Coaching done well, is an accelerated form of leadership development. It’s accelerated because it’s focused directly on the individual coachee, with no distractions or deviation for the needs of others (as happens in workshops and other learning events). In order to accelerate development, coaches also need to be fundamentally challenging and encourage their coachees to think in a different way (if you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you always got!)
The difficult part of that, is that trust must be established quickly in the coaching relationship, so the coachee feels ‘safe’ to respond positively to the level of demanding thinking required. They need to know that the coach ‘has their back’; that their wellbeing is paramount and that there is psychological safety in the process, sufficient to achieve accelerated development through this level of thinking and inquiry.
My view is that you need ‘Love’ in the process, to achieve the psychological safety. Ok, I can feel you sigh and roll your eyes – why on earth would you mention the ‘L’ word here? I’ve written widely about love in coaching and leadership development over the years, and I’m not alone. I don’t mean the Romantic variety of love of course – as a human race, we’ve only been talking about love in that way for around a couple of hundred years. Prior to that, philosophers have been contemplating this very human capacity for care and compassion, authenticity, altruism, kindness, and ethical behaviour. And it really is called love – since the time of Aristotle and Plato. We all know this of course because we’re all familiar with the term Platonic love. In the 1800’s, the great philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote a very robust tome on these behaviours, called Works of Love. In more recent times, the School of Life group of modern philosophers, have encouraged us to consider love much more widely and robustly, in its original meaning, in relation to our daily lives.
It’s pretty tedious to keep writing (and reading) care, compassion, altruistic, ethical behaviour, kind etc. etc. so love is a good catch-all word – a shorthand if you like. What it means is that you genuinely give a damn. As a coach, this is a core paradigm for me. I don’t mean to be offensive here, but unless you give a damn, about the welfare, wellbeing, development and life of the individual you are working with, how can there be the psychological safety and trust needed, to undertake a challenging and demanding piece of work together?
So that’s what my coachees get from me. Don’t mistake my love of ‘love’ as a pink and fluffy approach to working together. It’s a core place of humanity, which enables a strong, highly professional relationship to form. This means that difficult, demanding, and challenging work can be undertaken with trust and ‘safety’, to achieve the sustained, measurable and accelerated development of leaders.
Author – Tracy Kite, Leading & Learning Specialist and Executive Coach
Tracy has developed a unique style of coaching. Through a combination of asking insightful questions, creating the space to think, and adopting an encouraging, pragmatic, and empathetic style, she brings out the best in her clients. Her understated yet impactful approach is powerful because it focuses on the person, the organisation, and the results, in a holistic and integrated fashion. She is passionate that humanness, rather than process, creates business success and optimal growth. Contact Tracy to discuss coaching options for you and/or your team.
Kierkegaard, S. (1962), Works of Love, Harper Perennial Modern Thought
Kite, T. (2017), Love to Lead, Panoma Press
The School of Life (2019), An Emotional Education, Hamish Hamilton (an Imprint of Penguin Books