So. What kind of Coach do I want to be?

Is this chair taken

This is my second post on my coaching journey and corresponds with my reading and my coaching practice development.

This week I have been pondering the existential question “what is coaching?”.

It is a question almost too obvious and too boring to consider out loud, however I have always started all of my significant projects with a couple of my favourite Stephen Covey’s principles “to begin with the end in mind” and “to first seek to understand and then to be understood”. And I have to have a strategy before I can do anything. So I need to find some answers to the question of “coaching”.

About three feet from where I am writing this post, there sits an impressive cut glass triangle thingy with a small plaque inserted into one of the faces. It has been my paperweight for at least 10 years and the plaque announces Robert Lawrence’s recognition as an outstanding Team Leader, Mentor and Coach. I received the award on one of the many staff days a previous employer organised to recognise and reward various staff members for the past year performances. You had to be nominated by your peers and they had to make the case for your recognition award. I can remember thinking at the time that this wasn’t something I thought I deserved and was a more than a little embarrassed when called to the stage. I certainly did not regard it as a sign from the universe that Coaching might be a calling I should look into.

I accepted the accusation of “Leadership” though. I enjoyed leadership roles because I loved making things happen and motivating others into buying into and investing in what ever cause or project I was tasked with implementing. I knew the power of effective leadership and what was needed to be done to win the confidence and support of your team. I witnessed what could be achieved when you created belief and allowed people to grow and develop through motivation and humility. Of course I also recognise the damage caused by poor leadership – especially ego driven leadership purely motivated by self interest and fear.

Even though I was often charged by my peers as being a “dangerous maverick” and being too far outside the box for their comfort – I will cop the “leadership” accusation. It fits my inner Astro Boy persona.

Maybe even “Mentoring” as well. I will cop that too. This comes in the same packaging as educator and trainer. I have seen first hand how even small doses of education can change lives and transform communities. I know that this is one of the most powerful human development strategies we have.

But “Coaching”.. I did not really know what that was and I had no idea how I could have been recognised for it. In reality I had never coached anybody – well properly coached them. I mentored. Gave advice. Counselled. Managed. Analysed and performance managed. Trained, assessed. Problem solved. Innovated, Project Managed and Change Managed. Strategised.

But never coached. Even when I coached sport.

Coaching in the vernacular, I am starting to realise, is really a broad church. But effective true coaching is a very narrow pew somewhere in the back with no “kneelers”. You have to want to sit there.

So now after a decade or two of reading a large number of books on leadership, strategy and coaching, reading articles and blogs and downloaded countless audio books, dozens of Ted Talks and even a Tony Robbins Netflix Special, (“I am not your Guru”) I am still no closer to being able to answer the Coaching Question. Yet.

But this where I am at.

  1. I have decided I will not use the term “coachee” – it just sounds odd.
  2. I won’t fight against my intuition, creative instincts and innovation tendancies.
  3. I like helping people improving and enriching their lives.
  4. My coaching practice will be based on what I have managed to learn so far about my life journey but guided by practices and teachings of those trailblazers who have worked to establish coaching as a legitimate form of personal development. But I will seek to put my own distinct personal brand on my practice.
  5. I am a life long devotee of “design thinking” and will incorporate the practice into my coaching practice.
  6. I will be invested in helping clients solve their problems – but will seek to inspire clients in a deliberate practice to achieve their goals.
  7. I will avoid setting agendas, consulting, counselling, and analysing, but will give guidance when asked about how a client can find that support.
  8. I believe that effective coaching will become as essential to workplaces as being trained in how to use computer software.
  9. I will work with my partners to build an innovative Leadership and Coaching Organisation that will make a difference and focus on improving the clients condition.

I can see the path that others before me have taken to develop their coaching skill set and practice. I can see the building blocks of knowledge and research and I am beginning to understand the challenges ahead.

Can’t wait.