Written by: HEMALATHA BALA SUBRAMANIAM (Athena)
The Coaching journey for me from CAC to CPC has been a deeply reflective one; from a casual role to a professional role and the progress in this journey has been most impactful. I had been an Executive Trainer for the past 37 years, and mentoring was a big part of my modus operandi. When I learnt about ICF’s 11 core coaching competencies in CAC, I realised that these could not operate in isolation. As I went on the Seven Protocol journey in CPC, I gained new learnings of how these 11 ICF competencies worked in tandem; as they were “stack skills”- most effective in combination and complementary to each other. I had to embrace many roles simultaneously, mainly as an active listener, conversationalist, cheerleader, strategic thinker and co-designer of action plans. Ultimately, I understood that the mundane life of being a trainer was womb to tomb – linear, sequential and directive; whereas being a coach raised my awareness to one of transforming lives – cycles of liberation towards validating and actualising the potential of both the coach and the client.
The Client’s Background:
The client was a peer coach who was a teacher for 36 years. Recently, she joined the Headquarters as an Advisor in training , designing and editing modules. She is in the midst of planning for a post-retirement career as an Online Tutor in English Literature, Mathematics and Academic Writing.
Objectives of this Case Study:
In my journey to become a professional coach via Peer Coaching and Mentor Coaching, I learnt how to navigate coaching conversations using the 7- part Protocol and resources. This Case Study documents my coaching journey. The objectives of this Case Study are stated as below:
- Toidentify the key successes and challenges I faced as a
- Toevaluate my coaching
- Toapply new learnings in my coaching
Key successes and Challenges as a CPC Coach in the Different Stages of the 7-part Protocol:
- Trialand Contract
The Trial Stage was not a prerequisite in the recording to be submitted for the CPC Assessment, yet I had enough practice during the Group Mentor Sessions. The Client and I mutually agreed that we partner each other for the Peer Coaching Sessions, as we felt we could be open with each other. At this stage, I was fully aware that my Client’s expectations of me as a Coach had to be met (her issue was authentic and not created just to meet the Recording Criteria), so I connected with her by explaining the Protocol. The aim was what and
how I could help her in a collaborative manner – basically what I needed to do for her which she could not envisage alone without my support. I too, needed to be clearer on what my expectations of the Client were. What clearly stood out was my Mentor Coach’s reminder not to delve too much into the coaching issue. There was time for this after the initial trial session when the Coach and the Client had agreed to move forward into Contract agreement.
At these two stages of the Protocol, asking questions and listening carefully allowed me, as the coach and the client to be in the flow:
Coach: What support do you want from me? Client: I want to be an online tutor after retirement. Coach: What do you mean by an online tutor?
Client: I want to teach English Literature, Maths and academic writing from the comfort of my home.
Coach: So, when do you want to see this happening? Client: By June 2020.
The conversation flowed as both of us were invested in each other. In Contracting, I understood the impact of a tight conversation to identify the goal (THE WHAT?) after gaining acceptance by Connecting. The goal was established through strategic questioning and subsequently, thought processes in the client were set in motion. When I enthused, I could see the client smiling and her body language shifted from one of uncertainty and doubt to one of confidence. The words “Good!” and “Great!” had an effect much greater than the amount of energy I needed to utter them. These were not “mere words” but the manifestation of creating a safe and connected space. Moreover, the stage of Connecting preceded Contracting to ensure Trust and Intimacy. These stages were aligned to the two ICF competencies of Establishing Coaching Agreement and Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client.
In a way, as a coach I also acted as a stimulator when I probed for clarification and self- reflection (Insights) in the client (THE WHY?). The ICF Competencies that came into play were Coaching Presence, Active Listening, Powerful Questioning and Direct Communication. These were evident in the extract below:
Client: I want to work part-time and be home-based. Coach: How will this serve your online tutor 2020 plan?
Client: If I am home-based, I can also work part-time and be there for my family. And also, generate an income to sustain me apart from my pension.
Coach: Great! You have given this some thought. So, why is this important to you now?
Client: I want to do something useful with my time. To help others…with the knowledge I have.
Coach: So, what is exactly stopping you from achieving this dream plan you are thinking of now?
Client: I want to do it but I am not sure how. I want to work it out so that I know I am clear about my options. Will my new career be able to sustain me financially?
Coach: Where are you now in this goal of yours?
Client: Well, I have started on certain elements, but I am aware time is of critical importance. I need to begin this now and work out the steps
Coach: So, what have you considered so far?
Client: I need to set up a website. It will have to be a website with credible online presence.
At the Discovery Stage, I needed to understand the client’s envisioned future and her existing situation (reality) using the funnel approach. The keystone was unlocking the motivation behind the narrative by being mindful and the clarifying questions helped the client move forward in identifying key details (pillars) and the desired outcomes for each pillar in order to achieve the goal. The power of using the 5 Golden Questions provided by my Mentor Coach, helped to crystallise an algorithm in the client’s thinking, allowing the client to explore hidden opportunities, strengths and potential to make meaningful connections in her life. These questions also helped her to identify her Self-limiting Beliefs. The 5 Golden Questions were:
- Whatis happening here/now?
- Whathave you done so far about it?
- Howeffective is it? Why?
- Whatis still missing?
- What doyou want to see happening here?
As it was a Life Coaching Session, on her career after retirement, I used the General Life Profile Resource for profiling. In this stage, the most critical skills I needed as a Coach were empathetic listening, communication skills, curiosity and the ability to identify her paradigm. The client demonstrated a combination of Fraud and Delay frames and I had to help her reframe these to Action and Truth in the next stage i.e. Deep Learning.
