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"Co-Active Coaching"

Have you ever considered how coaching can change businesses and change lives?  Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House and Phillip Sandahl make their case for these effects through the process of ‘co-active coaching.’  In this week’s blog, I examine the primary facets of their approach, trusting it will help me as a coach and you as either a practitioner or client.

The authors use the term ‘co-active’ to refer to the active collaboration between the coach and the client, which is the fundamental nature of coaching.  Indeed, the relationship between a coach and client is more than just a ‘relationship’ — it is, as the authors note, an ‘alliance between two equals for the purpose of meeting the client’s needs.’

Co-active coaching has four essential cornerstones that make it possible to have a truly allied conversation:

  1. “People Are Naturally Creative, Resourceful and Whole” Individuals are biologically capable of finding answers, are capable of choosing, taking action, can recover when bad things occur, and can learn (in fact, want to learn).  In the co-active coaching model, this cornerstone is paramount, as the alternative is that people are ‘fragile and dependent.’  “When we take a stand for other peoples’ natural creativity and resourcefulness, we become champions on their behalf, not worried hand-holders.  As coaches, we become curious.”
  2. “Focus on the Whole Person”  A coach is not talking to a ‘problem to solve’ — rather, he is listening to and participating with another person who does not neatly isolate ‘the problem’ from the rest of his integrated and entwined life.  Coaching involves listening on many fronts and levels.  A mistake coaches make is to be too eager, ‘accessing only the place between our ears.’  Instead we should use our minds to dig more deeply, realizing that sometimes a ‘correct solution can have consequences which are equally important to consider.’
  3. “Dance in the Moment”  Last week I wrote about the importance of listening and how hard it is to listen well, of opening yourself up.  Similarly, by dancing in the moment, the authors mean that each conversation is loaded with ‘…tone, mood and nuance.  There is much more information in how words are said versus the words chosen.’   Often, and we’ve all heard this before, more is said by what is not said!   Thus, as coaches we need to live in the moment and the ‘next moment’ because the conversation and information do not come from a script.
  4. “Evoke Transformation” Though the client might see the purpose of the coach for working on a single goal, as coaches we see far more — ‘a deeper connection is always possible, a fully connected life.’  In the quest to be the very best, to live up to one’s potential, a coach aspires to help the client see a different end point, a ‘life fully lived in whatever area the client finds important.’  Yes, this is a lofty objective for a coach.

Though this short piece barely touches all the elements of co-active coaching, it does make you realize that the coach is a ‘kind of change agent, entering the equation without knowing what the outcome will be.’  I find this part of coaching to be the most exciting of all — because it is about an alliance that evolves, there are skills to learn, and exciting times within the relationship.  And if we can see our clients’ lives more broadly — not just the problem du jour — we can enrich them as well as ourselves.

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