Saturday, 16 March 2013

Becoming a coach: me and Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme

What the best dressed coaches are wearing

I’ve got a permanent sugar rush of thoughts and feelings about coaching and training. I’m like Monsieur Jourdain in Moliere’s ‘Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme’, who discovered that, all his life, he had been speaking prose without knowing it.

Fifteen months ago, I started a serious executive coaching programme. Two days ago, I attended a final assessment day. Soon I will find out whether or not I have met the standard.

To get to the assessment day, I had to notch up one induction day, four residential training modules, four tutorials, dozens of practice coaching sessions, much reading of coaching texts and articles, four required learning logs, two unplanned blogs, and one theoretical essay. Having gone through all of that, it’s no wonder I am having a rush of thoughts and feelings about learning and coaching. 

What lies beneath my training approach
I’ve made a connection between Gestalt based coaching and my approach to delivering leadership training. Like Monsieur Jourdain, I have discovered that, all my life, I have been using Gestalt methodology to underpin my training courses, without knowing it. 

Instinctively, I design training programmes as participative learning journeys. I encourage learners to:


  • listen and observe
  • notice what they are thinking and feeling
  • gather and make sense of data
  • keep an open mind, and
  • work together to make sense of challenges and dilemmas.
From a Gestalt coaching perspective, this is about being and learning in the moment, and noticing patterns and connections. It’s about raising awareness of real needs, and mobilising energy towards appropriate action. 

I’m still processing what I have learned. I can’t wait to review my training practice through a Gestalt lens. Meanwhile, here is the 'before' and 'after' of my approach to coaching.



How I coached before the course

How I coach now

Took responsibility for solving the client’s dilemmas and problems

I work in partnership with the client
Analysed what the client was telling me

Observe, reflect, summarise

Tried very hard to be nice

Not afraid to challenge appropriately

Asked lots of unhelpful (dissonant) questions

Comfortable with silence

Talked about my experiences

Appropriately disclose if the client is interested in hearing about my experience


Believed I must have the answers

Not afraid to say ‘I don’t know what to do with this’

Pushed the client into action

Create space for the client to discover what they want to do

Made assumptions about what the client was telling me

Form working hypotheses AND keep an open mind

Thought ahead constantly which affected my ability to be present

Stay fully present with the client

Relied on listening and questioning

Invite the client to experiment Gestalt and Cognitive Behavioural methodologies

Felt awkward contracting and closing

Am more confident when contracting and helping client to identify what they have learned



It’s been quite a journey. I really must apologise to all my friends who volunteered to be coached by me, when I didn’t know what I know now.



16 March 2013

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www.kellowlearning.com