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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

The Core Concepts of Coaching #I: Humanism

Modern day coaching has grown by integrating a variety of different psychological and developmental disciplines. Frankly, it still looks more like a smorgasbord than a pasta dish - and perhaps that's it's strength. Leaders and coaches can develop their own style, mixing and matching from a wide school of different methodologies and techniques depending on their clients and their needs.

In this series of articles, I thought it would be useful to summarize the various approaches to coaching. None of these channels provide complete answers in themselves. And, in my view, coaches need to be trained and competent in three of four distinct styles to support any single client, let alone build a practice.

In this article, I describe the humanist approach deriving most directly out of the work of Carl Rogers. I have plotted this on an analytical chart, showing how we would associate humanistic coaching with a person-centered approach with a "following" coaching style. Later, I will cover other approaches, such as psycho-dynamic, gestalt, cognitive-behavioral and process coaching.

Humanism originates in the Aristolean view of man striving for eudaimonia, or fulfillment.

In modern times, humanism has been grounded in the work of motivation theorist Abraham Maslow, who defined man's innate drive to achieve self actualization. Man has all he needs to achieve highest state of being, if he can satisfy lower order motivations. 

The coach therefore, needs to be present, but not in the way. To a great extent, maslowian-humanism underlies all modern approaches to coaching.

Therapist Carl Rogers popularized a form on non-interventionist therapy, providing maximum space for the client to work through issues themselves and come to a self diagnosis. It is the empathetic and non-judgmental presence of the therapist that can provide the catalyst for the individual to reach breakthrough insights. This is achieved by maintaining a stance of detached empathy. 

The key competency is listening

 Approaches to therapy derived from Carl Rogers is conceptually very close to many coaching schools.

Humanistic coaching is highly appropriate for supporting clients to who seek to develop their full potential. Visioning, defining values and developing personal growth strategies naturally flow from this style of coaching. 

In my view, humanistic coaching is less effective if the client has low self awareness, goal conflict, or is wrestling with unproductive patterns of behavior.  Here, other styles need to be used.

It requires incredible self discipline and control on behalf of the coach.  With such non-intervention, eye contact and a relaxed empathetic body posture become vital to ensuring the client feels the continuing engagement of the coach.

GROW, Co-Active coaching and CoachU models are probably the most aligned with this school of thought. 

However, the sheer open-endedness of Rogers approach to therapy presents a problem in the real,  fee-paying business world.  Coaching schools have therefore introduced an element of process, through which the coach can gently but firmly guide the client towards goal-fulfillment.

In this way, coaching has sought to balance the needs of the client in terms of self expression and outcomes.

One of the best books that describes the various approaches to coaching is Coaching With Colleagues, by Eric de Haan and Yvonne Burger.

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