Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Monday, 29 July 2013

Immediacy - advanced coaching skills

Immediacy is not a word you hear bandied about much in coaching circles, but is a skill I find characterises many experienced and effective coaches. Immediacy refers the ability of a coach to use their 'here and now' experience of the coachee as data in service of the client. This covers a broad spectrum including what the coach hears and sees in the coachee as well the coaches own sensations, curiosities and feelings.

An example might help - suppose the coach notices the client always refers to their boss with an ironic laugh. The coaches' intervention then might be something like 'I notice you laugh every time you mention your boss, could you say a little more about what is going on for you...?'   Equally, the coach might pick up a sense of unease when talking with a client which could be shared as 'I'm feeling a little  uneasy as we talk about ...., is that the same for you?'

Key to the use of this skill is firstly, selectivity and secondly, tentativeness.  I would only use my perceptions of the client if I thought they were relevant to the issues at hand and only if I had more than one example to share -- i.e.. a pattern. I would also make sure I offered them in a tentative, provisional way rather than as a judgement. This can involve taking a risk, but I have found that this sort of intervention is often invaluable and will lead our conversations into some rich and unusual places.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

The answer vs an answer

I was working with a group of managers today on their coaching skills. As so often happens, a conversations started about getting their coachees to the 'right' answer, and asking the 'right' question to get them there. As the notion of a 'right question' leaves me genuinely puzzled I asked them how they knew what was the right question and how they knew they had got to the right answer. Some looked blankly at me, some ruefully admitted that the 'right answer' probably equalled their answer.

This lead me to think about how much of our training and education leads us to think there is a 'right' answer out there. Two plus two equals four doesn't  it?! However, in our increasingly complex world, the sorts of issues coachees bring to coaching don't have simple answers - if they did they would probably have sorted out there problems for themselves. Questions such as 'Where do I take my career?' or "How do I tackle my bullying boss?' don't have simple answers and there are many answers not just one.

Is this desire for a black and white answer and the magic 'right' question a denial of the complexity of living, a desire to control the uncontrollable?  I don't know... answers on a postcard please.