10 Things I’ve Learned About Coaching in 10 Hours of Practice

I am currently pursuing an ICF ACC coaching credential. I have completed 60 hours of training with essential impact, and I am now in the process of accumulating my 100 practice hours. Get in touch with me if you would are interested in a conversation.

1. Notice when you are in a conversational cul-de-sac and bring it to the coachee’s attention.

2. Offer the coachee choices and let her decide which topics to address.

3. What are the limits of non-directive coaching? How can processes and exercises be woven into the coachee’s experience? My hunch is that the coachee must design the experiment himself.

4. Some coaches are obsessed with contracting and re-contracting. My approach is more organic. The contract is a touchstone to return to to assess progress rather that an absolute determiner of success or failure.

5. Flaherty is right when he talks about three levels of conversation:

Level 1: Single conversation to build or sharpen competence
Level 2: A more complex conversation over several sessions
Level 3. A profound and longer conversation intended to bring about fundamental change
(Flahrety, 2010, p. 116)

With most coachees so far, the conversations have been about practical day-to-day challenges rather than transformative challenges.

6. I’ve aligned myself with Essential Impact’s non-directive coaching approach, and I see clear resonances with Jenny Rogers’s perspectives on developmental coaching. I’m struggling to position myself within particular coaching theories, particularly those that align with psychology and neuroscience.

7. Coachees have consistently demonstrated creativity, determination, vulnerability, and resourcefulness.

8. Committing to a coachee demands that I set aside any squeamishness I have about emotions or about the conversation venturing in different aspects of the coachee’s lifeworld. We were taught to “coach the whole person” and, more often than not, the tensions or obstacles people are grappling with run like veins throughout one’s

9. People come to understand coaching by experiencing it first-hand. Most people leave expressing positive statements. It easier to demonstrate than it is to explain.

10. People want value from the coaching experience, and some struggle with setting a course for themselves. They may look to me for structure.

Coaching for pragmatism with emotions?

My coaching collaborators are helping me recognize that my bias as the coach is towards the pragmatic. My coachee may want to sit with his affective truth for a while and unearth cognitive roots: “I feel…because…” Usually I resist going into that pasture because I aim to keep the focus foward-looking.

Clearly there is a core tension around affect for me in coaching practice. I am not against emotions and affect — they interest me intellectually and coaching is helping me be more aware of them in myself. But I cringe when coaches lead with questions about feelings.

Thinking about this brings me back to Silvan Tomkins, who I read at UBC, and some remarkable passages in Shame and Her Sisters :

For me, talking with emotion and affect is one kind of interpersonal interaction in which I vary from many people.

If one ideal in coaching is mutual freedom of expression (Flahrety) than not only do I have an obligation to let the coachee explore affects and emotion if that is where a person wants to go, but I must invite coachees to intervene when I push too hard to the practical.