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Eclectic Coaching and the Dangers of a One-Model Approach

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As I gained confidence in my role as an enabler and partner to my client’s development and growth, I became less attached to the label of my therapeutic modality. Over time I learned that counselling and therapy is not about me but it is about my client. It’s only as an expert and specialist that I depend wholly on my toolbox of fancy gadgets which can quickly become a straightjacket my client needs to fit into. This can lead me into the danger of ritualistically following the coaching and I feel job well done when my client ends up speaking the same language as me!

This is my unease with the many new coaching programmes which have captured an obvious gap in the market. Many coaching companies teach their coaches, sometimes in a crash course a set of tools and techniques which become the branded way of coaching. These coaches struggle to work effectively and confidently outside this branded approach and inevitably make disciples of their coachees in that particular brand of coaching.

What is essential in my view is a solid grounding in behavioural understanding. I’m not advocating all coaches become psychologists but at least to have a fundamental grasp of human behaviour so that any model or approach is contextualised and understood as a small part of making sense of human complexity. If all you have is a hammer, then everything becomes a nail. If all you have is a template, then that becomes the lens of the world, people and growth. Even the most experienced therapists will acknowledge that they are often stumped with the mystery of human behaviour. This is a good place to be as a coach, where we regard each of our coachees as people created in the image of God, on a journey, into which they have invited us to join them. We serve our coachees not our brand.

Professor David Clutterbuck in his article, ‘The Liberated Coach’ who has co-authored 14 coaching books and has trained coaches over many years observes that there is a danger in a one-model-approach to coaching. He has seen how coaching can become mechanistic; critical cues to the client context are missed or ignored and the client can easily become manipulated to fit the coach’s agenda. He observes how many coaches religiously follow the simplistic GROW model and are unable or unaware of what is happening in the life of the coachee at that present time. Clutterbuck makes a useful comparison of four levels of coaching maturity in coaching conversations, described as follows:

Coaching approach Style Critical Questions
Models-based Control How do I take them where I think they need to go?
Process-based Contain How do I give enough control to the client and still   retain a purposeful conversation?
Philosophy-based Facilitate How do I contextualise the clients issue within the   perspective of my philosophy or discipline?
Managed-eclectic Enable Are we both relaxed enough to allow the issue and   the solution to emerge in whatever way they will?Do I need to apply any techniques or processes at   all?
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