Awareness in Coaching

Ram Ramanathan  •  Jul 23, 2021  •  14 min read

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Awareness in Coaching

This article is part of the No Holds Barred weekly column by Ram Ramanathan. It’s based on questions we receive during our weekly webinars.


Rahul Kumar 

In a couple of Coaching conversations, when I explored deeper into the root cause of the Coachee’s current behavior we figured out that there is something in the childhood of the Coachee which was not pleasant and is leading to the current behavior. For eg one Coachee mentioned that her mother was very strict, rude, and demanding with her and if she was unable to complete tasks as per her instructions or expectations she was ridiculed, insulted, and felt rejected all the time. Now in her current workplace whenever she gets instruction from her boss, her immediate instinct is to get that thing done irrespective of anything else due to the same fear of rejection. If she needs help from other teams to revert to her boss she would expect them to take up her request first and leave everything else. This approach has impacted her relationship with her co-workers as she comes out as insensitive to their situation to meet her objective.

My questions:

 1) I wanted to understand how should the Coach handle this awareness and use it to the Coachee’s advantage? Since these are deep-rooted old issues inside the Coachee would the mere awareness of it or realization of it in the coaching session help the Coachee get past it? What would be the most effective way for handling this for a better outcome?

2) I had another instance of coaching a friend and he wanted help to improve his relationship with his wife. In the reality stage of Coaching, I could gather so many points wherein I knew my friend was looking at the situation from only his point of view and hence always thought he is right. I had the real urge to advise and make him see the full picture however that’s not the right way. It’s like the writing is on the wall and still, the Coachee is unable or unwilling to see it. How can such situations be handled?  

3) What are the various ways of collecting feedback from the Coachee? Since in this case the feedback would be sought directly by the Coach from the Coachee it’s highly likely to be measured. Are there any best practices to get honest feedback maybe through some indirect questions( for people like me who can take it :-))

4) Post Coaching follow up: I understand the basic assumption of Coaching wherein we believe the Coachee is capable and responsible for using the Coaching output to her best advantage and it’s her responsibility. Successful business leaders are indeed driven and motivated enough to use the results of successful Coaching to their ultimate advantage. However, in the case of Internal coaching in organizations, the target population being Coached is quite vast, diverse, and not necessarily at the senior management level. Given this background, it’s not necessary that each person is resourceful and determined enough to follow through with the coaching outcome to make real tangible changes for herself. The fear is the awareness may get lost too soon or the Coachee does not hold on to it as clearly as it was during the coaching session.


Ram

Dear Rahul, 


Question 1

I wanted to understand how should the Coach handle this awareness and use it to the Coachee’s advantage? Since these are deep-rooted old issues inside the Coachee would the mere awareness of it or realization of it in the coaching session help the Coachee get past it? What would be the most effective way for handling this for a better outcome?

Invalidation is the commonest coaching issue I encounter. It is disguised in multiple ways: lack of confidence; fear of failure; fear of success; fear of delegation; aggressive behavior; relationship and commitment issues; and as in this case inability to get along with others. 

Creating awareness of this and other coaching issues is often the easy part. This is why many amateur coaches claim they can do 20-minute laser coaching. The coach can easily lead the clients and convince them that what the coach alludes to is the issue, and if you’ve some idea go deeper into regression. Both are dangerous and do not serve the client.

A strict mother may not be the root cause of invalidation. Does everyone who has a strict parent or caregiver become invalidated? Do the other siblings bring up by the same caregivers exhibit similar symptoms, even assuming the client was the victim of not being a favorite? The root cause analysis of going back into the past through regression and reframing the past is not the coach’s profession, it is the therapist’s, and is unethical in coaching.

The client’s issue of placing the boss above others is common to most people and is commonsensical. Why should it be because of invalidation and rejection? Whose story is this, of the coach or client? Even if it’s the client who came up with this, a good coach would ask, ‘how is disregarding the colleagues serving or not serving you?’ Is what colleagues ask higher priority than what the boss does? Are they passing on work they are supposed to do? If not, what’s the problem with saying no? Is their rejection driving the client’s discomfort? If what the colleagues ask is a high priority to the work, and the boss is impacted by a delay, has the client checked with the boss as to what the priority is? Is the client’s problem one of not being able to say no? 

