Podcast: PPP022: The coaching journey
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The transformation of coaches over time
Coaching is a new, as well as an old concept. In preparation for this article (podcast), I did some research into the origins of coaching as well as the modern day application thereof. Today I want to explore coaching with you, where it comes from, what the benefits of coaching and my thoughts around it. Join me in this journey starting in the days when carriages were the most efficient way of transporting people from where they were to where they wanted to be.
Imagine Cinderella, standing in her beautiful dress, hair and make-up perfected. Taking on the journey towards the castle of her dreams in delicate glass shoes. Walking (or running) towards the ball, mmmm that would not have been a romantic turn of events. Cinderella had no time to loose and had to get to the ball on time. Speed was of the essence. The only solution to this dilemma was a glamourous carriage, drawn by a team of horses, to whisk her off to her dreams.
But life is not made from fairy tales. The race in life in the early days were much slower than we are experiencing today. People had to walk (or run) everywhere they wanted to be. No wonder mankind continuously searched for ways and methods to be faster, more productive and efficient. The need for speed. Instead of walking, you could reach your destination faster on horseback. Instead of carrying your goods in leather bags strapped to your horse or donkey, you could easily use a wagon to transport your valuables from where it was to where you wanted it to be. Mankind has continuously strived to improvise for increased productivity, efficiency and speed as is evident by the invention and resulting application of the wheel.
Since a carriage was one of the first wheeled vehicles to transport people, it quickly became a status symbol of the rich and royal, apart from the bumpy rides it afforded. Searching for more comfort, without sacrificing speed, our ancestors replaced the leather straps, which suspended the carriages, with chains. Quickly this new invention, which resulted in smoother rides and greater speed, became the preferred mode of transportation. The Hungarians perfected this closed four wheeled vehicle around 1550, named a “coach”, which only required or two horses instead of four to six. This word quickly became part of the vocabulary in the UK and America and became the preferred method to travel light and fast. Man’s quest for speed did not hinder their progress, resulting in steam engines, which replaced the coach when speed was required. But it could not replace the beloved coach as status symbol for the rich and the royal. The quest for productivity, efficiency and speed will always stay a part of mankind’s journey.
Apart from using a coach to travel to your desired destination, mankind has another quest, the quest of gaining knowledge and skills. This quest for knowledge and skills has proven in the modern world to improve productivity and efficiency, resulting in quicker and better delivery of products and results. During the 1830s, students at Oxford University were on their quest for knowledge and skills, while battling through difficult exams. They were assisted by tutors to prepare them for their though exams. Since students have always been the avid users of ‘’slang”, they quickly name their tutors, their “coaches“, because they said the tutors carried them through their exams. Surprisingly, it was only 31 years later that the sports arena adopted the word coach as well. It is befitting to say that coaching is a process to transport people from where they are to where they want to be, whether physically, academically, professionally or in sport. The need for speed. Coaching is the preferred method to improve speed, productivity and efficiency in all the walks of life and at all different levels.
Even though coaching improves the ‘’speed’’ at which people can achieve progress, it often requires a process of slowing down before speeding up. I like to use the analogy of the well-known story of the tortoise and the hare at this point. The hare was proud of his fast-acting, fast-moving abilities and were gloating towards the slow-moving tortoise. The unaffected tortoise wisely smiled and kept on moving on at a steady pace. The hare challenged the tortoise to a race to finally determine the most successful candidate in the animal kingdom. Surprisingly the tortoise agreed and prepared for the race. The hare had a great start and all the onlookers had pity in their eyes predicting the tragic loss of the tortoise. Soon it became evident that the hare got bored in the race and was easily distracted by the many interesting things. Hungry after the energetic start, the hare had to replenish his energy with carrots. The carrots made him drowsy and he had to sleep it off, without a worry of his evident victory being in jeopardy. The consistent, slow moving tortoise never missed a step and pushed his way steadily towards the end of the line. Focussing on his final goal, not over exerting himself nor slowing down. We all know the ending where the underdog, or rather the undertortoise won the race, whilst the hare realized his folly too late. In today’s day and age I will not be able to convince ANY executive to slow down like a tortoise, but I have convinced many to build in tortoise time in their schedules. You cannot continue running around in circles like a hare, wasting your energy on everything coming your way. You need some time to slow down, to reconsider, to keep your goal in focus. Coaching and mindfulness allow us time for reflection, time to refocus on what is really the final goal. Time to recharge, time to give the dynamic hare in us focussed direction, to keep the energetic hare from being distracted. In this way I believe coaching helps your clients to slow down in order for them to speed up.
