Recently, I’ve written a lot about coaching with a deep understanding of the systems people operate in.
Right now, let’s reflect on coaching the individual. I’m specifically interested in the question of What differentiates a good coach and a breath-takingly powerful coach?
Precision and Mastery
The Global Coaching Institute is passionate about coach development in this space of precision and mastery.
When I think of mastery, I immediately think of my teacher, Max Schupbach. My jaw fell open with wonder the first time I watched Max work. I didn’t quite understand what he was doing, but the results were like magic!
I needed to understand what guided his work. What did he see or hear that led to those seemingly counter-intuitive interventions? How was he able to be so playful, especially in the midst of conflict? I was baffled, but I knew his practice was clearly more than a momentary inspiration. Despite their apparent ease, his interventions were deeply cultivated and precise.
The gap between what I witnessed and what I understood prompted a learning journey that took my practice to a whole new level. And that’s what we offer our coaching students!
My curiosity led to a near twenty-year study and practice of Process Oriented Psychology, also known as Processwork. Over the years, some of the mysteries of what I witnessed in that first piece of work were revealed to me. Though I’m delighted to say, the sense of mystery and wonder has never left me. In fact, it sustains me and supports my deep path of growth and practice.
Over these years I have learned to work with both the conscious and unconscious dimensions of a client’s narrative. I’ve attuned myself to spot the flickering indicators of a client’s true potential – something I take great joy in sharing with our students. I now see them working in this deep way, even when their clients are too hesitant or fearful to linger and explore these themes for long.
Meta-Skills at The Edge
A process oriented approach to coaching introduces Arnold Mindell’s notion of the edge – that precise point of change we teeter at sometimes, as if on a precipice, unsure of how to proceed.
Over the years, I’ve come to understand the meta-skills, or feeling attitudes, needed to work with someone at that fulcrum of change. What’s more, we work with our students to recognise and adopt the different meta-skills that are called for, depending upon the client’s style and growth trajectory. Knowing when to take a tough-accountability-oriented focus and when to adopt a gentle and nurturing tone becomes clear when we understand a client’s unfolding process.
The coach’s use of meta-skills holds the client in the coaching relationship and models the potential that lies just beyond reach. Our own agility and breadth of style says, “it’s ok to go there.” It brings lightness and movement to the coaching session, and it helps clients become unstuck.
It’s this precision – the ability to recognise growth trajectories and edges with acuity, and to adopt the right meta-skill, that makes process oriented coaching so powerful.
The Coach’s Own Inner Agility
For a coach to work this way requires a level of inner agility. We must be able to recognise and traverse our own edges. That’s why we at the Global Coaching Institute focus so intently on the personal inner development of the coach.
The question of what makes a great coach should engage the profession for decades to come. In the act of searching with curiosity, we make fresh discoveries and grow as practitioners.