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The seven secrets of coaching


Firefly's Kirsty Baker continues with her overview of an industry that is often misunderstood but is expanding rapidly.
In the first article I looked in detail at what defines coaching; now I want to dig a little deeper. When coaching first entered the sphere of business it was viewed as a form of support for those who were underperforming. Today, while coaching has come of age, I believe that it still remains widely misunderstood, misinterpreted and subject to misuse.
To clear a few misunderstandings up, I'd like to share with you my seven secrets of coaching.

Coaching does get results

Thus far in the sphere of coaching there has been a real lack of credible research into coaching efficiency and ROI (although the International Coaching Federation is due to publish the results of a longitudinal study in the very near future).
Research or no research, there can be no doubt that good coaching with an engaged client generates behavioural change and the achievement of goals. As organisations get smarter at measuring the short term and longitudinal impact of coaching, these results will become easier to quantify. Individuals can also measure their success by looking at how they progress towards the achievement of goals.
"Research or no research, there can be no doubt that good coaching with an engaged client generates behavioural change and the achievement of goals."
A key element of coaching should be to determine how the client will know when they have been successful and their outcomes have been achieved. This can be through evaluation, using existing tools such as '360 degree feedback' or employee engagement surveys, or more qualitative methods. There will of course always be additional outcomes of coaching that cannot necessarily be measured or tracked, such as long term, sustainable behavioural change.

Coaching is not a new concept

Working with someone who is independent and who truly believes in you is a common practice in all walks of life – and has been for many years. The 2011 Oscar-winning film The King's Speech shows very clearly that the role of coach can be played by someone who can draw out the best in you and help you to become who you want to be.

Remember that coaching cannot draw out something that is not already there. As a client you are naturally creative, resourceful and whole, the coach simply holds the greatest possible rendition of you and draws you into it. Coaching was not just invented in the last management brainstorm; it is simply the bringing together of skills and approaches, an approach that has been in existence over decades and centuries. 

Coaching is different from mentoring (and you’ll benefit from both)

Mentoring is the provision of guidance and input from someone who has already travelled along the same path as you, often someone senior within the same organisation.
The role of a mentor is invaluable in helping you to see things within an organisation, while gaining some external perspective. Working with a mentor you get the benefit of their views, opinions and experience, as well as thoughts about how you might handle a particular situation. A coach will also provide the benefit of a different perspective, but instead does not hold opinions or views and trusts that you have within you the answers that you need to move forward. 
An experienced coach who has a background in the industry or role that you are in can bring insight and experience through their questioning, yet there will never be an implication of what you 'should' do. 

Coaching covers today and tomorrow

Leadership development activity often focuses on either the present or the future - but rarely both. There's often a slant towards developing you as a future leader and focusing on your longer-term abilities, or in tackling a particular dimension of leadership that is affecting you and your organisation right now. 
By tackling real-life issues as they arise, coaching gets to the root of behavioural change and addresses how you can deal with today's challenges as well as how you want to develop in the longer term.

Coaching enhances your whole life, not just your working hours

Good coaching will bring out the best in you as a whole person, not just professionally. For example, if you want to get a promotion at work and you focus on that at the exclusion of all else, there is the potential that this will have an unintentional adverse impact on the rest of your life: personal relationships, health or leisure activities. A coach who truly wants you to reach your goals will help you to grow and develop in an all-rounded way and encourage you to keep truly balanced.

Coaching is not a panacea

Let's be clear, coaching is not a development intervention that can cover every need that the individual or the organisation has. While there is a huge amount that coaching can achieve, there is still a place for other forms of development e.g. formal classroom-based training, on-the-job training, self study programmes, workshops, retreats and action learning.
Coaching's USP lies in one-to-one or one-to-group behavioural and values-focused development, and in providing the added extra to other forms of development intervention. Put simply, If you want to get to the root values, beliefs and behaviours of your leaders then coaching provides a proven way to do so.

Coaching should be done by professional

As an industry coaching is not yet regulated and there are a plethora of coaching qualifications of variable depths and intensities. 
I believe that there is considerable benefit in working with coaches who have attained professional recognition, equivalent to that offered by the International Coaching Federation. It is of prime importance to work with coaches who are professionals, who adhere to strict ethical standards, who have experience and who are committed to their ongoing professional development. A separate article will cover how to find and select one and how to know if you are receiving good coaching.
"It is of prime importance to work with coaches who are professionals, who adhere to strict ethical standards, who have experience and who are committed to their ongoing professional development."
Until the profession is regulated I recommend that you focus on working with those who deliver a professional service, supported by membership of one of the professional bodies.
And one extra secret...


Coaching is not a walk in the park

Working with a great coach means working with someone who won't accept excuses, who encourages you to be brilliant, magnificent and powerful, who will partner with you, support you, encourage you, inspire you and motivate you. The power of this partnership is that your life will be transformed.
This transformation comes at a price. You have to be committed to the journey, to your personal and professional growth, to leaving no stones unturned and to going where you have not dared to go before. The extent to which you are able to do that will determine the results you get. You are in control of your destiny; the ideal coach for you is waiting at the cliff edge, and calling you to be with them.
In the next article, I'll be explaining how to spot whether or not you're getting great coaching and receiving the best possible results.

Think about how you use and view coaching. Here are some questions to consider:

  • What results do you want to achieve from coaching?
  • Where do you use mentoring where you might get better results with coaching?
  • Where do you use coaching where mentoring might be more appropriate?
  • How could you use coaching to enrich your whole life?

Kirsty Baker is founder of and Certified Professional Coactive Coach (CPCC). Kirsty has a proven track record of helping individuals and organisations achieve long-term change through her work. For more information visit

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