The objective of this last chapter is to introduce a tool that can help you to grow in your personal leadership competences daily with the support of others. This tool, namely coaching, is a popular one, but it does not mean that it is neither the best one nor unique. Coaching has become very popular in the last few years partly because access to coaching training became more widespread across the world.
The reason we finish the workbook with coaching is because we want to highlight three of its characteristics that should be present in any assistance you might look for to move forward on your journey of growth:
• We always need a system of external support.
• We need to grow in self-confidence that is part of the methodology of coaching.
• We need to feel ownership over the process and results, which is also an essential element of coaching.
Coaching is generally associated with a profession of a coach; however, in the framework of this workbook, we look at coaching as a methodology of individual assistance that any manager or supervisor can exercise with their subordinates.
This chapter will start with the basic notions about coaching, then we will move into tips for being a good coach, and finally, we will offer an exercise in order to practice it.
The allegory of large spoons (see figure 11.1) is a good representation of why coaching really is necessary in corporate settings: coaching allows people to share between each other their competencies and experiences. All of us have large spoons, meaning our knowledge, our background, and our expertise. These large spoons should be used in order not only to support other people, but also to support ourselves, creating more social cohesion in the teams. In some way, you want to create a more collective mindset around you, which is so important in a society where individualism is prevalent.
Source: (Caritas n.d.)
Coaching as a learning tool generally does not deal with technical skills that could be quickly learned. Coaching usually works in developing competencies that require long-term exercise. Coaching focuses on impacting the habits of the people, their character, what makes leaders consistent across circumstances, as we discussed in the previous chapter.
An essential idea about coaching, as a teaching or learning tool, is that the main activity of a coach is listening; meanwhile, other teaching methods imply instructions. An example in literature is Momo (Michael Ende).
Momo listened to everyone and everything... even to the rain and the wind and the pine trees - and all of them spoke to her after their own fashion. Momo was staring at them wide-eyed, but neither man quite knew how to interpret her gaze... Although her expression gave no clue, they suddenly seem to see themselves mirrored in her eyes and began to feel sheepish. She became so important to them that they wondered how they had ever managed without her in the past. And the longer she stayed with them, the more indispensable she became; so indispensable, in fact, that their one fear was that she might someday move on.
Momo was a coach not because she asked people to do things, but because she listened to them. That is how a modern leader must work. He or she must be able to listen to others, to help them break the wall of fear, and make the right decisions.
A good definition of coaching is the following:
Coaching is a relational process, based on a relationship of trust and commitment, conducted by two people (facilitator-guide coach and recipient-beneficiary-coachee) and undertaken in an organizational or work context, in which the coach uses conversation or dialogue to stimulate learning and induce the coachee to reflect on him/herself and his/her environment with the aim of defining goals, making decisions and acting to achieve them, for the coachee’s own personal benefit and for the benefit of the organization (Larburu 2005).
It is important to highlight the key ideas of this definition:
1. It is a relationship of trust: There should be openness from both sides, what is not automatic, that requires time. There are two special ingredients for a coachee to trust the coach: the first one is the level of competence of the coach and the second one is the character of the coach. Topics that are dealt in coaching are so sensitive that any failure to generate trust can derail the whole process.
2. The second element is that conversation and dialogue are there to stimulate learning. In this sense, coaching is not initially intended as a replacement of psychologists, counselors, or friends.
4. Coaching is generally done in an organizational context and should have a beneficial impact on the organization. Though many individuals look for coaching services on their own, a significant part of coaches work in cooperation with the specific organization. This means that the objective of the coaching process should be in alignment with the organizational objectives.
Managers as Coaches
Most of the leaders will not be in their life professional coaches, but as managers who want to become leaders, the coaching process will be very likely a part of their daily duties. A manager-coach can achieve three important objectives through coaching in their teams:
(1) They can help their subordinates to stay focused on the desired outcomes.
(2) They create a support system that encourages continuous development.
(3) They can help their subordinates to take small steps and keep on moving forward in their improvement.
A manager who uses coaching systematically is providing at the end of the day an inter-cooperative framework where subordinates through reflection can reach the maximum of their talents.
However, in order to exercise coaching, managers should develop the following competencies:
• Active listening
• Capacity for observation and diagnosis
• Ability to form relationships
• Ability to develop concepts and be creative
• Communication skills
As we can see, it is not possible to improvise the character of a coach. The set of competencies that are needed require intensive training and practice. That is the reason for the proliferation of certification courses, though coaching could be trained in other settings as well.
We want you to have a test of how coaching works. Of course, this is not more than putting your fingers into the water. A coaching session can follow the GROW model, which is thought to help people to develop themselves. It is a very useful framework to structure a coaching process in general. You can find a suggested guide of the GROW model next.
We propose that you test it. In order to do that, you need to find two partners. You (A) will be the coach, one of your partners (B) will be the coaches, and the third one (C) will be controlling the time and observing the session. The first time, A coaches B. The second time, B coaches A. In both cases, the session should not last more than seven minutes.
Before you start, both (A) and (B) think on a particular life or career challenge they would like to discuss and get a coaching support: buying a new house, accepting a promotion, signing up for a master’s program, and so on.
Before running the session, the three partners should study carefully the questions in order to make the most of the allocated time.
Questions to consider
What do you want? or How will you know when you achieve it? When do you want to achieve it by? How achieving it will benefit you and the others?
Questions to consider
What have you done specifically so far to achieve your goal? What challenges have you met and overcome? What other challenges do you expect to meet?
Questions to consider
What could you do? What else…? What if…?
Questions to consider
Which option would be fastest, easiest or preferred? What might stop you? When will you take action?
