May 12

Towards the coaching relationship

first_imgRelated posts:No related photos. Previous Article Next Article Inthis second article in the five-part Masterclass series by Ashridge Consultingon achieving best practice in coaching, Charlotte Sills gives a detailedbreakdown of the coaching relationshipThe single factor most vital to successful outcomes in executive coaching isthe quality of the relationship between coach and client. In her article in this series last month (Training Magazine, January), InaSmith stressed that executive coaching is quite different from ‘trainingcoaching’, which focuses on the development of skills or knowledge. What, then, can the executive coach offer? What can a client reasonablyexpect of his or her coach, and what skills or knowledge should the coach havein order to secure the best possible outcome for their client? Smith’s articlehas already identified many of these. However, even the coach with the best‘kitbag’ of skills, knowledge and business experience will not procure the bestoutcome for their client unless they are able to establish and build a goodrelationship. Consultancy coaching has many features in common with counselling andpsychotherapy. It is the intentional use of a relationship that aims to developthe entire person of the client in relation to his/her professional life. Thepersonal and professional areas of a person’s life cannot be kept separate. Theclient brings his/her personal self to the professional role and it is thisarea of overlap that is usually the focus of a coaching intervention. Because of the features coaching shares with counselling and psychotherapy,consultancy coaches can learn important lessons from some of the research intosuccessful psychotherapy outcomes. This research has identified the ‘commonfactors’ that contribute to positive change, and studied their relativeimportance. In numerous studies over the last 30 years, it has been confirmed again andagain that the largest contribution within the therapy room to client outcomewas the existence of a positive therapeutic relationship. Summarising much ofthis research, Assay and Lambert, in 1999, identified the following relativeimportance of key factors affecting client outcome: – client factors – 40 per cent: such as openness, optimism, motivation, astrong friendship and family network or membership in a religious community – expectancy/placebo factors – 15 per cent: the instillation of hope broughtabout by the engagement – model and technique factors – 15 per cent: gains arising from the use ofparticular theories, models or techniques – relationship factors – 30 per cent: the client perceives the practitionerto be offering empathy, respect and genuineness, and there is a sharedunderstanding of the nature of the work If we transpose these findings to the consultancy coaching context, themessage is clear: the establishment of a meaningful relationship betweenpractitioner and client is vitally important – and far more important than theapplication or teaching of theories and models. The implication for coaches is that they may need to resist the urge toimpart knowledge or theories in favour of developing a good relationship.Frequently the coaching client, eager to advance, will be very keen to learnnew models or formulae, but this should not be the initial priority for theconsultancy coach. Coaching contract What, then, will ensure the creation of a good relationship? Research suchas the 1994 studies by Bordin state that positive outcomes rely uponrelationships that involve mutuality of goals, tasks and bonds. In the coaching context, coach and client must have: – a clear, shared agreement about the goal of their work – the direction andthe desired outcome – a clear understanding about how the coaching work will happen and whatwill be the role or tasks of each party – bonds of mutual respect and empathy. A relationship in which the clientexperiences him or herself to be understood and warmly accepted even after theyhas shown their vulnerabilities. All these three elements are held within the coaching contract, whichprovides a container for the work and represents both its scope and also itsboundaries. Core elements The effective coaching relationship needs to: Provide the opportunity for understanding. It is important that whatevertheories are used to understand a situation, they should make good sense to theclient. In fact, they are more effective if they are generated by the client.Therefore, the coach needs to be flexible and responsive in the first instanceto the client’s assessment of the problem rather than their own. It may also be relevant to share with the client, as mentioned above, that40 per cent of successful outcome is due to client factors. It is oftenimportant to enquire into the client’s support network, where they getprofessional and personal support, what else they have in their life thatsupports them (family, hobby, or religion). If this area of the client’s lifeis impoverished, he/she should be encouraged to develop it. Build on existing strengths. Unlike counselling, coaching does not set outto heal psychological or emotional difficulties, nor bring about majorcharacterological change. Naturally, these may happen as a by-product of thecoaching engagement, but they are not the goal and do not form part of thecontract. What coaching will do is help the client to know him or herselfbetter and identify their existing and potential strengths. Building on whatthey can already do will both maximise Lambert’s ’15 per cent hope’ factor andalso help to open the door to the development of new skills. Develop skills and encourage experimentation. Another of the ‘commonfactors’ is the