It comes as no surprise that coaching isn’t exactly mainstream in Singapore. The International Coach Federation (ICF) Singapore, the largest organisation of its kind, has only 400 registered members locally.
While the membership numbers may be considered low, coaching is in fact well established in Singapore. Publicly-Funded Autonomous Universities have been offering coach training program for years now.
Singapore Management University (SMU) offers International Corporate Coaching (ICF-approved) and Leadership Coaching Programme in partnership with Progress U. While Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) offers a Graduate Diploma in Professional Life-coaching.
What is coaching?
To put it in the simplest terms, coaching is a process that aims to facilitate the change required for a person to get from point A to point B.
For most parts, it’s about achieving more – increasing work performance, optimising work-life balance, improving personal well-being, stress management, finding a breaking through, you get the idea.
Regardless of the client’s goals, coaches act is as a facilitator of change.
This is really important – while a teacher may tell their students how to get to their goals, a coach helps their coachees/clients to learn to get to their goals.
What is the purpose of coaching?
What I like about coaching is that coaching is not results-focused.
That is not to say that results don’t matter. Working with a good coach should — with your cooperation — lead you the outcomes that you are after.
The beauty of coaching is that the results you get is not the direct outcome of coaching. Instead, they are a byproduct of the change that has occurred as a result from the coaching.
In that sense, the focus is on driving self-improvement rather than the specific goals.
Coaching also fills in the gap between knowing and doing.
For example, you may have already been told that tobacco use is bad for your lungs or that sleeping early can help with stress regulation.
However, this doesn’t mean you would actually do it. Knowing is not doing!
Coaching doesn’t focus on knowing the problem or getting you to quit smoking. It looks at what are the changes that will need to happen for you to start taking action towards your goals.
How does coaching work?
There is no hard rules to how your coaching engagement should look.
Most coaches meet the clients (or coachees) one-on-one for 45 minutes to an hour. Some clients may opt for weekly sessions while others may go for fortnightly or even monthly sessions. It comes down to what you need as a client and what would work best for your case.
During these sessions, you can expect to work with clarifying your goals, deciding what are the small outcomes steps you can take towards reaching those goals, identifying the potential barriers to a successful outcome and how to overcome them.
It may sound obvious and that you already know what to do.
If that is true, you would already be successful at achieving the goals you want.
What about those new year resolutions you are still struggling to get started with?
Coaches ask effective questions
There’s a huge interest in neuroscience among coaches because coaching could potentially change your brain. This concept is also known as neuroplasticity.
If you think about it, you are you as a person and you will always think your way.
In that sense, when faced with the same problem you are likely to give the same solution. If you can’t reach a working solution despite numerous attempts, it’s likely that you will not find one.
In fact, we are so predictable with how we react that most of us are familiar with our own pet peeves.
Pet peeves are really interesting because they irritate, annoy, or frustrate us in irrational ways. Despite our awareness towards them and the unpleasantness they create, our mood is often at their mercy.
We simply just live with it.
Coaching as an intervention encourages you to think about your thinking. We refer to this as metacognition.
By thinking of your thinking, we may be able to find narratives that are unhelpful towards your goals.
This awareness of your thought processes will allow us to more readily challenge unhelpful beliefs so goals-congruent behaviour can become more acceptable to you. In doing so, you bring yourself closer to your desired outcomes.
If we can change how you think and thus influence your decision-making process and the actions you take, we can change your brain.
As you choose a new behaviour over and over again, the effort will become less and less conscious. Eventually, a new habit is formed.
Coaches drive effective change by asking questions.
The torchlight (flashlight) analogy
Perhaps you are still not convinced of how coaching may work.
Think of the last couple of times you had a problem you just couldn’t solve by yourself but eventually get past it, what happened?
What did you do to get past the initial hurdle to the working solution you were after?
If I were to guess, you had help.
In many ways, the focus of the human mind works like a torchlight: Wherever you direct your beam towards is what you see.
The problem is that whatever you don’t pay attention to is what you may never see.
This is the problem.
This is also where a coach could come in handy.
Remember I mentioned earlier that if you couldn’t find a working solution despite numerous attempts, it is very possible that you might never get to one?
This is because we are unlikely to change the way we think without some form of external help.
Coaches ask questions to direct your attention to dark recess of your mind so you may start to see more than what you are already used to.
In Solution-Focused Coaching, one of the assumptions is that the clues to the solution are often right in front of us. All we need to do is to recognise them.
It sounds over-simplistic. Consider this: How many times have you been given a viable solution, to what you thought was an unsolvable problem, only to realise it was something you already know?
It’s fascinating, isn’t it?
“Of course. Why didn’t I think of that? I already know that.”
If we can come to terms with that we will only achieve our full potential with the help from a mind that is not our own, the reasons to engage a coach then becomes clear.
What is difference between mentoring and coaching?
This is a commonly asked question so let’s address that.
A mentoring relationship is often arranged as a knowledge or experience transfer. In most cases, a person with more experience is usually the mentor who will guide the less experienced mentee. This is often how a mentorship arrangement is set up.
