Coaching – it’s been a buzzword for some time in the world of business. It’s not always clear what is meant by it, and it isn’t – yet – a regulated profession.
The concept goes back further than you might imagine, and according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was first used in the 1830s to mean a tutor. It’s believed to have originated as a metaphor – as people travelled physically by coach from one place to another, so they can undertake personal learning journeys with the help of a coach or tutor. This is certainly the essence of what we mean by coaching today.
In his book, The Inner Game of Tennis, published in 1974, Timothy Gallwey proposed the idea that the opponent in the physical game of tennis is not the only opponent a player has to face; in reality, we can be hampered as much by our inner critic, which can undermine us with self-limiting beliefs, negative thinking and inner barriers.
So, how does coaching help? When a client comes to me with a problem, I start with the belief that the client herself already has the solution, and that my job is to accompany on her on a journey of exploration until she finds it. Sounds airy fairy? Maybe – but it works.
Through listening, questioning and challenging, the coach encourages the client to step back and find the internal barriers, recognise the opportunities and make the small changes that result in (sometimes) huge differences.
A client will often thank me for “finding” the solution to a problem; the honest answer is “I didn’t – you did!”
Sometimes, it’s easier to understand the nature of coaching by considering what it isn’t. Coaching isn’t about demonstrating your own expertise, telling someone how to solve a problem or even giving advice.
It is about holding the client to account, trusting her to decide the best way forward and helping her to develop the right attitude for continued success.
If you’re interested, you can see more on the history of coaching here.