WHAT IS DEVELOPMENTAL COACHING?
Developmental coaching aims to support the coachee to make the changes necessary to grow and mature from where the coachee is now to where he or she wants to be, whether that is in relation to making practical changes in the work environment, making changes in response to emotional pressure or making changes in levels of understanding and responses to the world around them. To be developmental the coaching also has not merely to focus on problem solving but also ensuring that coachee capacity is built through that problem solving. Developmental coaching can be seen as a progressive step in the provision of coaching; from skills coaching (e.g. sport, technical mastery of aspects of work) through performance coaching (e.g. organizational, career or other aspirational goals), to developmental coaching (e.g. the growth of the whole person to be all that he/she can be).
Whether the trigger for coaching is presented as a performance issue, a project issue or a career issue, the aspiration is to facilitate some progressive and permanent change. By progressive we mean a change that takes the coachee, over a period of time, to some kind of enrichment of their engagement with their personal, social and career context. By permanent we mean that the solution should extend beyond the presenting trigger and create some greater, sustainable capacity in the coachee.
HOW DO WE CONDUCT DEVELOPMENTAL COACHING?
We approach contracting for coaching, especially the triangular contract with organizational sponsors on the level of process and shared understandings rather than specific outcomes and measures. This does not detract from our commitment to return on investment which we deliver by paying attention to the needs of both the individual and the sponsor through a contracting process that sets up a level of communication that is likely to support the ongoing development of the individual within the management processes of the organization.
We place emphasis on the coachee’s agenda, their ability to seek and implement solutions, and the avoidance of advice giving as well as focusing the coachee’s experience of problem solving as a learning opportunity.
We reflect on process, avoid questions of content, and embrace ambiguity as ways of enriching the developmental relationship. Procedural tools focus on the learning process, for example reflective and observational logs, experimenting with problem solving or communication patterns that are less preferred by the coachee. With an emphasis on presence and on the coachee’s own processes, sessions may be marked at times by a quiet, contemplative atmosphere. One model we use to support the process is Goodman’s (2002: 138) developmental coaching process, which involves four steps that have their basis in research in the adult learning and development field:
1) Asking for meaning
- Asking questions that enable both the coach and the coachee to arrive at a deep understanding of the issue or dilemma that the coachee is facing and then exploring alternative perspectives or readings of the story
2) Building a new perspective
- And new options which open up choices for the coachee
3) Creating a bridge
- By reflecting on past fears and relating these to the nature of the challenge ahead, coachees are enabled to move forward with a sense that their new options or perspectives have connection and relevance to their (previously articulated) reality
4) Developing action.
- A plan is developed that details what the coachee will do to implement change and the coach helps the coachee to rehearse that change.