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The truths about effective coaching Published: Sunday, April 17, 2011 8:00 am By: Ariadna Montero, Ph.D.

Our basic understanding of human nature is the key to becoming a successful and effective coach. In my opinion, we must first recognize what it means to be human before assuming the role of coach.  Without this understanding, we would be working under the blind assumption that everyone is motivated by the same reasons, and therefore that everyone reacts in the same way to similar circumstances. Having worked at QBS as a professional executive coach for many years, I consider important to share and explain the operating principles of effective coaching, based on our research and empirical applications.

Historically coaching has been influenced by the theories of adult learning (Zeus, 2009). From a practical point of view, we consider that psychological theories are at the core of the fundamental premises of coaching. Like therapy, coaching is a psychological process. While coaching could seem similar in many aspects to cognitive behavioral therapy and coaches are not required to be psychologists, it is fundamental that they have a great deal of understanding about the psychology of human nature.

When exploring the inner nature of the “coachee” it is important to clarify in advance the purpose of the coaching process.  This is different from the purpose of the therapeutic process. Coaching is a structured process focused on specific results (Skiffington, 1998). I subscribe that effective coaching must consistently focus on the “coachee’s” growth and personal development. In this sense we work with individuals to broaden their self-awareness, in order to enhance their professional effectiveness and work execution. We encourage and guide them in finding fulfillment, and we assist them in mastering effective leadership skills related to the operational aspect of the organization.

Along with the emphasis on human development and management skills, there is also another basic principle that our practice considers: Coaching should be pragmatic. Practical results must result from the theoretical instruction, i.e., coaching must work. Central to this idea, we are continually engaged as applied investigators to face each coaching situation as a chance to improve our approach and its capacity to deliver behavioral change. Pragmatism in coaching stands for: a) tangible results and b) continuous improvement and enrichment of the process based on theory and knowledge developed through practice.

The coaching process itself involves encouraging the individual to undergo significant internal changes that bring personal benefits, as well as positive tangible changes to the organization. A central principle in our model is that learning and change through coaching occur through the relationship with the coach. Coaching is not just an interaction, an event or just an opportunity. Two people meet. They share knowledge, values, attitudes, skills and experience. They engage with one another. And only if they connect, coaching can be effective. In this sense, coaching can be seen as a learning dialogue.

SO, coaching is about change. The coachee achieves something that he/she cares about, that makes a positive difference in their working life or career. The real significance of change should be judged in relation to the coachee’s agenda and goal. Insight and understanding are important in coaching in so far as they lead to change. Of course, change is hard work. Change provokes resistance, a normal reaction to facing up to difficult issues. Resistance can be viewed as a sign that the coaching dialogue is on track and that it is touching on important issues for the client. Effective coaches and mentors work with client resistance, rather than trying to overcome it. They use resistance to help the client to clarify their values and their goals, and to explore what will help or hinder them in making changes.

Effective coaches are not only smart, but also wise. They have the wisdom to make sound judgments on what they see, hear, and experience in the learning relationship. They communicate caring, valuing, respect and empathy. They model a way of being which is both human and professional. This is not deliberately ‘taught’ but is often ‘caught’. Learning is not just ‘from’ the coach or mentor, but also ‘with’ and ‘through’ them. It is this third type of learning, ‘through the coach that is often overlooked. Yet it may be the most powerful learning of all. Participants experiencing affirmation and positive challenge from a coach are likely to value themselves more. The more people value themselves, the more they value others. This then impacts on both personal and professional relationships.


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