The Co-Active coaching model

My coaching model is based on the course handbook “Co-Active Coaching” by Whitworth, Kimsey-House and Sandahl. The book title lends credence that the true nature of coaching is about collaboration between both parties.

The basis being that both coach and client meet as equals on stage. My understanding is that the while the coach is the “practitioner”, there has to be a balance, hence the coach really has to address the situation by meeting the client on a level plane. I agree with the authors that coaching is a form of conversation with unspoken ground rules and assumptions underlying the conversation.

As a student coach I could see the basic bricks of coaching practice being that the coach needs are; [1] to be approachable [2] to listen [3] to be non-judgemental

Essentially it was through the “coaching process” applied in the book that I have been able to approach “balance and fulfilment”. I also found that as a client during practice sessions, I was able to “self-coach” because of my understanding of the four cornerstones.

The authors list the four cornerstones that form the foundation of co-active coaching;
[1] The client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole.
[2] The agenda comes from the client.
[3] The coach dances in the moment,
[4] Co-active coaching addresses the client’s whole life.

The Approach

The essentials I took from the four cornerstones are below;
[1] The struggle for the coach is not to strive to be an expert but to be curious and enable the client provide the answers. [2] The coach has to keep the client’s agenda in mind and not co-opt this. The coach’s expertise is confined to the coaching experience.

[3] The art of “dancing in the moment” can only come from listening at a very deep level, using intuition and connecting with the client. The coach needs to build up experience in order to be effective in this mode. [4] For the coach to work on the clients whole life there has to be an element of trust and confidentiality and this can be achieved by listening and giving the client inner space over time.

I bring to the fore the core principles that the process is focused on ‘the clients agenda’. These are that at one level the client’s agenda is wrapped in these three core principles; [1] Fulfilment [2] Balance [3] Process

Designed Alliance: In co-active coaching power is granted to the coaching relationship, and not to the coach. This is a very simple yet powerful principle, and hence easy to miss even for the most experienced coaches.

Looking to Outcomes
I now find through coaching that it is better to be pulled by your vision, which is quite refreshing. However, during the coaching process, the client often times experiences a resistance to change (homeostasis). It is quite important that commitment is continued to hold this relationship, so coaches need to bring 100% of their effort and expertise and match the client’s commitment.

The Five Contexts of Coaching: I believe the best way is to look at the five contexts as major threads all woven into one piece of tapestry.

Listening: The coach listens at many levels simultaneously. I found the “voice of the saboteur” to have resonance in my own life and found this concept useful to address my own situation. The introduction of listening scales is a very useful concept which becomes a valid measured approach for the coach’s toolkit. An issue here could be the fixed association of certain coaching skills within the context of coaching.

Intuition: This is a gray area, because the authors have correctly identified the difficulty of verifying intuition. They bring in a structured approach to what is a complex subject, and they are able to carry this off. The lesson that I have found useful is that “if you are going to use your intuition effectively, you can’t be attached to your interpretation.” They also give practical terms of how we can develop our access to intuition.

Curiosity: This is a fundamental tenet. The recognition that clients are capable and resourceful serves as a catalyst to a beneficial coaching session. The authors explain the value of curiosity as “a quality that starts the process and the energy that keeps it going.” My view is that they have underscored the paramount importance of curiosity in coaching, because it helps bring balance with the client exploring outside of the box, without being coerced. I am encouraged by their statement that “curiosity is a talent that can be developed”, because this has helped me keep at the practice without being discouraged.

Forward and Deepen: The coach must move towards being non-judgemental. Essentially the coach aims for transformative change in the life of the client. This brings to the fore that learning is an important outcome in co-active coaching. Clients want to see the result and the job of the Coach should achieve this. The authors identify four areas where coaches can bring their best.
[1] Authenticity [2] Connections [3] Aliveness [4] Courage

It also brings up assertion that moving the client forward results in learning outcomes. In my opinion, this is the most important task for the coach since it is goal driven and results from application of a varied skill-set.
There is an emphasis here on putting structures to work which will sustain the action and learning in the time between coaching sessions.

