Some reflections on our conversation with Jonathan Passmore

If you have missed the conversation, then you can listen to it here.

My aim with the whole series of ONCoaching is to create springboards for thinking about coaching and coaching research. So, after finishing a conversation, I “test them on myself” to see if it sounds interesting and thought-provoking to me. I just wait a bit – OK, sometimes this takes a week or so – and then listen again to the episode and let my mind wander…

Ending the call with Jonathan was an emotional moment for me. On one hand, I was full of excitement as we touched on some interesting topics, and I could hardly hold back my further questions. On the other hand, I was just simply happy! “Second one completed! Now it looks like a series!” This was my first, though. I was celebrating my persistence.

The Active Ingredients of The Coaching Relationship

Going on, the idea of persistence resonated with the conversation itself. As Jonathan was speaking about the active ingredients of the coaching relationship, he mentioned the clients' readiness to engage in the process. I strongly agree with that. Without will to engage in self-development, and readiness to be coached no coaching will yield results. This is the point where I’d add persistence to the equation. Coaching may enable insight, provide support in defining actions, and create motivation – all the magic – but the magic may disappear after the session. Some clients may face their usual reality and decide not to make the change “out there”.

"We need persistence, and commitment to put all the cool outcomes of a coaching conversation into action."

Let me get back to the first conversation here, in which Erik de Haan mentioned that after a certain number of sessions, extra coaching conversations seemingly do not provide an additional value from the perspective of the desired outcome. But to get to the “ideal length,” we need persistence to wish to learn, to wish to change. I loved how Jonathan has phrased the pivot points in the history of coaching. He said that probably, coaching conversations were present back in the daily lives of the hunter-gatherer tribes as well.

No evidence, of course, as Jonathan said. (I am a coach. Critical thinking, evidenced or not, I have to love a statement that envisions a thousand-year-old history of my profession. 😊) Besides the joy of my professional ego, I got my head up when he said, “learning conversation.” Yes, broadly speaking, coaching is a learning conversation. But what I’d like to highlight here is that it could be more than just a conversation.

Are role plays part of a typical coaching conversation? How is the body – our physical entities – a part of the coaching process? (Have you ever heard of the “embodied coaching” concept?) Again, we could ask the question of boundaries. Where are they? Where are the professional and ethical boundaries of a conversation – a meeting of the minds and feelings? I like to ponder those questions. Personally, I am a conversational coach. This is my comfort zone.

The Presence of Goals in a Coaching Conversation

I’d love to have a long debate on the presence of goals in a coaching conversation. Jonathan brought this in when discussing the ingredients of a successful coaching. I really appreciated that he mentioned the professional debate around this topic. I love goals. One of my mentors told me that having a goal is one of the things that differentiates a friendly conversation from a professional coaching session. But I do see that some clients don’t have goals in the classical sense.

They don’t want to reach a destination. They are just exploring a path or playing around with ideas… (OK... I know those can be framed as goals as well…). So is it enough to just hold the space and co-create the proper environment then the magic of coaching will happen? What kind of support would you like to receive? These days I am more of a no-goal person. I am curious if we have one, but I am OK if we just start to explore and then reach an inspiring conclusion on the go.

The Role of Technology in Coaching

A final point to reflect on is, of course, the role of technology in coaching. As I am reading the news of ChatGPT overtaking the world of internet-search applications, I am quite sure that coaching does have a lot to do with technology today and will have some big dilemmas to deal with in the close future.

I agree with Jonathan that the digitalization of coaching brings tremendous change to coaching. Coaching becomes more available, easier to track, and so on. I see the challenges as well… What I got stuck with after the conversation was the enabler/advancer dichotomy. I brought this up – inspired by Jonathan’s enthusiasm on the spot. In my opinion, current technology – e.g., coaching platforms, - play an enabler role in the world of coaching.

They increase the accessibility of coaching, and make it more affordable to get a (human)coach. We are just experimenting with some “advancer” features that could add an unique value to the coaching process, which is not available without these tools. Imagine instant emotional recognition, for example. Having a program that constantly informs the coach about the changing emotional status of the client (e.g., by monitoring micro-expressions) could augment the senses of a coach. A well-trained chatbot could offer personality-tailored intervention suggestions… and these are just the first things I am thinking about. I am curious to see how the coaching landscape will change as technology advances even further. I am sure that we’ll have coach bots around, however

"I am sure that human coaches will never go out of fashion."

As a final note I’d like to recommend reading Jonathan’s books. Practical and sharp, they are great reads, even if you are not a coach.

What stood out for you? What are your reflections? I am curious to hear about all of them!

(Commenting is available under my LinkedIn post.)

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