Blog Post No. 49
16th June 2017
Copyright © Renata Taylor-Byrne 2017
The power of coaching to transform your life, at home or in work
In this blog I want to describe one of the advantages and one of the disadvantages of having coaching, and what the coaching relationship uniquely offers.
There are many advantages to having coaching but I want to mention one of the most powerful advantages.
One of the top advantages of being coached
Being listened to, fully and sensitively, by someone who will respect your boundaries, and not try to impose their world view, or values, on you, and who is a skilled and effective listener, is a wonderfully relaxing and stress-reducing experience. The deceptively simple process of being listened to properly (meaning actively) helps you to return to the confident person you once were when you were younger.
“To excel at the highest level – or any level, really – you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching.” Stephen Curry
You may think: “Surely most people listen to each other properly. What’s the big deal about being listened to by a coach?”
Well, my research shows that most people do not know how to listen effectively. They most often engage in interruptions of the speakers concerns. Perhaps I should give you some examples of those kinds of ‘roadblock’ to communication.
Robert Bolton (1979) listed twelve of the most common ‘roadblocks to communication’ that people regularly use when communicating with each other. Here they are:
- Praising evaluatively
- Asking excessive or inappropriate questions
- Using logical argument, and/or
The first four responses are judging responses; the second four are ways in which people send solutions to you; and the final three responses are ways in which the ‘listener’ is avoiding your concerns.
These roadblocks are particularly unhelpful if the speaker is under any kind of stress; and these bad habits are used a lot of the time in conversation. So that’s why talking to friends and family has limitations. People send roadblocks in their communication with each other and don’t realise they are doing it.
Why coaching is different from ordinary conversation
When you hire a professional coach, you have the chance to fully express yourself, knowing that you will be fully listened to with no road blocking of your communication.
The specific active listening skills that the coach will use, are as follows:
# The coach reflects back to you what you have told them, to ensure accuracy of understanding and for you to hear what you have on your mind. The simple act of telling a coach what your current challenges or goals are, externalises what is going on in your mind, and is very good for reducing stress.
Our brains are designed to deal with incoming information, and to act on the basis of the information they receive. They are not designed for rumination (endlessly recycling information).
The act of expressing yourself is very good for you and frees up a lot of stored energy. Being understood by another person, and having your feelings felt by them, is therapeutic. Reflective listening by the coach helps you to know yourself better, and to feel understood.
# Summarising the main points, is another aspect of the coach’s approach to active listening. Your coach will summarize what you are saying at intervals, to keep you on track.
# Clarifying your concerns or goals also helps. Some goals may become apparent as you express yourself, and clarifying what you want is an essential part of the listening process.
The process of active listening helps to build a relationship of trust between you and your coach, as the coach gives evidence of their attunement to you and their empathy. This is also an important constituent of the coaching process.
The listening skills described above can be found in one of the best books I’ve read in the area of human relationships. This is titled, ‘People Skills: How to assert yourself, listen to others and resolve conflict’, by Robert Bolton PhD. It took him ten years to write, and you can tell! It is superb, full of wisdom, and an invaluable manual on how to communicate properly with people. I strongly recommend it.
What about the disadvantages of having coaching?
The conditions under which you may be offered coaching, (for example in the workplace), make a difference as to whether you will get the full benefits of coaching.
For example, you may be ordered to receive coaching as part of your job. But this won’t necessarily work for you, or for the company involved. Indeed it may not even be coaching, properly speaking!
Jenny Rogers is an executive coach with more than 25 years’ experience, and her clients are usually senior leaders from a wide range of organisations. She has also trained many hundreds of coaches and managers in coaching skills.
In her book ‘Coaching skills: A handbook’ (2004) she describes what she does when she is asked to coach someone in an organisation. She always makes sure that the potential client wants to have the coaching, and she has a half-hour meeting in private with the employee.
“I cannot work with a reluctant client”, she states: (page 166).
The client needs to trust the coach, and she goes on to say:
“I know how impossible it would be to create trust if the client believes the process is about assessment – a completely different process”.
Why won’t it work to have coaching if you are reluctant to take part, and see no value in the process?
Firstly, you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink.
Secondly, people read each other’s emotional state and intent non-verbally, using ‘mirror neurons’, and a coachee will know, non-consciously whether they are being deceived or manipulated!
Thirdly, people have told me that it can be a humiliating experience: because the lack of choice in the process indicates to the employee that their managers have little respect for the employee’s professional integrity and work expertise.
Fourth, a person who is ‘assigned to the role’ of coach is not the same thing as a person who is committed to the growth of others.
The process of coaching won’t work if you don’t want to try it out with all your heart; or if the coach is not a real coach; or the process has a hidden agenda! (The coach has to establish a trusting and supportive relationship with you for it to work).
What coaching does for people
So what do the best coaches do?
Julie Starr, a highly respected coach and consultant, wrote the book ‘The Coaching manual’, which was one of the set books on my Coaching Diploma course! In it she states that:
“If you imagine yourself being coached, you will perhaps appreciate why so many engage the services of a coach. This person, your coach, will listen to you with a curiosity to understand who you are, what you think and generally how you experience the world.
“Your coach will reflect back to you, with the kind of objective view that creates real clarity. What’s most important during that conversation is you, your success, happiness and ultimate fulfilment. Having worked to establish what exactly you want to achieve from coaching, these goals and objectives become the focus of the conversation.
“As a consequence, the only agenda happening in the conversation is your agenda, which your coach will often guard more closely than you do…
“When things don’t go well your coach supports you. When you experience success your coach celebrates your achievements. Your coach will also help you to pinpoint exactly what you did that worked so well, so that you can do it again.
“A coaching relationship is like no other, simply because of its combination of objective detachment and commitment to the goals of the individual. Little wonder then that so many people are finding that coaching relationships can help them develop and learn in ways that enable them to have or achieve what they really want.”
In this blog I have described one of the key skills used by a good coach: active listening! I have also explained the advantages of having a coach, and clarified why being coached has to be actively chosen by someone, or the trusting relationship, on which coaching is based, can’t develop. Finally, the unique features of a coaching relationship have been described.
Here is a great TED talk by Patti Dobrowolski called ‘Draw your future – take control of your life’ (‘Best TED talks 2015’) in which she explains a simple but very powerful way of finding out how you can improve your life for the better.
Please take a look and see if this is of any use to you.
Contact me if you want to experience the benefits of being coached, and to bring more happiness, peace and self-confidence into your life.
ABC Coaching-Counselling Division
Telephone: 01422 843 629