Archive for coaching

Coaching Supervision

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on August 5, 2010 by racheljackson

Due to a request from a colleague who attended the Coaching Accreditation training I completed in May 2010 with ITS, I have started providing coaching supervision to new and developing coaches. Feedback to date has been great – and I am finding the sessions really challenging and enjoyable. I already have one referral and have decided that I would love to explore this avenue further. If you are interested in coaching supervision or know someone who you think might like to discuss it – do get in touch.


What if you already are a coach?

Posted in On Coaching with tags on February 7, 2010 by racheljackson

I have been coaching for years…before I even knew what coaching was!  Interestingly, the more I enter into formal learning about what it means to be a coach, the less essentially comfortable I feel as a coach…isn’t that odd?

I am reminded of an old saying I used to finish my Emotional Intelligence training sessions with: “day one: you fall in a hole, it hurts! Day two, you see the hole and still fall in, it still hurts! Day three, you know the hole is there so you purposefully avoid it. Day four, you choose a different street without holes!”.  It was my way of getting around the “unconscious competence” discussion without so many syllables.  I have struggled in the past to explain why coaching can be so exhausting as well as being so rewarding – and I believe it is this: it is a constant balancing act between being fully aware of the client and thus largely unaware of oneself, being fully aware of oneself in order to manage process and being attuned to the subtle sensations of gut and sixth sense that so often I find lead to important breakthroughs in coaching.

I mention this only because recently in my coaching I was working with someone who is themselves moving into the field of coaching and they expressed a very palpable concern about having to really read up and work on technique in order to improve their coaching…and I wondered how many others are focussed in this way.  What if in fact, you are already a coach? What if when you allow yourself to tap into the very human instinct to support those around you, you naturally listen, and become curious, and display genuine empathy and respect.  What if you really don’t know the right answer and have to work within the capabilities of your client and instead find their own ways forward?  What if you could coach without really trying?  How would that be?

Get some Winter Coaching

Posted in On Coaching, On Leadership with tags on January 25, 2010 by racheljackson

….or “growth techniques for root vegetables”…just to get your attention!

I was talking to a good friend of mine the other day and in our wandering “how are you doing” conversation he told me he had just started coaching a Swede.  Now I’m not talking branching into growth techniques for impoverished root vegetables here (no comment is made here on the nature or character of the Swedish people may I assure you), but the provision of personal development coaching to an esteemed citizen of Sweden (see – “esteemed” ). What he told me I found particularly interesting given similar observations in the small community in which I live.

When I lived in London, wintertime meant after work drinks cut short as people wanted to get home, ice rinks opening up, christmas lights on Oxford street and everyone else getting snow but London’s extra 2 degrees turning ours into rain.  In essence, life continued largely as normal – the christmas parties became more and more frequent and then January was filled with frantic responses to waking clients and the inevitable discussions about pay and bonuses echoing round the corridors.

Since moving to Derbyshire, I notice that wintertime means more about hibernation.  People get up later, go to bed earlier, are stimulated into long walks any time the sun peers out from behind the grey or white layers of cloud and snow. Meetings and deadlines pass by without major commotion as people fail to dig their way out of long icy driveways and instead watch movie after movie in darkened rooms. Tea flows everywhere you go and you find yourself over-caffeinated at the end of each day. But there is something else.  People become more contemplative.  Debates and discussions (and often malaise) run deeper and whilst as a nation we all start wondering about New Year Resolutions, there is a sense here in which what we’re really exploring is the eternal “What it’s all about…?  What happens next…?”

Apparently in Sweden this is a recognised part of the culture.  Because winter in Sweden can mean as few as 2 hours of daylight, much of the season is spent in a state of darkness-induced reflection and Swedes often become very intense and philosophical…and it made me wonder…what if, instead of joining a gym and attending for 3 weeks to beat the sausage-roll intake over Christmas, you signed up for some coaching during the winter season and put that twitchy sense of needing a change to a longer term use. It might just be the springboard you need to turn those vague ideas of what you’d like to be doing differently into bigger dreams that may come true.

