Research Paper By Janette Goodall
(Life Purpose & Freedom Coach, AUSTRALIA)
Wikipedia’s (September 2012) 1 definition of change is:
The process of becoming different.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2012) 2 puts it this way:
To make radically different, transform, to give a different position, course, or direction to. To replace with another, to make a shift from one to another, to undergo a modification, to become different, to pass from one phase to another, to undergo transformation, transition or substitution.
The Free Dictionary 3 (2012) has this definition:
To give a completely different form or appearance to, to lay aside, abandon, or leave for another.
And Dictionary.com 4 (2012) 4 defines change like this:
To make the form, nature, content, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.
People come to coaching because they are looking for change. But change doesn’t happen over night. Habits take time to form, and conversely take time to break. The definition of change according to Wikipedia (2012) is
the process of becoming different.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2012) says its
to replace with another, to make a shift from one to another,
and the Free Dictionary (2012) says it is
to give a completely different form or appearance to, to lay aside, abandon, or leave for another.
That’s what happens with change, habits or behaviours are replaced with others that support the change we are wanting to make. Change is not easy, and it takes time. This paper will look at change as it relates to life coaching and the coaching relationship. The question being asked which this paper will attempt to answer is how important is the relationship between coach and coachee in facilitating change in the coachee’s life?
Relationship – What is It?
A relationship is a connection between two people. The Free Dictionary (2012) defines relationship as
a particular type of connection existing between people related to or having dealings with each other; the mutual dealings, connections, or feelings that exist between two parties; a partnership, a co-operative relationship between people who agree to share responsibility for achieving some specific goal; a state of connectedness between people (especially an emotional connection).5
How does this relate to coaching? Looking at this definition, it talks about a partnership between people who agree to share responsibility for achieving a goal. That sounds a lot like coaching, it speaks of accountability, support, walking along-side. But what about the emotional connection? The feelings that exist between the coach and coachee? As a coaching relationship grows and a friendship develops between coach and client, and when trust is established, when people share their innermost thoughts with a trusted other, and come to rely on their coach to be there for them, an emotional connection is formed. According to the authors of Co-Active Coaching (Kimsey-House et al. 2011), coaching is not so much a methodology as it is a relationship – a particular kind of relationship.
Coaching is inherently dynamic; that is one of the fundamental qualities of coaching and a reason for its power as a medium for change. Coaching is personal; coaching creates a unique, empowered relationship for change. (Kimsey-House et al. 2011).
The coach and client are working in alignment with each other. This makes this type of relationship powerful. Trust is an integral part of a coaching relationship. It is built over time as client and coach learn that each can be counted on and the client learns that this unique relationship works and brings results. In this relationship clients see that there is someone in their lives they can count on, who believes in them.
The strength of a client’s ability to make changes in his work and life is a measure of the strength in the coach-client relationship. And the strength of that relationship is measured by the commitment to an open, fearless, and continuously evolving relationship built over time. (Kimsey-House et al. 2011)
Any relationship takes time to develop and grow and the coaching relationship is no different. A coaching relationship develops as a result of the coaching conversation, and this creates a safe environment for the client that helps the onset of change. For the client to feel safe they must first trust. And trust comes as the relationship is built and coach and coachee get to know each other. Rapport is built. A friendship is established. A connection made.
Trust is the essential ingredient of any good coaching relationship – without it, the client is not going to share with the coach those ‘secrets of the heart’ that may be necessary to allow the coach to be of real help. Trusting relationships are necessary in achieving success. But they do not happen overnight.
Vivien was struggling with feelings of doubt again about her career choice. Her coach listened to Vivien go over her feelings, moving back and forth about what she should do. Her coach remembered a previous conversation some weeks before when Vivien was confident about what she wanted to do. Because of the strength of the relationship built over time, Vivien’s coach was able to remind her of that time, and question her about what was occurring in her life to make her doubt herself again. It was a powerful moment for Vivien.
This could not have happened without the connection and trust that had been built between coach and client, and supports the researcher’s hypothesis that the coaching relationship, built over time, is a strong force for change in a client’s life.
Resistance to Change
In his classic book “As a Man Thinketh” first published in 1902, James Allen (1864-1912), said,
Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.
People want to change, and say they want to change, but don’t change. Why? According to the authors of Co-Active Coaching (Kimsey-House et al. 2011),
There is a specific counter-reaction to change that appears fairly consistently with clients, which might be called ‘the dip’. For coaches who work with clients on a weekly basis, it often shows up between weeks three and eight, either because change is not happening fast enough or because the initial euphoria of commitment has worn off. Clients realise that talking about action is one thing and actually taking action is quite another. Many coaches start clients with a three-month commitment to help them get past the dip.
The Stages of Change Model developed by James Prochaska and Carol DiClemente gives several stages of change. They are Pre Contemplation where the individual is not thinking about change, Contemplation where they are thinking about change and preparing for it, but feeling ambivalent about it or not seriously considering changing, Preparation/Determination where they start taking change seriously, Action where the decision has been made to act, Maintenance where change is maintained, and Relapse where an individual slips back to old behaviours. Resistance is likely in the Contemplation stage, where the reason for and against change are not that far apart, so the individual could be ambivalent or even resistant. (Prochaska & DiClemente, 1984).
What is interesting here is the statement that many coaches start clients with a threemonth commitment to get them past the resistance ‘dip’, and through into change. Entering into a long term commitment is the first step toward building a relationship. When a good relationship is established between coach and client it opens up the opportunity for real and lasting change.