The Heart of Coaching

"The Transformational Coaching process provides a useful framework to guide performance coaching discussions in ways that open up communications and build trust. It also creates a powerful commitment to mutual learning and partnership for discovering the next best steps."

- The Heart of Coaching, page 15

At its core, the process in Thomas G. Crane’s The Heart of Coaching consists of three parts: the foundation, the feedback loop and the forwarding-the-action phase. Not too much, right? And yet so much more! Crane takes each phase and breaks it down into his most basic steps. Each chapter represents a sub-section in the coaching cycle which at its base is a series of powerful communication tools to help develop individuals as well as advance organizational change.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

The Heart of the Process

"It is clear that if we are to shift people's behaviours, we must ultimately shift their underlying beliefs."
- The Heart of Coaching, page 40

Crane has studied at great length the strengths and limitations [especially the limitations] of other coaching models to come up with the basis for his model. He distinguishes his method of coaching based on nine principles:

  1. It is data driven.
  2. It is performance focused.
  3. It is relationship focused.
  4. It is slower, not faster.
  5. It requires dialogue.
  6. It requires more heart.
  7. It requires humility.
  8. It requires balance.
  9. It requires self-responsibility.

The Transformational Coaching Paradigm is one in which “feedback flows up, down and sideways throughout an organization”. No longer is coaching a top down approach that allows for the boss to coach or, in most cases, ‘tell’ a direct report what to do or how to think. This is true empowerment at its core. Crane’s method allows for a working environment of growth and fulfillment, that provides creative choices that allow for a sense of personal ownership, an opportunity to contribute to significant goals where employees are treated with honesty and coaches both challenge and support accomplishments. Wow! I want to work for an organization that follows these coaching guidelines!

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

A coach is very different from a boss!

"A coach acts as a guide by challenging and supporting people in achieving their personal and organizational performance objectives. If this is done as a trusted learning partner, people feel helped by the coach and the process ... help is only help if it's perceived as help."
- The Heart of Coaching, page 31

The idea that a coach [boss/superior] is equal to the subordinate [employee] is truly transformational! The altering of traditional job descriptions changes the entire process of coaching; both behaviours and relationships. Built on mutual trust and respect, the end results are more resourceful and creative as well as being more likely to last. No fast fixes that last a short time when old behaviours become easier to fall back on. The longevity of new modifications is a result of true change based on working with emotional intelligence and self responsibility. By “[engaging] in candid respectful coaching conversations with one another – unrestricted by reporting relationships – … they can improve their working relationships and individual and collective work performance.”

Instead of having a boss, Crane suggests what is needed instead is a leader. Crane combines and identifies five roles that should be the core of business leadership: visionary, servant [to serve others within their organization], coach, facilitator and role model. These positions have overlapping responsibilities and they can be trimmed down to training, counseling, confronting, and mentoring.  His ‘vision’ of applied leadership creates what he describes as a “feedback-rich” environment to develop and improve staff.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Words really do make a difference!

"Coaches need to heighten their awareness and sensitivity to the words they use, becoming aware of the emotional energy and the impact they have on people ... a single word can change an attitude."
- The Heart of Coaching, page 97

Crane writes an entire chapter on ‘Coaching Language’ and another on ‘Coaching Through Dialogue’ to demonstrate to the reader how words influence, build up or tear down, the relationships we have with others. It was a fascinating look at how the listener’s expectations change depending on the speaker’s words, words which we often think are synonymous and yet are not really and therefore can have potentially disastrous results.

Using inclusive language, we or I as opposed to you, helps to build a collaborative and trusting relationship and may go a long way to diminish the defensive mechanism individuals use to resist coaching. Crane uses examples of ‘should vs. could’; ‘but vs. and’; ‘try vs. will’ to demonstrate his point that we as coaches need to be very conscientious of the words we choose and the effects they have on others. As well, the use of jargon can potentially confuse and disrupt the coaching cycle by setting up a ‘sense of exclusivity’ or elitism. Simpler is better; common language “facilitates understanding by more people.”

Crane discusses the importance of reframing situations for clients and points to this skill as being key for successful coaches. Taking common words such as ‘always’ and ‘never’ and instead using ‘sometimes’, or taking ‘can’t’ as ‘won’t’ or, my favourite, removing the word ‘mistakes’ and in its place using the word ‘learning’. These seemingly small changes will potentially have huge windfalls for both the coach and client.

According to Crane, gone are the days when business coaches direct or lecture, know all the answers, trigger insecurities using fear and/or point to all the errors. Instead, the new coach supports, listens, engages in dialogue, stimulates creativity and facilitates by empowering. What a wonderful environment for both personal as well as organizational growth!

I found this book so chock full of wisdom that it was very difficult to come up with just the few mentioned in this summary. I believe if you are interested in taking the next step in your coaching role, whether as a full time coach or as merely to add a line in your job description, this is the book for you. You will come away with many insights, new tips and techniques to take your coaching skills to the next level.

The following quote from Eddie Robinson, Head Football Coach at Grambling University, opens one of the chapters and I think speaks to the heart of coaching: “Coaching is a profession of love. You can’t coach people unless you love them.” So my question to you is do you love your staff and/or clients enough to read and implement the coaching skills in this book?

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Jennifer Fitzgerald Hansen

ABOUT Jennifer Fitzgerald Hansen

Who am I? I ask myself that all the time! I am a mother to three wonderful kids and a self employed trainer/facilitator/instructional designer for 10+ years...
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