Research Paper By Frosina Mitrovska
(Personal Development Coach, NETHERLANDS)
Personal views and observation
I have spent significant time searching for the right topic for my research paper. I read through dozens of papers available on the forum, amazing papers covering all angles and sides of the coaching craft. Despite the long search, I still felt like I couldn’t find the topic that would be close to my heart and be a contribution to the literature of coaching.
The morning of August 22, I was in Manhattan, New York, staying over a friends place. During breakfast I was brainstorming with her about the topics that I care, saying how I would love to connect my passion for travel with my passion for coaching and seeing people grow and transform. Travelling was and still is my way of healing and exploring myself. But I just couldn’t see how could I write something about the connection of the two topics I am so passionate about and at the same time feel like I have contributed to the world of coaching.
Feeling pretty hopeless at the moment, I went about the day and let Jena focus on her work. She is a travel specialist working from her home and specialized in creating customized trips for Latin America for her clients. She started her working day with two calls with potential clients. As she was talking on the phone, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations she had with them. First listening passively, and shortly I was all ears. As the conversation was progressing I realized Jena was applying almost each and every of the coaching competencies, and even in the correct order.
During her second conversation, I was no longer just accidental passive listener, I was observing, analysing and being absolutely amazed by the natural coaching mindset she applied without even knowing she was doing it.
As I left her apartment for a walk, I left with the impressions in my head and totally absorbed by the beautiful demonstration of natural coaching skills for the purpose of her work. And that’s when it hit me…She is my topic for my research paper. She is a travel expert (and personally a travel soul sister of mine) thereby also touching the wish I had to explore further the connection of travelling and coaching.
The first question I had was: can I find something written about this? And second, if yes, what is then the connection and importance of coaching skills in the travel consulting role?
Based on the research I conducted in the past few weeks, I wasn’t able to find any relevant literature or study cases connecting these two fields, travel expertise and coaching skills. I mainly came across articles and programs on how travel agency/company employees and leaders can get coached in order to improve their leadership, coworking and sales skills.
Hence, I was left with little scientific base in order to answer my second question. Therefore I decided to describe the process applied by Jena and cross-compare it to the coaching principles defined by ICF. In doing so, there are a few points that need to be kept in mind.
This paper doesn’t aim to compare the travel consulting role with that one of coaching as two exact disciplines. People go to coaching because they want to find answers and change something in their lives. Even though travelling can be one of the tools people use in order to find answers, to disconnect from their daily lives, to find out something new about the world and themselves, yet, this paper recognizes fully that these are not the same disciplines.
The purpose of the paper is to show the potential benefits when coaching skills are applied by travel consultants and specialists in their process of connecting and working with and for the clients.
Furthermore, coaching is an action-oriented process, where the coach is helping the client to discover the answers and learnings that will help them move from the point where they are to the point where they want to be. In travel consulting, obviously, this is not the purpose of guiding the client to that kind of a goal, rather guiding the client to express and find the best option for a trip that will satisfy the needs but also the curiosity of the client. It eventually results in bringing new learning, new awareness about the world and the different cultures, which is again wherein natural way the connection to the coaching outcome is made.
Finally, this paper wants to connect the two disciplines and open the opportunity of positively using the coaching craft in the process of travel consulting. The coaching craft should not be used to lead or mislead the client towards the outcome defined by the travel consultants, rather towards one that enriches the experience of the client and the travel agency itself. I am aware this might be easier said than done, as travel consultants are working towards sales targets that are required by their companies, however, the excellent example of Jena’s approach shows that it is possible to follow this ethical rule and yet achieve great results. Even more so, since clients feel the genuine interest of the travel consults (same as in coaching).
The Travel Coaching process
In this section, I will explain the conversation I witnessed that day and the connections I observed with the coaching inclines.
Jena started the conversation by explaining how her company and herself are working (Setting the Foundation), what are the standards they apply in their work and the experiences they offer.
She explained what the purpose of that first conversation was and what the client could expect (Establishing the contract and Co-creating the Relationship). She made sure that the client felt well informed and in order to start the process of connecting with the client she also shared a bit of her personal journey. How she became a travel specialist and how her personal travel experience through South America brought her to this moment. She then moved on with asking the client if they could share what they were looking for and who they were (Establishing trust and intimacy).
Throughout the rest of the conversation, she exhibited repeatedly the rest of the coaching principles. She was fully present, following the client and the story they were sharing (Coaching presence and Active Listening), asked beautiful direct open questions and offered clear straightforward information when asked for more information by the client (Powerful Questioning and Direct communication), gave enough space and time to the client to share their story, their interest and what was the reason for wanting to have such a travel experience, showed true genuine curiosity to understand the client and listened very actively and careful (Active Listening). She was truly dancing at the moment.
The exchange between Jena and the client clearly was resulting in a changed perspective (Creating awareness). The client was exploring their ideas and wishes about travel and received new ideas. A new awareness of what is out there that can make their experience all so much better. The next steps were focused on designing the next steps – Designing actions, Planning and goal setting. As mentioned earlier, this paper recognizes that this is the major difference between the process of personal coaching and the process of travel consulting.
In coaching, this stage is for the personal actions and planning of the client. In the travel consulting process it is about making actions and plans together. Actions that the travel agent needs to take in order to meet the needs and desires of the client.
The accountability for the actions and the execution of the same are with a different owner than in the personal coaching process (Managing Progress and accountability). However, the purpose is to show that the coaching principles are to be applied almost fully offering the most potential for understanding and approaching the client.
Many disciplines could (and are) using the benefits from the use of the coaching principles in their work. The travel consulting industry is the one I stumbled upon in the search for my topic, and also being one very close to my heart. Approaching the client with an open, unbiased mind, creates trust and intimacy, asking open curious questions and really being interested in the client while helping them find the best solution for their personal (in this case) travel desires and expectations. It brings a genuine and reliable note to the professional relationship.
Reading all the above, I had to questions myself if there was additional reasoning for writing this paper. Maybe a third question that I didn’t ask at the beginning of the paper. One that is not connected to the coaching literature or the purpose of graduating, but rather with myself. Am I the one looking for the new direction in my life that would offer me to connect these two fields that I strongly believe in? Travel coaching?