To be an effective executive coach you need to know what you believe about what you do. This might sound obvious, but it can be challenging to tease those beliefs out.
It can also be tricky to then communicate them in a way that others can easily understand. They will probably also need reviewing now and again, as there may be additions or amendments that happen over time.
At the Listening Partnership, we call these key elements the golden threads of our coaching practice.
When you are clear about the underlying assumptions that you operate by as a coach, you can usually then be more confident in explaining how you like to work.
There is power in simplicity. If you can articulate the core principles in a way that others can quickly grasp, it makes running a coaching practice so much easier. This applies to any coach, whether they are an organisational ‘in-house’ coach or an external, independent coach.
Sixteen golden threads
At the Listening Partnership, we have identified sixteen golden threads that are woven throughout our approach. They are expressed in what we believe about our practice, how we coach and how we interact with our clients. We inhabit these principles.
They are outlined below:
Multiple narratives. We live in a world that is full of multiple narratives, and we work in organisations that are built on them. Our presence in the world is dependent upon how we understand, act and communicate effectively within this complexity.
Shared by everyone. Working with and communicating through stories holds a special magic. It has the power to build vision, connections and new possibilities, as well as the capacity to do just the opposite. It is a universal medium, shared by everyone – everywhere.
Strengths and Performance. Harnessing personal, team and organisational strengths and capital, strategically identifying and aligning the key business narratives will drive greater performance and delivery.
Context counts. Understanding the context that we operate within is essential. Knowing our audience and their interests will affect the language we use, the narratives we tell, the timings we work to and the way in which we communicate.
Slowing down. Slowing down to consider the wider issues, the many voices surrounding us and then listening to our own deeper truth, often produces more effective results.
Personal identities. Our personal lives and identities are formed through inner and outer stories. Our futures depend upon making sense of what happened in the past, what is going on now and getting in touch with what we really want ahead.
Success so far. Building upon our success is determined by our skill at developing on-going authorship and agency of our lives, even when the external circumstances are frequently changing and moving fast.
Listening attentively. It takes a special kind of listening before a safe reflective space opens up. Awareness develops fresh thinking and creativity begins to emerge. In this context, our physical responses and feelings, not just our thoughts often hold important messages for us.
Stillness and silence. Stillness and silence are another form of words. The gentle holding of it enables us to reflect and find our voice. Our insights then often move us in new and surprising directions.
Metaphor and image. Metaphors and images provide a different form of knowing and frequently tell an unexpected story or sum up a situation in an instant. They communicate vividly and can lead us right to the heart of a matter.
Openness and newness. Openness, curiosity and the willingness to try something new lie at the heart of transformational change. Experimentation and a degree of risk challenge habitual inflexibility and assumptions. They are part of healthy growth and development.
Psychological flexibility. Creating space between the stimulus and the response of our ‘knee-jerk’ patterns of thinking and behaving provides the opportunity for us to develop greater awareness. We are then able to assess whether to keep or reconsider our habitual strategies.
Blind spots. It takes courage to throw light upon previously unacknowledged aspects of ourselves Shining a light on our blind spots can enable us to develop freedom to be who we are with greater skill.
More options. There are usually more options and choices than we first imagine. Different perspectives serve to free up thinking, broaden the possibilities and generate new solutions.
Core values. At important decision points, working in complex, pressured situations or when caught amongst conflicting demands or heading into unknown territories, our core values can keep us grounded and guide our choices.
Well-being and resourcefulness. Positively sustaining spiritual, intellectual, physical and emotional energy requires time, care and personal commitment on our parts. We can choose to access our resourcefulness and make large or small changes that will create lasting and consistent benefits in our lives.
This list represents our company. You may have different golden threads that are woven into the way you work as a coach. Similar or different, it is helpful to make the invisible or semi-visible threads visible.
Clarity about your approach, coupled with sound principles, can provide understanding and assurance to clients about what you stand for and who you are as a coach. It may well be differentiator within a growing profession of executive coaches from diverse commercial or third sector backgrounds and theoretical coaching disciplines.