I am a coach and facilitator with experience of over 250 hours coaching and many more hours delivering training in executive, leadership and personal development. If you would like to explore what coaching might feel like, what you could talk about or how it might change your view on the year, or if you know anyone who you think would enjoy such an opportunity, give me a call or drop me a mail to arrange a free half hour introductory session by phone.  Full contact details are available at

Go on….change your dialogues.

Life Coaching vs Business/Executive Coaching

Posted in On Coaching, On NLP with tags , , , on November 30, 2009 by racheljackson

I have just been reading through Alison Maxwell’s paper in the September edition of Coaching magazine from the Association for Coaching: “How do coaches experience the boundary between coaching and therapy/counselling?” and it got me thinking about a debate on this topic I had years ago when doing some coach training around NLP.

The debate arose out of Milton Erickson’s assertion that every client already has all the resources they need to be able to deal with their “presenting problem”.  Having tabled this assertion as part of the training we were challenged about the need to ensure that the client is in a “safe place” at the end of each session; Some of the coaches in the room were clinically trained and had a firm belief that business coaching should not enter the realm of clinical therapy or even dip a toe into it. Those that were not clinically trained were highly uncomfortable around “opening Pandora’s box” in a coaching environment and finding themselves unable to handle the results.

Whilst I wholly adhere to this degree of care for a client’s wellbeing and for the additional point made at the time that a coach must often work to the requirements of a business rather than simply an individual, I gently reflected the idea that in any relationship exploring performance or development goals through coaching, both parties have a role  in deciding which topics are discussed and to what degree they impact on the “presenting problem”. In Erickson’s view, this would suggest that the client will share what needs to be shared, and since they walked into the room with that psychological “weight” from their personal life, they are full capable of also walking back out with it.

“In all the years I have been coaching,” I suggested, “I have never met an executive who did not also live a life”.  It was often the case that weighty issues taking place outside the office had as much influence – and indeed learning to offer –  upon work-based performance issues as behaviour and events in the office. What I felt was most important, is that where discussion of outside work issues ventured into realms where professional advice or counselling may be required, this perspective should be offered to and explored with the client as opposed to those issues being directly tackled by the coach. This should not however prevent the exploration of pertinent home or deeper psychological issues in a balanced manner and in relation to their impact upon work performance.  Nor should it laden the coach with responsibility for extending to a 4 hour session in order to repack the emotional baggage brought into the session by the client. Whilst we all recognised that the whereabouts of the line to be drawn between therapy and coaching was not always clear, we could all engage in a healthy debate and agree that it certainly needed to be drawn.

In the time that has passed since that initial debate with a number of experienced executive coaches, the world of coaching has expanded exponentially and the market is now crowded with Life Coaches and Action Coaches and all manner of specialist coaches – some of whom have received not only very little face to face coach training, but absolutely no training in psychology or therapeutic intervention. Whilst I remain confident that every face around the table in that training session long ago would be totally capable of recognising an issue that they were not competent to explore and should refer to an outside professional, I am not entirely convinced that many of the lesser trained coaches would be able to do so.

I am a firm believer in the power of “helping by talking” as the paper coins the phrase. I actually think that in the vast majority of cases, simply talking to another, caring, listening human being and sharing a problem or issue is a hugely valuable experience.  What concerns me a little is that coaching is a privileged relationship.  From its roots in both psychotherapy and sports development, a coach has been seen in some way as an expert; a safe pair of hands.  Early therapists identified the phenomenon of transference to describe the symptoms of this sense of parental caregiving and reliance on another human being.  Whilst the psychologically trained coach is fully cognisant of this potential and aware of the point at which a referral is advisable to satisfy their professional obligations and the needs of the client, the freshly qualified life coach, accountable only to their client may neither recognise the signs nor know how to respond.  Filled with a desire to help and build their reputation in their new field, it is possible that this leads to a failure to refer and a missed opportunity to provide the client with the professional help they require.

