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Coaching; is it about helping or trusting?


Paul Hunting of Horsejoy, The Natural Leadership Centre says it's important to let the coaching process develop at its own place, in this short article for TrainingZONE.

Ironically, the thing that draws most of us into ‘coaching’ is also the very thing that blocks us from being most effective: the desire to ‘help’ and the buzz we get from seeing people grow and change. It’s so easy and so subtle to mix up our own need to see a result with the client’s need to learn and grow at his own natural pace. Remember the proverb ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime’. When we, as coaches, get caught up in our own ‘need to help’ it shows we lack trust. We start trying to ‘control’ client outcomes and thus interfere with a process that has an infinitely greater value. This need most likely has its roots buried deeply in our fears that if we don’t see a result from our client, it means there’s something ‘wrong’ with us or we’re no good as a coach, etc! All very human and understandable, but nevertheless, it generates unproductive self-centred behaviour that limits both us and the client.

Don’t protect your weakness, thwart it!

At horsejoy, we use the ‘TRUE model’ with horses to facilitate the development of coaching skills. TRUE develops Trust Respect Understanding and Energy. Horses naturally thwart the weakness in us that creates attachment and dependency in a coach/client relationship. However thin you slice baloney and dress it up as something else it’s still baloney. Same with ‘control’ or ‘lack of trust’. Slicing it thin, covering it with honey and calling it ‘help’ protects it, it doesn’t change it. While humans often can’t tell the difference, horses can. Ask a horse to follow your leadership without the possibility of force or control and it really sorts out where you are coming from in the relationship.

Typically, most of us begin a relationship with some species of ‘control game’ as a leadership strategy: either I’ll be really ‘nice’ and helpful and maybe offer some kind of incentive or reward, or I’ll get angry and frustrated and make some kind of ‘threat’ to force you to do it. Well if the horse has a free choice, he’ll exploit your ‘niceness’ or flee from your threats! Either way you’ll get little out of him. Until you change.

Towards ‘Natural leadership’

The change is really a change of ‘attitude’. It’s a change towards a centring in the part of who you are that is beyond fear, beyond pretence, beyond personal need. We call it ‘the natural leader’. When we coach or perform any task from that place of ‘natural leadership’ we can become so detached from the outcome or process that we simply allow whatever naturally needs to happen to happen. In letting go the need to push or control an outcome we actually create more space for something beyond our expectations to appear. Our expectations about how a client ‘should’ learn or be or change come out of our ego 99% of the time and are far more likely to be ‘self-projections’ than any authentic intuitive flash about the client. I’m not suggesting we don’t have these, we are all human, but I’m suggesting that if we can replace these unnecessary thoughts and feelings with natural trust then we and our clients will be much further ahead.


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