Coaches – stop trying to fix people!

When we wonder how effective we are as coaches it is useful to remind ourselves of a few things:

  1. It’s not our job to fix anyone. It’s our job to help the client to fix themselves.
  2. A huge proportion of the success in coaching has nothing to do with the coaching at all!  This is approximately 40%.
  3. Equally success is due to relationship factors – how well we get on with the client. (approx 30%)
  4. Smaller amounts are due to the techniques employed and hope for the future that we create in the session. (approx 15% each).

These numbers are based on some research done back in 1994 by Garfield and Bergin and I imagine that they will vary greatly based on the type of coaching that you do.  But I have found time and time again that these numbers approximate what happens in my executive coaching.  When I first started coaching I recall a client who was having communication problems with her staff.  I introduced her to a number of techniques none of which seemed to resonate with her.  We talked for some time about what the issue looked and felt like visually and emotionally. The result was a very chaotic representation of shapes and colours.  When she left the session I felt I had let her down as I was unable to ‘fix’ her.

Upon her return the following week, I asked how the problem was.  It was no longer a problem.  The techniques I had introduced her to were interesting, but the real effectiveness of the session was her ability to reorganise the shapes and colours sometime between sessions until they fell into place.  I didn’t instruct her to do this, it was an activity she undertook herself. Whilst we spoke about shapes and colours in the session it was the work she did on her own outside the session that made the difference – which I had no control over.

So in our coaching sessions we should remember that it’s not our job to fix people but provide the means by which they can fix themselves.

Categories: Coaching

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