Earlier today, we participated in a Twitter Q & A session on the topic of careers in coaching and how the coaching profession has progressed in terms of career offerings. The following is the questions and my answers (which you can also find on my Twitter handle @StoutRostron, following the hashtag #Coach2Career):
Q1 Life coach; executive coach; relationship coach – many different specialisations, but what is a coach?
What you do as a coach is to help coachees to reconstruct client thoughts and feelings to gain perspective and become self-directed learners. The coach is a thinking and feeling partner because executives no longer have time to think. The role of the coach is to get leaders into a learning mindset.
A coach’s job isn’t to fix clients, , or to give answers that the coachee and team need to find for themselves. A coach’s job is to challenge the coachee’s thinking, to make observations on their behaviour and the way they engage with the world.
Coaches observe how others experience their coachee and the coachee begins to notice how others are experiencing them out in the world. Robert Hargrove (2003) says a coach is something that you “be” – meaning that coaches need to work more with the tacit dimension. The tacit dimension focuses on how to be in the relationship – rather than referring to the skills and competences of you as coach – or even what you do in the coaching conversation.
Q2 What are the many different career opportunities for coaches?
There is a vast array – one possibility is to consult externally to organisations/institutions:
- Working as an internal coach in an organisation with a deep understanding of the organisational culture.
- Being trained as a feedback coach in an organisation for those who are new to the profession.
- Becoming a coach researcher – and helping to develop the knowledge base for coaches.
- Working as staff for one of the professional bodies of coaching round the world.
- Working as a part-time coach in a professional suite of coaches – the agency finds you the work.
- Running your own business as an external coach.
- Teaching on one of the many master’s and certification education programmes for coaches in South Africa.
- If you are employed, developing a coaching approach to your managerial style.
Q3 How does the coaching approach differ from the counselling approach?
Therapy and counselling are about healing – and coaching is about learning from your experience. The coaching conversation is about learning from your own experience and finding your own inner wisdom.
A coach often acts as a sounding board, using question frameworks and coaching models to help the leader work out solutions to specific issues. Coach and client reflect on the client’s experience and behaviours, devising new thinking, feeling, behaviours and actions.
Counselling is a form of help and support for people troubled by emotional trauma or other personal challenges. Counselling involves sympathetic listening and a modicum of advice, usually on a short-term basis, typically in response to a particular event or concern. Counselling generally deals with the personal side of a leader’s life, including such issues as bereavement, divorce, substance abuse or dependence.
Q4 What is on the horizon for the profession of coaching? (future trends)
For the foreseeable future, it looks as if coaching will continue to “professionalize”. There are five core areas for the future of business coaching. They are: professionalisation; mastery of practice; education and development of coaches; coaching research; and coaching and society.
The role of research is to determine the competences necessary to educate and develop coaches. Most importantly to create a definition of coaching that the global coaching community will accept. The new and innovative context worldwide is not just for academic researchers to contribute to relevant evidence-based practice, but also for coach practitioners and leaders within organisations to contribute to the development of self-reflective practice and practitioner research.
Q5 How can coaching help South Africans embrace diversity?
Diversity generally refers to policies and practices that seek to include people who are considered, in some way, different from traditional members. More centrally, diversity aims to create an inclusive culture that values and uses the talents of all would-be members. It has become critically important for business coaches to understand the impact of diversity on team performance, co-operation and conflict. A key question is how diversity within groups/teams can be developed as a ‘productive asset rather than becoming a source of conflict and prejudice’. This is where the coach has a role to play.
There has been a rethink of the language defining diversity, where the word ‘diversity’ is being replaced with the term ‘inclusion’. The concept of inclusion means removing barriers that prevent employees from using their full range of skills and competencies at work. Inclusion is ‘the extent to which individuals can access information and resources, are involved in workgroups, and have ability to influence decision-making.
Some organizations now develop programmes and initiatives which include employee participation, communication strategies, and community relations. Research into workgroup performance suggests that ‘mixed-composition workgroups can improve group performance. This is by providing a wider range of perspectives and a broader skills base.
Q6 How is technology changing careers in coaching?
Many coaches now facilitate the coaching conversation using Skype or something similar. This enables coaches to work with coachees round the globe. Therefore many coaches are qualifying as coaches who will never see a client face to face! Also some coaches work simply by email and answer their clients questions via email.
There is no research yet to show whether this is beneficial or detrimental to the coachee. However, due to research into texting and emails, they are the least valuable form of communication. We need to research the impact on the depth of coaching via technology.
Q7 How does training of coaches have to adapt to accommodate new and future coaching careers?
In developing their own integrative approaches to coaching, coaches should consider their own experience and training based on career trends. It would be useful to choose theoretical models that will suit a wide range of clients. We will always need to prepare future generations to take on leadership roles, training supervisors and managers to move up the corporate ladder.
We need to help executives to do more with less resources, time and skills, engaging their employees to create a trusting and transparent workplace culture. We always need to harness the “systemic” issues or “systemic” trends that are emerging so that “silo” coaching does not become the norm.