Mar 07 2007

Defining a coaching relationship

Yesterday I was talking with a graduate student who’s studying e-coaching — a subject that seemed broad enough that I wanted to define more precisely what kind of coaching interests me:

Coaching a community leader happens through a sustained conversation that is focused on the ongoing leadership practice of one partner (the coachee), drawing upon the experience and background of the other (the coach).

There are several reasons that the definition matters and several points follow from it:

  • The “sustained conversation” part is necessary because all of the
    community leader’s practice isn’t visible at once, much less at the beginning. Neither is the context within which
    that practice takes place, partly because leadership always changes the context.
  • Ideally, community leaders are expert in the domain of the community they are leading, not in community leadership as such. In fact it’s rare that they want to become expert in the subtleties of community development. So at the beginning of the coaching relationship the most important contribution that a coach can make is to help with “noise reduction” — suggesting which of a myriad of issues can be ignored for the time being. A sense of “the practice of community leadership” may emerge gradually and only over time.
  • The topic (or the curriculum) of the conversation is concrete and time-bound — the issues that the coachee is facing at that moment. Therefore coaching needs to be focused on a “live practice” — where the community leader is working with a community that responds to leadership moves, leading to further learning and development.
  • Technology comes into the coaching conversation for two reasons. First, because technology plays a part in how we collaborate and have conversations; from that perspective technology is part of the practice. Second, because most communities use technology in one way or another and all of us are learning how to make technology serve our communities rather than allowing technology to swamp or hobble them; from that perspective technology is part of the domain.

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One Response to “Defining a coaching relationship”

  1. […] keep thinking and learning more about coaching because it seems that “coach-like” interactions are a useful way of structuring […]