I guess, as always, it is easier to say what something is not, not defining what it is. The human mind delights in contradiction. It is spicier.
The ICA material says that Coaching is not mentoring, counseling, consulting, therapy and such other things. One can add more subjects that Coaching is not.
The important issue is what purpose does coaching serve? Does it serve the same outcome, or something similar, as these other non Coaching processes seemingly serve? Are they too self learning processes as Coaching is?
I dare say yes. i have mentored, counseled, offered therapy, consulted, advised and taught a few thousand people across the globe, of all ages and cultures. The purpose was to help them discover themselves and find a solution. Coaching is no different. However, there fine differences may exist.
Many of the others may focus on solutions, though the process was not designed that way. Psychiatrists and Counselors, as well as even consultants, do try to help the client find a solution. These days all of us are in a hurry. We seek instant solutions. the solution provider is not alone to blame. The solution seeker, the client, is often to blame. S/he switches professionals if results are not instant. Clients define outcomes by the hour.
Coaching too can move in this direction if coach and client allow it to. One of the guidelines in the ICA material that i disagree with is about setting an outcome at the beginning of each session. If as many coaching sessions do, the process lasts 30 minutes, it is next to impossible to work towards any meaningful outcome. Such an expectation either from a Coach or Client would be dysfunctional.
In fact, i believe that Coaching should, as well as all these other processes that i listed, be journeys without destinations. This may initially be difficult. So, i would lay down a few conditions that a coaching experience should fulfill.
- The experience is positive, pleasant and satisfying
- The experience helps us learn and add to our knowledge
- The experience helps us move positively towards a stated intent, even if this cannot be measured.
My own efforts at Coaching aim at these results. I feel that these conditions would inevitably lead to a measurable outcome, even if that desired outcome is non quantitative.
There has been reference to Coaching not being past-oriented as therapy is. First of all, not all therapy is past oriented. Many spiritual therapies, especially Zen, focus on the present and mindfulness that leads to a future outcome. After all, there is no future without a past and present.
In coaching, we talk about underlying beliefs. Underlying beliefs are conditioned responses that our past experiences create and embed in our minds. These beliefs drive our cations, often unconsciously. No course correction would be possible unless we become aware of these unconscious stumbling blocks that derail our best laid intentions.
Reference to past in any self learning and self correction process is unavoidable. How the process works in terms of resolution of the stumbling blocks may differ. In coaching, we work towards creating awareness within the client leading to his/er own resolution of the conflicts and stated intents. This may make the process different from some others, but perhaps not necessarily better.
We need different arrows in our quiver for different purposes. Coaching is one such. There may be cases where coaching, which strives to client resolution, may not be the relevant process. In such cases, either we refer the client to other competent processes or with client’s permission stop being a coach and move to another process in which we are competent.
Ultimately, it’s the client’s interest we must protect. Throwing up one’s hands is not an answer.
In my corporate career, i often came across situations and behavior that could not be explained logically. Leaders and managers , who were otherwise honest in their personal interactions, would take corporate decisions that affected lives of many adversely without batting an eyelid. Ethical and moral values seemed different when they faced the people who their decisions affected. When they did not have to face the people, they could take unfair decisions by putting on a faceless organizational mask.
One reason this happened is because these corporate leaders forgot momentarily who their customers were and what the real customer interests were. Corporate interests overrode customer interests.
The Coach should always be aware of the Client interest.
We all have valid personal reasons to coach. It is not always possible to get the client find his/er own solutions. The problem is rarely the same as it originally started out. Ultimately all problems relate to one’s life and one’s beliefs. The Coach should know his/er own strengths and limitations.
The process should follow the person.