Fanning the flames

If you were to ask me what the essence of coaching is, I would say that it is a result-focused way of working designed to get your client into motion. By being curious, posing open questions, and keeping your own opinions to yourself, you stimulate a person’s capacity for self-research, self-learning, self-direction and their ability to think up solutions for themselves. However, for the coaching process to take effect, the client must first formulate a coaching issue (agenda) that he or she then takes personal responsibility for. As a coach, you are responsible for ensuring that the client sticks to the agenda.

But how do you do that? Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. The ‘best’ style of coaching doesn’t exist. In that respect, if you are considering being coached, I would advise you to ask for a trial session with different coaches. That way you will experience the individual style of each coach and you will quickly notice what works for you and what doesn’t. And you’ll discover whether there’s a chemistry between you, and a basis of trust. These are basic conditions for a coaching trajectory because coaching is about you, and you will be continually confronted with yourself during that trajectory. For the trajectory to be really effective, you have to be prepared to lay yourself completely bare. And if during your trial session you feel any kind of doubt within yourself about whether you want to continue with this coach, my advice would be: don’t do it!

I was trained and certified by the Coaches Training Institute. Essential elements of this coaching style are that the client is ‘natural, creative, resourceful and whole’ (you don’t have to ‘repair’ the client) and that you coach someone’s whole life (instead of, for example, just the work context). Another aspect is that the focus lies on an individual’s possibilities and not their limitations. So instead of you (as coach) talking about the limitations and the reason why the client continues to live a ‘narrow’ life, you bring the client into contact with his/her dreams and ambitions, and you light this ‘fire’ so that the desire and courage to get into motion are created (your coaching focuses on the ‘big’ agenda of his/her life). After all: ‘courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear’. A wonderful example of someone living his life totally according to this principle is Nick Vujicic, born without arms or legs, and yet happy and enjoying life to the full.

It’s also important to focus on possibilities and positive energy within a relationship. This is explicitly underlined in the training course Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) that I took last weekend (recommended for anyone who works with teams or couples). One of the exercises was about ‘warming up the emotional field’. It’s an exercise that can be used as a starting point to introduce more tenderness and respect into private or work relations. As a coach, you start by asking your client the questions listed below. You continue by asking questions designed to fan the ‘pilot light’ into a ‘big fire’.

  1. What circumstances brought you together? What was the first thing you fell in love with? What was the first thing you valued in the other? What were the first positive powerful experiences you experienced?
  2. What do you currently admire or value in the other person?
  3. Why have you two individuals been brought into contact with each other? What makes your relationship unique? What is the role or function of your relationship within the work area/world?
  4. If you were to express everything you have said up till now using a metaphor, which metaphor would that be?
  5. Imagine saying everything you have just told me to your partner or colleague. What would that be like?
  6. Coach – make sure your client really takes responsibility for talking to their partner or colleague.

If both partners are present during the coaching session, ask the questions first to one partner and then ask him or her to direct the answers to the other person. Get them to look at each other while you stay in the background. Then ask the other person what it felt like to hear those answers. Now repeat the whole exercise with the second partner.

The challenge for you this time is to do this exercise with your own partner and then at least 5 times within your circle of friends or work. During the exercise, observe closely the energy in the person you are coaching. What do you see happening, for example in his or her face? And if you see a smile breaking through, ask some more questions to fan the flames even more. Get that fire roaring!

Enjoy the heat!

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