A little boy in his backyard was watching a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. The boy saw that it was an extremely high effort for the caterpillar to come out of cocoon. It almost seem to writhe in pain. Unable to be just a bystander, he decided to help. He went forward and delicately cracked open the cocoon. The result was a butterfly that did not have fully developed wings! Feeling extremely hurt, he told this incident to the Gardner. The wise old Gardner said ,”when there is a struggle to come out of cocoon, it builds strength in the wings that are getting developed. That struggle is crucial for the butterfly so that it can fly freely later.” Many a times while coaching you see a struggle that your client goes through. Compassionate heart prompts you to move ahead and offer help. May be that’s a time to trust your client more and let her/him to go through a struggle. The solution developed in this process could be far more effective. It’s difficult to accept that help can potentially come in the way of best solution for the client but coaches could do wonders by trusting and respecting the clients.

Help

Challenges faced in a coaching situation and points to reflect:

Conflict of values:

Many of us are brought up on a core value of helping anyone who struggles. A compassionate heart always finds it difficult not to help someone who is either in pain or struggling. It is only natural to get active in such a situation and help the person. Not being able to help may leave one with a sense of guilt.
1. Is there a situation where the person concerned could be at risk if you do not help / share some information? This risk could be to health/ life or financial which may cause harm due to withholding of information.
2. Do you feel the issue at hand is a pure skill issue and may be better handled by training / mentoring than coaching as an intervention? The key to determine this is if there is an absolute “no go” without the skill.

Other than the above mentioned situations the desire to help may come out of judgment and the coach needs to be careful about the same. The two points mentioned above could be used as a framework to quickly resolve the conflict of values in coach’s mind whenever there is a temptation to help.

Conflict due to ‘identification’ with the issue:

Sometimes the coach may have faced a similar problem which the client is going through. In these situations, it is easy to get into a solution mode rather than follow coaching process. In these situations coach may be tempted to help due to the knowledge of ‘what works’ and ‘what does not’.
1. Is there a possibility that the end-objective of the client could be different though the problem situation may look the same?

2. Howsoever beautiful your set of clothes is, it may not fit the other person. Every person has a solution that fits her / him the best and hence it is important that the solution has to be client’s own solution.

Conflict due to role clarity:

Sometimes client may look at the coach as an ‘expert’ and there could be an expectation that coach should impart the expertise. Role of the coach in such cases is either confused with consultant or mentor.
1. Coaching agreement is an important process in setting up a relationship where the client has to be made aware about the coaching process as well as relationship.

2. It could help to explore client’s anxiety for a ‘quick and ready-made’ solution.

Inner Light

Light is a metaphor used to describe anything that brings clarity and dispels doubts / issues. It is also a metaphor used to describe anything that shows the way ahead and helps a person move forward. The term ‘inner light’ refers to a person’s ability to help oneself. The underlying belief is the faith in human potential to be masters of one’s own destiny. Many a times in a coaching situation a client seeks direct help from the coach. The process of discovery of solution can be painful. At this point, coach helps the client discover one’s own path. As mentioned in the story of the boy and the butterfly, this struggle a client goes through is essential to build a solution that takes into account all important aspects and helps client discover a sustainable solution. Coach plays a major role by bringing out core strengths of a client in given situation. This is done by asking questions that are rooted in coach’s curiosity. Coach also plays a major role in shifting the focus from ‘hoping for help’ to the ‘inner light’ to solve the problem.

Coaching Application

Coach needs to spend sufficient time to bring out the clarity in terms of coach’s role and the coaching process to avoid any potential confusion about role of the coach. To avoid jumping into the ready-made solution mode the coach needs to spend enough time to clarify issue at hand and ask the powerful questions like:

  1. What is the exact issue and how is this impacting the client?
  2. What makes the issue important to the client?
  3. If this issue not resolved what would happen?

These questions will ensure that the issue is tabled comprehensively and it will also ensure the client’s personal perspective of the issue. Apart from clarity it also helps in minimizing the risk of ‘identification’ with the issue by coach as mentioned above.

In order to ensure that the client finds own solution than depending on the ‘help’ following techniques can be adopted by the coach:

Appreciative inquiry technique is used to bring forth all the resources that a client may not be conscious of. This also helps a client to be more confident during the ‘struggle’ to find a solution for the issue being discussed.

Visualization technique is used to help client “see” the best solution without getting constrained by the current resources. Once clients visualized the best solution, powerful questions can be asked to explore multiple options leading to the solution.

Once a client chooses the action plan, client is encouraged to draw parameters to determine the success and milestone to gauge the progress going forward. Client is also encouraged to clearly articulate the support structure that needs to be created to ensure the results.

The whole system of awareness of desired results, action plan, milestones as well as the support structure is the ‘inner light’ that guides the client on the road ahead in a sustainable manner.

Reflections:

  1. How do you resolve the conflict in your mind as a coach about whether to help a client or not?
  2. How can you maintain a positive environment as a coach when the client is going through a struggle to find out the solution?
  3. What are the advantages of ‘inner light’ vis-à-vis help?