Building Strong Coaching Partnerships
The starting point for a coaching assignment is typically a problem that threatens to derail the client’s career. Therefore, upon engagement, the client’s focus of attention and initial expectations typically centre on their problems and weaknesses.
There are two reasons for this.
Firstly, they have learned through experience that their career success depends largely on overcoming issues and remedying weaknesses to fit into the normative competency standards prescribed by their employer.
Secondly, like most of us, clients are conditioned throughout their lives and careers to focus on remedying weaker areas; this strategy is assumed the quickest path to success.
Parents, grandparents, teachers, social leaders, managers and other agents in their development all reinforce this deficit-based mindset. It is hardly surprising then that clients obsess and fear their weaker areas and want to remedy them as quickly as possible. Coaching provides a means to get help with weaknesses in a confidential, reflective environment. Similarly, the coach’s own beliefs and associated practices are influenced by weakness-based beliefs and assumptions. To move away from this deficit-based mindset, a coach should reflect on and challenge their own underlying beliefs about human growth and excellence.
Executive coaching is by definition facilitating improvement of client performance, development and personal fulfilment. However, there is typically too little appreciation by the coach of the unique strengths, positive action routines and enabling relationships that have contributed to the past and current successes of the client.
Coaching the manager helped him develop positive action routines to use the strength more selectively, balancing critical reasoning with appreciative feedback, open inquiry and commitment-based influencing techniques. Toxic routines gradually dissipated and stakeholders noticed a significant change in the manager’s behaviour.
They are essentially colluding with the ‘dark side’ of client identity and mental framework, exacerbating fears and self-limiting beliefs. If this is replaced with a more strengths-focused, appreciative mindset that builds upon natural strengths and talent, the client’s full potential and resourcefulness will almost certainly be unlocked.
Author: James Brook