In our previous post we talked about The Socialization of Coaching and why we think this is necessary to bring some balance to the world of coaching. This balance is about bringing more of a social approach to coaching while still holding on to the best of what the psychological approach brings.
One of the foundations of the psychological approach is an objective analysis of the coachee and a determination, based on this analysis of what changes the coachee should make in order to meet the goals of the coaching work. Typically the assumption is that once the analysis is complete a pathway can be mapped out that should produce the desired result as long as the coachee moves along this pathway. There are 2 key reasons why this approach is declining, not only in effectiveness but in acceptance by coachees.
- The analysis typically takes too much of an individual approach and does not take enough account of context and the response of others.
- Coachees now have enough information available to them about the tools and process the coach is working with that they question the validity of an analysis.
When the analysis is over focused on the individual it assumes that the individual is primarily responsible for and in control of the scenario they find themselves. As coaches we all know just how important it is for changes that a coachee makes to be accepted by those they work with. This means the context is critically important to the work. The coachee knows this as well.
An attempt to analyze this broader context or scenario quickly becomes very, very complex and usually highly ineffective. As a coach the best things you can do are some level of analysis and then immerse yourself in the scenario and see what emerges. Your expertise, experience and very presence make a difference here, you are not just sitting around and seeing what happens, you are actively engaged in the process of trying to change multiple patterns of interaction. In this way, analysis declines and immersion increases.
The challenge with the second point is that most analysis in coaching still follows a therapeutic assumption. Keep in mind that we are not all that far away from executives entering through the back door of the place where they were going to get help because there was ‘something wrong with them’ and this should not be public knowledge. The ‘something wrong with them’ was often diagnosable from a therapeutic and perhaps even clinical perspective. And when this is the case the ‘problem’ does cut across context; a person with a diagnosis of depression is depressed across almost all of the contexts and scenarios they find themselves in.
Most of the people who access coaching now are not really diagnosable anymore! They have a performance problem, they need to emphasize strengths, they need to stop being a jerk, they need to learn how to coach better, be a better strategic thinker and a whole host of things that are highly dependent on the context and on others responding to the changes made. And our coachees know this; quite frequently better than the coach!
If you are trying to ‘sell’ an analysis to a coachee now there is a good likelihood you will be met with a healthy skepticism if not outright rejection. Most of us have read enough of the self-help books and other resources that we pretty much know what our challenges are and are not nearly as open as we used to be with someone telling us what we need to do to get better. Coachees now want someone who will be ‘in there with them’, trying to make meaning of what is happening, being both objective and subjective at the same time and to be honest with their perspectives rather than their ‘answers’.
As the effectiveness and acceptance of diagnosis declines in the coaching world the need for immersion and transparency increases. So does the need for coaching designs that are broader than the individual in their scope and recognize that as scope increases so does the complexity of the work and the inherent uncertainty that comes with this complexity.
Three ways of how to design and engage in coaching that has more balance between the psychological and social were listed in our last post. If you are striving for more of this balance, what have you tried?
Author – Tom