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Coaching in the workplace

In the second of this series on coaching for International Coaching Week, we examine what to look for in a coach and how to make the coaching relationship work for you. 

Yesterday I outlined some evidence that will help you to assess the competence and professionalism of any coach you are considering working with.  Today I set out some other factors for consideration when during a coach relationship. 

Internal or external?

Many organisations have trained coaches working within them.  These are people with appropriate skills and training who are released from their normal role to undertake coaching with colleagues.  This is provided with the aim of embedding a coaching culture in the organisation.  Consider whether an internal coach would work well for you - they know and understand the culture of your organisation.  On the other hand you may prefer to work with an external coach who has an understanding of the broader business context in which you work and who can remain dispassionate.

Confidentiality, confidence...

Whoever you choose, you can expect your discussions to remain confidential and to have confidence in the way the coaching relationship works. At the start of a coaching relationship it is often helpful to have an initial discussion (often at no charge to you/your organisation) to discuss and agree how the coaching relationship can be most effective.  This process - often referred to as 'contracting' - should be an ongoing feature of your coaching sessions.

Business or pleasure?

Avoid stumbling into a coaching relationship or treating it like a status symbol.  Be clear and strategic about your goals for the coaching.

If your coaching programme is paid for by your organisation, you will normally want the content of your coaching to focus on the issues you face in your working life.  In some circumstances, things that are happening in your life outside work may impact on your work and so are entirely appropriate to discuss as part of your coaching programme.  Coaches who belong to one of the professional bodies are required to abide by its professional code of ethics, like the ICF one here.  If an issue arises that challenges the code, your coach will raise this with you so that the appropriate course of action can be identified.  This is one of the reasons that supervision is essential - so that your coach has someone with whom s/he can discuss concerns or a potential breach of ethics.

One session or a programme?

An hour is the usual duration of a coaching session to get to the heart of a matter, though for face to face my clients often prefer two hours.  Sometimes 10 minutes on the phone to resolve a critical issue can be very effective too.  To resolve long term issues or for lasting behavioural change, a programme of coaching sessions will be the most powerful.  The length of coaching sessions may vary and should be agreed as part of the contracting process - how long, how frequent and the duration of the programme.

Expect more questions than answers (from the coach anyway!)

You can expect your coach to question you and challenge your thinking, which may not be comfortable.  In non-directive coaching, you can expect the split of airtime to be approximately 70%/30% between you and your coach.  You may want to get more input from your coach, in which case you can ask or provide for this as part of the contracting process. If you feel that the coach is speaking too much, then say so, and be specific about what you'd like them to do differently.   The first coach I worked with talked most of the time and I felt uncomfortable about this, to the extent that I started to wonder who was coaching who - which was entirely inappropriate.

Anytime, any place, anywhere

These days coaching can take place on the phone, by Skype and email as well as face to face.  It is important to ensure that the mode of communication suits you. 

How's it going?

Review the progress of your coaching programme at each session.  What works well for you?  And what is less effective? Coaching should raise your self-awareness, motivate you to take action and make you feel in control of the process.  Like good leadership, coaching should provide a release for any pent-up emotions, re-energise you and provide you with support and encouragement.

Follow these guidelines and you'll reap huge benefits from a coaching relationship.



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