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The Many Delicious (and Nutritious) Flavors of Coaching

By Loraine M. Della Porta, J.D.

My first exposure to the notion of coaching outside of the sports context came many years ago when a hot-tempered colleague went “off” on someone during a staff meeting and the exchange ended with him putting his fist through the conference room wall. Rather than fire him on the spot, our senior manager found him a “coach” – that is, someone who could work with him to bring him “back in line” and hopefully get him to stop assaulting people and damaging government property. My colleague was equally proud of his bad-boy image and annoyed that he was being forced to attend what he viewed to be an expensive one-on-one charm school. Until about 10 years ago that was the only “flavor” of coaching I was aware of.

Fast-forward to the present - coaching now comes in many different flavors to suit a variety of appetites. In fact, today’s coaching menu has so many options; it can be overwhelming and leave some coaching clients to order something safe (I’ll have a small garden-variety coaching salad, no croutons). So how do you know what type of coaching might be the right choice for you or your employees? First, let’s define what we mean by coaching. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as, partnering with clients through a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.” Well, doesn't’ that sound delicious? Who doesn’t want to maximize their potential? The question is potential for what?

When I am approached by a potential coaching client, the first thing I ask them is what they hope to achieve through a coaching engagement – what hunger within them are they trying to satisfy? It is important that I have a good understanding of a potential client’s appetite for coaching. Sometimes they tell me they are looking to develop a particular skill, fine-tune their leadership skills and/or enhance their “executive presence.” Other times clients tell me that they feel stuck in their present job and are looking someone to coach them through a job search or career change. Most often though, at least in my coaching practice, people tell me they are looking for someone to coach them through a tough conflict, typically one that has been going on for a long time and that seems impossible to resolve. We call this conflict coaching. While some potential coaching clients know exactly what they want to order from the coaching menu, others want to know more about their choices and whether we have any “specials.” Let’s delve deeper into the coaching menu.

Skills Coaching

This type of coaching focuses on a particular skill or skill set the client is trying to develop. For example, communication or negotiation skills. This type of coaching usually involves preparing the client for an upcoming event (presentation, contract or salary negotiation) by rehearsing a variety of scenarios and providing coaching and feedback. Clients are typically given assignments between sessions to practice and hone their desired skills.

Executive/Leadership Coaching

This type of coaching helps leaders to see themselves and others more clearly, learn and/or refine strategies and skills for both leveraging their strengths and removing obstacles that might be inhibiting them from optimizing their leadership performance. In my practice, I use an integrated approach to executive coaching that aims to connect the individual coaching process with the organization’s overall business strategy, goals and talent management strategy.

Career Coaching

This type of coaching supports a client’s desire for career advancement or a job change. The engagement often starts with an assessment of the client’s current employment situation, resume, and a candid discussion of their career aspirations and opportunities for advancement/job change. Together, we analyze the client’s strengths, values, and developmental needs and collaborate on a plan to find their perfect match. Note: This type of coaching is typically served with a side of skills coaching.

Specialty of the House – Conflict Coaching

I consider this type of coaching to be my specialty because of my background in mediation, conflict assessment and dispute systems design. Conflict coaching is about helping a client (usually in a leadership position) through a specific conflict with an employee, peer or supervisor. Conflict coaching helps the client to explore the potential source of the conflict, reflect on his/her contributions to the conflict and to identify common interests and some solid options for a positive path forward.

Hopefully these descriptions have given you a small taste of the delicious coaching options that are available. Delicious for sure…but is coaching also nutritious for those who consume it? Absolutely! According to a 2017 article in Psychology Today, “The theory behind coaching is simple: it focuses on inherent strengths helps clients actively express themselves and leads to a more authentic, motivated, and invigorated life of achievement and success…Like sports coaching, coaching concentrates on individual or group strengths and abilities that can be used in new and different ways to enhance performance, feel better about the self, ensure smooth life transitions, deal with challenges, achieve goals, become more successful, and improve the overall quality of one’s personal and professional life.” See…delicious AND nutritious!


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