Self Management: Coaching produces change, through action and learning but it is important to note that coaching is not solely about getting things done. The authors state that in essence, “the content of self management is combination of self-awareness and the skill of recovery”. They explore grounds where the Coach can be bumped off course and give useful insights on coping mechanisms. The emphasis is on managing self during the coaching session, but I think that the authors should have also explained that coaches could have time away from their sessions where they also have a mentor coach they can reflect with.

Co-Active Coaching Relationship

The book makes a point that coaching is inherently dynamic and uses the context of relationship as a focal point. It also explains the impact of the environment on this relationship and goes through;
[1] Confidentiality [2] Trust [3] Speaking the truth [4] Openness and Spaciousness

“Speaking the truth” section spoke to me because I have always taken pride in this, but since starting my coaching training I have realised that my style has been confrontational and so I appreciate the approach taken here. One important thing I agree with is that “ultimately coaching is not about what the coach delivers but about what the client creates”, hence the coach has to stay non-directional.

Designed Alliance Revisited
It is explained that this is more than a conceptual model and actually it is an important and necessary vehicle which is dynamic. A pragmatic approach is taken and recognised that essentially coaching is an art of conversation with designs made on it.

The Five contexts Revisited
The single context that impacted on me in a powerful way was listening. I would paraphrase that one should listen like a thirsty person and have the curiosity of a child. In my initial reading of the book what I had gained was the fact that it has good structure. But once I started my pro-bono coaching and received feedback, and also started to observe others in conversation, I started to gain awareness and sensitivity and what followed later on was that I was able to reflect on the impact of my listening on clients and others.

A good coaching session drives home the message that “the coach is listening”.

The Client’s desire

This looks at the co-active coaching model and reflects the client’s desire on the three core principles of fulfilment, balance and process.

Client fulfilment
The authors point out the paradox of fulfilment is that it is a dynamic situation, i.e. it cannot be expressed by feelings alone and is an exercise of choice. Using the Co-Active model the role of the coach is to move from the client’s agenda to articulate goals, action and accountability that makes the client’s life fulfilling.
The coach should do this by clarifying values with the client and assist them to align this with their other goals. The coach then needs to help the client access their “future self” in a variety of ways to assist them with decision making. The coach needs to help the client overcome the issue of the “internal saboteur”.

Fulfilment and Values
The authors present the concept of values as being linked to fulfilment and they expose the facts that since values are intangible then it is quite important for the coach to have a values clarification exercise with the client. From taking part in the coaching process I agree this should serve as a bulwark of a coaching relationship. An important step towards client fulfilment is to involve the future self to look back with detachment and compassion.

Client Balance
This topic resonates with me when the authors explain that coaching begins by looking at the boxes in which clients find themselves and assisting them to unblock the limitations impeding their progress. The book gives five action steps with the final being a step to Action, since without this, the coaching balance is incomplete.

Client Process
Process coaching focuses on where clients are now and to enhance the ability of clients to be aware of the moment and name it. The flow has five key steps. Step 4 is where “the shift happens, and the client integrates it” which I would call “being in the Moment”, since it is (the crucial step) where the paradigm shift occurs for the client.

Integration, Application and Vision
The authors advise you to integrate the three principles of process, balance and fulfilment as three different sets of tools and apply the coaching direction using the different listening levels as appropriate.

The elegant finishing to this book, which is quite excellent, is that essentially as a practitioner coach, you need to hold on to your curiosity while you design an alliance with your client.

Chapter : COACHING
▶ The Co-Active coaching model
▶ The Approach
▶ Designed Alliance
▶ The Five Contexts of Coaching
▶ Co-Active Coaching Relationship
▶ The Client’s desire
▶ Fulfillment and Values