Coaching is never a formulaic process. First I have to admire the people I work with.
I’m often struck by how lucky I am to coach and facilitate with such fantastic leaders. They are serious, committed and work so hard. They are often leading their organisations, and sometimes their sectors, through transformational change. Of course they care about performance and the numbers, but also about how they model leadership which is generous and underpinned by strong principles.
I’m very clear that if I don’t admire people, I don’t want to work with them. Certainly this is partly about who I want to spend my working time with in the the last chapter (or three) of my working life. I’m fortunate enough to be able to choose.
It’s also because for me to be effective as a coach I need to empathise with my clients’ dilemmas and challenges, to probe their analysis of their own behaviour as well as that of others, and to challenge, discomfort and support in equal measure. Often it’s quite a tough process. I think my clients know I like and admire them, and that means they’re willing to unpack things that sometimes expose them. But they know I’m on side. After all, if what they were talking about was easy, they wouldn’t be bringing it to a coaching session. Leadership can ultimately be a lonely, messy and difficult process, as well as an exciting and rewarding one, and those ‘2am moments’ are par for the course for all of us.
When I work with senior leaders, I need to really understand and connect with what they are trying to do in the world to be effective. This doesn’t mean they have to be like me, but that in order to be an effective coach I need to be able to understand their leadership narratives and actively want to work with them. This is what really counts if I’m to help them be as brilliant as they can be.