Untangle and grow

A blog by Alison Maxwell

Friday, 12 June 2015

Being helpful vs being useful

 I was reminded last week by the wonderful systemic facilitator, John Whittington, about the difference between being useful and being helpful.   Lots of people (including myself) got drawn to coaching because of a desire to make a difference in the lives of others, and to be of service to others. This positive intention can then get translated into a wide range of behaviours, some of which are not useful to the client even if they are helpful.

The coach that takes too much responsibility for the client's change process ultimately does the client no service. For example, I was recently talking to one of my coaching supervisees, who had got into the habit of taking the actions for her client after coaching sessions and was wondering why the client wasn't taking much responsibility or action between session. The simple signal of taking the action list unintentionally said to the client that the responsibility sat with coach not with herself. While the coaches intent was to be entirely helpful it wasn't useful

If the client does not take full responsibility in their lives, then a coach who props this up or colludes with this might be giving the client what they want but not necessarily what they need. Being helpful is all too often about pleasing others and being liked, rather having the difficult or courageous conversations about what is really going on. Speaking the truth to a client isn't easy but it is always useful.