Alison’s paper uses as a sample a number of coaches with a higher level of coaching and training than most and she recognises in her conclusion that she may therefore present a somewhat high benchmark.  I would however agree with her conclusion that “the personal and the professional are deeply intertwined in the coaching conversation, and attempts to compartmentalise these by either coach or client are unrealistic”.  She proposes that “a grey area exists” below the need to refer for clinical issues and above the merely work-based discussion where “serious ethical, moral and potentially legal questions” may arise from a lack of training or awareness in the coach. Perhaps this debate would be well considered by the ICF who are currently debating the unpicking of their graduated model for coaching accreditation so beloved by coaches across the globe. Although you could equally argue; does a long and  impressive coaching log make you significantly better at judging the need for clinical referral of a client…or significantly worse at admitting that need?

Leader – Manager – Coach

Posted in Motivation, On Coaching, On Leadership with tags , , on November 23, 2009 by racheljackson

One of the most frequent questions I get asked in my training sessions around leadership is how to balance leading staff, managing their performance and coaching their development without losing the integrity of any one of these activities.

Many managers have grown up through the ranks amongst the teams they lead and the transition from team member to leadership is rarely an easy one to navigate.  I have even listened to a number of leaders downplay their role in order to retain the warm and comfortable relationships they have previously enjoyed with their erstwhile peers.  Whilst this shows a great and laudable degree of empathy and support for their people, it can be tough to lead from the middle and it’s worth making the essential psychological step of recognising that if your name is on the door with “manager” written underneath…then you cannot help but play your part.

There are a number of things that can hold leaders up in this transitional period.  The first comes from the fact that many leaders are promoted because they are the best at their particular role;  They are great with customers, they thrive on the challenge, they bring in the highest sales.  They are motivated primarily by the desire to do a brilliant job and gain recognition for that.  Sadly, the recognition they often receive is a promotion to a role where they are no longer the highest performer, they do not speak to customers or have nice numerical KPIs with which to measure their performance.  In short, the very activities that lead them to love their job, are now done by the people they are expected to motivate and manage.  Many many leaders then find it all too easy to slip into treating their people like an extra pair of hands and try to achieve through demonstration, advice and micro-management.  They want to stay close to the action and be in control and their teams respond in one of two key ways: they become dependent and simply follow, or they feel constrained and play up or leave. Helping new leaders to shift to leading rather than managing means finding them new goals and new measures for success and helping them to understand the new behaviours that will enable them to develop the autonomy of their teams and performance on a higher stage.

The other thing that holds back new leaders is the fear of not being taken seriously by staff who may often have applied to the same position that they have been granted.  Such managers resort to passivity and platitude rather than authority and leadership and often create the very conditions that they fear. It is not easy to juggle empathy with authority but one sure way to maintain closeness with your team at the same time as providing sufficient separation to retain authority is to engage in coaching discussions.  I’m not talking here about one to one long term therapeutic sessions or once a year performance discussions, but simply the day to day act of listening and facilitating rather than telling and directing.

Whatever your history in the organisation, you will have a different perspective and different information than the person you are leading.  Most managers I have trained find it almost impossible to avoid using that perspective to provide answers and suggestions as the first response to staff questions.  If you can hold back all your incredible wealth of knowledge and experience and instead adopt a coaching curiosity, you may be surprised to find that your team have the capacity to advise themselves…and that the added confidence they gain from you biting your tongue so that they can explore their own potential means that you get more time to lead and less time spent managing. It may not be as instantly gratifying or self-assuring…but it will make you a more inspirational and connected leader in the long run.  You may also be surprised how much less your people need to be “managed” and motivated by you and how instead they take accountability for their own performance.

