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‘Doing Human Better’ – A focused, outcomes-based approach.

by | Conscious Living, Print Articles, Spring 2022

Alongside the digital growth space and entry into a metaverse, coaching is at the top end of new professions in the world and a very worthy one at that, as it can support massive social change.  And it is a wide-open space to those who do not know what to look for or clarity on the process of coaching.

What brings one to coaching?  I have a view that coaching arose as a mix of conscious and unconscious responses to a world that has shifted so radically at such high speed, and people, due to inadequate or partial human-focused, integrated and heart-centered education systems and social structures, were/are starting to feel untethered. Coaching’s popular practice was stimulated by the human development movement of the 1960s to 1980s, where it was focused on performance in business, leaning into the concept of high-performing athletes. However, while under the guise of support for the human being, it was only partially so: Mostly it was about building the capital and profits of a business.  This is not a wrong approach necessarily but there is so much more.  And since the late 1990s there has been an explosion in the industry and professionalisation of coaching.

Coaching can serve a myriad of people’s development needs and opportunities, with one  proviso: The training, approach and level of insight, experience and expertise which the programmes and coaches are at, with regards being highly equipped to enter into a process that serves the client’s need, is paramount.  I love this quote from CEO Bill O’Brien: The success of an intervention is dependent on the quality of the interior of the intervenor.  It is not for nothing that the UN sustainability goals, which have not been met, are realising that the inner development goals must first be reached before change happens. It’s about mindsets and worldviews as well as the capacity to manage complexity. And, vitally important, we cannot bypass the complexity of our inner worlds that hold beliefs, fears, values, biases, drives which are possibly unrecognised and unexamined as they stand in the way of seeing and doing more, from wider and more conscious perspectives.

Some trainings are there to support people to focus on a particular tool/profile, or use a single approach, or model, to support a very specific objective. Coaches have specialties and, as a client, you need to find out about these.  Some coaches are trained to work with certain aspects of life, for example business, leadership, life, transitioning, performance, health, etc.  Again, there is benefit in these, but it really comes to the question of truly understanding why do you need a coach and what for?  Is it to address a part of your life or the whole of your life?  Your organisation may offer coaching and they will have done the screening of the coach’s skills and fit.

 As an independent looking for a coach, take note of these things:

  1. The coach’s training, experience and client referral list.
  2. Ask what work they do and where their successes lie.
  3. Ask for professional qualifications.
  4. Ask for a chemistry session where you explore what it is you may want and be aware if the coach is exploring with you and is willing to refer you if there are specific needs that he/she cannot address. And if they are not a fit for you, they need to declare it.
  5. If it’s a speciality need, then inquire re that previous training?
  6. You need to feel a level of trust with the coach and this is a gut thing. And it’s best if you know this coach can truly challenge your thinking in a way that maintains trust.
  7. And ask what kind of process the coach uses in their practice.
  8. This first ethical task of the coach is to be clear to you what coaching is and what it is not.

It is still a bit of a wild west in the marketplace with many people still calling themselves coaches, though they have no professional coach training. The approach may be akin to mentoring that offers advice through the route of past experience, while perhaps using some coaching-style questions. Coaching is a much more democratic process: It views the other as equal and the coach is there to help the client explore their thinking, feelings, blindspots, meaning-making and opportunities for growth and breaking free of limiting mindsets or contexts in a co-created, generative way.

All of us transition through life growth: The growth of consciousness either comes our way or we work with it actively to grow our sense of self and purpose.  Sometimes we need additional skills and sometimes we need to do the work of shifting mental models.   If you are needing guidance and are still in a growth stage of life where you believe others have the answers (and I am not referring to direct skills transfer: For example, a surgeon or tennis coach can train a new surgeon, or player, on the fine facets of the body functions or skills of the game; where to place their precise skills and ensure their expertise is faultless). This is one level of coaching.  The next level occurs when people have skills and are transitioning but have not yet learnt to think independently. This is often an unsettling time and the inner or outer push to move from one stage of life to another requires getting to know ourselves and what we want, need and can do to move to that next level.  Ironically, so many of us falter here as we simply have not prioritised this.   We leave much of what has gone into our own inner programming, unexamined.  At this stage you need a coach with much more depth in their training, life experience and skill. Working on one’s inner life towards the outer goals is a very different focus than working on skills development.   And it needs a reflective capacity in the client.

