A lawyer friend of mine was invited on a ‘jolly’ as he described it, in Cambridge, a marquee on the riverbank, champagne on tap, canapés, strawberries and cream on a balmy afternoon. That was the perception or expectation in my friend’s head at any rate!
It transpired to be a few people crammed onto a punt - no champagne — a few beers and several punnets of warm strawberries which my rather dapper, affable friend was left holding, squeezed in between two giggly young girls. Nothing against the giggly young girls - just not perhaps the Henley-esque experience that he was expecting or maybe hoping for!
Perception, misperception is a common occurrence and where coaching is concerned it happens often. So, may I offer you some clarification?
I reflect on three meetings;
The first was a client, a very capable CEO. He joined the organisation less than 18 months ago and it was significantly loss making, he took this ailing company to becoming very saleable organisation and a deal concluded early this week (a multi-million pound deal, I will add). Did I see a confident, ballsy, excited individual, proud of his recent achievement? I did not! Admittedly, as many of you will testify taking a company through an exit is no mean feat - exhausting, exhilarating, frustrating, exciting, tedious and any other descriptive you care to mention (some of which are best left unwritten!) however the exit and perhaps the anticlimax hailed the start of a new era.
Do you ever have that feeling when you have heaps to do or even one specific thing to do and hard as you try you can’t seem to make the first step to tackling it, head-on or even from the sidelines in stealth mode? This is where we started.
The session enabled the client to articulate the real issues that were going on and therefore reveal the path ahead. Some-one else really probing, asking challenging questions and making one accountable for ones actions - that makes a huge difference to how one moves ahead and progresses. More importantly having an impartial and unbiased supporter that will be metaphorically speaking ‘on your side’ through the ups and downs, and also providing a softer cushion of support when it’s required.
An email later arrived from the client saying ’I've come back determined, energized and focused on my great achievement and on the positives, and to milk both for all they are worth!‘
That was coaching. My client shall remain nameless and I was the coach.
Meeting number two, is with a highly regarded entrepreneur, hugely successful businessman, published author, public speaker and generally great bloke.
The two meet at a disceet location in London, they discuss business, aspirations future strategy, global poverty…..
This man is charismatic, steely sharp and incredibly generous with his time and advice. He asks the most incisive of questions and really gets to the heart of an issue — evoking one to really explore all avenues and most importantly really hone in and focus on where one is headed.
From a position of great experience and knowledge, the entrepreneur imparts advice, encouragement and methodologies as to how the other might significantly grow their business in a supportive yet challenging way.
Specific, measurable suggestions that not only enable but also inspire! Topics covered are wide and varied; people, motivation, target market, USPs, finance, legal, marketing and the myriad of other issues facing companies and executives today.
I walked out onto the Strand positively bouncing with excitement and renewed vigour and drive (I still am in fact!).
That was mentoring and I was the privileged mentee and it was a gift.
Meeting number three;
An individual that I know well has been hugely successful in business (and continues to be) and has great friends and family.
Some 20 years ago, my friend grew up with alcoholic parents and lost his mother when he was eighteen in a tragic accident (doubtless caused by the alcohol abuse). At certain times in life this causes him to not only find a given situation very challenging but also he finds it extremely difficult in knowing how to handle it.
He sees a psychotherapist regularly and is slowly overcoming and being able put aside some of the pain.
This is counselling (or therapy), the friend shall remain nameless and the psychotherapist is a member of the British Association of Psychotherapists. Occasionally coaching will stray into areas of our psyche that require the services of a specialist counsellor or therapist — a good coach would always point out that they were not best placed to assist and refer on in such situations.
There is often some confusion defining coaching, mentoring and counselling. There is a time and place for each and the results and outcomes from each intervention can be extraordinary and potentially life-changing. However, they are each very different and it is essential that the boundaries of each aren’t blurred as this is when the wrong intervention can cause entirely the wrong outcome!
My lawyer friend was subsequently invited to the British Grand Prix by a generous corporate organisation; this reality super-ceded his expectation! Use coaching, mentoring or counselling at the right time in the right place and you will find that your expectations are more than likely surpassed too.
Kate Tojeiro is an Executive Performance Coach at www.the-x-fusion.co.uk