching is a partnership and a process which purpose is to evoke awareness in order to take action. First, it is about becoming aware of the ‘real’ challenge you are facing by clarifying it with a coach (the challenge does not always lie where we think). This helps to identify what you really want to achieve, what is at stake and what the end result will look like. It is also becoming aware of your abilities, your strengths and ressources needed to achieve your goals. Becoming aware of all these things will enable you to decide which actions to take and to commit to them with your coach.
2. What is a coach?
The word ‘coach’ is all the rage at the moment. It is being used for everything and anything. We’ve all heard about a sports coach but now you can find a nutrition coach, an interior design coach and even a hair coach! But what actually is a coach?
A professional coach is neither a consultant, nor an advisor, a therapist, or a mentor. A coach is not an expert in the usual sense of the word. A coach will not provide solutions for their clients but evoke awareness in their clients to allow them to find their own solutions and identify the next steps towards what they want to achieve.
The client is the expert on its own life, whereas the coach remains expert in the coaching process and the tools used.
A coach will not motivate or push their client as such, rather enable them to get some clarity in what they want to achieve and support them in reaching their goals by unveiling their potential and ultimately helping them to become self-reliant. Coaching is about empowering the client. As a result, the mark of a competent coach is one whose clients don’t need them anymore!
3. Why choose a certified professional coach?
A professional coach is a trained and certified professional who follows a code of ethics set by the International Coaching Federation (ICF) in my case, or equivalent. A professional coach has followed several months of training to acquire a specific set of skills and is an expert in the coaching process and coaching tools.
This enables them to react to what is happening in a session and adapt their questioning and tools to provide an approach tailored to each client and their situation.
A coach has a specific know-how and set of skills but being a coach is first and foremost a way of being. A professional coach would have followed their own personal development journey which is often what led them to becoming a coach. Furthermore, they are regularly supervised to review and develop their skills.
4. Who is coaching for?
Coaching is for everyone and for anyone who:
- is going through a challenging or unsettling time in their personal or professional life
- is feeling lost, overwhelmed or frustrated and wants something different from their current situation
- feels that they need a change but doesn’t know what to change, where to start or how to start on their own
- has tried on their own, but hasn’t seen the expected results
- wants to continue their personal development
Choosing to start coaching sessions with a coach is choosing to start helping yourself. The coach is not there to tell you what to do, rather to help you look within yourself, like holding up a mirror which is reflecting to you, your behaviour, your roadblocks, your limiting beliefs, etc., in order to enable you to change what you need to move forward.
Effectively, you’re the one doing the work and this is also why the coach cannot guarantee the results. It depends on your level of motivation, commitment and whether you will put in place the actions that you have identified during the coaching session(s). You are in charge of what happens.
If you are willing to make a change, coaching can benefit your career, your personal life, increase your self-awareness and allow you to know yourself better.
5. What’s the difference between coaching and therapy?
Coaching focuses on where you want to get to (the future), starting from where you are (the present), whereas therapy often deals with the past (childhood, trauma, psychological issues or repeat behaviours, which might affect your well-being at present).
Therapy is often about understanding ‘why’, whereas coaching is about the ‘how’, e.g. ‘how can I change that behaviour which no longer serves me?’.
Therapy can last several years whereas coaching is often set on a shorter time frame. Since coaching focuses on action, it is useful to set a timeline for achieving an objective with the option to reassess if the objective has not been reached.
Coaching and therapy can complement one another. They can be done in parallel or coaching can follow therapy.
During coaching sessions, the client can find themselves at the frontier with therapy, especially when working on certain topics, like self-esteem for example. A professional coach will know how to remain within the field of coaching and will be able to highlight when therapy is needed or coaching is no longer suitable.
6. How to choose a coach?
Like with any other professional (doctor, therapist, etc.), it is important that you get a good feeling about the coach you work with.
You need to feel comfortable opening up and sharing subjects that are personal to you. Indeed, the quality of the relationship between the coach and the client is important and likely to contribute to the outcome of the coaching.
Most coaches, like myself, offer a free discovery phone or video call so I would recommend that you talk to 2 or 3 coaches before choosing the one who feels right for you.
