The coach is not the player; but an instrument, in service to the art of the coachee. So says Angus McLeod in his new handbook Performance Coaching. It may be a poetic way of framing it but it is true. Coaches aren't there to proffer advice but, rather; they should encourage coachees to explore their frame of reference; to help them find the motivation they need and, with luck, to inspire them to whatever they define as success.
McLeod suggests that there are three principal instruments which the coach can draw on:
- Silence. When a coachee makes a discovery, this breakthrough is wholly internal. Even if the coach is speaking, the contribution he makes to the realisation is insignificant. Silence enables the coachee to think and feel without being sidetracked. During such times, coachees may be exploring fresh perceptions and letting things fall into place; they may be developing new insights on current circumstances, or understanding, in a new way, the source of their motivation. In this respect the art of the coach is not to know when to be silent but to know when to break the silence.
- Questions. There are two main reasons why questions are used in coaching: to unlock more information for both coach and coachee and to help the coachee to explore available realities. Questions help define the boundaries of the coachee's world-view and can also help the coachee to re-evaluate those boundaries and extend what is possible.
- Challenge. Challenges can be offered as statements or as questions and can be especially helpful where a coachee is stuck in a pattern of negative thought. Take this example: Coachee: “I am useless at presentations.” Coach: “So, you're the worst presenter on the planet?” Coachee: “I'm not that bad.” Coach: “What are you -˜not that bad' at in presentations?
In this case the coach has challenged the coachee's self-perception and stimulated a reaction which helps the coachee to reframe her/his perception of her/his abilities.
Are these three tools enough? Of course not. McLeod is a neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) practitioner and he has a full set of models, techniques and interventions at his disposal. So what you get in this book is a practical mix of coachee issues and coaching insights; coachee behaviours and coaching techniques to deal with them; coachee dialogues and coaching responses. You also get a lot of good stuff on coaching practice and models - including the STEPPPA method which, according to the author; checks that the coaching strategy will be carried out, will be successful and will enhance the coachee's role and life. It comprises:
- Target objective. This is about ensuring the target is realistic
- Emotional context to subject and target. This is about ensuring there is an emotional attachment to the subject and target
- Perception and target re-evaluation. This is all about choices and developing a wider and clearer view of the subject and target
- Plan. This is a process through which the coachee achieves her/his target
- Pace. Pacing is about establishing that the target solution has a realistic chance of success
- Adapt or act. This is about final adjustments and commitment
So should you buy this book? If you do so, you will find plenty of good stuff in here. It's primarily aimed at coaches and coaching managers and anyone with an NLP background will find it especially relevant. On the negative side, I found that the structure does not work especially well and I think it needs a different title. This isn't a handbook. It's a practical resource manual and, for this reason alone, it will probably sell well.