Don’t miss the point

St Pancras hotelI stayed at the St Pancras Grand Hotel as a birthday treat. It is an amazing building, and if you’re ever in the area, stop in for a drink and take in the breath-taking beauty of Sir Giles Scott’s gothic masterpiece that was so nearly demolished in the 1960’s. During my stay, I was a little perturbed when I found out that the Spice Girls video ‘Wannabe’ was filmed there. Yes, you know the one; ‘Tell me what you want, what you really, really want’. Wouldn’t coaching be easier if our clients did this? But, like Geri and the Spices, they more often than not don’t tell us in clear and certain terms (I still don’t know what a ‘zig-a-zig-ah’ is!).

The more I coach, the more I see how important having a really clear goal makes a lot of difference to the change we create. Early in my coaching days I would want to get onto actions quickly because action feels like we’re moving forward, making a difference, and creating change, doesn’t it? However, action towards a poorly defined goal often does not materialise and can be both de-motivating and confusing for our clients. Sure, you can come back to the goal at a later date and understand it better; however, understanding the goal early on makes a real difference to creating positive long-lasting change, and that’s what we coaches are all about, aren’t we? Next time you’re working on a client’s goal, evaluate if you’re really getting under its skin.

We’re all great at seducing each other with our language or being vague in a non-obvious way; ‘I just want to figure out where I want to get to, that’s my goal’, ‘I want to get my foundation stone in place for the next stage of my life’. Pick into these goals, yes set times on them, but first if there is ambiguity, go into that. What is the ‘foundation stone’? What is the ‘next stage of your life’? And enjoy this, play with the client if you have the rapport: ‘Where you want to get to? How about Hawaii?’ They’ll have to be clearer with you if you’re to understand what they mean and, more importantly, they’ll have to be clearer with themselves. These questions will get the client to really have to think about what they want so be prepared for silences. If the answers are quick to come, then they probably already know the details of the goal which you need to get from them and then move on in the coaching conversation.

These days, I often spend the first session just on the goal. I take care not to buy into the client’s story; after all, I’m their objective observer with their very best interests at heart. I will quiz, question and challenge, and really work to get at the nub of their goal and why it is important to them. The clarity that follows, accompanied by determination to achieve that goal, is all part of the joy of coaching. The actions then flow at an incredible rate and, before you know it, you have a client with a spring in their step and a list of actions they’re motivated to achieve, and all because you got them to tell you what they want, what they really, really want.

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‘Sonia Gill is a founder and director of Heads Up Limited, an education leadership consultancy which specialises in supporting schools become outstanding. Their training and coaching is recommended by the 100s of school leaders she has worked with. To find out more visit www.ukheadsup.com.’

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