Getting ready for the coaching journey (1)

Getting ready for the coaching journey (1)

backpacker with rucksack

25 January 2024

How do coaches and coachees ready themselves for the coaching journey? In the first part of a two-part blog, Bob Gibbon, a systemic team coach, and team coach supervisor, guides our thinking about ‘garnering all our resources to help fulfil something new and different’. Read part 2 of the blog here.

Coaching is a partnership between the coach and the coachee that supports the coachee to move from A to B. Whether a big or small shift, this can be an emotional movement, a mindset movement, or a physical movement – and indeed, some mix of all three and more. How do we all prepare for such journeys?

As a catalytic partner, a coach supports others to self-direct themselves from one place to another. In the simplest of terms, a movement from A to B encompasses three key inquiries:

  • Where are we now? Raising the awareness of the situation of the ‘as is’ (which may reflect also how we got here so we are aware of any echoes from the past)
  • Where are we going? Exploring the possibilities of what could be
  • How do we get there? Clarifying the resources, roles and responsibilities required to fulfil the journey

A critical fourth key inquiry we are also likely to embrace is what might get in the way?

Gauging our level of readiness

Most of us will have experienced beginning a journey with positive intent only to fall at the first or subsequent hurdles. One of the challenges for a coaching partnership is to gauge the level of readiness of both the coach and the coachee, to travel the coaching journey – to assess the feasibility of the partnership to traverse the uncharted realm.

Readiness is defined as ‘the state of being fully prepared for something such as an action or situation’.

A to B often occurs at 3 levels:

  • coping with a situation
  • restoring a situation
  • advancing beyond a situation

Each level can hold its own complexity of challenge, and so a journey of transformation (in the ‘advancing beyond’ category) isn’t necessarily more challenging than one of coping.

Often, this movement from A to B has many dimensions, including the physical activity of movement, the cognitive processing of thought, the emotional experience of feelings, limitations and fears, and the hope that the end outcome will fulfil the desired intent. There is a reason why the construct of the Hero’s Journey grips our attention in stories. It mirrors our own progress through life’s challenges.

The journey as a test of courage

While coaching is compassionate, it is not a never-ending warm cuddle. It’s a process that allows us to move and grow beyond where we are now by exploring ourselves and our relationship to our worlds, by challenging our perceptions and limits, by entertaining possibilities beyond our boundaries, and by garnering all our resources to help fulfil something new and different.

In this challenge we can come face to face with things we have locked in the dungeons of our minds, we confront our own realities as being mere interpretations, and we render ourselves vulnerable to the uncertainty of something different and possibly not yet known. Although our journey can be compassionately supported, at times it can certainly be uncomfortable and test our courage.

Hence ‘readiness’ has a very broad remit – and of course, getting ready for the journey is a key part of the journey.

As any coach would know, whatever we start out to achieve, ‘stuff’ happens along the way. Interruptions can often be anticipated in our initial readying, but sometimes they might not. Hence, readiness holds a dynamic – a constant dance of readying for what is and what is yet to come.

Readiness and contracting

In a sense, effective readying is a prerequisite for contracting. After all, what is the point of contracting if we are not ready to fulfil the contract?

So, ‘always be contracting’ is significantly boosted by the action of ‘always be readying’.

As in contracting, the detail and timing of readiness assessments we undertake, and how much we share with clients, are judgments we make as coaches as we jostle between ensuring success and avoiding cognitive overload or preparation fatigue.

In this sense, we might wish to consider Wageman and Hackman’s work on team coaching interventions. This guides us to ready the team from a motivational perspective at the beginning, a performance perspective in the middle and a learning perspective at the end. In larger assignments, we might consider breaking the programme into stages and repeating the before/during/after steps for each stage. In this context, sprints provide a useful chunk where we can apply the Wageman-Hackman model and continuously develop and enhance the team’s readiness as they cycle through what are effectively experiential learning cycles.

Finally, readiness also extends to the coach-client relationship and, where used, the relationship between co-coaches.

What are your favourite or ‘go to’ readiness practices and tools? We explore this more in part 2.

Bob Gibbon

Bob Gibbon has worked in, led and coached high-performance teams and organisations across the world for over 40 years. Through this time, he has developed many unique frameworks, processes and tools that help power team performance. Following a 25-year corporate career, from manufacturing systems engineer to FTSE 250 board director, Bob first studied Performance Coaching and then High-Growth Coaching. More recently, he has gained practitioner status in Systemic Team Coaching accredited by EMCC and ICF. Bob is also a master practitioner in NLP and certified Team Coach Supervisor.

Photo by Arthur Edelmans