Written by Yushida Yusuf
- Demonstrates Ethical Practice
In my coaching journey thus far, I have discovered many misconceptions as to what coaching is. Many equate it to training and teaching, some defined it as guiding or telling people what to do. I take it upon me to clearly articulate and define what coaching truly is versus mentoring, teaching, training, lecturing, counselling among others, at any opportunity I have.
In my capacity as an internal Executive Coach of the organisation, in addition to abiding myself to the Organisational Code of Ethics and Conduct as an employee of a financial institution, I also need to abide by the ICF Code of Ethics. Most of my Coachees are my fellow colleagues and peers, and they are my internal customers. We have a policy called ‘KYC, i.e Know Your Customers’, in our interactions, and this also applies when I conduct my coaching conversations which is further reinforced when demonstrating our corporate core values upholding Teamwork, Integrity, Growth, Efficiency and Relationship Building.
- Embodies A Coaching Mindset
As a normal human being, I have my own perceptions, beliefs and prejudices. Juggling multiple roles and responsibilities within my workplace, my mind tends to be busy and occupied with numerous priorities. As a Coach I am conscious that I need to minimise all of the hustle and bustle within me so that I can conduct the coaching conversations objectively and enable maximum openness by the Coachee. What I normally do as a ritual before entering any coaching conversation, I would spend a few minutes in a solitary place, just by myself to ‘quieten the noise’ within me and strive to neutralise my thoughts to be as objective and focusing my energy to achieve positive outcomes for the Coachee.
- Establishes & Maintains Agreement
Some of my Coachees were referred to me by their line managers and usually the reason was due to their poor performance and this is where I normally encounter resistance. As opposed to those who voluntarily request to meet up for a coaching session and they are very willing and eager to be coached.
To ease resistance as well as fear, I will start our meeting with small talks to break the ice, warm up to them and start with a few minutes of casual conversations, establishing similarities and commonalities before I explained the context and the overall coaching process.
There are instances where I need to affirm that this is not a ‘bashing nor scolding nor finding fault’ session but instead a session to solution the issues they face and energise them moving forward. Once the Coachees feel relaxed and let their guards down, it became easier for me to reach an agreement on the overall coaching parameters, goals and desired outcomes. Should there be strong objections, I will not exercise force to proceed with the coaching session but leave the decision to the Coachee on whether to proceed or not, even offer to have another round of chat if interested. Otherwise, I would just update the line manager to decide on the next course of action.
- Cultivates Trust & Safety
To cultivate trust and safety over a short period of time can be challenging. Sharing my credentials, namely the professional certifications in training and coaching, would usually help to accelerate the trust building. Otherwise, the Coachee may have doubts in terms of my credibility especially when they know I am from HR, and mistook me for coming from IR and that the conversation is about disciplinary actions.
My normal ritual is to utter the ‘Vegas Rule’ at the beginning of the meet-up, ie ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” which translates into whatever is shared between the both of us, will remain between the both of us. And of course, I say it with so much conviction and sincerity to assure the Coachee that I mean every word.
I believe that cultivating trust and safety is a combination of art and science. The art in demonstrating tough empathy and care throughout the conversation whilst handling vulnerability delicately with tact and grace. I find it also most effective to apply the NLP techniques namely matching, mirroring and pacing to adapt to the Coachee’s communication styles, language and behaviours. This results in the Coachee being more comfortable and safe as they feel the synergy.
- Maintains Presence
For all of us who are multi-tasking tons of priorities, this could pose a great challenge. I believe that my full presence, that is body, heart and mind, is critical to the success of the coaching conversation.
Imagine if I were absent in a particular coaching conversation, which usually entails me being physically with the Coachee but my heart and mind are floating somewhere else such as dwelling about a report that I need to submit, a meeting with the Boss, deciding what is for dinner at home and millions of other thoughts. The Coachee maybe pouring his or her heart out and sharing critical information instrumental to achieving breakthroughs, and I, the Coach, miss out in all of them. And what is worse, not only was I absent but I would be cutting off the Coachee when he or she was sharing, act impatiently, be insensitive and push him or her to end the conversation as I need to rush for the next meeting or task. Being absent just defeats the whole purpose of the coaching.
Hence, it is very critical for me to plan my schedule so that there will not be disruptions nor disturbance during the conversation. As I mentioned earlier, I would time out myself for a few minutes prior to the coaching, so that I could ‘quiet the noise’ within me, heighten my self-awareness, neutralise excessive emotions and prepare myself to be fully present for the coaching. Breathing exercise normally helps and the ritual of ‘emptying my mind’ or think blanks does wonders too.
When I am present, I can be attentive, observant, curious, empathetic and responsive to the Coachee. When I am self-aware, I could compose myself, manage my emotions for calmness and positive energy. And when I am present and self-aware, I can go with the flow, ask meaningful questions, hold space for the Coachee to reflect, ponder and respond to my questions authentically and not just for the sake of answering questions superficially.
Maintaining presence, that is with my body, heart and mind, is therefore critical to enable the next competency.
