One thing? Only one? But it’s the main thing!

I had an experience with a client this week that helped cement in my mind the need for regulation on Coaching standards in the UK.

I don’t like the word “Coaching” as I think it forces meaning on us where, in my experience, only subjectivity exists.

I am not keen on the word “Mentoring” either, as again, that presupposes I have something to offer by way of guidance that business clients aren’t capable of developing by themselves.

Which leads me to my point: if your client is of a sufficiently-high level of cognitive complexity, they do not need a Coach or a Mentor.

What they need is a sounding board for their ideas. And if you are not as complex in your thinking as they are, you cannot help them. In fact, you’ll be a barrier to their growth.

My client recently fired her Business Coach as she got more out of my recent session than she did with a series of sessions with him. I am a Developmental Coach, if I must label it…

The reason? It’s not because I’m a better Coach: it’s because she could see his patterns; she could see his thinking and his behaviours, and she saw right through them.

He couldn’t help her!

As a Business Coach, he made some suggestions she was not comfortable with.

I explained to her the reason I keep myself “clean” in all our sessions is so I do not impose any of my own thoughts or intentions upon her in any way.

She recognized this, hence why she called me.

But more importantly, she recognized that I was able to help her to think about her thinking, not about her business. Her Business Coach couldn’t do this as he was thinking at a lower level than she was. She didn’t need my help with her business: she needed me to mirror her thoughts and her direction of thought.

And that is the underlying reason why Coaching in the UK needs regulation.

So what is Coaching at the various levels?

Coaching is predominantly behavioural, and often ignores the developmental and cognitive level of the client.

Where my client’s Business Coach fell down was in his assumption that her future behavior was the answer to her issues. It wasn’t. Her future capacity was the issue, and she knew what to do, but just needed someone to bounce her ideas off.

In order to do that, a Coach must be “clean” in their approach. If you are helping a client with how they are thinking about how they are thinking about their business, it is imperative you do not influence their direction of thought unduly, and impose any bias or opinion you have.

So how does a Coach ensure they are “clean” in their process? Think back to the time you had a Business Coach conversation. Can you honestly say they were “clean”, or did their biases and methods appear in the process?

The question this raises is: should a Developmental Coach use a process at all? Or is it best to freestyle it with each client, as each client’s thinking is different?

Here are a number of questions adapted from Otto Laske, re-thought for those Coaching the smaller business:

• How do we ensure future Coaches (sans a better noun) include social-emotional, cognitive, and behavioral complexity for a fuller understanding of their client’s needs?

• If we were to regulate Coaching in the UK, what parts of traditional coach training would need to be unlearned to become proficient in Developmental Coaching?

• When we understand our client, what does it mean to understand (or misunderstand) them at a more complex level?

• How does a client’s business thinking relate to the underlying issues that the client is subject to (rather than conscious of)?

• What are the Developmental requirements of a Coach? Future UK regulation could depend on it.

• What are the Developmental prerequisites of building a particular client model, in terms of dialectical thinking? Is this model useful?

The Future

The future of Business Coaching in the UK is not more of the same, hence why I had to create the image for this article myself. Coaching is one cliché after another, and nothing new is coming out. Except adult complexity!

The future is the development of more cognitively complex-thinking Coaches who are aware of their behaviours and biases, with the ability to choose on the fly, how they respond to complex thought processes by their client.

But more importantly, they are aware of their client’s thinking patterns and are able to point them out without undue influence. In other words: cleanly.

Until a minimum standard for social-emotional and cognitive Coaching is developed in the UK, Business Coaches all across the country will continue to dole out the old clichéd models we see everywhere.

It’s time for a radical re-think!