If you’ve been wondering how to make progress in your career, or how to make a bigger impact at work so you step into that next big role, or you’re feeling frustrated because you keep being overlooked for promotion, probably someone somewhere has suggested you think about working with a career or leadership coach.
But what is coaching and what’s so special about coaching?
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
I love this definition because it really does get to the nub of what coaching is all about. The ICF also tells us that “the process of coaching often unlocks previously untapped sources of imagination, productivity and leadership”. And this is SO true.
We all have times when we’re feeling stuck or we have a goal that we want to work towards. It’s the partnering with a coach that allows you to fully unleash your imagination and creativity so that you find the answers within.
Sometimes we haven’t dared to articulate or voice those answers before. Maybe because we didn’t want to be seen as arrogant or boastful. Maybe because we’re worried we might fail or we don’t want to look silly or we think we might not be good enough.
It’s the process of coaching that provides a safe space for you to dig deep into your untapped sources and find your answers.
- Coaching is being asked the right questions so that you come to the right answers – for you.
- Coaching is NOT about being told WHAT to do.
- Coaching is future-focused. Unlike counselling which often looks back at the past and why you behave the way you do.
- Coaching does not offer guidance and advice, unlike mentoring or counselling.
- Coaching is very much a partnership between the coach and the client. The coach is on your side. The coach wants you to succeed.
- In order for coaching to be successful and effective, you need to feel you can trust the coach. That trust and rapport allows you to relax which means you’re more likely to find the answers within.
- A coach will reflect back what they hear you say AND also what you’re not saying. Sometimes it’s what you’re not saying or not talking about that’s more significant.
- A coach may challenge you if what you’re saying doesn’t match your body language or your actions are not in line with what you said you’d do.
- A coach will help you explore your options – all your options – and then help you identify which are the right options for you right now.
- A coach will hold you accountable to your commitments.
- A coach will not assume that you already know what you want or how you are going to get there. The coaching process and the questions that are asked will help to draw that out of you.
How does coaching work?
When you start to work with a coach, the first step is to get clear on what it is you want to achieve. What’s your goal? What do you want and why does it matter? Depending on how big your goal is, you might need to break your goal down into smaller milestones.
The next stage is to explore what you’ve already tried, what resources or support do you have available, what skills or experience you have and where there might be gaps.
Once you know what you want and what you have, coaching will help you to identify what you can do to achieve your goal. For example, if you have skills or knowledge gaps, how might you fill them? Or if you don’t know the right people, how might you get an introduction?
The final stage is to make a decision about what you are going to do next and when you are going to do it. This is when you make the commitment to yourself. Sometimes that commitment might feel scary or daunting. And actually that’s a good sign. If the next step feels too easy, often what happens is that we put it off because we can do it ‘tomorrow’. Only tomorrow never comes.
What I’ve just explained is based on a common coaching model – the GROW model.
- Goal – what you want
- Resources – what you have
- Options – what you could do
- Way forward – what you will do
The GROW model is a popular coaching framework used by coaches all over the world, created by John Whitmore. You can read more about the GROW model here.
When might coaching help you?
Very often when I talk to women in technology, I get asked “how do I know when coaching is the right thing for me?” so I thought it would be helpful to share a few examples of how my coaching has helped.
- You’re frustrated because it feels like you getting overlooked for promotion and you don’t know what’s going wrong.
- After redundancy you realise this is a brilliant opportunity to re-evaluate your career direction and what you want to do next.
- You’ve just been promoted into your first or next leadership role and you want to make sure you make a good impact.
- You’ve taken a career break, and now you’re ready to get back into the workplace and would value support to help you do this.
- Your team has gone through a reorganisation and now you need to get the team to work together.
- You are looking for the courage and confidence to apply for a bigger role.
- You’re not enjoying work and you can’t quite put your finger on what’s causing the dissatisfaction.
These are a few examples of why women have come to me for coaching and how I’ve helped them.
Coaching skills are not just for coaches
Coaching skills are not just for coaches.
We can all use coaching skills in the workplace to help our colleagues and team members develop. Coaching is about being curious and asking questions rather than being directive.
For example, if a colleague says they are fed up in their job, you might ask “what do you want instead?” or “what is you’re not enjoying?”
Of if a team member comes to you with an invoicing problem, you might ask “what have you already tried?” or “what’s worked in the past” or “what might the Accounts team suggest?”
It’s about asking open questions that don’t lead or guide the person to a specific answer.
You can also self-coach to help you get the career or leadership results you want.
What’s your next step?
If this has sparked an idea about working with a coach and you’d like to find out more about how coaching can help you to fully unleash your career and leadership potential, let’s talk. Sometimes a simple conversation is all you need.
Or if you’d like me to run my Introduction to Coaching Skills workshop at work, get in touch and we can work something out.
In the meantime, I really encourage you to experiment with asking open questions and see how powerful the process of coaching can be, because it really is something special.