Angus McLeod's Performance Coaching. is a joy to read because of his easy style and because his numerous examples and case studies bring coaching alive. My partner, who is a coach, picked up the book and dipped in. A little later, with a potential client on the phone, she was able to use what she had read immediately, and “it worked”!
Coaching aims to enhance what is already working, rather than dealing therapeutically with what is wrong. The challenge the coach faces is summed up in: “The coach is invariably ” helping the coachee transfer competencies from one context of their experience to another” (p. 244). The assumption is that the coachee has within them all the resources they need, but has them contextualised in such a way that they are not currently available. Finding these resources is what coaching is all about, because once realised, the coachee knows what to do and will be able to take the next step.
Angus has created an eclectic model of coaching, based on his experience of coaching and mentoring, counseling and NLP. And as with many NLP, therapy and coaching books, there are several paradigms evinced, but no underpinning theoretical model. No matter. There is so much that is important to know, including how to organise a coaching practice, as well as what to say (or not say) to the coachee. In Chapter 8, Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them, I was pleased to find a mention of Transference and Countertransference ” terms borrowed from the psychoanalytic tradition. This topic is rarely found in NLP and Coaching books, but an understanding is essential for good practice. The psychoanalyst, Michael Kahn (1997: 6), says that Freud noticed that “patients transfer to the therapist their attitudes, feelings, fears, and wishes from long ago,” and that Freud came to see “the transference as the therapist's central opportunity and the fulcrum of therapeutic leverage.” Countertransference “was Freud's term for the unconscious feelings that the patient stirred in the analyst.” NLP avoids transference and counter-transference as far as possible by engaging in brief therapy (but not so brief that transference does not occur!), working content free, not requiring case histories, and so on. Although coaching is not primarily concerned with this relationship, transference and countertransference happen regardless of your expertise or knowledge. Calling yourself a coach does not confer “immunity.' Therefore you need to notice when the social aspects of the relationship cross the boundaries and then intervene.
McLeod advocates eliminating the NLP habit of “body matching.' Rapport need only be just enough to maintain an effective but “neutral' role. “Neutrality is the ability to maintain good attention and support the coachee without mimicry or copying of posture or expression” (p. 172). Angus wisely advises the coach to avoid the mindreading of interpreting NLP eye-accessing cues (because in most cases they do not provide useful clues to intervention): “eye cues are usually very annoying to coachees and can put them on their guard. The emphasis on eye cues has done NLP and its coaches a disservice by highlighting a technique that is seen by many as being intrusive and manipulative” (p. 177).
This is an eminently practical book, rather than providing a deep theoretical model of coaching. It is not the “ultimate guide to coaching', because no book will ever be that. Coaching itself can be coached into becoming even better ” there is always room for improvement. Angus offers clues to what else needs to be sorted out, both in coaching and NLP. For example, on page 43 he uses the word “hope' when talking about Future Desired States (the PS in NLP) and this suggests “more work needed here.” Angus's book provides a clear statement of where coaching is now. And because you need to be this competent in order to go further, I recommend this book to all coaches and NLP Practitioners. Reference
- Michael Kahn (1997) Between Therapist and Client: The New Relationship. Revised Edition, New York, W H Freeman.