In general, the main characteristics of coaching in all approaches include the notion of change. Learning, by its very nature is change, such that when we learn we will have changed our skills, behaviour, our beliefs, our identity, or a combination of all four. As such, coaching is a way of a coach and coachee (or team) to work together in a collaborative, egalitarian, supportive relationship where the desired outcome is positive change that relates to specific outcomes.
During the process of being coached (and coaching) people will develop areas such as motivation, while also experiencing shifts in attitude, both of which help enhance practice by, for instance, becoming more effective. However, a central element here is that the coachee becomes more aware of, as well as their strengths, the areas on which they need to work, so that they can ‘own’ both, and take responsibility to develop professionally.
Another fundamental characteristic is the bespoke nature of coaching. In a coaching relationship there will be no prescribed formal ‘content’ or formal assessment. Instead the coach and coachee work together to identify goals, enablers, challenges, and action points. To ensure that this process is smooth, the coach and coachee must have good communication skills. The coach also needs to be able to support and appropriately challenge the coachee. In turn, the coachee needs to be open to sharing their own experiences in a way that leaves them free to identify the direction they want to take, and draw on their own determination to achieve positive results. This high level of motivation will be necessary if, initially, there are more drawbacks than successes. This will help ensure the coachee does not become defensive, but rather values the drawbacks as opportunities for them to be proactive, and to reflect and learn.
This highlights another characteristic of coaching: close professional relationships. To enable coaching to function a coach must be able to help build a positive relationship and rapport with their coachee, and the coachee must value the process and be open to trying new things. The coach and coachee should start by learning about each other so that their relationships can be honest, and based on mutual respect. Both parties will need to feel that their cultural backgrounds, beliefs, values and practices are considered and respected by the other party. Only from this place of trust, commitment and engagement will they want to continue to work together to shape the focus and form of the coaching.
The final characteristic I am going to discuss is the work context. Practical considerations such as access to people, data and resources are an important influence on the effectiveness of coaching. Another essential part of the success equation for coaching, psychologically and physiologically, is whether the coachee’s organisation is supportive of coaching as a valid form of professional development (Center for Creative Leadership, 2012). The amount of emotional support from the organisation, especially the level of caring, approval and respect provided by the coachee’s colleagues and managers in relation to a coachee’s professional growth, will directly impact that coachee’s resilience in the face of hardship and their determination to overcome challenges (Center for Creative Leadership, 2012).
What have I missed? Anything you don’t agree with?
Center for Creative Leadership. (2012). The Coach’s View: Coach and Coachee Characteristics Add Up to Successful Coaching Engagements. [White Paper]. Retrieved from http://insights.ccl.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/CoachsViewCharacteristics.pdf.