Nov 23, 2006

Coaching: Some questions

With innovation being the order of the day, there is a need to update and learn new skills. Now there are other emerging options that gives an option for desktop learning, making it seems a lot easier. But then, will theory alone suffice this need for more?

As professionals you undoubtedly feel the need to continuously update your skills and learn new skills. The most usual method is to enroll in a training course which is either offered by your company internally or to go to a training vendor and get the certification. New emerging options for you are learning at the desktop with the help of either virtual classrooms or multimedia e-learning packages.

But the most effective way of learning has always been, and continues to be, learning by doing. Right from the time of ancient India and the gurukul tradition to the pre-industrial age in Europe, when skills were passed by apprenticeship, it was the most preferred way to pass knowledge and competencies. This was because using this methodology not just explicits knowledge [which contributes the "knowing what" of a skill] but also the tacit knowledge (which constitutes the "knowing how") gets passed from the senior to the junior.

How does this eclectic means of improving competence have anything to do with developing your competence?

Before we go further I'll just touch on the meaning of the word "competencies". Contrary to the oft-meant expression, competencies are not just skills, but are a basket in which, knowledge, skills, attitudes and values of a person reside. Hence the term developing competencies usually implies some degree of change in all these variables.

But usually, a formal training program only develops the knowledge part, hoping that skills would develop and almost never touching attitudes and values. This drawback can be offset if one has a personal coach who takes an interest in the personal and professional development of oneself.

Who are coaches and what does coaching mean?

Coaching is a process by which an individual (the coach) helps another to remove internal barriers towards an achievement and helps to learn, perform and achieve.

Who makes a good coach?

A coach can be a person known to you, who is more skilled and genuinely takes interest in your growth and development. He/she could be a member of your organization but that is not necessary. He/ She should have a orientation towards learning and development. It would help if they have done training or tutored and coached others. He/she should also have a keen understanding of your ambitions and strengths.

How to go about building the coaching relationship?

If you admire a person who has grown professionally in your chosen field and feel that you would be grateful for his/her advice and coaching, approach him/her with your desire to accept them as a coach. They should feel challenged in helping you grow as a professional. Be warned that coaching needs commitment and desire from both parties to succeed and also needs time to mature. So explicitly state your expectations from them and ask their expectations from you.

How does the Coach help you develop?

The coach instructs you to do an activity, and then while you do it observes you, gives feedback and then works along with you to help you do it better the next time.