How important is the coach-coachee relationship?
Posted on July 14, 2014
DAVE: I am interested in how a coachee’s way of “making sense” influences what they expect from a coach. Coachees can have very different views of a coach. Here are some that I have experienced. Coachees may view the coach as a teacher, as a counselor, as a collaborator, even as a guru. However, this “view” doesn’t depend on the coach, it depends on the inner mental model of the coachee. It is the coachee’s mental model that determines which role they will project onto the coach. If they have a mental model that tells them the coach is like an expert teacher, then they will expect expert teacher behaviors from the coach. If the coach then works with a collaborative style, making efforts to draw out the coachee’s expertise, the coachee may reject working with the coach, saying things like “this coach is unprofessional, I’m not sure if he has expertise,” etc.
So, Luis, what do you think?
LUIS: My experience is that this “view” is always in the middle of the coach-coachee relationship. It’s in the middle at contracting and it’s in the middle during the coaching process. In fact, I think it interferes quite a lot because the coachee’s “making sense” or “expectations” of the coaching process is a barrier for contact. As a coach it is very challenging. It’s happened to me with clients that had no previous experience of coaching but also with clients that had already worked with coaches.
I think one of the reasons is that coaching is still fairly unknown. Most people know about coaching but not many really know what it is and how it works. As a newish discipline we have a lot to do to make coaching, the coaching process and its benefits more generally known. International coaching associations such as the Association for Coaching can play an important role.
But as coaches we also have a responsibility on this. What do you think we can do?
DAVE: Good point, Luis. If we are the coach, we also need to stay in open inquiry about our own mental models. Which of my assumptions am I projecting onto my coachee? Am I using a particular style “automatically” instead of going through some kind of check/re-check process? Entering into the engagement in this way we could actually use each engagement as an opportunity to nourish our own growth. Reb Anderson Roshi talks about how our concept of self as a defined entity can cause us suffering. He suggests to us that we view ourselves as a “dynamic interactive process.” The coach/coachee interaction gives us the chance to engage directly in this dynamic interactive process.
LUIS: The coach-coachee relationship is essential! A quality relationship is the foundation on which coach and coachee can rely. The coachee to unfold their inner learning and growth process. The coach to be present and centered on the coachee.
Isn’t the coach-coachee relationship greatly overlooked when considering coaching? Aren’t we more focused on models or methodologies when we think of coaching? I guess models and methodologies are more identifiable than “a relationship” and as a consequence a lot easier to sell by coaches and a lot easier to buy by clients.
Shouldn’t we make the case for a quality coach-coachee relationship as the foundation of any coaching process?