The Value of Coaching

Posted in On building my business, On Coaching with tags , on November 13, 2009 by racheljackson

There was a phrase I picked up during my NLP Master Practitioner training about 5 years ago; “When the pupil is ready the guide will appear”. I remember being extraordinarily comforted by this. In the weeks to follow I started to notice how often the newspaper I read, the book I picked up, or the person I met seemed carefully chosen in line with the questions I was grappling with in my own life.

Recently, having been exploring business development opportunities and marketing online, I have been buffeted by a quite alarmingly large number of loud-sounding emails telling me that “I could earn £30,000/£60,000/£300,000 as a life coach!”.  I even managed to sit next to a young lady on the tube the other day who caught my eye as she transformed herself from a just-woken-up-slightly-art-student look to a very attractive business-looking woman in front of the gathered travellers. As I glanced over her shoulder, she was reading the marketing blurb for one of the get rich quick models.

So, it appears that my guides have arrived…although as it turns out…I’m not sure I’m ready.  I feel a bit like Luke Skywalker must have felt when Yoda turned up as his guide; a little disappointed that this figure in front of him didn’t really look like the inspirational or powerful model he was after.  I can’t of course complain that my guides aren’t inspirational or powerful – they are practically evangelistic with their presentation.  I feel a slight failure already that I am not standing next to them on the podium!

So why is it, I’ve been asking myself, that I feel so uncomfortable about signing up to this get-rich-as-a-coach drive? Is it a fear that I’m not good enough?  A fear that I might have to face the competition head on?  Neither of these seems to fit, because it’s actually deeper than that: I feel uncomfortable that I should profit from the desire of others to get rich quick. I feel even more uncomfortable setting up a process by which the less able these people are to help themselves, the more I profit. It just feels all wrong to me – and believe me; I do like money and the making thereof.  That is not the reason behind this.

Something Ian McDermott, my trainer, said brought this question back to me on Sunday – “If you know what works, it’s your role to share this with as many people as you can”.  I considered this question carefully against my reactions to the get rich quick model.  In many ways, that is exactly what these guys are doing; along with most of the people in this world, they are selling something they know how to do, to others who do not, to the benefit of all.  But no..that sense of discomfort hasn’t gone away and now I really do feel like I have some “issues” to explore around my own values. Is it the fact that my reading on these models suggests that people are required to keep their secrets secret – thus clashing with the sense of sharing what works.  Or is it simply the aggressive marketing approach that accesses my natural defence mechanisms against the too-good-to-be-true.  I don’t know…but if you could all send me a fiver, I’ll go along to one of the lectures and find out.  I won’t be able to share with you what I learn, but I will get commission if I rave so much about it that you want to go too 😉

What does good coaching feel like?

Posted in On Coaching with tags , on November 2, 2009 by racheljackson

I am a coach….I’ve also received coaching from a number of sources; some better than others.  I’ve worked in development and coaching for 6 years, training hundreds of managers to use coaching, attending various training courses in coaching, and talking with a huge number of coaches.

What I’ve observed is that despite the coaching theories and models, the length of training, and agreement on what good coaching attributes and behaviours are, when it comes to coaching in practice, a large proportion of coaches still revert to leading and telling rather than listening and empowering.

I think there’s an element of people wanting to give something back, of wanting to share their success and experience having reached a certain point in life.  Becoming a coach, be it a life coach or a business coach seems a logical step, so they go on a training programme and set themselves up in business – often very successfully.

I know that coaching is a highly skilled profession which is both powerful and rewarding.  I also know that it can be a frustrating experience for the coach.  I’ve trained people whose intent is genuine, but who can’t help sharing that nugget of personal wisdom.  I know that holding back from this is a hard lesson to learn as a coach – especially given the genuinely positive response clients give when it slips out.

I try to remember one core thing from my NLP Master Practitioner journey; you are only the expert on your own life and choices.  You can empathise and listen hard, but you can never truly experience what it is like to be another human being, with a whole different set of histories, choices and consequences.