Not being able to say is a symptom of invalidation. Coach does not have to execute fancy footwork to discover root causes. Inquiring to reveal limiting beliefs is enough. In this case, it may be the inability to say no. No need to go deeper. Address this issue. 

Many people follow the 2×2 matrix of Covey without questioning. It’s an erroneous model. Everyone knows that what’s important & urgent is critical, and what’s not important and not urgent is trash. You don’t need an expert to tell you this. Coming to what is urgent but not important, Covey says delegate. Why? Why waste other people’s time? How can anything not important become urgent? Perhaps an act of god or perhaps because the person requesting is important. Both then become important and perhaps urgent. Most often we accede to inane requests from others for fear of saying no and being rejected. Stop this behavior. Time management is about 2 columns, not 4 boxes. Important and Urgent & Important and not Urgent. 80% of what one does can be planned leaving 20% to unanticipated urgent and also important. Next time a colleague asks dog or cat sit, and if you’ve better things to do, say no, or if the relationship is very important, pay for a dog sitter. Teach this to clients in a coaching way. It’s allowed and possible.

A model that greatly helps with invalidation is to reframe using Seligman’s ABCDE model of Positive Psychology. Do read Learned Optimism and practice. You don’t need to attend a program unless you can afford to attend Seligman’s.

    

Question 2

I had another instance of coaching a friend and he wanted help to improve his relationship with his wife. In the reality stage of Coaching, I could gather so many points wherein I knew my friend was looking at the situation from only his point of view and hence always thought he is right. I had the real urge to advise and make him see the full picture however that’s not the right way. It’s like the writing is on the wall and still, the Coachee is unable or unwilling to see it. How can such situations be handled?  

You may be right and you may be wrong. Who knows? All of us including you and I look at things from our lenses, however much we may wish to believe we are unbiased. Asking your friend to say what his wife thinks is not advice, it’s exploration. Coaches can do that. But to make it effectively learn the process of Perceptual Position in NLP, and what Gestalt calls Empty Chair, and Coacharya teaches as OLAA. Coaches can use this process with client permission to uncover unconscious biases.  

The best approach in such situations is to coach both together if they agree. Then it becomes mediation, which is very powerful. If one of them doesn’t agree then you can figure out where the problem starts.

This approach is true in all cases in which 2 or more people conflict. They need to be brought together in a systemic approach. They need to understand how each impacts the other individually and collectively. Approaches such as Constellation, Polarities, Crucial Conversations, etc. also help in all such cases. 


Question 3

What are the various ways of collecting feedback from the Coachee? Since in this case the feedback would be sought directly by the Coach from the Coachee it’s highly likely to be measured. Are there any best practices to get honest feedback maybe through some indirect questions( for people like me who can take it :-))

Self-certification that you can take honest and direct feedback may come to haunt you. No one, but no one likes critical and demeaning feedback, however authentic and factual. A coach’s feedback is always constructive, with conditional positive regard, empathetic and generative. One can be direct and authentic so long as these conditions are met. 

Feedback presupposes an agreement or contract on what is expected of each other in a transaction. The absence of such a contract is what mostly leads to bad feedback, which is based on one-sided assumptions. Whether at work or life the mantra is Always Be Contracting. This is the ABC of the coaching approach and is essential to high performance. This applies to coaching as well. The coaching competency framework can be applied to seek what the client gained in the session and journey in alignment with what was expected. It’s just that simple. 

The importance of feedback in the workspace and also in the living space is highly underestimated. There are 5 levels of feedback.

  • There is no mutually agreed contract on what each expects of the other. In this day and age, this is unacceptable. This was the practice when slavery was accepted. All other levels are based on a mutual contract of expectations.
  • Feedback giver tells the recipient that she/he is no good. This happens in a large number of cases. This is inhumane. People practicing this approach should not be in any leadership position.
  • Feedback giver tells the recipient their work is no good, with no context and reference to contacted expectations. This is unacceptable in any organizations
  • The first level of acceptable feedback is to relate it to a contract, praise what has been achieved well, and point out where performance can be improved.
  • The coaching style of feedback is to ask the other person who they have performed, where they have done well and where they feel they can improve, and what help they need from the feedback giver and the organization. This helps create engagement and loyalty to the organization. In my experience, 80% of people tend to judge themselves more critically and rate themselves lower. In the remaining 20%, the feedback giver has a choice to make. 

