My experiences as a coach have provided me with so many insights as to why coaching is a success or a failure, or somewhere in between. The key words that come to mind are "sustaining the change", or "transformation". By this I mean there is no going back. An analogy is the caterpillar turns into a butterfly, or another I like is turning grapes into wine! When I lived in Japan I worked with ARC International, a leader in providing transformational programmes for both individuals and companies. These were life changing for many and for some a painful experience. Today, including in New Zealand, there are similar programmes available; however, transformational change doesn't have to be painful any more. I have found that people do possess an innate ability to "see" something new for themselves when they experience an insight or aha moment. How can we bring about more of these sorts of changes to people in our workplaces and in their personal lives?
As leaders we address issues with our employees in a way that we hope will assist the individual to change. As managers we are about fixing problems. The busyness of today means that we often take the "fix the problem" approach with our people. This implies that there is something wrong with the person and somehow the lid needs to be kept on to avoid a huge eruption. The focus tends to be on changing behaviours and attitudes. Really it should be assisting the person to understand what underlies their inappropriate behaviours.
The Change Starts with You!
The more common approach to coaching focuses on how the coachee needs to change - this says that the person is not OK. The essential role of a leader is to bring out the best in people, but how can you do this when you have a negative person, or one who is always coming to you with problems? For someone to change, the coach needs to create a space for the coachee to gain insight about themselves and in doing so they will change. The secret is to understand that the state of being of the coach has everything to do with the ease of change.
Most people do not like being told what to do. Children are a wonderful example. As parents we know that the more we tell our children not to do something, they see it as a challenge and carry on anyway! Adults are like teenagers - tell them and they ignore, or change it. When people come up with their own solutions they take ownership and "transformation" is far more likely to be achieved. Everything I am talking about here is applicable to any parent or teacher, as well as leaders.
I was working on a culture change assignment with a leadership team and we discussed the lack of time they have to coach and develop their people. The number of people in their area of the company had more than doubled in size from 40 to over 100 in six months. After some conversations about the energy it takes to manage people, they came to the realization that investing some quality time with people one-on-one would create measurable benefits for everyone. One manager, on the second morning of the workshop, shared how he had a call from a team leader at the end of the first day of workshop, and instead of his normal mode of thinking about what advice or solutions he could provide to his stressed team leader, he just listened. When the person stopped talking he asked: "What do you want me to do about this?" The reply was: "Nothing". The simple state of listening required less energy and effort and the manager had confidence the person could think for himself to resolve the issue.
Continuous Evolution as a Coach
What I love about coaching is that the preparation is about ME - my state of being. It requires me being "present" with the person, regardless of any past experiences or knowledge. Creating rapport and listening without any personal thoughts getting in the way. When I am in this state I access insights that guide me to ask the right questions. It never ceases to amaze me that when someone says - "that's a really good question" - yet it was something that just occurred to me in that moment. I didn't think about it. I wasn't trying to work out what to ask or say while listening. This deep listening state is the key to being an excellent coach.
For over three years I had the wonderful experience of coaching managers internationally by phone. This meant different time zones, different cultures and nationalities. I wondered how this would work, never meeting the coachee? Yet it was extremely successful and relied on my willingness to be in a constant state of learning, and listening beyond the words, without making assumptions or judgments. So many managers today lead remotely, and the only way coaching can regularly take place, is by using the phone. As leaders we need to feel comfortable and trust that we have the ability to coach and develop our people regardless of circumstances.
The Missing Link
Recently I was asked to coach a senior manager who was extremely stressed about many things. This was impacting upon his work, his relationships with colleagues, and his personal life. The first session was longer than usual. I built rapport and trust and then was able to show him how his thinking was creating his experience of stress and reactive behaviours. I explained to him that there are three key principles of life that exist for every human being. These principles underlie ALL human experience regardless of age, ethnicity, sex, intelligence, religious beliefs, yes everything. A simple explanation of the principles is; Mind - is the source of all energy and creates form from the formless. Thought - the ability to form thoughts is about the fact THAT we think, and Consciousness is about WHAT we think, which creates our moment-to-moment experience of life. These are simple scientific principles, but they are also profound. We cannot control the thoughts that come into our heads, but when we understand that we are the thinker of our thoughts we have the freedom to choose which thoughts we dwell on and which we let go. We will always have some unwanted thoughts; however, we don't have to take all our thoughts so seriously.
Everyone has the ability to change. If coaches don't believe this then they may have a problem. My client changed the way he looked at all events and situations and so his life changed very quickly. People around him have noticed he is not stressed; he is a better husband and also a better father to his baby daughter. The coaching has been transformational, yet he is still on his journey of "Continuous Evolution" and he is equipped to handle whatever challenges life presents him. When people understand the underlying principles of the way all human beings function, and they operate from a healthy thinking state of mind, they see the good in others, and they see the possibilities for their own and others growth and development. They also have a positive influence on others in all areas of their lives.
© 2010 Gilly Chater - The Resilience Expert - www.GillyChater.com
Professional Speaker, Facilitator of Change, Executive Coach