7. How do coaching sessions work?
A coaching session usually lasts between 20 min and 1h30.
The initial or preliminary session which follows the discovery call between the coach and the client is a bit different from the sessions that will follow. Its purpose is to delve deeper into what the client wants to achieve by the end of the coaching programme. Talking in terms of objectives, the preliminary session will help define the global objective of the client and what success will look like. This is important in that it gives a clear idea of what to work towards and will allow this to be reviewed later on.
This session is like an initial assessment and will enable the coach to estimate the number of sessions needed, in agreement with the client.
Each session that follows will have its own subject which is linked to the global objective defined in the preliminary session. However, these subjects are not predetermined as they will depend on what the client feels they need to work on at the start of each session. This might be influenced by what has happened since the last session, the progress they have made, what is going on in their lives at that particular time, etc.
Last but not least, a coaching session is a dedicated time to pause, to assess where you are, how you feel, what are your current challenges, where you want to go, etc. It is a time for yourself, during which you choose to make yourself the priority (especially when you have got a lot going on!). A coaching session will allow you to gain some clarity, energy and will often save you time since you will leave with a clear view on which steps to follow and what to prioritise.
8. A single coaching session versus a multi-session coaching programme?
Depending on what you want to achieve, a single “one-shot” coaching session can sometimes suffice to see the expected results. However, the benefit of following a coaching programme with several sessions is that it enables you to keep on working on the same theme and reinforce the results over time. Anchoring the results over a longer period is more likely to ensure a long-lasting impact.
Another benefit of following a coaching programme is that the coach can act as your accountability partner. We all know we are more likely to do something if we have committed to do it in front of a friend, a boss, etc.
Following a coaching programme over 3 or 6 months can be the answer when you’re going through a specific challenge in your professional or personal life.
Coaching is a journey towards autonomy. So, if you feel you don’t need to continue at the end of the programme, then the coach will have done a good job!
Having said that, we hear more and more about CEOs, celebrities, etc. who have a coach they work with on a regular, long-term basis. Their coaching sessions are a dedicated time to work on themselves and can contribute to their continued personal growth and the success of their business. During longer programmes, intermediate review sessions are used to assess where you are and readjust your goals periodically.
You can always choose to sign up for a short-term programme then reassess and renew if necessary.
9. How many sessions do you need and how often?
The number of sessions depends on what the client wants to work on since some subjects will require more time and more sessions than others. For example, for a relatively small objective like “gaining more confidence at driving” (so we are not talking about ability to drive but self-confidence in doing so), a couple of sessions might suffice (it did for me anyway!).
Everyone is different and progresses at their own pace, but for most topics, 4 to 7 sessions might be sufficient. However, if we are dealing with improving self-esteem, communication and relationships, etc., it might require more sessions and a coaching programme over 3 to 6 months or more.
The time between sessions depends on the individual client and what they are trying to get from the coaching. It is recommended to have frequent sessions at the beginning (every week or every 10 days) to build some momentum in the coaching process. The sessions can then be spaced out; every 10 days or every 2 weeks works well.
Whether you are aware of it or not, the work and the benefits of a coaching session continue between the sessions, so that time is precious and necessary.
10. What happens when you are being coached but not the one who decided on the coaching?
There are two main situations where you might be working with a coach but the decision did not come from you.
The first one is if your employer has decided that they will offer you coaching sessions. The second case is if you are a teenager or a student and your parents have suggested you get some coaching sessions.
In both cases, you can be assured that everything you share with the coach during the sessions will remain confidential. If there are some sessions where your employer, a representative of the company or in the case of youth coaching, your parents are present; you will decide beforehand with your coach what will be shared with them.
The coaching will focus on the objective of the person being coached (employee or teenager/student) and not that of the employer or the parents. However, there will be an early session with all parties present to align as best as possible everyone’s expectations and desired outcomes of the coaching.
In the case of mid- to long-term coaching programmes, there will be intermediate sessions with all concerned, to review the progress as well as a final review session at the end of the coaching programme. This is important to readjust the objectives throughout the coaching programme if necessary, to celebrate progress and ensure the continuation of the benefits of the coaching.