Because of that, mentors often have to provide advice and counsel to their mentees. In that sense, it’s a lot of telling.
In coaching, the relationship between the coach and the coachee is more of a partnership. It is not uncommon for the coach has no subject expertise. That is to say the coach does not need to be a subject matter expert on the areas that you would like to work on.
With this in mind, the coach cannot tell or advise the coachee what to do. Coaches rely on asking the right questions at the right time to facilitate the right change.
It’s about helping the client to direct their spotlight on what truly helps. In doing so, they find the answers that they are looking for.
The GROW coaching model
The GROW model is one of the most commonly used models in coaching today:
• Goal: where do you want to get to?
• Reality: where are you right now?
• Options: how can you get there?
• Will: what will keep you going until you get there?
Goals: What do you truly want?
Most of us assume that we know what we want really want. If you were to ask you to write down your goals following the SMART criteria, it becomes a lot more difficult.
We know what we want but we have very poor clarity of what it looks like.
For example, a client may say that he/she wants to be happy.
That’s great. Let’s work on that. How does happy look like to you?
Most of the time, this is when people will use negatively-frame responses such as:
• I don’t want to be sad
• I don’t have to work
• I won’t be tired all the time
• I don’t want to feel stress
Imagine if I asked you to do my shopping for me and gave you a grocery list with only what I do not want.
What the odds that you will come back with what I actually want?
This is importance of having clarity of what you are trying to achieve when working with a coach.
Sure, you want to be happy.
How would your life look when you have achieved happiness?
It may sound like a redundant question but one person’s idea of happiness can be dramatically different from another person’s!
Reality: Where are you actually at?
To know where you are at right now is super dependent on how much awareness you have of your current situation.
If the beam of your torchlight is kept fairly narrow and you have been shining it on the same place your entire life, then you would be very clear and confident of what you already know.
But where you perceive yourself to be and where you actually at may be very different.
Using the Johari Window model, a person who keeps their beam of attention fairly narrow and fixed would probably have more blind spots and unknown areas.
That’s not to say that it’s a bad thing. It’s really more of saying you simply don’t know.
Questions that may help to increase self-awareness (i.e. move the torch around or expand the beam) are:
• On a scale of 0 to 10, how happy are you right now?
• What makes you happy? When? With whom? And how often?
• What have been working out well for you so far?
• Is there anything you can do that will always make you happy?
Through questions, you can encourage self-reflection. In doing so, you are starting the beam of light on things that you have not have considered or explored before.
If you are up for it, think of something you are trying to achieve and give those four questions a shot. It may be a lot challenging than you imagine.
Options: What can you really do?
I remembered talking to a client who was under a lot of stress.
We were working on developing an action plan for the upcoming week so he could improve his mood.
When I asked what he can do to help him regulate his stress a bit better, he mentioned that bubble tea makes him happy and for that few moments, all his stress and anxiety would go away.
It was a great observation and I suggested that it is something we can leverage on as a short-term strategy.
I invited him to frame the bubble tea experience into something actionable that would for the next week, he insisted that he cannot drink bubble tea daily. So, it is not a solution. He even added that he can only drink it once a week at most for health reasons.
He was about to move on but I insisted that he consider how he could package his bubble tea experience into his one-week action plan. He gave a couple of potential tasks such as visualising himself drinking bubble tea or holding a cup as if there was bubble tea in it to recreate the de-stressing experience.
After exploring that for a good 15 minutes, he realised that it could be as easy as adding drinking bubble tea just once next week to be part of his solution.
The (short-term) solution could be found within his own words! More often than not, the solution is right in front of us. All we need to do is to learn how to recognise it.
As we start practising looking into ourselves to find the answers we are looking for, we will become better at identifying potential solutions that we have been been missing all of these years!
Yes, I hear you. Consuming boba tea on its own unlikely to make a dramatic change to his daily mood. However, small changes can lead to a big change!
Will: Do you have what it takes?
If the answer to this question is yes, then you probably wouldn’t need coaching.
For most of us who need the extra push, we know what we need to do but we don’t have what it takes to get started. This is called the hard change.
That’s totally okay. It’s part of the coach’s job to help you figure how.
To get started with your first step, think about:
• What is the least you need to do, the smallest steps you can take towards the goal you want?
• What can you take action on RIGHT now?
• Is there anything you can do to make the experience (not task) easier?
• Do you have previous success in similar challenges? How did you overcome them?
It comes down to what can and will you do now?
If you are looking to self-coach, the GROW model is definitely one of the best place to start.
It is simple, it covers enough ground, and the questions are direct and specific enough to get you think about your own thoughts.
Don’t get me wrong, self-coaching is not the same as working with another person. You are seeing missing the other/different perspective. You are still missing somebody who can see what you are missing. This is where the true value of coaching lies.
If you are interested to work with me so you can achieve your goals or make your new year resolutions come true, you can read more about the coaching service I offer. If you are ready to take the first step in your journey of self-development, book in for an appointment via the form below to discover the difference coaching can make.