Professionalising coaching is becoming a powerful way of ensuring quality, as it is based on ethics and mindset. The latter is key, understanding what a coaching mindset is, is critical. Coaching is a process and the approach a coach uses depends on their philosophy of the world and their training.  Generally, though, a coach needs to be able to make an informed assessment of what the client needs through a co-creative process in which the client comes to their own insights and makes decisions on their own path/s of action. The client then needs to go out and practise new behaviours or become familiar with new insights and in this way the adult learning process is completed. Broadly speaking the client goes through cycles of learning more about their situation, conditions, self, others, the environment etc, to work in a focused way towards an agreed upon outcome.  It is a practice.  The outcome may not be fixed but could also be part of the discovery process to get to what you as client, truly needs.  Through an agreement of objectives, sharing of experience, reflecting on such experience, moving to synthesis and insight, the client then goes out to the world to experiment and act on that insight to action on a task.  The client then comes back to the session to examine what worked and what did not, and what needs to be done differently.  A programme of coaching could be three to six months or go up to a year, depending on level and goals. Important skills of the coach ensure that the process engages the will, mind and heart of the client as an equal thinking partner towards compassionate accountability (IPCP).    The coach does not impose a mindset on the client but makes an additional assessment of how the coach him/herself is needing to work with the client according to many factors that present themselves. This developmental assessment (if coaches have been trained in this) allows the coach to meet the client through the client’s current worldview, building on the relationship of trust that enables challenge and support.   Mary Beth O’Neill calls this coaching with backbone and heart.

Horizontal coaching is supporting people to be better at what they already do and finding ways in which to make them better – more expert, more techniques:  A great example is the shift one might have seen on the very popular TV show America has got Talent where Simon Cowell and co started with breaking people down through criticism.  Very hard to ever put them back together again and this kind of behaviour, found everywhere, limits growth and increases trauma. Simon must have had a coach, as his style is very different now: The panel forms a relationship first, enquires about something that is personal, creates trust and then invites the artists to show up.  The feedback is generous and affirming though even though the decisions are not to allow the artist to proceed.  Feedback then includes a developmental or growth offer which leaves the humanity intact but offers real feedback.  Very different!

We can see a shift in consciousness or awareness over the many years this show has run. Humanity hopefully grow as here is a massive continuum of experience in which we travel through our worlds as growing human-beings.  We are all in a process of being and becoming.   Understanding the passage over different phases and stages of our lives is so critical to coaching that goes beyond imposing a model or frame onto someone and edging them into it or using a tool in which there is much value but becomes the plumbline for the coach.  These methods risk imposing views or ways of being and doing onto a client without the capacity to step back and out of any attachment to one’s own ideas of success but to truly be able to track the client, assess for understanding and the capacity, availability, and potency of the client in their current reality.

Questions to ask yourself if you are thinking about coaching:

  1. Do I need to build a particular skill/s in my role, job, life?
  2. Am I feeling lost as to the direction of my life?
  3. Am I trying to recover from something that is current (not necessarily a long ongoing challenge or struggle as this is more for therapy)
  4. Am I wanting to make a change?
  5. Am I conflicted about some decision?
  6. Would I like to get to know myself better?
  7. Do I need to unblock something that is stopping me in my life?
  8. Do I need a thinking partner to act as support or a catalyst?
  9. Would I benefit from being more focused on my goals/purpose/meaning in life?
  10. Do I need an accountability partner who supports and challenges my leadership/role/professional or practitioner space so that I can be the best I can be?

Coaching needs to enable you to be more able to manage, grow and live your life fully.

To contact a coach: you can go to www.thecoachingcentre.co.za  or [email protected]  or any of the professional bodies: Comensa, ICF, EMCC, or WAB.

Dr Paddy Pampallis (Doctorate in Exec. Coaching) is a deeply experienced integral practitioner supporting people through comprehensive and inclusive means to be and #dohumanbetter.  She is a registered psychologist, professional coach and supervisor. A pioneer in the coaching profession she is a founder member of COMENSA and other bodies. She is the CEO of Integral Africa: The Coaching Centre having developed and run the Integral Practitioner Coaching Training Programme for 20 years.  TCC works with many organisations at leadership level.  Paddy is an invited speaker, research partner, author, accrediting board member of the World Association of Business Coaches. Ultimately, she is passionate about the growth of human consciousness.  [email protected]