Thursday, January 13, 2011

What are those Helping Hands? All Heart and No Head?

Recently a colleague asked me to differentiate something she thought was essential to her understanding of how employees may be assisted. She wished to know how we could distinguish between a coach, a counselor and a mentor. I mentioned "You have challenged a lot in our identities." That need for clarity is the happier part of the anxiety. From that comes a knowing that is of experiential growth. Here’s my take as below….First  - a backdrop from a Coach position perspective to frame the rest…

Coaching : A coach is a facilitator of development whose specific act is to facilitate conversations aimed at stimulating a coachee’s thinking about transformation. A coach does so by qualifying the demand of his/her client by distinguishing motives of self-reliant personal growth, external dependency and mere curiosity.  The coach thus begins with rapport building and closes each conversation with support and appreciation for the coachee’s commitment to the process of reaching identified development goals.
If the client demand for facilitation is based on needs of self-reliance, the coach proceeds to establish a contractual process which can trigger the client’s self-renewal. This is through the coach's powerful questioning aimed at the client’s thinking and corresponding actions on self-development. In doing so, the coach addresses old attitudes by disrupting problem frames, affects ways of thinking by holding up effective beliefs and develops an outcome-frame with the client that instills relevant method to the act of choosing directions in development.
Essentially therefore coaching is a series of conversations over time, that make a transformative difference to the mind-body-emotive system in terms a range of choices that are generated in the inner dialogue that the coachee engages within himself/herself.
How is the coach approach to working with people different from:
a.    Training?
Training is generally job or role specific. It is skill focussed and information intensive; whereas coaching is more generic across life-situations and personal growth oriented that spurs development for relatively future focused responses. Therefore, coaching is a position of relative detachment from the coachee’s problems; as the process is for the coachee to develop a solution using his/her own resources. The Trainer by contrast ‘tells’ the client how he/she may develop the solution. A coach asks pertinent questions for the coachee to think in terms of effective Solutioning.
 b.    Consulting?
Consultation is relatively problem centered in that the client offers the ‘consultant’ a scenario of dependency where a ‘problem’ forms the basis of the relationship. Coaching by contrast is a ‘solution’ focussed relationship, where the client can expect to develop the solution using the coach’s process expertise in thinking systemically around outcome frames. While the ‘consultant’ is viewed as an ‘expert’ on the problem, the coach is regarded as a ‘process’ support who can be the person who asks the questions that guide the development of the solution.
c.    Counselling?
Counseling is a relationship that is centered on the client’s problem, and requires the counselor to be close and proximate to the client in emotional frames. Therapeutic effectiveness notwithstanding, there is an overwhelming sensation of client detail, that is likely to prevent the helper from seeing the bigger picture beyond the problem. Coaching on the other hand is assistance at a distance that is solution-oriented in outcome and detached from the sensory engulfment that the therapist counselor will entertain. Coaching therefore is likely to be more generative about future possibilities than counseling. Counseling when effectively done is likely to assume completion of business with the past problem, without necessarily developing outcome frames for effective actions for the client's future.
The search for patterns in the client’s thinking with non-judgment awareness describes a critical factor that distinguishes coaching from counseling or therapy. The coach requires different ego strength from that of a counselor to engage in the coaching relationship.
How is coaching distinct from:
d.    Mentorship?
Mentorship is more often a role related skill oriented support that the mentor provides from core experience in the target role; whereas Coaching is a more person specific value-laden and identity focused self-development; that often views skill acquisition as incidental to and not instrumental to one’s core development. While both Mentoring and Coaching are solution oriented, the position of the Mentor is in a “tell’ mode, distinct from the ‘ask’ mode that the coach will assume.
e.    Friendship?
A friend is prone to offering advice, which a coach will not. Advice defeats the self-reliance principle of the coaching process. The coach aims at getting the client to draw on his/her own inner resources. Friendship could derail the coaching process through unconscious and unintentional co-dependency wherein parties to the friendship would find it difficult to ask confrontational questions that challenge each other to development. Such interpersonal dynamics in friendship seek to ‘preserve’ the comfortable aspects of the relationship, and thus views conflict as a risk not worth taking. A coach knows in contrast aspects of rapport and challenge that engages the client to the solution.

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