If you are using this workbook with the support of an instructor, you will not have difficulties understanding the task. It is even likely that you will be required to do it in class. If you do not have the support of an instructor, we suggest you look for additional material on the Internet and, if possible, a sample session on YouTube.
Essentially, coaching is a tool for learning, and learning is, as such, a process of change. Whenever we learn, there is some aspect of our intellectual, emotional, or physical sides that is changing. Change in learning implies that something we knew in one way before; we know it in a different way now. C. S. Lewis used to say that any learning process implies some sort of suffering. Therefore, this is the reason why the emotional support that a coach gives is so important.
The best way to describe in general terms the process of coaching is the change process designed by Schein. It has three steps: unfreezing the reality, accepting change, commitment and freezing the habit.
A. Unfreezing the reality: The first task of a coach is to help the coachee to accept his own reality and the reality of the outcome he wants to pursue.
B. Accepting change: The second task is to help the coachee to commit to the further development in the specific competence and to the very specific objectives in terms of growth.
C. Commitment and freezing the habit: The third task of the coach is to support the practice of the new habits that guarantees the longterm development of the desired competences.
The type of coaching that will be necessary depends on the difference between the personal perception of development and its external perception. If we get back to the process of change designed by Schein, the level of personal acceptance and commitment toward the development goals will be determinant for designing the coaching process that should be delivered.
For example, if there is an agreement between coach and coachee on the areas of improvement, the role of the coach will be more focused on the emotional support during the development of the new habits. This is what is called supportive coaching (see figure 11.2). If there is an agreement between a coach and coachee on the strengths, then again, the focus of the coaching process will be on the emotional support, but with a clear orientation toward reaching new heights, and therefore, it is called a coaching of excellence. Now, if the coach assesses as a strength what the coachee sees as an area of improvement, the focus of the coaching will be strengthening the self-acceptance of the current virtues. In simple words, to improve the self-confidence of the coachee. This is called reinforcement coaching. However, if the coach recognizes as areas of improvement what the coachee perceives as strength, then the focus of the coachee will be increasing the reality check of the coachee. This is what is called crash coaching and generally is very necessary among successful executives.
Source: (García-Lombardía and Cardona 2005)
How to Convince People on the Need of Coaching
As we have said, crash coaching used to be one of the most frequent among successful executives. One of the reasons, as Chris Argyris points out, is the substantial gap between what people are and what they say they are, especially among successful executives. We suggest simple questions that can be given to any manager to understand if they need support in their professional development. We encourage using these questions in a conversation about the need of coaching to break the ice, but certainly, they do not offer any complete assessment on the needs for coaching. The reason why they are effective is that these are very common behaviors among successful managers. Just ask the manager for yes or no to the following questions.
• Lacking a mentor or a coach?
• Being overly demanding or ambitious?
• Failing to understand your subordinate?
• Do you have a tendency toward procrastination?
• Having difficulties to motivate people?
• Failing to build long-term relationships?
• Facing stress at the time of delivering complex projects?
• Are you suffering life–work imbalances?
If the answer to one or more of these items is yes, then you have a chance to start a meaningful conversation on the need for coaching. Of course, you must make these questions to yourself first!
Now, before we close, we want you to consider if you would not like to start trying coaching as a coach. We are not talking about professional coaching but as a manager-coach. Before you answer yes or no, consider what would it take for you to get the necessary competences.
Now, please turn to the exercise in your personal and career journey Leader’s Journal and start filling in your roadmap 3.4. How will I improve my coaching and soft power skills during the next year (using GROW model)? When you have done the test, please fill out the conclusions from this test.
There are a variety of ways how to develop character and competencies; however, in this chapter, we have focused on coaching. Coaching could be a very powerful tool, as it provides the two main inputs for personal development, meaning emotional support and guidance. The wall of fear we mentioned in a previous chapter is always present, and we need someone who accompanies us in the process of crossing through it.
Though we provided a definition of coaching that is used in a variety of settings, we have focused in this chapter not so much in professional coaches but on managers that exercise coaching in their work with subordinates. In this way, these manager-coaches can create the corporate context where employees are encouraged to reflect on their careers and become less context-dependent, as we have seen in a previous chapter.
Developing coaching as a competence could be a very helpful mechanism to continuously developing all the concepts and ideas that have been exposed in this workbook on a daily basis. Even more, finding someone who supports us as a coach or in some coaching capacity will be determinant for the long-term success of the journey you have just started.
Brief Epilogue for a Long Book
The adventure of setting a workbook that can be used in different courses and trainings of self-leadership proved to be a very challenging task. Though we have been running personal development courses for many years, putting all our materials together in a way that can be useful for a wide range of instructors and students was not easy.
It took us roughly three years. Our busy lives and careers did not help to make the process smoother. Therefore, as we send the final book to the print, we feel very proud of our achievement. We have tested this book with many of our students and colleagues. We have received precious feedback, and we expect that as it starts to be used in different contexts, we will get even more comments that will help for the upgrades of the next editions.
As we were getting ready to finalize the manuscript, the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the world, the business world, and the education sector. As with any significant crisis, it has triggered a reflection process about our careers, lives, and principles. This crisis confirmed the need to have available materials and programs that provide frameworks to go through this reflection properly when the need appears. Crises and transitions are a normal pattern for managers; however, they are particularly challenging when they are acute and make an unrequested visit to our lives. Reflection allows people to put their thoughts together and understand the deepest motivations behind their efforts and decisions. We hope this book and its exercises will be suitable companions in this effort.
Dear reader: If you have gone already through this book, we congratulate you. It means you are very committed to your development. It means that you are taking ownership of your future. Is any other more critical attitude for success out there? Well done, keep going and help others on their own reflection process!