A Coaching Power Tool Created by Catherine Etévé
(Leadership and Corporate Coach, FRANCE)
A (not achieved yet) learning path to get away from the rules to discover one’s own coaching style.
I thought I was a quite disciplined student, always trying to learn by the rules. I joined ICA thinking coaching could be my future job.
Through my learning journey, I have come across a big contradiction. I started my learning path as a good disciplined student. Trying to follow the program, the recommendations.
But after a few months, I started to get really bored. I wasn’t enjoying the journey.
I was disappointed, discovering that finally, coaching wasn’t my cup of tea. I started to search the platform, thinking I wasn’t doing enough, I wasn’t studying enough, practicing enough. But it became harder and harder to find motivation to continue.
When I was doing peer coaching, I felt I wasn’t helping people. When I was coaching people outside of the program, I could feel they were expecting something more from me, and I would end up dropping what I was learning at ICA, and ended up just trying to help them, which I found more efficient.
I was about to give up the program when I had a conversation with Rossella Pin (Thanks, Rossella !) and through our conversation (which I think was a coaching session), she helped me discover that I was focusing so much on respecting the rules that I wasn’t myself anymore.
Rossella encouraged me to be myself during coaching sessions. To use my intuition. Was it easier ? NO. Because the reason why I was so much trying to respect the rules was because I was afraid of hurting people if I were not. And also, I was afraid to do wrong and consequently, having people (coaches, mentors) telling me that I was doing wrong. It was actually already the case, and I felt really bad each time.
Still, following Rossella’s advice, I started to get away from rules and being more myself. And of course, I started to ask leading questions, offering solutions without being asked to, not leaving enough space to my clients, I would get caught by the client’s story, etc, etc.
SO, the journey became even more chaotic. I was lost. « Whatever I do, I never get it right » was I thinking.
But, my energy increased. At least I was myself .
Progressively (too slowly for my taste !), the rules started to get clearer. And actually, they are not rules. They are principles, tentatives to give a framework to a practice, which lays on each coach’s own creativity.
Yet, I realised that these principles are a good basis for creativity. And I have experienced that in another dimension of my life.
I have attended a few times writing workshops. And in those workshops, to initiate the creative momentum, you start with an obstacle, a constraint. And the human mind naturally searches for ways to overcome the obstacle.
For me, it is the same for coaching. Having the principles in mind, I need to put my creativity and my intuition at work to support my client. And, make my own arrangements with the principles/rules. An example: one thing we are taught in ICA, is that we should ask permission to our client before sharing an observation, or sharing an experience. What I have experienced, is that this question, in some contexts can be really awkward, and actually cut the flow of the conversation (I have experienced that as a coachee and as a coach). So I have decided that depending on whom I am working with, and the moment we are in, I will or not ask this question. Yet, I always have in mind why this principle is here : I want to make sure that the coachee wants to hear about my experience and my observation. Because these can sound as injunctions or judgments for some clients.
I have realised that rules and principles are interesting if I make the effort to understand why they exist, and then, keeping their meaning and purpose in mind, create my own style, my own way.
Application to coaching
This discovery was very helpful in coaching my clients. Because people can get stuck in rules which have been instilled in them by education, society, etc, without them being aware of that. They haven’t thought about the reason of their existence, because it has always been there. And so, by exploring with them the reasons and origins of those rules, the coach can help the client in developing awareness about those rules.
Breaking the rules always embeds a risk, which intensity varies according to the implied consequences planned by the environment you are in or, by your own beliefs of what may happen if you break them. So there again, the coach can support the client in assessing the risk and the consequences.
The client can then decide or not to keep following these principles and rules, but the big difference, is whatever they do and decide, they do it with awareness.
And whatever the decision, it releases freedom. Freedom to develop new rules, or new ways to follow old rules.