People and Organization

The gift of the century: a coaching session!

Coaching can change a person, believe me. In fact, everyone should have a coach, and on a regular basis.
Elke Van de Walle

I’m such a lucky person. Yes, because I have great parents whom I can always rely on, and a boyfriend I’ve been living with for nearly 3 years in our new home, and because I have relatives who will help us out and friends who never cease to surprise me. I’m such a lucky girl for so many reasons.

But that’s not what this article is about. No. I feel the urge to talk about coaching, a catch-all term that’s currently used to cover lots of different things, a buzzword that everyone seems to be talking about in various different contexts. However, for me, now, coaching has only one real meaning.

A few years ago, with only 5 years’ work experience, I was given the opportunity to follow an intensive coaching programme which included certification. The icing on the cake, during the last year, I got the opportunity to experience some coaching sessions myself – yes, I’m such a lucky girl.

I began the coaching programme somewhat awkwardly (anyone who claims they were immediately comfortable with the situation must be talking about something else) and I soon noticed that I wasn’t the only participant who wasn’t sure what he or she had got into. I must admit this common uncertainty made me feel more at ease. The contact with other participants felt extremely “natural”. I really felt like a new-born person. And all those new coaching skills that I learnt would undoubtedly come in handy.

The programme was quite extensive, to say the least. You meet yourself, you are drawn out of your comfort zone, you push yourself to new limits – not only as a coach, but also as a coachee. It’s all about development-driven coaching. As a coachee, I was encouraged to discuss any subject I wanted: something that preoccupied me, an area I wanted to grow in, a circular reasoning I got caught in and which I could discuss together with my coach. No need to worry because you’ll soon find topics you want to share with your coach, you want to get challenged. This is all part of the training path to become a coach. And how could you expect to coach someone else if you’ve never been coached yourself?

Many subjects were discussed and lots of ambitions were shared, behind closed doors of course, with my coaches and my coachees. All these discussions have one thing in common: they were confidential and intended to expand the perception of the coachee, to widen his or her horizon and stimulate problem-solving and future-oriented thinking. It’s not about the coach, but rather the coachee telling his story.

So it’s like a pleasant conversation? Forget it. A coach is not afraid to confront the coachee because this is necessary to break the circular reasoning. So a coach gives you a lot of advice? Forget it. That’s why consultants exist. A coach lets the coachee gain deeper understanding of himself because, at the end of the day, who is in the best position to assess his own situation? The coachee.

Time to get serious. The day comes when you’ve practised enough at coaching and you’ve tasted the effects of being coached as a coachee. It’s time for certification. Start coaching as it comes naturally to you, with your own style, be and stay yourself as a coach and remember you are not the central focus, but the coachee is. So now I’m a coach? And now I can coach others with credibility? Again, forget it. You now have the basic skills, the tools, and your piece of paper – the certificate.

Time to practise. It’s time to coach colleagues who are eager to work together with a coach who can deal with their everyday worries, colleagues who are willing to reveal their circular reasoning, and colleagues who are curious to experience such a coaching session.

A colleague and myself also used this opportunity to share our experiences with other colleagues and to let them discover the added value of coaching in real life. We prepared a comprehensive programme to finally give meaning to the catch-all term coaching.

To finish it all off, I was assigned my own coach during the last year. I just let it all go and we discussed everything that puzzled me, everything that prevented me from moving forward, and everything that encourages me to achieve certain ambitions. I was stimulated session after session, and came away full of inspiration. Mind you, the sessions were not as relaxed as you might think and it wasn’t a case of sitting back on a shrink’s couch at all. My coach was confrontational, time and time again, but this actually contributed to my personal development and consequently to my career development. Thanks to coaching, I’ve got a grip on my career and I recently switched jobs, albeit as part of a job rotation move within the same company. I’m able to explore my areas of interest and follow my passion more than ever before.

Coaching can change a person, believe me. In fact, everyone should have a coach, and on a regular basis. We all deserve to be rewarded with a coach. So I say coaching is the perfect gift.

Thanks for reading

Contact our expert

Elke Van de Walle