I have lost count the times that senior executives, when they have finally understood what coaching can be and deliver to their organisations (okay: in my terms!), say “but can’t we call it something else”.  This is because the practice of coaching has been devalued through being overly associated with the learning and performance agenda and divorced from the travails of day-to-day business life and, critically, performance.

I recently sat with a senior executive in a large, global financial institution.  Social niceties being complete I asked why he was interested in coaching.  He was too sophisticated to say that he had been ‘sent’ but it soon became clear that whatever the interest was it was not all that great!  After a while he put forward that he had been told that he had some ‘development issues’, particularly about how he managed his team.  At some point the word ‘bully’ was mentioned.  Something struck me as inconsistent: here was this reserved, polite, intelligent individual, as far as I could make out at least as self-aware as the most of us.  I asked

“Are you a bully?”

The response was immediate and one of genuine horror

“No”.  I saw his eyes, his physical response; I believed him.

“So tell me, what is you job; what are you here to achieve?”

Interestingly he was not expecting that question from a coach (!?) but answered anyway.  He described his role and the goals.  It was big, global and complex.

“So,” I asked, “is that easily achievable, a slam-dunk?”

“Absolutely not.  Much of it I have no idea how to approach.”

“If the coaching was focussed on supporting you in delivering the goals you have would that be interesting?”

His eyes said it all

“Okay, and in this context if we need to look at how you work with your team we will.”

(as an aside, as a matter of professionalism I always talk with others in the organisation, not just the player (coachee if you must), to make sure that I am not operating from a single perspective)

I would dearly like to call coaching something else but I thing the word is here to stay.  Meanwhile the work with Tim Gallwey (author of The Inner Game series of books) continues apace – more on this soon.  And maybe we can define a model of coaching that address ‘performance, learning and enjoyment’.

The third Chapter of ‘The Sessions’ is out next week (week commencing the 20th June)