Recently, I was talking with a new coaching client. It was a usual intake meeting where we were getting to know each other and exploring ways in which coaching may enhance their life. We were about 40 minutes into the conversation when I realized the new client had not used any traditional pronouns while speaking about themselves or others.
A moment of decision; a time when a coach needs to determine the next step or the next question. What do you do in that moment? Wait for the next session and determine the right approach? Or, remain curious and courageous and ask a difficult and direct question in that moment?
With 2020 behind us, social protests and politics remain with us as we continue to struggle living through a pandemic. What we say and do, continues to define us and our legacy as coaches and continues to shape the impact we have on others. Therein lies both the challenge and the opportunity.
Coaches must re-address their coach approach through the lens of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in every coaching exchange - adapting and evolving their mindset and presence to their client’s needs. Coaches need to embody the ICF competencies with a laser focus on building DEIB awareness, knowledge, and discipline to be an effective and empathetic coach.
I played the oboe for years. Beginning in primary school and through college, I practiced and practiced, joining the band, the wind ensemble, a church group and even formed a professional trio with a flute and clarinet. Now you may wonder why I open a piece on Coaching with my musical skills? Simple. When I was seeking out a music coach, I searched for someone who understood me – and who understood the oboe – and the distinctive value of the double-reed instrument. Not someone who played drums, not a tuba teacher, but a skilled musician that believed in the beauty and joy of the unusual oboe and related to the unique needs and challenges of the oboist.
It is the same with any coaching, whether it be leadership coaching, career coaching, or life coaching. A client brings their unique perspectives – their differences – to every coaching session. Hence, a coach must see their client, hear their client, and truly understand their client, all while respecting their own perspectives and honoring the coaching process. This is embracing diversity in coaching.
Why is diversity important in coaching? To be an effective and present coach, we must seek to understand the client within their context. A client’s context that may include their identity, environment, experiences, values, culture, and beliefs.
The amount and speed with which we receive information has almost become overwhelming.
Add that with the increased pressure to take action more quickly, and the continued stretch of leading (and living) through a pandemic, leaders find themselves with less and less time to think through a problem.
Without this space, I am seeing an increased number of the those I work with are making more reactionary, sometimes short sighted decisions.
The Ladder of Inference is a powerful tool to help leaders identify their thinking process in order to challenge the premise of decisions, thereby increasing the probability of a solid decision. The Ladder of Inference was created by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris in the mid-1970s and became well known when it appeared in Peter Senge’s The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization.
The Ladder identifies 7 steps, or rungs we climb to make decisions.
Almost ten years ago, I decided that I wanted to become a professional coach. Working in leadership and human resource roles for some of Canada’s largest employers in the financial services sector gave me many opportunities to coach people. I learned that I loved being a coach — aka a strategic thinking partner and an impartial, confidential, accountability advocate.
Want to be a coach?
While still working full-time for my employer and with their consent, I attended coach training (on my own time and dime). Back then, the International Coaching Federation (ICF) was not as well known as the global leader and gold standard for professional coaches. I received my first coaching certification from an organization whose training was not recognized by the ICF.
So I started again and took more coach training. This time, I found a training program that would check all the important boxes in order to meet my coaching goals.
As of the date of this post, I am awaiting a decision from the ICF regarding my application to be recognized as a Professional Certified Coach (PCC).
If you are looking to become a professional coach certified with the ICF, I invite you to continue reading.
Over the years, I have learned a great deal about coach training, mentor coaching, and the ICF.