The biggest challenge I faced was listening for answers, while trying to be ready to frame the next few questions to ask – I was listening to respond rather than to understand! I had a strong tendency looking for what to do with what I heard and fitting it into a preconceived and judgmental model, far too soon. I was caught up looking for the trees (details), that I forgot the forest (big picture)! My thinking was not organic – I was listening in piecemeal. In addition, I was busy concentrating exclusively on the skills and techniques as a coach (What am I supposed to do now? What should I ask next?), that I tended to forget the person being coached and the higher goal in coaching, which was to support the learner (What is she trying to achieve? What higher purpose needs to be elicited? How can I be most helpful to her? How can she learn and grow?).
It was only after repeated self-correction and re-recording, using the feedback from my Mentor Coach, that I started to listen in the present. Simultaneously, I was listening for the
client’s desired growth in her future. It became evident to me that this was not a linear process but a repetitive and cyclical process, where I had to validate the client’s potential and strengths, while discerning her limiting frames. This required complete mindfulness and commitment on my part.
In this stage of the 7-part Protocol, I brainstormed on the desired outcomes; the Deliverables (THE HOW?). My client’s mind, heart and hand had to be congruent to effect the change in her desired outcomes. I had to let her think deeply of her resource anchors(balloons) for reframing of her mindset to overcome her roadblocks and Self-limiting Beliefs (buckets).
In the extract below, the questions I asked could have been better.
Coach: What have you done so far?
Client: I have looked at all of my content and started grouping them according to topics, in the most logical manner, so that they form a flowing sequence of lessons. I have done surveys of consumer demands.
Coach: Great! You have given this some thought. So, why is this important to you now?
At Deep Learning, on retrospection, the question I posed “So, why is this important to you now?” was not apt. A better question would have been “What is ONE step you can take now to achieve this?” At this stage, I should have explored the extrinsic or key tangibles on HOW to achieve this desired outcome. My Mentor Coach’s feedback was to reflect on what I could have done differently to achieve a greater impact.
Coach: So, what is the biggest challenge holding you back from contacting this company?
Client: I cannot contact them yet as I realise I am stuck. The sheer volume of information I have in my head, in my modules, in my note books, in my hard drive…you know, so much data. I tend to procrastinate. You know… at this stage it is not just about what I should include in our course, but what stuff I need to leave out.
This was an excellent question to elicit the intrinsic details on the desired outcome. However, I failed to deconstruct this by asking questions that would challenge her assumptions further and help reframe her roadblocks. I should have pursued with “What do you want to feel? What do you want to remember once you have this?” However, a good thing I did was when I asked my client at the end of every desired outcome to recapitulate and document her outcomes.
At our Mentor Coaching sessions, we did not get to record the Action Confirmation for accountability, as the recording was only thirty minutes long. The ICF Competencies at this
stage of Deliverables (Deep Learning) were Direct Communication, Creating Awareness, Planning and Goal Setting and to a certain extent, Designing Actions.
Reflections and Application
My biggest takeaways in my Coaching journey:
The Coaching Protocol was a useful 7-part professional Coaching Matrix to support any client in a professional coaching relationship, as each part focuses on a Key Result Area.
These areas were sign posts that marked a coach’s exploration throughout each individual session with the client and it was cumulative from session to session. The 7-part Protocol encompassed the 10 Coaching Milestones and 11 ICF Competencies working in tandem.
“I can only coach as I am; not as I think who I am.” At the core of this tension was to be good and do good.
My own level of consciousness grew as I was involved in coaching conversations. I realised I was living my core values, while bringing meaning and purpose to my client by realigning my client’s mind, heart and hand dimensions. I had seen myself grow, by placing importance not just on my resumé virtues (skills that I bring to the market as a Coach – my certification, referrals etc.) but also on my eulogy virtues (qualities that reframe my Inner Game, viz., Empathy, Courage, Kindness, Integrity etc.).
What had worked well and what had not worked? What had I learned?
I learnt I needed to dive, deep and not just settle for surface patterns in coaching conversations. Coaching sessions and conversations helped me manifest my unconscious beliefs, motivations and behaviour into conscious awareness.
I have to contemplate “What do I need to keep learning? Where are my opportunities to try new things?”.
My desired goal is now to reach CMC level, where I can master my coaching skills to Unconscious Competence (competence and mastery in coaching) until this becomes my DNA. I am now aware that as I coach new clients, the Coaching Protocol is the base of my conceptual framework, contextualised to effectively handle new situations. Well, what do I need to do in the next few years to accomplish what matters most to me? I am aware I need to continue to improve in my performance as a coach. I need deliberate and focused practice with the highly positive and insightful feedback I receive from the Mentor Coaches to perform effectively and consistently in my future coaching journey.
From Bangsar to Solaris Dutamas, it was merely 14 km one way, but the growth in my thinking was a long journey. Pardon the cliché, but many roads lead to CCA! Every Coaching session required me taking the lift from B6 to U3A. Those few minutes held so much of meaning! When I stepped out of the lift, to step into the Coaching premise (CCA ) I arrived with my own emotional and cognitive baggage. I identified many a time in my practice sessions with peers, that I was in a significant frame. However, after many trips I realised this was a metaphor in my life too. I could go on seeing and doing things the same old way or choose to “hit” my perspective button with energy and enthusiasm to “whoosh” my way to a better me- a higher floor, a better version of myself. Armed with the CPT, ECT, HPC Tools and the 7 Protocols provided by my Mentor Coach, I feel empowered to take a deeper look at myself. I am learning to be consciously mindful; mindful that the Client too does not get too dependent on me as a Coach. My Client ultimately must feel empowered and that is the aim of the New Age Coach- one who is no longer directive but collaborative. My journey has just begun…and there are many more trips and lifts to navigate!
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