- Listens Actively
When I am fully present, I listen. I listen to what is being said or verbalised, but more importantly I listen to what is NOT being said but expressed non-verbally.
When I listen effectively, I would be able to call out or sense any hesitation, silent disagreement, supressed emotions, dishonesty and perhaps identify the defining moments that leads to self-realisation, awareness and breakthroughs. For example, when responding to a question I pose, the Coachee may give an elongated or the tone maybe soft and unsure or give a somewhat forced answer that he or she thinks I want to hear, but not what he or she truly means.
When I listen effectively, I would pick up on the ‘forced or unsure’ response and probe further. I would ask back ‘You seem to be hesitating in your response, why is that?’ or ‘you don’t seem to be sure when answering that question, share with me what is going through your mind?’
When I listen actively, I would be able to recap, summarize for clarity, confirm understanding, interject for peculiar observations such as when there are inconsistencies, contradictions, patterns emerging. And by repeating what was said using the Coachee’s own words, sometimes it can hit certain raw nerves especially when the Coachee was sub-conscious of certain choice of words or repeatedly giving the same response which can lead to further revelations. There are moments, when I summarise or recap what the Coachee shared with me, and by hearing what I say, they gain further clarity as to whether they truly mean what they say.
As a Coach, metaphorically I serve as an audio playback so that the Coachee could listen to what they have said through my recap. And I would also weave in my observation and integrate what was being said and NOT said to the Coachee for his or her reflection.
Through active and effective listening, I would be able to ask meaningful questions which would lead to greater awareness and breakthroughs.
- Evokes Awareness
When Coachee’s awareness is evoked and awakened, he or she may arrive at the ‘Aha!’ or that priceless lightbulb moment. This is the turning point to achieve breakthroughs. To arrive at this point, I would tend to probe further and challenge the Coachee to surface what is buried within their minds and surface self-limiting beliefs.
Recently I coached a 56 year old senior leader who is somewhat stuck in his career growth and is feeling defeated and depressed. He repeatedly said he has made a wrong career move and when he wanted to make a career change, he always second guess his decisions attributing to his self-doubt and feeling not good enough, despite knowing exactly what he wants to achieve.
When I asked ‘Who or what is stopping you from getting to where you want to be?’ He paused for a long time and broke down as he came to the realisation and admitted, ‘No one but me. I am my obstacle’. Upon this admission and acknowledgement, we quickly worked through on how he can enable himself instead of disabling or crippling himself, by letting go of his past trauma which has been paralysing and sabotaging him subconsciously. I helped him to draw up his Success Coaching Plan and made it visible for him to chart his path in achieving his big dream.
In another coaching session, I partner with a young manager who wanted to overcome her fear of public speaking. In order for her to excel in her career, she needs to conduct numerous presentations to the Board and top Executives of the organisation. It seems that when she was younger, she represented her primary school as an orator and entered numerous public speaking competition. However, there was one time in a competition where she went blank and could not deliver her speech. She felt deeply embarrassed, felt she has failed her teachers and her school and that the audience was laughing at her. It was a traumatising moment which has erased all the other great presentations she has successfully conducted previously, and scarred her ever since.
I proceeded to ask her to describe one successful presentation she has performed. It seems that years after the traumatising incident, she continued to represent her secondary school in an oral speaking and did successfully well. I asked her how she felt at this triumphant occasion and her face lit up, animatedly describing her joy and jubilance of that priceless moment. Then I asked her the question ‘How can you re-live this jubilant and triumphant moment in each and every future presentation?’ She paused for a long time and then softly responded ‘It just dawned on me that all this while, instead of choosing to remember the successful presentation, I chose to remember the traumatic one. I just realised that it is all up to me, not the audience, to make an impactful presentation. All this while, I empowered the audience instead of empowering myself. This is so enlightening, realising that it is all within me and I can choose to re-live the success instead of the failure’. We then worked on how to reprogram and reinforce the image of success and even decided on some magic words for her to switch on this image of success every time she goes on to do a presentation.
I strongly believe that as a Coach, mastering the 2 competencies of Maintaining Presence and Listen Actively (and Effectively) are essentially the key ingredients to successfully achieve Evoking Awareness and breakthroughs.
- Facilitates Growth
Once breakthroughs are achieved, the next key action is to infuse the new realisation, discoveries and learnings as the Coachee’s enriched paradigms, worldviews and ultimately manifest into improved behaviours.
To sustain the improvements moving forward, I normally work with the Coachee to establish new routines and build the support system needed as handrails to stabilise. This would include, among others, identifying ‘go-to’ trusted individuals for further advice or perspectives, communication plans for the Coachee to share the change journey with those who matter so that they would further enable and support the growth, list down affirmations to reprogram and reinforce the mindset on self-empowerment, taking charge and being accountable for actions and consequences especially when the going gets tough.
I find that living these 8 Coaching Competencies in my daily lives has enabled me not only to be a competent and effective Coach, but also to be a better person.