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Can you Coach for Knowledge?

A maths teacher made the news this summer by sitting the GCSE maths exam alongside her pupils. She said that this was to show solidarity with the students, who were undertaking the exam for the first time under a new scoring system, where papers are graded from 1-9, with 9 being the highest mark. Thankfully she achieved a perfect 9!

What does this have to do with coaching? Quite a lot I think. For a start, it showed tremendous solidarity and support, something that as coaches we want to demonstrate as we sit alongside our clients. It also showed a high level of insight, integrity and humility, all qualities that effective coaches possess in good measure.

Coaches are sometimes asked about the difference between coaching and mentoring. As a rule, we would respond that mentoring requires knowledge of the subject, whether it is management, engineering or teaching. In contrast to this, coaching requires that we honour the expertise of the person being coached. Their knowledge of the subject on which they are being coached can never be matched, no matter how skillful the coach, because at its heart the subject of coaching is the person being coached.

How can we apply the lessons from the teacher above to our work as coaches? I’d suggest the following as a starting point:

Value learning – your own and that of your clients – and take every opportunity to develop yourself and your skills.
Practise the art of self-awareness – without which coaching can be ineffective or even destructive.
Celebrate success – your clients have worked hard to gain insight through the coaching process, so reflect back to them that you have noticed their efforts, and that they will reap the rewards.

Guest Blog by Shirley Johnson