Irrespective of the style you adopt most coaches will agree that being directive in a coaching session is not advisable. You read it in Coaching 101, practice it when are getting trained, and if by chance you end up making the mistake of being directive your client will let you know!
What do we mean by being directive? Well, having a directive approach involves an element of transfer of knowledge, providing advice or direction most probably based on the coach's experience. This is a typical traditional approach that works wonders in mentoring however in coaching it should be avoided.
I get asked this all the time. Why don't you tell me what to do? Why don't you provide me with insight on what is going on?
First of all great contracting must happen to ensure that the client understands from the start that you will be listening and guiding but not leading. At this stage I typically refer the client back to our agreement - that I will be supporting them but not advising.
The answer to why we act in a non-directive way is actually fairly straightforward and logical. In coaching we provide a non-judgemental, safe place to discuss your thoughts and ideas. What I think of a client's situation is greatly irrelevant and as much as possible I focus on what the person is saying and not what my feelings about it are. What is important is what they think of their situation.
What this does is that it creates an environment where the client:
At first, adopting a non-directive approach might seem a rather easy thing to achieve however, in reality, it takes a lot of practice to find that balance where you are guiding without providing direction.
Here's an example to bring it all to life from when I first started coaching - of course printed with the permission of the client! In the session, the client brought the conversation to how they were finding work difficult and were regularly getting caught up in multiple and conflicting priorities. I then replied back by saying that it seemed that they were feeling overwhelmed. That was a big mistake! That was my interpretation of the situation and in fact the client had never mentioned the feeling of 'being overwhelmed' in the conversation. He quickly corrected me to say that he felt stretched but certainly not overwhelmed.
As you can see even small observations like that can make a huge difference. That's why presenting own observations as subjective and needing confirmation from client is key for a successful partnership.
Future blog posts will explore ideas such as permission, giving feedback without direction and how to challenge the client in a non-directive way. In the meantime you can read our FAQs about coachingand feel free to comment below with your ideas.
How important do you think is this non-directive approach?
Social learning has become a bit of a buzzword in the L&D world nowadays. Organisations that I speak to want to know more about it and most importantly how to foster it in the workplace.
The first question that I always ask is whether they know what social learning means. I find that a lot of people use such terminology that is buzzing around rather flippantly and do not necessarily know what it actually is about. This, more so than anything else, I find is the case for coaching, mentoring, digital learning and of course social learning. The response that I typically get across the board is social learning being about getting people to learn from each other. To be fair, this is not an inaccurate representation of what social learning is. However, what tends to be flawed is the part on fostering social learning. Too many companies 'force' it.
A lot of theorists have speculated what social learning actually is. I will spare you the academic detail but to summarise, in a L&D and organisational context, there is very little agreement on what exactly it is. I believe that social learning is multifaceted and so is the terminology that is associated with it. Collaborative, group, collective and co-operative learning is all vocabulary that is utilised in relation to social learning. Although there is fine differentiation between the terminology there is very little conclusive agreement on this.
However there are some characteristics that we can take from these terminologies to give us an overview of what effective social learning could entail:
So the key question - can it be created?
Not really is the simplest answer. Social learning practices can definitely be encouraged but creating it is virtually impossible.
First, an examination of the culture of the organisation is essential since social working practices need the right blend of cultural ingredients to foster. If your organisation's culture focuses on blame and limiting mistakes then social learning will probably not happen. People will be less prone to try new things and discuss their learning as a result of this process.
The organisation needs to have very strong values of individual development. From a tactical point of view clear PDPs need to be in place together with regular exploration of development opportunities with line managers. The company needs to live its L&D values and this ethos of development must permeate across the entire organisation.
Finally, senior leadership must be strong, visible and in support of these practices. Leaders need to be engaged with social learning - they should be driving discussions with their team members in order for other employees to model the behaviours that they exhibit.
What is your understanding of social learning? Do you use it in your organisation and in that case how?
Joseph Grech, Chartered FCIPD and ICF-accredited coach is the founder of Smarter Learning Ltd. and an experienced L&D professional.