Now I’m not suggesting those who share their experience are poor coaches – that simply wouldn’t be true.  What does concern me is that the current definition of “coaching” includes everything from learning to swim to pursuing your innermost spiritual aspirations.  As such, the average coaching client has very little understanding of what good coaching is or what it feels like.

To some extent, this question may be immaterial; if the client pays someone to support them to set up a business and the business is set up; one could say that this was a good outcome and that the coach was clearly a good coach.

But to me that may not be the right measure of coaching effectiveness.  What if the client wanting to set up a business has failed over and over for several years?  What if they looked into that failure and found out that they weren’t sure they wanted to be in business alone?  Would a coach who used their experience in successful business set up to enable the client to follow suit, still be a good coach?  Is it the right outcome?

Scouring the astounding amount of coach accreditation literature surrounding moves to regulate this field, you will find a few core requirements for coaches to be considered “qualified”.  Some of them are behavioural; Genuine Empathy, Listening, Planning and Goal Setting, and Creating Rapport are common ones that come to mind.  Others are experiential; most coaching accreditation requires a set number of recorded coaching hours, and most require a demonstration of capability in front of a panel of assessors.

This is a huge step forward from the largely unregulated field of coaching I first experienced when I started providing feedback coaching as part of my consulting role.  What is interesting is that there is no requirement (except for purposes of self marketing) to gather detailed feedback from clients about coaching outcomes.

According to the Association for Coaching (AfC) (pdf article available here), 88% of coaching clients asked to provide feedback said that their coaches were “good” or “excellent”.  This sounds like a fabulous outcome; but my question remains, how does the client know what good coaching feels like?

Many people would consider a chat with the local barman, who listens well and gives them some worldly advice along with their pint, as good “coaching” (although they may not actually use that term).  The truth is that many people are disconnected from sources of support and open, empathic conversation.  They live their working lives against timescales, deadlines, milestones and schedules.  They go home on anonymous tubes and buses to Strictly Come Dancing or X Factor or a date at the squash club.

For most people, the chance to get things off their chest and experience unconditional listening and support comes from talking to their tired partner (if they’re lucky) or their dog…and I’m not sure the dog would get coaching accreditation just yet!

Katherine Tulpa, chair of the AfC, comments: “The Coaching market has grown rapidly over the last five years and this growth suggests that coaching clients see a value in the service that coaching brings.  However, as an industry we need more formal studies of its value and potential, and this is one of the areas the AfC wants to address.”

Is coach quality defined by the profession or by the client?  Market forces suggest that the client is king, and organisations can only measure coaching ROI through qualitative feedback from clients.

So in this formative time for quality assurance of coaches, where the market remains  under educated, can I suggest a few pointers for those exploring (or already experiencing) a coaching relationship…

1.  When you begin to explore working with a coach, try to have an initial session with more than one person.  You will find that the sense of relief that comes from the first session makes you favour the first coach you speak to; they may not be the one best suited to your ongoing needs.

2.  Make sure you have a discussion with the coach about what you want from the coaching relationship.  Do you want advice and teaching on a particular area based on their experience?  Do you want support to find your own way?  Both of these are valid coaching relationships but they require a different set of experience and behaviours.  You need to be able to recognise whether you are getting what you need.  It is all too easy for coaches to drift into “leading the witness”, believe me, I feel the temptation at times!

3.  Set up review sessions with your coach to give them feedback about what is working for you and what isn’t.  They should respect this request and find it hugely valuable.  If possible, keep some notes for yourself too.

4.  If at the end of your sessions you feel highly energised to act, and then later lose your way, or aren’t sure on what to do next or whether you agree with the direction…it’s possible that your coach is pace-setting (trying to help you by guiding you towards what they would do) rather than truly coaching.  The agenda for coaching should always be yours, not your coach’s!  If you suspect a shift in the agenda, speak to your coach.  You are allowed to challenge them too!

5.  Notice how much time your coach is talking, and how much time you are talking.  If you are doing more listening than talking, then you are not being coached but advised.  If this works for you, fine, but you might want to explore what real coaching feels like.