Some people know what they want from coaching, some don't. But how can this unfold within the coaching the process and do you actually need to know what you want from it?
I recently had two very different experiences with new clients and I'm sharing this experience because our coaching went in very different ways. Unintended direction and realisations are the reality of coaching sometimes.
Deep change work
I was approached by an executive who wanted to have some coaching.
When we explored what he was seeking through coaching, his reply was quite deep and reflective. He was at a certain point in his career and its meaning had dwindled. He didn't know what he wanted career wise any more, nor did he have any sense of what made his heart sing.
He had decided that he wanted to embark on a new path. For him this meant he had a desire to find himself, to get to know himself better and find more meaning. He also wanted to transform his life and find better balance.
Understandably, he didn't know what any of this looked like though he felt he wanted to work with someone at depth. I agreed I'd be happy to work with him so we arranged our first meeting to start the journey.
During our first session we uncovered important aspects of his personal history, some of which was quite challenging for him.
Despite the session ending well, I went away with a sense of disquiet that I couldn't shake about the things we'd touched upon. There was a complex mix of stress, burnout, anxiety, and a period of depression. I felt like we'd touched upon too much that was just too raw.
He didn't continue with our work. He emailed me some time later to let me know thanks, that he'd found another job, and everything was all good.
Frustrated and need to just talk about it
I began to see a client who had a very full head. He was a senior leader in his business and he was frustrated. He had so much going on in his head, he couldn't think straight. It was becoming all consuming. Even when he was socialising he'd only talk about the business, he'd get home and vent with his wife as support. It was all just churning over and over.
There were some significant pressures at work which were being compounded by a business unit performing poorly. He couldn't resolve the problems and didn't know how. He was acutely aware how he was delving into the operational problems. He needed to be more strategic but he couldn't help it because of the current critics situation.
The patterns he was showing were a sign of stress, but this didn't come up in the conversation at all. We just agreed that he needed some space to talk things through and to receive feedback and input where appropriate.
The first couple of sessions really did take on this format, but I could see, and he could feel, the pressure beginning to ease. He began to make better sense of his experiences, finding himself more engaged in his work and the business. This resulted in a change of perspectives and his relationship with the business, enabling him to let go and be more strategic.
As our work progressed he began to explore much more about himself, taking huge strides in his personal development, noticing while he did so that it rubbed off on his leadership and results in work. He took more time out with his family, reprioritising and rebuilding those relationships too. He had difficult history too. His journey of personal exploration continues, sometimes during a catch up with me, but mostly without me now.
Do you know and should you?
The purpose if these illustrations is not to say that any particular aim for coaching is right or wrong. You don't need to go into coaching with a clearly defined goal either. It's fine to enter into it with a sense of what you might like to do and explore things from there. In fact, this may be a better place to start as it leaves more room for possibility.