I met someone earlier this week and we were talking about coaching. The conversation turned towards how some practitioners take a very purist stance towards coaching and how others don’t.
In this instance, a purist stance would be what is often termed “non-directive”. That is to say that the coaches role is purely to ask open questions without directing the client, using the clients own language... The main principle is that the coach does not in any way provide advice or direct the clients actions.
To be pedantic there is no such thing as “non-directive” in any human interaction but that’s another blog!
I’m not knocking the spirit or the practice of “non-directive” coaching. However, this isn’t always what a client wants. In an organisational setting it’s not always what a client needs. So who decides?
Take for example a manager who is having trouble performance managing members of staff. The purpose of the coaching & the contracting with the coach is focussed on improving the managers ability to deal with performance situations.
In the coaching conversation, the manager decides to take a course of action that to an informed outsider would clearly put them & their organisation at risk – say unfair dismissal.
If the “non-directive” coach, identified the risk how could they intervene and remain “non-directive”? It’s a perfectly reasonable & professional practice in any form of coaching (or mentoring) to seek permission to “take off the coaching hat” to offer thoughts or reactions. However, for a purist coach to do this in some way would seem to undermine the whole purpose of being “non-directive”.
Here’s another perhaps more important issue. What would happen if the “non-directive” coach didn’t appreciate the risk being taken. After all this is not what they were employed to do. Could they become complicit with reinforcing the clients’ agenda and decision to take a detrimental course of action?
Who decides what a clients wants and what a client needs? Whose risk is it?
The ill advised need sound advice
Coaching is not about giving advice. However, it is about care for our clients.
Fundamentally, no amount of “non-directive” coaching will help the ill advised follow a safer course of action. In fact, the above example shows that “non-directive” coaching may even enforce their stance.
In any other walk of life, it’s hard to imagine a paid professional sitting across from their client and letting them pursue a course of action that would put them at peril without raising their own concerns.
Perhaps this is why organisations tend to “buy” coaches with industry & leadership experience rather than purely coaching qualifications.
Does purist coaching make sense in organisations?
I can’t say never, but I have a long standing concern...
Even though we always strive to help our client determine their own agenda and actions, coaching is a human interaction. Human interactions require us to give of each other and see each other - @Projectlibero puts this very eloquently here.
In organisations, we are working in systems where potential risks and consequences of our actions can be amplified. If we don’t share our care and concerns do we potentially put our clients at risk?
What do you think?