Currently coaching has various definitions, but generally the theme is around helping people solving their own problems. More specifically, coaching helps people to unlock their potential, maximize their performance and assist in achieving their personal best. Instead of providing the answers, great coaches believe their clients are able to find their own answers, which are the best solution to their individual needs. A coach does not have to be an expert in the area of the person they are coaching. I have found if I have experience in the area, I want to jump into mentoring or training mode and not allow my client to choose their own pathways. Since coaching is seen as a partnership towards reaching a goal or creating higher levels of self-awareness. It has gained a lot of credibility in the executive space. Most CEO’s and directors will vouch for their improved performance when they have found the right executive coach to partner with. Coaching is seen as being a thinking partner towards a goal in the future. I like to say I help people think about their thinking, to help to connect with the tortoise in them for a while, in order to release the hare into the corporate space. The International Coach Federation defines coaching as: Partnering with clients in a thought provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
The benefits of coaching is well documented and very exciting. Daniel Goleman, who is the best-selling author of the book, “Emotional Intelligence”, identified coaching as one of the essential leadership styles for the future. Since coaches use a wide variety of behavioural techniques and methods, it consistently achieves results like a good manager should – by unlocking the most from the organization’s valuable resources, their people. Coaching transforms people. In many instances it accelerates learning and development, empowers and engage employees, ignites thinking and creativity, increases insight and develops self-awareness. All of this is crucial for mankind to continue its quest to improve productivity, effectiveness and speed. Helping employees to correct their behaviour where it impacts on their performance, to improve their productivity working with others and to improve their jobs satisfaction, is some of the additional benefits attributed to the impact of professional coaching. Unfortunately I cannot guarantee that all these benefits will be met every time with coaching. So much depends on the commitment of the client, the experience of the coach and the way the client and coach relates to each other. There are so many flavours (models) of coaching and every coaching partnership will leave different results. It is critical to ensure the coach you need to employ has the appropriate qualifications, experience and is a good fit with your company values.
Since I moved from the corporate world into coaching, I had to find my own style and niche market to transport my clients from where they are to where they want to be. In reality it is a transformation journey, a journey of self-awareness, reflection and introspection. My one client mentioned in her feedback, I have a Mary Poppins bag full of tools, which I pull out at the exact right time. I loved that picture that she painted. I come from a Process engineering background, which Is more commonly known as chemical engineering. Chemical engineers design processes, which transforms raw materials to a final product, many times through chemical reactions. My coaching style is like a chemical reaction and I am the catalyst. A catalyst always forms part off a chemical reaction in a reactor, where the raw materials are transformed into products. Some clients has easy reactions and some have complex reactions. In some cases the feedstock requires more preparation than in the other cases. Every reaction requires a certain level of activation energy to get going, but the catalyst has the incredible ability to lower the activation energy required. Similarly a coach lowers the energy required by the client to reach a goal. Just as a physical coach requires less horses to move faster than a carriage, a coach helps a client to achieve more results with less energy (or horsepower). I am like the catalyst, which helps my clients to transform their lives in order to achieve more desirable results. A catalyst is often a carrier during the reaction, but never changes in the process.
It is like the story of the two CEO’s. Imagine two CEO’s, each on similar bicycles, on the same road. Each putting in the same amount of effort or energy in cycling. For some reason the one CEO naturally reaches a greater distance than the other. It can be devastating for the CEO, who is lacking behind, but there is no time to stop and think, the race must go on. An executive coach can look at the bigger picture and realize why his or her client is not achieving the same results. A well partnered coach will see what the CEO does not see, he or she can see the difference in the bicycles’ wheels. The same effort on a bicycle with round wheels will give more results than on a bicycle with triangular or square wheels. Or the coach can see the difference between technique, power, determination that each rider puts in as well as the use of the gears of the bicycle. An experienced coach can assist with asking the right questions to the CEO or director, which will make a world of difference. You don’t want to miss out on such an opportunity.
Sometimes we wish all the problems were as easily solved as the invention of the wheel or a fairy godmother solving all our problems. Life and our modern society requires us to move faster and smarter with less horsepower. In our modern society we will only be able to springboard to the next level of productivity with a coach, for us to become more agile and resilient against the competition. But moreover, to feel comfortable with a level of job satisfaction and engagement akin to no other time in history. The impact of coaching has not changed over time, the journey is still the same, to carry our clients from where they are to where they want to be. To transform our clients to their desired ultimate goal.
Are you ready to be transported (transformed)? Contact or hire a coach.