Business loves buzzwords: in times past, I would amuse my Dad (by then, long retired) by collecting buzzwords and buzz-phrases from the workplace. The more ludicrous they were, the better he liked them. A favourite was “Let’s run it up the flagpole and see who salutes”, but he was almost as amused/irritated by such everyday clichés as “at the end of the day”, and “going forward” (whoever wants their business to go backwards?)
Occasionally on the point of using such a phrase myself, I usually pull back in time; some part of me is imagining what he would say if he could hear me!
For some businesses, the word “coaching” is in danger of becoming a cliché which is at best misunderstood and at worst counter-productive. Coaching “skills” may be covered off in short workshops or courses, without participants really gaining a clear idea of how this powerful communication tool could, and should, be used.
(Best, perhaps, not to ask my opinion on tick-box training – another cliché? In my view, if you undertake training that makes no difference, rather skip it and spend the day in the pub.)
So what is coaching, and what difference should it make to the way we communicate – at work, and elsewhere?
Coaching is not
- A roundabout way of telling someone what to do
- A vehicle for demonstrating your own skills and knowledge
- A way of forcing someone round to your way of thinking
- Advising, mentoring, training or counselling
It’s a much more exciting process, based on listening, questioning and challenging. It’s a journey which the coach must undertake with real curiosity and humility, always trusting that the person being coached already has the answers and the resources they need to move on. At the very most, the coach is turning the lens to reflect a slightly different view of the world.
Coaching is about
- Believing in the ability of people to grow and change, to make decisions and to follow them through
- Focusing on possibilities for the future (not past errors)
- Allowing the person being coached to decide on her own best course of action
- Being very curious to see what she will come up with – and prepared, often, to be surprised at the outcome.
You know you’ve got it right, when you can honestly say: “Don’t thank me; you did it all yourself”. That’s the buzz.