So, Claire Pedrick certainly got me re-thinking deeply about my coaching through her book “Simplifying Coaching”. Claire’s book focuses on the challenging aspect of simplifying our coaching by doing less for the good of our conversation partner. And this is what I would like to reflect upon and share here as thanks for the all the think again moments “Simplifying Coaching” has gifted me with.
There is so much in the book that I could refer to, however I want to focus on just a very small, and yet for me, very powerful part. The next two simple sentences taken from the book say so much, that I want to break them down into even more simple pieces, reflect on each part separately and see what happens as a result.
Off we go then, with one of the many views that Claire has about coaching:
“Coaching is simply two human beings talking together about one of us. It is not about someone who is more sorted out helping out someone who is less sorted.”Claire Pedrick from her book “Simplifying Coaching”
First, a quick, and yet important aside. In her book Claire does not refer to the people we work with as clients or coachees. Instead she uses a term that really describes who it is that we are here to partner with. Claire refers to the person we are sitting with, whether it be face to face, on a video or telephone call, as the thinker. We as coaches are here to partner in a process of moving the thinker’s own thinking forward.
So, with this thinking accompaniment in mind let’s take a look at the these two sentences a little more closely.
Human beings. Here, we are clearly being invited to put people first, something which always needs bringing to front of mind in our ever faster paced lives. I say lives generically, and not business or private life, as we are always meeting with the whole person when we talk with the thinker. Not a business person or a private person but rather the wonderful combination of both. Someone striving to create synergies for themselves in all their personal and work related endeavors and relationships. This is even more true today, as we continue to adapt to leading ourselves and others through all the changing aspects of our own individual local and global realities.
Talking together. The conversation is going to be so much better if we meet each other as partners. We are here to provide a trusting, open environment, in which our conversation partner, the thinker, is invited to move themselves forward. They can do so by truly knowing that all aspects of their current situation can be introduced, as they see appropriate, into the conversation. It then becomes a conversation in which the coach accompanies the thinker for a part of their journey towards a more desirable outcome. Claire reminds us constantly that this does not mean we are no longer guiding the thinker. Guidance however looks different to me after reading “Simplifying Coaching”, and a simple question like, “Is what you are now sharing useful to you?” makes sure that what is being talked about is always in the interests of the thinker.
About one of us. The focus of the conversation is all about the thinker. Everything that is talked about should benefit the thinker and move them forward. This is a very selfless process for the coach. If we are asking questions out of interest, or curiosity or the desire to know more about the context, then they are questions misplaced. This can be very difficult, especially at the beginning of our journey as coaches, as well as something that can creep back in over time if we do not stay tuned to our question framing. From the thinker’s perspective, this focus on one of us, is a potentially rare opportunity to put themselves in the center of the conversation. This center seat will be filled with their own thoughts, which emerge through the words they find for themselves in our conversations. This all happens in an appropriate time period in which no pressure is being exerted for fast obvious answers. In fact the answers will almost certainly take even more time to form than the conversation has available. Claire calls these moments “insights”, and when we see these moments happening, we know as coaches that we should simply be their to observe them as the thinker is now busy working for the good of themselves. Quite possibly matching new options with their own ability to make these options happen.
Being more sorted. The term “being sorted”, makes me think about the moments which occur in good coaching conversations when the thinker is focusing on their own strengths and matching these with opportunities to move themselves forward. If we have created the right relationship with the thinker there will be no feeling or observations of the coach knowing better and sharing the way forward. That is not what coaching is about. As soon as we introduce our own solutions, thinking or approach we have left the coaching stance behind. This can be a legitimate approach, however it needs to be offered as an invitation to the thinker. If welcomed, what we are then introducing is a mentoring stance, which needs to be properly opened and closed in order to bring the thinking focus back to the thinker. A simple question like “what value were you able to see for yourself while reflecting on this other view of the situation?” brings the conversation back to where it can productively continue for the thinker.
Not helping out someone. Coaching is not about one person helping the other. Helping would mean one person is in a superior position to the other. That is not the relationship we want to create. We are not here to help the thinkers, they can do that for themselves. Our job is to accompany them for part of their journey, and make that part of the journey more rewarding for them, whatever rewarding may mean to them in that moment. Relieve yourself from the need to provide solutions, answers, tips and tricks. In some coaching conversations the thinker comes explicitly with requests for tips and tricks, shortcuts or “what would you do?” types of questions. My approach when this happens is to meet the thinker where they currently are and in what they believe they need in that moment, while carefully watching for the moments of insight that really move them forward. When an insight happens that is the moment to ask more about how they now see they can move themselves forward, especially in the time between our conversations when you are not actively in accompaniment.
These two sentences have, with good reason, made me think a lot about the thinker. But, hey we are human beings too as coaches, right? So let’s put the focus on the coach for the last small piece.
Being less sorted. This immediately brought to mind a quote that stood out for me during my own coaching further development. “Every coach needs a coach.” In order to be there for the thinkers we need to put ourselves ongoing in the place of the thinker. Seek out for yourself who can be there for you as coach, and when you find that person or those people put yourself in the thinker’s seat on a regular basis. This is obviously something that Claire also has in front of mind as I read that she is currently working on a new book that takes a look at the inner work each of us as coaches should be engaged in, in order to be best placed to serve our own thinkers. This prompts a lot of thoughts for me personally, having had the opportunity during my coaching development to start that inner work for myself. This is very much a work in progress as it will be for all of us. A work in progress that is good to be reminded of here, and a potential additional writing at some point in the future to help me in my own thinking journey ….
I have certainly not done Claire and her inspiring book the entire justice they both deserve. So, why not take a look into it yourself? If it has the same effect on you, then it will be time well spent. That time for me meant reading it through three times and then still wanting to share something about it in writing. I hope it gets you thinking about your coaching as much as it has got me thinking about mine.
Thank you for simplifying coaching for the good of all of us Claire.