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Is coaching right for me? pssst - what is coaching anyway?

Sir John Whitmore was the pioneer of executive coaching, credited with bringing across the principles of high performance sports coaching into the world of business. And I'm sure every other coach out there will have started their learning journey in coaching in the same place I did, with Sir John's GROW model. Its very simple, easy to learn and provides a straightforward structure for coaching conversations that makes it an ideal place to start whether you want basic coaching skills as a manager, or as part of becoming a professional coach. You start by exploring the client's Goal, check out their current Reality, consider the Options, and Wrap up with what they Will do about it. Easy, yes?

The structure of GROW certainly is easy, but the model doesn't fit every situation. Coaching in business has been around for decades now and there are plenty of other coaching models and frameworks to use, so lots to choose from. And there would need to be, as coaching is used in business, performance coaching, life coaching, executive coaching, success coaching, team coaching, career coaching..... and so the list goes on. Then there are organisations that seek to embed a coaching culture to drive up the performance of their colleagues. Daniel Goleman refers to 6 leadership styles that effective leaders will switch between, with a coaching style being an essential part of a high performing team.

So coaching in business is well known, and many people have heard that coaching is a good thing. The trouble is many people don't really know what coaching actually is. And back to Sir John Whitmore, the most familiar concept they have is a sports coach. But is it really the same thing? When we were children, and learning a sport, there was usually a coach involved. In most cases the coach was someone who knew enough about that particular sport to make sure you understood the rules, got you to practice tried and tested techniques and gave you feedback. Its no wonder that people have the wrong idea about life coaching or executive coaching.

Imagine instead athletes at the top of their game, the medal winners, the best performers in their field. Most will have a coach. The coach is not better at the sport, they are working with the best. And when you come to coaching, your coach isn't better than you, they know that you have your own best answers. Answers that are as unique as you are. They are there to listen, and notice how you feel, reflect that back to you, and ask you questions that enable you to travel a journey from where you are to where you want to be. Help you to frame and shape your goals, to unravel your spaghetti thinking into meaningful actions.

I often facilitate Let's Talk Coaching sessions, introducing people to some basic coaching skills, usually to help them in their role as managers. More often than not mentoring and coaching is mixed up. A mentor is someone who knows more about, or has more experience in, a particular area that you want to develop in. They will also listen carefully, ask questions, and they will also go on to share their expertise or knowledge with you. A really good mentor will still support you to find your own best answers, but they are there to offer advice and guidance too.

"A coach is someone who tells you what you don't want to hear, who has you see what you don't want to see, so you can be who you've always known you could be."

Tom Landry


There are many ways of choosing a coach, and one of the most important is to find someone you really connect with, someone you feel you can trust. We call it rapport. It's important for you, the client, and its even more important for the coach. For the coaching conversation to be really effective there will be times when some things will be hard to hear, to face things you would rather not face. That takes a relationship of trust and rapport. You want a skilled coach, one that knows their own strengths, and one that will put what is best for you, before themselves.

So, if you feel that coaching might be right for you, the next step on your journey, then take a look for a coach that you want to reach out to. They'll want to chat to you about what you want from the coaching, and that is the right time for you to make sure you feel that sense of connection. That this is someone you can really talk to, be challenged by, and that you can trust. And then don't look back, you're not going that way.

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