As coaches, we wear multiple hats in facilitating the coaching process. This helps us to play the appropriate role at different moments during the conversation to best serve the client.
Coaching is not just about progressing through the stages of whichever coaching models you follow and asking the relevant coaching questions at those stages. Many times, it is more about putting on a certain persona that is needed to powerfully move your client forward.
More than techniques, coaching questions and all the “doing”, it is more about who you be in relation to your client. By shifting into the appropriate roles, I find that the right coaching questions would naturally surface to mind.
First and foremost, the coach is a Partner to his client. He does not take the position which is “above” or “below” his client.
The coach does not exert his superiority like a boss and “look down” on his client as he would to his subordinates, although he might actually be his boss. He also does not act as someone who is a better expert than his client. A coaching leader would put aside his position and expertise and fully attend to his client’s goals and needs during the coaching conversation.
In the same way, the coach is not “below” his client although his function is to serve and uphold the client’s agenda and goals.
By placing himself in the position to serve, it does not mean the coach is being subservient or in a “lower” position than his client. It is a position of dedication and commitment to attend to his client’s need in a powerful manner.
“Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your space time.” ~ Marian Wright Edelman.
The coach is an equal partner who comes alongside to support his client in his journey.
The coaching relationship is also a partnership because the client would actively invest himself into the relationship with his coach. It is a co-active process – there are two active partners in this relationship.
One of the lines I would say to my client at the start of the relationship is this: “I will give 100% to support you as your coach…. For your part, I would require you to play full out and hold nothing back….”.
It is so vital to create and manage clear agreements for coaching partnerships to flourish. The Coach is a Partner with his client throughout the coaching relationship until its conclusion.
Like a mirror, the coach acts as a reflecting surface to his client during the coaching conversation. As the Reflector, the coach helps to raise self-awareness in his client and reflects back key insights using feedback.
As human beings, we feel incomplete if we cannot see ourselves clearly. Before leaving the house for an important meeting, we would always look at ourselves in the mirror to ensure our face, hair and clothes are adequately prepared for the occasion. That’s our outer self.
Yet when it comes to our inner self, we often walk out there and carry ourselves blindly. We are unaware of what’s going on in our thinking-feeling world. We are often unconscious of our belief systems, worldviews and habitual way of life. And we have blind spots in how our behaviors appear to others.
Many times, the best way to make a person realize for himself on a particular ugly habit, is not by correcting him by telling, but by providing a mirror or a video playback of his behavior.
In the same way, one of the key roles of a coach is to play as the Reflector by expertly using powerful questions and useful feedback, to raise the self-awareness of the client.
All along the conversation, the coach listens actively, clarifies, paraphrases, summarizes and may even use the client’s exact words to reflect back to him what he has said. Without adding anything new into the conversation (by the coach), the client may gain new insights all by himself.
The coach is not afraid of silence moments – spaces for the client to reflect and think. Sacred and powerful moments are found in these spaces.
The coach is skilled in the process of directing the client’s attention toward his inner self, encouraging self-observation and reflection.
The coach partners with the client to dive deep into his inner world: beliefs, perspectives, purposes, core values, strengths and weaknesses, potentials and habits. The coach seeks permission at appropriate times as he moves deeper into the intimate world of his client.
As trust is built, the coach gives honest and specific feedback in a timely manner which the client is ready to receive. The coach’s feedback helps the client to piece missing information so he could see and understand how he got to where he is now and why he is getting the current results.
If the insight does not come from himself, the client may not see a compelling need for a change although he may know it intellectually. Realization is infinitely more powerful than information. Self-realization is the key.
Ultimately, the coach as the Reflector would continually encourage the client to increase his capacity to be self-observing, self-correcting and self-generating.
So far, I have discussed the roles of a coach as The Partner and The Reflector. In Part 2, we will look into 2 more roles: The Challenger and The Cheerleader.
Stay tuned. Meanwhile, I would he happy to hear your thoughts. Leave me a comment below.