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My Inward Journey - Reflections of a Coach



Unfolding the Learning Curve-The Inward Introspection

"Coaching is all about having someone believe in you and encourage you, about getting valuable feedback, about seeing things from new perspectives and setting your sights on new horizons." - Anonymous.

That is what the International Coaching Week that kicked off on 16th May 2016 was about. This year's theme was 'Peer Triad Coaching,' an interesting process for exploration and self-development. Peer Triad Coaching as the name suggests is a process wherein Triads (groups of three persons) are formed with one person playing a coach, the second a coachee and the third an observer. After each session of thirty to forty minutes, the participants change roles, with each one playing all the three roles in rotation. The purpose is to obtain feedback from each other to enhance the effectiveness of coaching of each participant and enrich the coach's working style by sharing observation and best practices. This article shares my experience of Peer Triad Coaching and my learning there from. It also attempts to explore on what made this particular intervention unique and its dynamism that enabled self- learning and introspection, which is essential for growth of an individual, especially as a coach.

Key Learnings:
Some learnings that unfolded during the two days are as follows:

  • We should operate by being flexible, open, and by being fully present with the client.
  • Coaches need not always know or have the answers. It is a partnership with the client & they facilitate the process of reframing perspectives and gaining new insights.
  • When necessary, the coach goes with the flow with the client.

The Onset of the Process:

It is interesting that whilst, we all follow competencies during our coaching sessions, we seldom have a chance of getting open feedback from the client or have someone observe us in action. "The International Coaching Week Peer Triad Coaching" enabled that for the coaches of the ICF Mumbai Chapter with a three-way communication that helped enrich the coach's working style by sharing of observations and best practices. This article shares my experience of the Peer Triad coaching and what emerged as learning for me there from.

The Discovery:

The Triad coaching session began with the Relationship(i.e., establishing trust, ethical and professional standards, managing progress and accountability) and Purpose(i.e., coaching agreement, creating awareness, planning and goal-setting) being smoothly and interchangeably managed. The coaching presence was also demonstrated. However, somewhere in the conversation, I got disengaged as the client went on rambling about a challenge and the story made me wander off momentarily. That moment of disengagement impacted the Intention (i.e., coaching presence, active listening, questioning, etc.) that was required of me throughout the session. This feedback that I got from the observer made me do introspection and set me thinking on the following:

  • What exactly was happening in terms of understanding the different energies at play and how they can impact the internal thought process?
  • How it was important to make sense of the situation by checking assumptions, significance and implications that I had learnt from my past sessions to apply in this session.

The WHY of the Learning:

It made me do soul searching of how I had just jumped into this session instead of taking time to do probing as in my earlier coaching sessions. It made me question the why and think on what I can do to make my next session different and more impactful.
The realization that emerged was that here when I saw the client not able to come up with a solution, I was unknowingly leading the client to a solution to help arrive at their desired outcome. This happened due to the pressure of finishing the session within thirty to forty minutes.

The HOW-Unfurling - the Process:

Once I had understood the why, the how to go about it differently was as follows: Understanding new findings, unlearning for real lessons in the growth
My Insights or 'aha' moments came when I realized, post the feedback from the observer that somewhere I had got involved with the client's challenge at hand. Although certain competencies were demonstrated, the listening did not happen in depth and that is how the effectiveness got compromised. This understanding got me thinking on the following:

  • What was it around me that made me miss out on the deep and active listening that is crucial for any coaching engagement's success? Why did I shift to passive mode? - Understanding the situation.

  • Was there a conversation going on internally in my mind to assist the client? If so was it helpful or deterring to the process of assisting the client? - New findings in this session.

  • How is this story that the client is sharing moving her forward or increasing the self-awareness needed for arriving at the solution? If it is not helping her grow/reach the desired goal, then it is time to interrupt with direct communication and ask them relevant questions to enable the outcome they want. - Unlearning for new enablement.

  • Am I enabling the discovery journey? For a client who does not like to open up easily or is not able to see the solution that is right there in front of them, the coach should accept the situation, build more trust, sensitivity and create sufficient space and comfort zone for the client to be able to facilitate gentle but deeper exploration. - That was the real lesson.

  • What is needed is Active Listening to also hear what is not directly said. That is exactly what the observer noted that I missed out on this important competency. What could I do to avoid a similar situation in future? - Moving forward i.e. Growth.

The WHAT: - Top 2 Insights:

As coaches we have to keep practicing and sharpening the saw. We should be open to unlearning for learning just like one needs to empty a cup before refilling it again. This intervention made me realise the following:

  • How do I increase my self-awareness as a coach and also learn from observing other coaching styles, equally effective in arriving at desired outcomes by the client? Playing the three roles of coach, coachee and observer in rotation helped me tore-visit the ICF Core Competencies and to get the answer to the above question. After each session, the coach should reflect on what went right and what could be done differently to make the coaching sessions more transformational and relevant for future engagements.
  • In this case coaching presence was compromised because I was focused on the outcome. Empathy plays an important role in coaching but one should not get carried away with the client's story and continue to probe, and flow with the conversation.

The client's story is important, as it contains the essential elements that the client needs coaching around. As coaches, we provide them with

  • a safe place to vent and explore how exactly they feel.
  • time and space to replay, reflect and work things out in their mind.
  • scope to work through their thoughts sequentially with clarity on priorities and road ahead as envisioned by them.

Conclusion:

I end with a quotation, "You cannot teach a man anything. You can only help him discover it in himself." Galileo Galilei.
It helped me understand what I know and what I do not know, what is needed to move from 'Conscious competence' to 'Unconscious competence' in the journey of being a coach. That is what differentiates and makes one a seasoned coach who has experienced different client palates and adapted to suit their speed, agility and comfort in the journey covered as partner.

Note: I extend my heartfelt thanks and gratitude to all my peer coaches in the Peer Triad, who deserve a special mention here. This article would not have been possible without the learnings I got from them. My sincere thanks to each coach who participated in the International Coaching Week. Being open to learning from every interaction and every situation has helped me immensely to grow both as an individual as well as a coach.

Parineeta Mehra is an ICF certified and Marshall Goldsmith certified executive coach. She is also a facilitator and trainer with leadership experience in global financial services, retail, including positions in sales, customer service, and business management. She led a corporate-wide culture transformation initiative for a BFSI company - a pivotal experience which ignited her passion for helping organizations grow towards tapping their unlimited potential optimally.
As an executive coach and facilitator/trainer, she has worked with organizations in areas of leadership development and personal reconstruct programs for middle and senior managers. Her strength lies in understanding the behavioural dimensions of work and enhancing people effectiveness across Industries. She calls herself a keen learner, who ensures that she presents the most relevant solutions to her clients at all time.

This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of Parineeta Mehra: mehraparineeta@gmail.com

Disclaimer:
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of the International Coach Federation (ICF). This article on the ICF Mumbai website does not equate to an ICF endorsement or guarantee of the products or services provided by the author.