As happens oftentimes in life; while learning something new; the mind easily grasps what ‘needs to be done’ but ‘doing it’ is slightly more complicated!
So also in coaching; when my mentor coaches conducted a coaching session, I could recognise their skill in applying the coaching competencies flawlessly; but come my turn….and the client check-mated me pretty easily!
One such experience challenged me into fundamentally debating the premise that coaching is all about the coachee! This is what happened…
I was signed on to coach a senior executive in an organisation. In the initial meeting, we went over what coaching was about and more importantly, what it was not…set up the coaching contract, decided on an initial four sessions of an hour each with a review after each one. Next, I scheduled a ‘chemistry’ meeting with her. That session was smooth-sailing and we both felt confident about the actual coaching!
In the first session, we re-familiarised the format and began with the coaching conversation…everything was humming along just fine; when she suddenly burst out, “You are my coach, so YOU tell me what to do!” I gently explained to her that this was about her and while I would happily share my thoughts over coffee afterwards, it would be inappropriate for me to do so now! She seemed fine with that but, soon enough, asserted, “I want to know YOUR opinion. You are my coach and I will follow your advice.” Perceiving her state of mind; I empathised with her situation but cautiously reiterated my discomfort at expressing my personal thoughts in the ambit of the coaching conversation. I am unsure whether that went down well but we completed the session… with me feeling inadequate and keeping my fingers crossed that there would be no, such, further requests!
This episode triggered serious introspection…..enough that I deliberated about it as a coachee in my peer coaching sessions…. “Is it about the client and her needs or at some point it is about me as the coach being true to the coaching code and ethics”? “Did the client interpret my refusal to engage in the manner that she wanted as a rebuff”? “While I remained true to the coaching conduct, did I help the client”? Most importantly, “how could I have handled it better?”…
While the easy answer is simply that the more you coach the more adept you get at handling potentially tricky situations; my main takeaway has been the understanding that being a coach is a journey of discovery, disruption and growth about our own selves as well!
My distinguished coaches may be wondering, what this whole hoo-ha is about? But as I mentioned in the beginning, at this stage of my coaching journey, I can recognise the pit falls but can’t always avoid ending up in them! So till such time as I learn to weather the volleys like a veteran, may I, respectfully, ask you to kindly bear with my tales of turmoil!