My coaching philosophy

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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We can hold very different views about people

We can hold very different views about people

We cannot prove human nature; we can only form our own view. One of the most accessible pieces of theory on this point was provided by Douglas McGregor when he described the idea that managers view their people in two main categories. These he labelled Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X

  • People are lazy and dislike work
  • People must be coerced or threatened with punishment
  • People avoid responsibility
  • People are motivated mainly by money

 Theory Y

  • Work is a natural part of life
  • People will exercise self direction
  • People accept responsibility under the right conditions
  • People are motivated by achievement, recognition, etc.

These two theories are really the extreme ends of the same spectrum and in truth, most of us would admit to feeling a mixture of these views about some people some of the time. It is important to recognize that neither of the views can be proven as right or wrong in absolute terms; they are simply beliefs about human nature based on experience. Our starting point as coaches therefore needs to be which set of views is more useful. Probably Theory Y. It seems to me that a coach is likely to be more helpful if his or her starting point is to believe that the coachee starts with the potential to achieve his or her aims. It is then the job of the coach is to play a part in realizing that potential.

Coaching takes a positive view of human nature and the capabilities of people and as such it is more closely aligned with Theory Y. In short, the best coaches have a simple philosophy:

“The brain with the problem, is the one with the solution”

and they work on this basis in the certain belief that people have vast reserves of potential which are rarely used and that the coach’s job is to draw it out.

This is important because our thoughts and feelings about people at work manifest in our behaviour whether we realism it or not. Approach your people as if Theory X is true and they’ll respond in kind and prove you right. The same holds true for Theory Y.  Putting this into action requires a philosophy of coaching which recognizes that people are not empty vessels into which knowledge and skills must be poured, rather they are seedlings who require careful nurturing and support.

Only then can we go on to develop an approach to coaching that is entirely in keeping with these ideas.

Coaching in organizations is broadly similar to say, coaching in sport in that the primary concern is to perform better and develop people’s abilities.

Coaching can be interpreted in different ways and we need to be aware that some views of coaching may actually be confusing.

Coaching shares many characteristics with teaching, counselling, and training etc. but has some subtle yet important differences.

Effective coaching allows people to develop their sense of awareness so that they begin to see their problems and concerns with greater clarity.

This presents a platform on which the coaching practitioner can build in order to develop a deeper understanding and practical skills. Over time they can become excellent coaches and achieve great things both for the people whom they coach and for themselves.

The three principles of coaching

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

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The art of coaching

The art of coaching

We know that coaches have a healthy attitude towards other people and this is demonstrated by the three main things they do in their coaching sessions.

Firstly they concentrate wholly on the people they coach in order to raise their levels of awareness. Secondly they use encouragement and support to make sure that the people they coach take responsibility for moving their own issues forward. Thirdly they are open and honest and genuinely want to see others succeed and in this way they quickly build strong relationships of trust. Let’s now look at each of these in turn.

Raising awareness

By looking in our bathroom mirror we can raise our awareness of how we look and use this information to improve our performance in ‘looking good’. Just being aware of what’s going on when we experience certain things is often all it takes to make improvements – it’s a natural process.

Perhaps you’ve experienced the sensation of daydreaming whilst driving to the extent that you can’t recall if you’ve passed your turning or not. When this happens it’s because we’re performing on ‘auto- pilot’, in other words, we are not consciously aware of what we are doing. This situation can be remedied simply by raising awareness again. The next time you’re driving concentrate on how often this daydreaming happens. Paradoxically, because of your awareness and concentration it won’t happen at all.

Generating responsibility

Coaches also want people to take responsibility for tackling their own problems and developing their own abilities. Insecure managers often get a sense of satisfaction from always rescuing other the people. It makes them feel good because they’ve helped someone out and they believe that the other person will feel good because they’ve passed their situation to somebody else.

But these same managers have massive pending trays groaning under the weight of other people’s problems. If we solve a problem for somebody once, the chances are they’ll come knocking on our door each time they have another one. When we take responsibility for someone else’s situation we have failed to develop that person and have simply reinforced their sense of dependence. Over the long term this can lead to feelings of frustration and resentment.

Building trust

Finally, effective coaches see the virtuous circle of establishing trust. They realise that by raising awareness and generating responsibility they are providing people with a platform to perform at higher levels. As this happens they will develop a great sense of trust in the coaching process and in turn answer their coach’s questions with deeper levels of honesty and candidness.

In this way our coaching will help them to become more aware and responsible and so it goes on.

Raising Awareness, generating Responsibility and building Trust (ART) are the key principles of effective coaching. Hence The ART of Coaching.