Summary: This article discusses what coaching is and what clients can expect. Coaching is a particular form of collaboration between a trained coach and a client to bring about change in the client’s life. The coach’s role is to design the process and the individual sessions. The coach will likely address specific themes in the process that will allow the client to know better themselves, their needs, inner hurdles, and their vision. Studies have shown that coaching has a significantly positive impact on numerous aspects of human life – from general well-being to coping with crises and having a sense of purpose. Yet, whether coaching is for you must be determined not only through research but, above all, through practical testing.
hen it comes to coaching or our platform Narra, we often see questioning faces. So in this article, we try to answer the core questions around coaching, such as: What is coaching? How does it work? What is the goal? And, does it really work?
What is coaching?
Coaching is a form of collaboration between a coach and a client, which serves to help the client master a shift in their life. For this purpose, the coach provides a space solely focused on the coachee and their desired change. This space must be safe and free of judgment for the client to express all their thoughts and feelings openly.
Besides holding the space, the coach shapes the overall process and individual sessions. Their design proves functional when it enables the client to overcome stagnation and progress on challenging matters.
How does coaching work?
Coaching is comparable to a navigation process, like when you use Google maps. The client wants to get to a specific destination, and the coach acts as a navigation system. By asking specific questions and initiating exercises, they guide the client to places that promise new insights.
Coaches are often said to guide by asking questions simply. However, this falls short of what they do. Coaches can only effectively accompany clients to their goals if they apply active listening. By active listening, they can derive their questions from a deeper understanding of the client and their circumstances. Coaches will pay attention to your choice of words and your emotions and body postures. They are “listening to understand” rather than “listening to hear” or “listening to respond”1.
Communication researcher Haesun Moon has watched countless hours of recorded coaching sessions to find: Coaches regularly steer the conversation towards themes that can be mapped on a four-field matrix. The X-axis represents time, and the Y-axis represents desirability (see below)2.
In each of these four fields, there lies an opportunity for the client:
Opportunity to understand what one really needs and wants
Chance to recognize what distinguishes oneself and what one has already accomplished
Chance to overcome burdensome experiences, moods, and beliefs
Opportunity to vent and defuse one’s worries and fears
What is the goal?
The coaching process is all about the transformation the client desires. However, the experience also holds other possibilities, of which coachees are not always aware. For example, coached individuals get to know themselves better, which enables effective self-care and strengthens mental health.
Just as one’s relationship with oneself can change, one’s relationship with other things or people often needs to be redefined to reach challenging personal goals. In this context, coaching can contribute to a so-called subject-object shift3, through which we can externalize problems. In effect, we no longer see them as a part of who we are but as challenges outside of us that we can tackle.
At the end of a coaching process, clients should be able to say: “I know me better now. I am aware of why I act this way. I feel ready to make a change”. When this is the case, the guided conversations have led to discovery, awareness, and choice4.
Does it really work?
Studies5 – including initial meta-studies – show that coaching has multiple positive effects. For example, it increases clients’ well-being, makes them more aware of their strengths, and helps them achieve personal goals. Coaches were also able to help clients cope with challenges and transitions. In addition, the observed population more often lived in harmony with their values, resulting in an increased sense of purpose.
The mechanisms assumed behind these positive phenomena are increased self-reflection and more effective self-management. Since these remain present beyond the coaching process and become personal resources of the coachee, there is a lasting positive effect.
Our conclusion: Take a leap
Of course, coaching is not a solution for everything. It does not help everyone and not in every situation. Nevertheless, we are convinced that this Finish proverb applies to coaching: Who jumps into cold water, dives into a sea of possibilities. So, we are pleased when Narra can facilitate the first step toward this sea.
- Co-Active Training Institute in article “The Three Levels of Listening”
- Haesun Moon in book «Coaching A – Z»
- Robert Kegan in books «The Evolving Self» and «In over our Heads»
- Adapted from Henry & Karen Kimsey-House, Phillip Sandahl & Laura Whitworth in book «Co-Active Coaching»
- For example, Tim Theeboom, Bianca Beersma, Annelies Van Vianen in article «Does coaching work? A meta-analysis on the effects of coaching on individual level outcomes in an organizational context» and Erin Lehfals-Davis, Levi Huffman, Jackie Stancil and Alexandra Alayan in article «The Impact of Life Coaching on Undergraduate Students: A Multiyear Analysis of Coaching Outcomes»