Most coaches consciously follow a series of activities designed to move the client forward. Although coaches will skip around in response to the client’s situation and statements, they do follow a basic process. This chapter will cover the steps in the coaching process. It looks at the change process from the perspective of the coach and what the coach does to facilitate change; this differs from phases of change, which take the perspective of the client.
STEP 1: ENTERING THE ENVIRONMENT AND CONTRACTING (WEEK 1)
The coaching process begins with either the client or the manager looking to help the client grow as a leader. A member of management, often the human resource manager, contacts a coach and invites the coach to discuss the situation. In this initial meeting, the coach may meet with the HR manager, the client’s manager, the client, or all three.
They talk about the desired change, what led to the decision to hire a coach, and their expectations of a successful coaching project. The coach asks questions to learn about their experience, style, and approach. Sometimes the management team interviews several coaches in order to select the one who best fits the situation.
In this initial meeting, the coach informs the management team about how they work and at the same time learns about the client, the organization, and the challenge. The coach listens carefully for clues about the organization’s style and culture and about how the client is perceived. They assess the nature of the relationship between the client and the boss and try to discern the organization’s motives for investing in the coaching process. If all goes well, the coach accepts and is accepted for the assignment.
STEP 2: BUILDING RAPPORT AND PLANNING THE DEVELOPMENT PROCESS (WEEK 2)
Next, the coach and the client begin meeting privately. As with any collaboration, they need to size each other up and get to know each other before digging into the work. The coach might begin by asking the client about the work they do and the challenges they face. Understanding the client’s job and their approach to it will enable the coach to more easily appreciate the environment and how the client views it. Understanding the nature of the client’s work will also enable the coach to relate it to their own personal and professional experience.
Most clients begin the coaching process with some trepidation. They may be anxious about sharing their inner life with a stranger hired by their company. They may also be concerned about feeling incompetent as they try to learn new behaviors. Asking about the client’s job temporarily shifts the power from the coach to the client. It gives the client the opportunity to begin the partnership by taking control and being the expert. By starting the process with the client in the driver’s seat, the client gains a sense of comfort that will carry through the project.
In the first meeting, it is helpful to define the structure for the engagement. The coach can lay out the steps in the process, set expectations for what will happen, and define the roles that each part will play. This includes agreeing on how often the party will play. This includes agreeing on how often to meet and how long the meetings will last. The coach also describes what will be kept confidential, as well as what information will be shared with management and how it will be shared. Determining a structure for the project increases the client’s comfort and enables them to begin the envision steps in their own change process.
Asking the client about their goals is a good way to align expectations about the work. It serves multiple purposes. By articulating their wishes, the client starts to generate motivation for the behavior change. Talking about their wishes can move them from the precontemplation to the contemplation phase. Listening to the client’s goals enables the coach to understand how the client sees themselves and their world. By listening to which behaviors the client chooses to describe and how they describe them, the coach gets a first peak into the client’s mental models. Talking about goals also gives the coach an opportunity to compare the client’s perspective to that of the company’s management. Talking about the client’s job, the coaching process, and the client’s goals make for a full, productive first meeting.