Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Monday, 9 February 2015

Awkward triangles

I've been caught a few times in my coaching career in an 'awkward triangle'. By this I mean situations where the commissioning client and the coaching client have relationship problems. Both sides try to enrol you in their point of view and expect you to side with them against the offending party. It is not often clear where the 'truth' of the matter lies (usually somewhere in the middle), and it is easy for a coach to get trapped between the warring factions. This triangle can be doubly awkward when it is a boss-subordinate relationship, and there is the assumption that the boss has the total 'truth' of the situation

I find the Karpman 'drama' triangle' a useful way of explaining, at least to myself, what is going on. Both parties see each other as the 'persecutor' and themselves as the 'victim'. The coach is cast into the role of 'rescuer', a role they are bound to fail at particularly if they get seduced into taking sides.

I've found that the only way of escaping this triangle, is to refuse to enter into it in the first place. Both clients have to know that you are not there to play 'agony aunt' and that your concern is for the overall functioning of the individuals and the organisations they get paid by. The work is therefore to help the clients have direct and open conversations and step out of the picture. Now that is not necessarily as easy to achieve as to say....

Here's a link to some background on the drama triangle in coaching relationships

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Who shouldn't coach?

Now this is a tricky question! As you probably know, i) everyone seems to want to be a coach these days and ii) there are absolutely no barriers, other than those self-imposed, to becoming one. So it is perfectly possible to set yourself up in business with no qualifications, experience, supervision, or talent for the work.

It's also not an unknown phenomena for people in need of help themselves being attracted to the role of supporter /developer/ rescuer. There seems to be a sort of unconscious logic that says 'If I can help someone fill a whole in their life, that will fill a gap in mine'. And of course it doesn't work, as the agenda becomes about the 'coach' and their needs, not the client. Our clients often don't know what 'good looks like', and there just isn't enough feedback on practice from robust reliable and experienced sources.

Coaching has a long way to go to become a recognised profession, however we can all start by insisting on professional and ethical practice. Next time, for example, you speak to a coach who doesn't think they need supervision ask them what makes them so special.