No hacks please, we're coaches

17th December by George Warren

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Whether you’re an independent coach, an internal coach - or a leader who does some coaching - I bet that you’ve been asked for tips. For some hacks.

Today I’d like to challenge you to push back.

What many of us love about coaching is the ability to help someone profoundly. To help people safely go to the places they want - or need - to go to. To help someone reconnect with their values, their purpose or parts of themselves that have become buried or disconnected.

This is what I and so many coaches love and thrive on. It’s what leads me to sit down with utter glee and excitement on a Monday morning.

Agreeing the rules of the game

When you have a new client - or indeed a new client totally new to coaching - there can be a mismatch of expectations. There can even be a mismatch of defining what coaching actually involves.

A lot of folks out there might sit down and expect coaching to be done to them. To be guided, persuaded, influenced and informed by a sort of guru. This, of course raises a number of issues around responsibility, ethics and liability. And so I offer space with each new client to simply discuss what they understand coaching to be.

What do you see as the difference between coaching and mentoring?

Where do you see the boundary between coaching and therapy?

Something I encourage to every coach is the awareness and sensitivity of culture and context. To be aware when we might actually be harming our clients through perpetuating beliefs, ideas, biases that aren’t helpful.

Transactional coaching

And so to hacks.

We are operating in the age of convenience. With a few clicks or swipes, you can have hot food delivered to your door, you can watch any film ever connected, you can have almost any item on your doorstep tomorrow. Everything and anything, now.

In the world of work, your clients can find a freelancer to deliver the work swiftly. Increasingly short and stimulating videos on social media will trade you the promise of insight, shortcuts and specialist knowledge in exchange for your attention span and engagement.

The system showing up in your client

When a client asks you for tips or hacks, perhaps it just the wider system of instantaneous, transactional commoditisation that is showing up. Perhaps we are all slowing conditioning ourselves away from deep, thoughtful, slow investment.

From the hard hours.

Coaching, doffing its cap to her therapeutic antecedents, is most effective when it is not simply viewed as a quick fix, whereby the coachee is a passive recipient of the wisdom/advice/solution from the coach.

Coaching is a deeper enquiry, facilitating often deep, complex inner work. I often say that a client needs to work harder than the coach in the session. Ideally leaving with plenty to digest, to reflect on, to unpack or to put into action.

If a client wants to be more productive and seeks productivity hacks. One approach would be to meet that at face value. Either offering them some yourself (not really coaching) or guiding them through leading questions to some solutions you think will help them (still not really coaching, arguably quite insidious) or help them gather and mine their own resources (now we’re talking).

But if you and your client wanted to really shift something, what about enquiring about their desire or perceived need to be more productive? What part of them feels this need? Who might be influencing this need? What will being more productive do for them? Will it move them further towards or away from a life of joy, balance and contentment?

And why a hack? What might they be assuming about the simplicity or ease of achieving their goal so simply, with such little effort? In what other areas of their life have shortcuts or hacks worked out for them?

What is the real work might they be avoiding? What is the belief system, the set of assumptions that might be at play here? How might pain, fear, shame, rejection be lurking in the conversation, hiding in plain sight?

Much of the research shows that the key factor in positive outcomes for the coaching is the quality of relationship between client and coach. I advocate that you and your clients get to a point very early on in your work where you can - from a place of kindness and helpfulness - push back on hacks. To challenge. To enquire. To show the presenting topic or request curiosity.

And to avoid falling into a role of commodity. To avoid being the quick fix solution. To avoid perpetuation of an assumption or belief that problems, challenges and enquiries we face in our work and in our life can be solved with 90 second TikTok video or a simple tool, quick fix or hacks.

No hacks please, we’re coaches.

A big thank you to coach and AoEC Faculty member - George Warren. You can check out his latest reflections and articles which are shared via the Edge of Coaching and Slowing Down newsletters and tune into his informative and engaging podcast series - the Edge of Coaching here.