GCI Coaching Accreditation Program

Earlier this year I completed the GCI Coaching Accreditation Program. It was a culmination of a three year coaching journey, that started with the Introduction to Leadership Coaching program back in the beginning of 2015. The process of becoming a coach and developing a coaching way of being has greatly improved all aspects of my leadership.

As part of the final hurdle requirement I was required to write a reflective essay documenting a coaching relationship. Find an exerpt of this reflection below.

*All identifying information has been removed and I have been granted permission from the coachee to publish this reflective excerpt here.

Introduction
Coaching is both a formal and informal process of engaging and empowering others using a suite of people-oriented questioning and listening techniques. Whilst no agreed upon definition of coaching currently exists, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines it as a partnership between two people that results in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires the coachee to maximize their personal and professional potential. Aguilar (2013) describes it as “doing a set of actions, holding a set of beliefs, and being in a way that results in those actions leading to change” (p.20). Van Nieuwerburgh (2012) describes coaching as “a one-to-one conversation that focuses on the enhancement of learning and development through increasing self-awareness and a sense of personal responsibility” (p.11).

Much of the literature agrees that coaching can have a positive influence on the development of both the coach and the coachee. The coach uses a variety of techniques including active listening and asking questions to uncover beliefs and assumptions to assist the coachee to access new learning. As a result, coaching has much to offer those who work in educational environments.

The Growth Coaching International (GCI) Accreditation Program relates directly to the work I do in my workplace. Working with, leading, learning from and managing others, provides me a unique opportunity to use coaching as personal professional development as I seek to get to know, understand and serve others so that I can assist them in developing themselves professionally and reaching their goals.

Background
Our College has had eighty-two staff recently engage in the Growth Coaching International (GCI) Introduction to Leadership Coaching program. We have another four staff who are at various stages of completing the GCI Accreditation Program. In a relatively short period, we have seen significant changes in the way people talk with each other and have seen evidence of a more empowered learning culture starting to emerge.

In choosing my pro bono client, I wanted to ensure that I would be engaging with someone who was willing and able to participate for the duration of the six sessions. I made contact initially via email explaining to her the course I was completing and that I was looking for a coachee with which to work. My client accepted and as she was new to a senior leadership role in 2018, was very grateful to have someone work with her in this capacity.

My positionality is unique in this context. Whilst I am not my coachee’s direct line manager, I still have indirect leadership responsibilities so it was important to establish clear guidelines for our relationship via a coaching contract. As my client had already completed the Introduction to Leadership Coaching program through GCI, only a re-familiarization with the ICF competencies and code of ethics was required as we established clear expectations via an agreement.

We scheduled a fortnightly one-hour coaching session and agreed to meet in my client’s office. At the beginning of the first session, I explained to my client that I was ready to serve, established confidentiality and asked once again for permission to engage with her as a coach. I explained that I wanted to keep our commitment of a fortnightly session and that I had full intentions of maintaining this coaching space as a safe space with no agenda. With the advantage of having a healthy professional relationship with my client for a number of years in various capacities, I had already established credibility so I began our first session by asking questions, connecting to what my client was saying and validating where possible via a combination of active listening techniques and reciprocal and positive body language. A coaching relationship is built on trust, and having known my client for some time, it was evident that despite both our best intentions, that our existing relationship was also initially a disadvantage, as our first session at times wandered into conversation and the operational day-to-day running of a school.

About half way through this initial session I hit the metaphorical pause button as I explained to my client that we could both see what was happening and decided that we needed to setup a weekly timeslot alternating one week between a purely coaching environment and one week a more operational conversation about the school. We both agreed that this would provide greater clarity of intent and allow us to address our needs of discussing the day-to-day operation of the school and maintaining a space for a coaching relationship to further develop and evolve.

Goal setting process and applying the 8 step GROWTH model
The diagrammatic representation of the GROWTH model is linear and suggests a sequential process. Great coaches use the GROWTH framework in a fluid manner however, one that is non-sequential, non-linear and by necessity uses each stage of the model in unequal amounts. Sometimes a large percentage of time is spent unpacking and peeling back the layers of a client’s reality. Often times, by exploring realities and options, you uncover hidden beliefs or assumptions that require both the coach and the coachee to double back and re-explore what they want to achieve.

As I focused on becoming a better coach, I also noticed significant changes in my way of being. Learning the mechanics of the GROWTH model had enabled me to approach situations with a greater sense of empathy and curiosity. This way of being was reflective in both formal and informal coaching scenarios. It is an authentic and humble stance of seeing others in a positive way and valuing their unique viewpoints and perspectives. This realization was helpful in assisting my client establish a goal she wanted to work on in our first session.