 

Question 4

Post Coaching follow up: I understand the basic assumption of Coaching wherein we believe the Coachee is capable and responsible for using the Coaching output to her best advantage and it’s her responsibility. Successful business leaders are indeed driven and motivated enough to use the results of successful Coaching to their ultimate advantage. However, in the case of Internal coaching in organizations, the target population being Coached is quite vast, diverse, and not necessarily at the senior management level. Given this background, it’s not necessary that each person is resourceful and determined enough to follow through with the coaching outcome to make real tangible changes for herself. The fear is the awareness may get lost too soon or the Coachee does not hold on to it as clearly as it was during the coaching session.

Given that an Organisation is spending time and resources to Coach a large population, my personal view is if the Coaches develop a method of follow up for say once every month for 6 months maybe that helps cement the learning with the Coachee and makes the coaching intervention helpful for the organization as well. Don’t want it to end like another 2-3 day training in a 5-star resort whose results are hardly measured and felt.

I know what I am saying is not the duty of the Coach but why not assume an extra duty to make the intervention more meaningful and truly transformative. I would want to know your views on the above and if it’s already done in the Industry then what are the best ways to do this?  

In any coaching intervention of a leader, organizations make multiple assumptions. Some of these are 

  1. Line Managers, HR, and the Organization overall know what’s good for the leader, less than in half the cases these being confirmed through professional psychometric assessment.
  2. In all such cases, there is a behavioral and/or performance change needed, and this is assumed to be developmental and not remedial.
  3. The shift in behavior will benefit the individual and therefore, the organization, though no one has a clue how and has measurement metrics.
  4. Individual coaching is the best way to tackle the perceived problem, though there is no evidence; on the contrary, there is evidence that individual interventions in behavioral/performance shifts do not sustain.

There are many more in how coaches are selected, for how long and at what frequency of interaction, etc. In addition, there is the issue of who is best suited as a coach, the internal leader or an external coach. To some of these, there are no clear-cut answers and to some there are. The problem is that the coaching industry is built to serve itself, the credentialing bodies, and the coaches, despite the credo of serving the clients first. What works for the coach is what is recommended, most of the time.

Facts are

  1. There is no measurement possible to evidence individual coaching to organizational benefits. The so-called ROI of coaching is indirect and not real. My observation, confirmed with several coaches, is that almost 50% of those coaches regress or resign, even though they have benefited from the coaching, providing very little value to the organization that pays the bill. 
  2. There is evidence that when coaching is systemic, covering individuals and teams they work with, with clearly defined, communicated and structured goals, provides great benefits. Read about Project Aristotle & Oxygen of Google, Culture Code by Dan Coyle, and blogs on Coacharya.
  3. A coaching culture built into the organization through group coaching on areas of performance feedback, collaboration, delegation, a coach communication through generative listening to create awareness has been evidenced to benefit the organization measurably. These interventions, which are a blend of coaching, training, mentoring, facilitation, etc are democratic in the sense they are affordable to a larger community of leaders, not only to the elite.
  4. What stands in the way of a systemic and collective approach to coaching is the ego of senior leaders who do not wish to be coached together. Question to ask them: If you cannot be coached together, how can you work together? What are you afraid of? 
  5. Internal coaching is the way to go by training more leaders in the coaching approach and skills. Some organizations are doing this now. What needs to be kept in mind is that external coaches are required to deal with issues that leaders may not be comfortable with working with an internal employee as a coach. 
  6. It’s possible to train and coach leaders across the organization at a reasonable cost and reasonable time to help them sustain the process on their own through self-coaching and help others through peer coaching. This can be done in 15 hours over 3 months, integrated with action learning, so that the awareness created is actioned upon and anchored, both individually and collectively.

A lot of other questions were answered during the past 2 webinars. Watch the full video below, or on our YouTube Channel.

Coaching Questions You’re Too Afraid To Ask

Questions you are too afraid to ask part-2

If you have a question that you want an answer to, please feel free to fill up this 2-minute survey.

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Ram Ramanathan

Ram

Ram is the Founder and a Principal at Coacharya. As the resident Master and mentor coach, Ram oversees and conducts all aspects of coaching and training services offered under the Coacharya banner.

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