A couple of paragraphs from the book I am working on about coaching:
There are two big issues in many descriptions of coaching which are worth emphasising. Much of the literature about coaching emphasises that the coach doesn’t need to be highly skilled in the work of the client. Coaching practise in leadership and the workplace builds on the early practise in sports coaching. Many people stress that the top class athlete is not trained and coached by someone who is better than them at their sport. Rather, the focus is on finding someone to coach who can bring objectivity and a questioning challenge to how we work. That is the gold dust of coaching. So, we don’t necessarily need direct experience to be able to coach someone in their context. My first coach had little understanding of my own specialism at the time – research management. But he did understand career transitions, how to apply skills to a job change, and how to navigate difficult organisational change. That was the space where he was particularly helpful. So, the coach doesn’t necessarily bring subject specific expertise – in fact sometimes that expertise can get in the way of the coach being objective and challenging the things we take for granted. I have often found myself needing to sit back and avoid leaping in with a solution for a client because I think I understand their situation. I don’t! Only they have the detailed knowledge and understanding that will help them to find their own solution.
The second issue, which I often need to stress when I meet a new client, is the need for an eclectic approach. Many coaches identify a specific coaching perspective or training approach and define that as their own particular brand or technique. Thus, if you search for coaches you will find NLP coaches, Behaviourist coaches, Gestalt coaches, Strengths Based coaches. And so on. There are many different approaches. A skilled coach will realise that they need to acquire a diverse mix of approaches and be prepared to draw on them according to the challenges that the client brings to the coaching session. The danger of only having one approach is that the coaching session becomes like the man prowling the house with a hammer – everything begins to look like a nail in need of a hammering into the wall. If you try to hammer a screw into the wall, it won’t work! We need a toolbox rather than a single tool.