My client’s goal centred on addressing certain staff behaviours and having the confidence to engage in difficult conversations. In addition, she wanted to ensure that conversations at curriculum meetings remained true to our vision for learning. Whilst our first session was somewhat interrupted as we both struggled to maintain the discipline required to engage fully in our coaching session, we did manage to work towards a goal. Establishing a goal using iSMART and the sentence stem “By…. I am…. So that….” ensured that my client and I articulated a goal that would contribute to my client’s growth and development and was specific, measurable and attainable. I had my client write down her goal as we were articulating it to add an additional layer of accountability – “By Monday 19th February, I am creating a standing item on the curriculum leadership agenda each fortnight, so that we are progressing our Vision for Learning.”

Upon reflection following this coaching session I came to the realization that I had not assisted my coachee in setting a goal, rather I had assisted her with an action. Whilst this action was important for my coachee to take, and a great first step towards realizing a much larger goal, it was not a goal. This was good learning for me and I approached this with my coachee in an honest and transparent way. I asked her how she went with her action at our next meeting, listened and prompted where necessary and then turned the conversation into the direction of clarifying for both of us the difference between a goal and an action. By reframing the conversation and re-visiting what she wanted to achieve, we set a goal of “By the end of 2018, I am facilitating effective curriculum leadership meetings so that we are being true to what we believe.” Through a number of conversations that went deeper into her current reality, this ended up morphing into “By the end of 2018, I am confident in using a coaching approach in challenging situations, so that we will have a more solution-focused staff and I am personally and professionally happier in my role.”

The impact of this goal refining process was increased clarity and as we continued to unpack her reality, the coachee was engaging in some critical internal reflection and making important discoveries about what she thought she wanted to focus on compared to what she actually really needed to focus on. The coachee had a lightbulb moment and started using a particular metaphor to describe the way they needed to prioritize.  I celebrated and affirmed this realization. As we explored this concept and identified the coachee’s priorities, I routinely bought the conversation back to the goal that we had established and asked “Given that we have now identified your priorities, what are some things you could do to work towards your goal?” When one option was offered I would prompt for further options by asking “What else?”

In a subsequent coaching session, my coachee sat down excitedly and told me in detail about how she had come to a stunning realization after our last session. I remember smiling and saying “Tell me more.” The coachee explained that she was making many of the more difficult interactions she had to have in her role too personal. I nodded and again prompted with “Tell me more.” For the next fifteen minutes the coachee explained that these conversations generally have very little to do with her on a personal level, so she felt that she would now be able to take much of the emotion she was feeling out of these situations. She explained that what she needed to do was prepare well in advance for these conversations, take a step back and look at things systemically and to adopt a mindset of curiosity. This was an incredible insight and the positive energy that the coachee was exuding was palpable. I explained this to her and she said that it was like a weight had been lifted from her shoulders. Harnessing this confident state I asked “With this newfound confidence, what options do you like the most for action during the coming week?” The coachee had to have a genuine conversation with someone in a few days’ time and asked if we could use the remainder of our time together to role play this conversation. Of course I agreed and we spent the next 30 minutes or so talking through different scenarios and tactics. During this time I primarily coached, but at times slid into the role of mentor by asking “Would you like a suggestion from me? At the end of this session I asked “What’s clearer for you now?” The coachee after giving this some thought responded with “That I can absolutely 100% do this!”

During our next session I asked the coachee how the conversation played out. She rated herself 8 out of 10. I asked her to articulate why she gave herself an 8 and not a 7 or a 9. The only answer that the coachee was able to access at this point was that even though she believed the conversation went particularly well, she still felt the emotion “exploding inside.” The coachee’s level of self-awareness here was particularly impressive and we discussed that by noticing how she was feeling she was exhibiting a high-degree of emotional intelligence. We talked through how we can never fully take all the emotion out of a situation.

In order to continue to build on the momentum of the coachee’s new found confidence we started to discuss specific tactics and habits. I asked questions like,
How will you sustain your newfound confidence? What might get in the way? What support will you need to maintain this? What opportunities do you see for practice and consolidation of this skill?

At the conclusion of our six sessions I agreed to continue meeting with the coachee fortnightly as one of the many tactics and habits that we discussed. The impact of these coaching sessions for the coachee was quite profound. By holding a mirror up and prompting some deep, internal reflection……..

Get in touch if you would like to talk more about how coaching can influence your own practice.

Comments

  1. Thank you Adrian for sharing this reflection. Having attended the introductory program, as well as the conference, it is useful to have this as a reflection of the whole process. I feel that although my work seems to have moved away from that of a coach that this course and accreditation maybe worth it in developing a coaching way of being.

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