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The evolving vision and role of the coach


Andrew Machon discusses how the role of the coach has evolved.

Coaching - fact and mystery

We often think that the role of the coach is singular and fixed. This reflects a preoccupation to ‘pin-down’ the definition and facts of coaching present in much of our literature. It harbours a belief that the role of the coach is distinct and has a separate niche that can be clearly differentiated from related occupations such as mentoring, counselling, supervision and leadership for example. After twenty years of working as a coach with business people from some of the today’s largest multinational organisations; I am certain of one thing - that coaching is in part mystery. Little wonder the difficulty we have in describing the work of the coach when asked. 

The motivation to write my most recent book; ‘The Coaching Secret – how to be an exceptional coach’ came together with the realisation that to help others make the sustained changes they desire, necessitates a willingness to courageously enter into the shared unknown of the coaching relationship in order to learn how you elicit improved performance, a deepening of sense of fulfilment and sometimes the experience of being healed. 
"To coach well, necessitates that we learn to see from the ‘inside out’ as well as the ‘outside in."

The three eyes of the coach

An essential gift of the coach is to offer the client new ways of seeing. The coach shares their eyes offering the client the chance to explore different facets of reality that are commonly overlooked. A simple yet robust model exists of the three eyes of the coach: the analytical, appreciative and creative eyes - and these combine to allow masterful coaching in practice.

Let’s explore each eye in turn and when discovered and employed, how they evolve the role of the coach. In this brief article I can offer only a summary of what is illustrated in much more detail through discussion and case study in the book.

The analytical

Automatically and commonly we see reality through the analytical eye. You open this eye when you step into the position of a detached observer and look at reality from the ‘outside in’. You isolate yourself as if you were a part distinct from the whole. The analytical eye is:

  • Clear, cold and critical
  • Judging - affirming the one right way of doing things
  • Negative - seeking problems and urgently providing the answer
  • Divisive and dualistic – splitting the good from bad
  • Factual and rational
The analytical eye has a one-dimensional (1D) vision that is either ‘black or white’ focussing on either ‘this or that’ and unable to accommodate both ‘this and that’. 
I recently ran an experiential workshop with a group of counsellors and psychotherapists who wished to understand the nature of coaching and how we can develop masterful practice. After introducing the analytical eye, I asked this group what roles they associated with its characteristic vision, the following list emerged: trainer, instructor, problem-solver, controller, fixer, differentiator and clarifier.
Note how a strong analytical eye is the eye of a rational expert imparting knowledge through instruction. In contrast the coach rarely instructs. The motivation to coach is more to deeply understand your client and to help them to ask and answer their own questions.
"In the compulsion to focus and answer a strong analytical eye inhibits the prospect of coaching."

The appreciative eye

The second eye is the appreciative eye. This offers the coach a view of reality that markedly contrasts with that of the analytical. You open your appreciative eye when you step into the position of your inner observer or witness. This viewpoint enables you reflect and to experience things from the ‘inside out’. The appreciative eye is:

  • Curious and comfortable to question rather than answer
  • Able to inwardly listen and sense developing emotional awareness
  • Relational and reflective – motivated to understand another as well as one’s deeper self
Returning to the workshop and how the group assessed the appreciative eye in practice, the following roles were identified: enabler, awakener, wayfarer, catalyst, conductor, facilitator, integrator, harmoniser, energiser, carer and supporter.
The appreciative eye is essential to the work of the coach since it determines how well you can relate. This is a two-dimensional vision (2D) that brings insight and understanding of both your deeper self and your client. 
"As the appreciative eye opens so your psychological awareness develops."

The creative eye

The creative eye is a composite eye that combines both the analytical and appreciative whilst offering something more. Imagine a coin and then consider the analytical eye to be one face and the appreciative eye the other. Their combination is complimentary such that their individual strengths are cumulative and limitations negated. Let me sketch how I diagrammatically represent the creative eye:
The creative eye is unique in offering the coach an unlimited three-dimensional (3D) vision that is dynamic and multidimensional. You open your creative eye as you remember your deeper original self. This represents your most authentic identity and allows access to the source of your hidden potential and power. The creative eye is:
  • Like an ‘inner compass’ enabling you to still, balance and re-orientate
  • Flexible and dynamic
  • Multifaceted – allowing you to access interior and exterior and individual and collective viewpoints
  • Resourceful - self-motivated and inwardly directed
Returning to the group, the following roles of the coach were associated with the creative eye: guide, reframer, transformer, resolver, a mix of artist and scientist, negotiator, mediator, synthesiser and co-creator.
"Whereas the analytical is reactive the appreciative is relational the creative eye is a truly responsive eye - unconditional and uncompromised."

Through the creative eye the coach can obtain an intimate understanding of one’s self, your client, the wider system or culture whilst also being able to consider and perceive the ‘something more’ that is emerging. This eye has the capacity to discern reactions from response. It is comfortable with paradox and is therefore able to look for the deeper resolution to beneath conflict. Through the creative eye we build quality relationships based on trust, compassion and authenticity.

To conclude, the role of the coach is not limited (though your analytical eye will argue that it is). As the vision of the coach extends so does their role. Take a little time to consider how many of the roles you adopt in the space of one coaching session? If we try too hard to pin-down the role and definition of coaching we can easily overlook and limit its true scope, possibility and prospect.

Andrew Machon is an experienced business and life coach. He is also a passionate coaching supervisor active in the development of other coaches. Andrew brings a rare blend of scientist, psychotherapist, artist and businessman to his work. In his latest book, ‘The Coaching Secret – how to be an exceptional coach’, he shares with us some of his learning and explores how the realising masterful coaching practice necessitates a journey of self-development.

For coaching, supervision or workshop enquiries please contact Andrew at 'The Coaching Secret - how to be an exceptional coach' is published by Prentice Hall Business and is available from

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