opportunity to identify relevant skills – to polish up existingskills or practice new ones while having the chance to get accurate feedback.The relationship should foster an atmosphere of experimentation and discoveryrather than ‘finding the right answer’. Then the client can review and reflectupon the results of their experiments and use them to challenge beliefs theymay have about themselves, others or the organisation. Facilitate the sense of achievement. Clients need a sense of agency orachievement and self-responsibility. It is important the client be able toarticulate what they have done or are doing differently in order to increasethe feeling of mastery and self-efficacy. Coaching is less effective if theclient perceives him or herself to be dependent on the coach’s expertise. Prevent ‘relapse’ . Where the identified goal of coaching is a change in theclient’s behaviour, it is extremely unlikely the client will not at some timelapse into old ways of behaving. It is important they don’t see such lapses assetbacks but believe that they provide the opportunity to check and see whetherthere was something useful in the old behaviour. To prevent serious lapses, itis always useful to invite the client to predict them, discuss what triggersthe old behaviour and, subsequently, develop strategies for respondingdifferently. Sources– Ashridge Consulting’s Coaching for Consultants programme willinclude a module that explores what skills and attitudes are needed by thecoach in order to establish the kind of relationship that will provide thosecore facilitative elements. Enquiries about this programme should be made toTracey Field, 01442 841106, [email protected]– TP Assay & MJ Lambert (1999) The empirical case for thecommon factors in therapy: quantitive findings– MA Hubble, BL Duncan and SD Miller (eds) The Heart and Soulof Change: What Works in Therapy, (pp33-56), Washington DC, APA Press– ES Bordin (1994) Theory and research on the therapeuticworking alliance– Horvath and S Greenberg (eds) The Working Alliance: Researchand Practice, New York, Wiley– AN Schore (2000) Minds in the Making, Seventh Annual, JohnBowlby Memorial Lecture (CAPP), LondonUnderstanding the contractIt is important to recognise thereare significant differences between the contract in counselling/therapy and thecontract in coaching.Normally, the goal of coaching is defined in terms of theclient’s professional life rather than their personal life. As a result, thecoaching contract might well include levels of complexity that are not presentin the therapeutic engagement.Private agreementSometimes a coach will have the luxury of a private agreementbetween him or herself and the client, but more frequently the consultancycoach is subject to multiple levels of contact and commitment to other parts ofthe organisation. Usually the fee is paid by the organisation, which may haveits own agenda for the client, or the coaching may be part of a widerconsulting initiative, which may create possible confusion or conflict ofinterest. Conflicts abound arising from confidentiality issues, financialloyalty (who is paying?) and ‘best interests’ allegiances. These areas needcareful and explicit contracts involving clarification of goals and tasks if anatmosphere of trust is to be created.Empathic relationshipAs identified on page 32, the third of Bordin’s elements – theempathic relationship – cannot be established by contracts alone. It is builtby the quality of the contact between coach and client, and I believe it to bethe heart and foundation stone of all the work that takes place. Indeed,without it, the client cannot feel safe enough to take the risks of selfdisclosure either to the coach or to themselves.Human beings are programmed from birth to seek attachment andrelationship. We become who we are by being shaped by our relationships withthe world and the people around us. Neuroscientific research has found that ininfancy, the empathic loving bond between a responsive parent and the baby isactually essential in developing the neural networks that regulate the youngchild’s sense of itself, its feelings, and its capacity to think and makedecisions.In 2000, Schore presented exciting evidence to suggest thateven in adulthood, an empathic accepting ‘right brain – right brain’ connectionwith someone we trust, can provide the possibility for the development of newneural pathways, of new ways of feeling and being.All this would tend to confirm what many people believe – if weare in a relationship in which our thoughts and feelings are heard and acceptedin an empathic way by another person, we learn to hear and accept ourselves.This is essential if the client is to use coaching to raiseawareness of them-selves and their working patterns, rather than put energyinto either denial or paralysing self-criticism. They need to acknowledge whatthey know and what they don’t. They need to be available to hear feedback,examine their working patterns and experiment with new ideas.Empathy means allowing someone to feel met, truly understoodand seen. Within a solid working alliance, empathy can include, when the timeis right, the difficult confrontation or demanding challenge. However, it ischaracterised at heart by a real relationship of acceptance and resonance thatinvites the client to step into the area of ‘bounded instability’ from whichreal creativity and change can emergeIn summary, the client needs to feel safe enough and valuedenough to be able to use the other core ‘common factors’ of the successfultherapeutic relationship, all of which are highly relevant to the coachingrelationship. Towards the coaching relationshipOn 1 Feb 2003 in Personnel Today Comments are closed. last_img read more