Home Concepts Best Practices What Is Coaching? What Isn’t Coaching? Where are the Boundaries?

What Is Coaching? What Isn’t Coaching? Where are the Boundaries?

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Again, we turned to the internet to ask coaches to use our list of 80 items to describe an imagined, typical mid-engagement coaching session, putting each item into a bucket ranging from “most characteristic” of a session to “most uncharacteristic”. Using a set of techniques called “Q methodology”, 41 participants from 5 countries sorted the list of items online after which the researchers used a form of factor analysis across participants to see whether we could identify sub-groups of participants who described their way of coaching as similar to other coaches in the sub-group and as different from the coaching described by coaches in other sub-groups.

After analyzing the results, no clear subgroups could be identified. Although, of course, there was not complete agreement about the ranking of the 80 items, there appeared to be relatively strong consensus among the 41 participants about which items were most and least characteristic of a typical coaching session.

These items / themes were considered most characteristic:
• A focus on the client’s agenda, not the agenda of the coach or of a third-party
• The coach pays attention to the client’s overall goals and goals for the session
• A sense of optimism empathy and rapport
• A focus on exploration, including “questions to open new possibilities” for the client and, for many, an exploration of the client’s mindset (beliefs and assumptions) and values, as well as an exploration of the client’s resources (e.g., strengths, accomplishments, and/or external resources) and, to some degree, of the deeper meaning of a presenting issue

These items / themes were considered to be least characteristic:
• Advice giving
• Helping the client to deepen his or her emotions
• Exploring the client’s “apparent defensiveness” or “unconscious motives”
• The coach sharing his or her own feelings and bodily sensations that are evoked during the session
• The coach is verbose, uses an intervention mechanistically, coach and/or client interrupt one another

We chose to use the full list of 80 items for this pilot, although some of the items are likely to be more useful when used to describe an actual coaching session. The advantage of using the full list, particularly when items are sorted or ranked in comparison to one another, is that these results could be more easily compared to results based on using the same 80 items to describe actual coaching sessions. The disadvantage to using the full list is that items such as “coach is verbose” or “coach appears to be using an intervention mechanistically”, while potentially important in describing an actual session, are likely to be ranked as least characteristic by nearly all coaches when they describe an imagined, typical session.

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