What makes good coaching?

In all the years I have been with IBM, coaching has never been far away.

Training on the job

When I just started, people talked about ‘Training On The Job’. And that was what it was.


Later on we had extensive mentoring programmes, that sometimes were called ‘Coaching’ but weren’t. Mentoring in those days was mostly good conversations with an executive or a high-senior manager, who would help you on your way up the career ladder.
About 5-10 years ago, coaching was properly introduced by educating a good number of HR professionals in the Co-Active Coaching technique. Now we had trained professionals that could do what I call ‘Coaching’.
But then, what is that, coaching?


Coaching often gets confused with Mentoring. Mentoring sometimes gets called coaching when it is just what it is, mentoring.
In my view mentoring is the information transfer from a senior professional (mentor)  to a junior professional (mentee) in the workfield they share. The mentee gets educated, so to speak.
Coaching is information transfer from the coachee, the person that is coached, to the coach, in a workfield they don’t have to share at all. The coach has been trained in asking intelligent, but more effectively, stupid questions.

The coaching question

These questions will make the coachee think about the goal he wants to reach. This goal is the so called coaching-question that has been agreed with the coach at the beginning of every coaching engagement. The coach now knows what it is that the coachee wants to reach and uses his expertise to ask the questions that will make the coachee THINK!
What should he think about then?

Why coaching?

The reason the coachee has not yet reached his goal is the reason he is with a coach now. So somewhere in his system as a professional and a human being there are ideas, beliefs and behavioral patterns that keep him from reaching his goal. A coach will ask him questions and the coachee will start to think about why he is being refrained (by himself) to reach his goal.
For example, I once coached a sales, that didn’t perform quite as good as everybody expected, including himself. It turned out that he wasn’t comfortable in calling up strange people. Quite a nasty belief, when you are a sales! I haven’t seen him since and I am convinced he is doing fine.
When is a coaching engagement successful, i.e. what makes good coaching?

Good coaching

A coaching engagement is successful when the answer to the coaching question has been found by the coachee. This means, that the coach has been able to create a good interpersonal connection that will allow the coachee to reflect on himself without  major resistance. Mind you, a little resistance usually gets the coachee to better answers!
The coach will use his or her expertise to guide the conversation and to explore the areas where he or she expects the problem may lie. All this while the coachee is keeping the responsiblity of his or  her own process.
The coach will gently challenge the ideas the coachee has, to make him think of his own situation in a different way. This should give the coachee the opportunity to take another perspective on the situation, thus making changes in a stuck pattern.
The best result I can get out of a coaching session, is where the coachee has such changes of ideas (paradigme shifts) that he walks out of the room all confused and busy exploring these new ideas, that he forgets to say goodbye to me….

Would you like to know more about coaching? Do contact me, using the form you will find on this site.


08 2010

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