Management Articles


Thinking to Coach? Coach to Think!

By: Brian Ward and Judy Worrell

Brian Ward is a principal in Affinity Consulting. He helps leaders, teams and individuals acquire new knowledge and wisdom through their consulting and educational work. He can be reached at t
Judy Worrell is a principal in Affinity Consulting. She works with teams to achieve high level teamwork where everyone is a winner.

Coaching is now regarded as a key competency for leaders, educators and consultants to acquire and master. Here, from our experience are seven tips that coaches will find useful as they embark on the coaching journey...

1. Surrender control
Control is an illusion...especially when it involves people. At the end of the day, coaching or educating is about giving up your own agenda to explore the other persons agenda.

2. Guide without steering
People very often know where they want to end up...your challenge is to help them create a map to get there. Remember that '7 Roads Lead to Rome' and although some roads may not suit you personally, the person you are coaching may have a real and compelling need to explore them...even without you.

3. Promote self awareness and responsibility
Our personal beliefs and values impinge on every decision, every interpretation, every action we take. Exploring these beliefs and values is a critical part of the learning process. Taking personal responsibility for these beliefs and values liberates us to be more accepting of others, and unlock our true potential for learning. When we accept others, we become masters of our learning, and therefore more effective coaches of others.

4. Don't try to be the expert
Many educators, coaches, trainers, and leaders have a need to be seen and valued as an 'expert'...we need to avoid this temptation. In the knowledge economy, no one person can be the oracle. Instead, be the channel by which the person being coached taps into the knowledge of others. By using this approach, you will help the person being coached to avoid falling into the trap of viewing themselves or others as 'all knowledgeable'.

5. Encourage relentless inquiry
Guide the person being coached in how to challenge the 'experts' them develop a straighforward line of inquiry, that suits their personality and respects others. Provide feedback to them on the degree to which they show they can balance advocacy with inquiry.

6. Challenge assumptions
We all hold assumptions about life. We form new assumptions every day. There is nothing wromg about having or making assumptions...they promote learning. The problem is when we hold untested assumptions, and proclaim them as the truth...this introduces our own personal biases into the discussion. When working as a coach, we need to hold our assumptions up to the harsh light of reality...we need to challenge our own assumptions. Only then can we challenge the assumptions of others, including those we coach.

7. Encourage open-mindedness
'The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism'. (Sir William Osler, 1849-1919).
When you feel the need to be dogmatic about something, then perhaps it's time to open up your mind to other fields of knowledge. Expanding your mind in this way creates new horizons, and with it, new possibilities. When we help others to do likewise, we accompany them on this journey...and in the process create multiple streams of open-minded consciousness. This is where the secret, and joy, of lifetime learning resides. Where wisdom begins.

Coaching is a tricky business. We all want to see results quickly. But those being coached will learn at their own patient with them. The rewards and joys of coaching are that you have the opportunity to simultaneously expand your own thinking while contributing to the expanded thinking of those you are coaching.
'Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought'
   - Albert von Szent-Gyorgyi (1893-1986).

© Copyright 2003 Affinity Consulting. All rights reserved.

Other Articles by Brian Ward
Other Articles by Judy Worrell

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