I like books that challenge me and question my thinking. And from this one, I'm left with the question of how do women have different needs to men in a coaching relationship? It's the -˜Men are from Mars and Women from Venus', women and map-reading kind of question! I was intrigued by the title of the book which set me off immediately to consider the way that I work with male and female clients.
Do I coach my male and female clients differently and what are the dynamics at play between us? Do men prefer female coaches and women prefer male coaches for some unspoken reason of attraction? I asked this question of several fellow coaches and my coaching supervisor, so for that prompt alone, I'm grateful to the authors and the fruitful discussion that ensured. We debated whether male coaches feel powerful when their female coachees show their vulnerability, and whether men can only feel free to be really honest and open with a female coach. At the same time, does a same-sex coach act as a useful role model and confidante in a different way? Then how do the dynamics change with a gay coach or client? Or what about coaching teams with male and female participants?
In many ways I feel this book is a mis-nomer . Essentially, it's an introductory guide to coaching anyone, regardless of gender, and builds confidence in the -˜rookie coach' as they start out on a coaching career. The core coaching model is basic -” centred on the GROW model - and is aimed at those looking for a simple structure to build on.
The authors initial premise is that women have six characteristics that make them different as clients and offer the following six key principles:
1. Women want to feel their relationship with their coach is unique and different from the coach's relationship with other coachees.
2. Women learn best through discussion and have highly developed verbal skills.
3. Women have the ability to fix several problems at the same time, even if they are only talking to you about one issue.
4. Women are emotionally literate and so are willing to acknowledge, explore and express emotions.
5. Women are able to use visualisation very effectively
6. Women are more self-critical.
I'm not in any way convinced that these generalisations hold true just for women, as I, and others I spoke to, can easily identify so many male clients with all of the six traits attributed to women. For example, both male and female coachees can express and acknowledge emotion: what might have been more interesting to explore is whether women find it tougher to express certain more -˜macho' emotions such as anger while it's more socially acceptable to express fear and vice versa. Most of my male clients have superb visualisation skills and spatial ability. They are certainly highly critical of themselves too
What I particularly like about this book is that it offers practical examples and stories to de-mystify the coaching process with coaching dialogues that clarify the issues that so often appear in coaching. By taking the conversation deeper, the coach learns what to look for that's not immediately obvious at the surface level.
For those who are particularly interested in coaching women, the book offers a whole chapter looking at female niches within the -˜coaching women' sector from busy mums to budding female entrepreneurs. And for those new coaches looking to make their mark in the female sector, I think this book hits the spot. It's clear, well edited and a good read with thought-provoking ideas for experienced coaches too.