The Water Metaphor
Giving Structure to the Coaching Conversation
If you have been to one of my workshops and classes or if you are one of my mentees, most likely you have heard me say: “coaching is a human-to-human experience.”
At the core of the coaching exchange is this human interaction that provides the coachee the proper space for reflection, exploration, and insight. Coaching is a partnership, and our goal is to create an easy flow between coach and coachee that creates the proper space for discovery and transformation.
What is important to remember is that, like water, this human exchange needs proper structure for it to make sense. Without clear shape and purpose, even with the best of our intentions, the process becomes haphazard and completely subject to chance.
Water without shape has no direction. It can go anywhere and even get wasted. Coaching without proper structure is not coaching. The conversation may be insightful, but it will certainly be accidental.
At the same time, too much focus on structure, too tight of a container, can also stiffen the moment, freeze the exchange, and stagnate the process. We do not want our coaching technique to be such a focus that would make the conversation stale.
That is why I love the image of water in a jar or perhaps even a flowy river or a mighty ocean. If you can imagine it, the water is still flowing. It is alive, but it has shape, a direction that makes sense and makes the water productive and life-giving.
This is the balance we coaches are constantly striving for. We want to establish this partnership, this ease of exchange with the coachee, while at the same time, providing clear support that enables the coachee to go through this intentional process.
By now, I am sure that you understand that this structure I am talking about is achieved by developing our coaching skills. The structure happens when we can bring our clear understanding of the coaching Core Competencies, not simply as an intellectual exercise, but as living and breathing concepts, perhaps delicate and strong as a crystal vase.
Creating this balance takes time and effort. It is somehow innate to us humans, but it certainly needs to be developed to be of true value. As we grow as coaches, we will see ourselves favoring one side or the other. And that is a natural part of our growth. That is why the idea of having a Reflective Practice is so crucial, so we can monitor our tendencies and biases and purposefully shift the pendulum to the other side, always striving for the middle ground.
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As a mentor coach, I am always giving feedback to my students and mentees helping them develop their coaching skills and prepare for their certification with the ICF. ForCoaches is a place where I can publicly share some of my insights and experiences. What does it mean to be a truly effective coach?