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Coaching for Breakthrough Success

By Jack Canfield and Peter Chee

(McGraw-Hill, 271 pages, $24.95)

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Managers are akin to coaches these days. But managers are also managers, and the style of some managers may not be the approach that is most effective for coaching.

In some, if not many, situations, managers are directive. In other words, they tell employees what to do. But according to a new book, that would be a mistake.

The authors argue that employees being coached actually know best, even if they don't know it.

"Let them do most of the thinking and find their own solutions – that's the essence of good coaching," Jack Canfield, famed co-author of the Chicken Soup series, and coaching associate Peter Chee write in Coaching for Breakthrough Success.

This unleashes the protégé's potential to maximize their own performance by encouraging self-leadership. It empowers them, which will be helpful as they seek to improve – after all, a manager can't make the changes on the employee's behalf.

It also builds a stronger commitment to the direction and changes the employer might make. It's their path, rather than complying with a manager's directions.

"This approach may be more time-consuming than giving orders, but is also much more satisfying to both the employee and the manager acting as a coach," they observe.

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If coaching is about helping people to help themselves, you must be present, listen well, care and understand.

The authors suggest that if you are listening intently, you should feel a bit tired after the other person you are coaching has finished expressing themselves. Listening is an active, not a passive, activity.

An equally sensitive skill, and one that may be more difficult to develop, will be helping the protégé to release negative emotions that are blocking them.

The authors note that many people live in a negative world – they're surrounded with negative forces and negative news that wears them down. As a result, highly stressed employees are often good candidates for coaching.

The authors advise you to ask questions to encourage the individual to articulate emotions and feelings related to the issues being faced.

This increases the individual's emotional awareness and allows them to talk about and presumably release any psychological pain building up within. While doing this, it's important you remain resilient and not let the individual's problems and pain drag you down.

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"Don't be surprised if some clients cry in front of you. It is usually a good thing, a cathartic release of emotion, and they will be much better afterward. Just make sure you have tissues ready," they write.

The authors stress that at the heart of a great coach is a firm belief that each person is uniquely valuable, with distinct gifts and a potential for greatness.

A coach has to appreciate what is special in others, believing that everyone can be magnificent in their own way. "Even at a time when someone is going through great difficulties, you must still be able to see the goodness in them and bring it to the surface," they write.

You must also connect with the individual, building rapport, often with the help of humour. Touch their heart by showing care and sincerity. The protégé can tell when you are just being courteous and when you really care.

"In fact, care and sincerity should be unconditional. A coach simply cares even when the client does not deliver or measure up to expectations," they write.

The ideas in the book are sensible, but the presentation is weak. The authors call their approach the Meta Model (30-6-8), which seems an excuse to tie together three disparate sections, one with 30 ideas, the second with six approaches, and the third with eight.

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While the authors are thorough, they aren't concise, and it's hard to tie it all together in your own mind.

POSTSCRIPT

To help your coaching protégé to open up emotionally, here are some questions offered by Jack Canfield and Peter Chee in their new book:

  • What’s getting in the way of living the life that you want to lead?
  • Is there any fear that might be holding you back?
  • What’s stopping you? How do you feel about it?
  • Imagine being in that situation. What thoughts and emotions does that evoke?
  • How are you feeling in your body right now? What are you feeling in your heart right now?
  • What would it take for you to let go of this negative situation and feeling?

Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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