- What is coaching?
- The difference between coaching relationships and using coaching skills
The difference between coaching relationships and using coaching skills
There are different forms in which coaching can be used to support researcher development. These range from the professional one-to-one coaching relationship with an external coach, through to forming peer-support relationships within which coaching skills are used, to utilising coaching skills within meetings (such as PhD supervision or project meetings).
Within a defined ‘gold standard' coaching relationship, the coach is accredited by a professional coaching body, and the coaching relationship emphasises the researcher setting the agenda and the coach working with coaching skills to provoke self-awareness. This challenges the researcher to take actions that they have identified, and holds the researcher to account for learning from the actions they took. In this form of relationship the coach's agenda is to hold a space in which the researcher learns and develops through increased self-awareness and reflection on action. That relationship is agreed, is collaborative, and the coach abides to the principles and ethics of coaching.
The value and role of professional coaching must be recognised and maintained; however the role that the development of coaching skills for researchers can play must also be recognised. Coaching skills enhance the researchers' own experiences and abilities to support peers. This is an important consideration given the budget constraints that trainers and developers face, as well as the need to build the skill base of researchers for future employment.
There are advantages and disadvantages of different types of coaching relationship.
There are two key issues in considering different types of coaching relationship:
The appropriateness of the type of coach used and their effectiveness may well reflect the nature of the issue that is to be addressed. For example, the demands of developmental coaching, in contrast to a more specific focus on skills development, will require different qualities from the coach and coaching relationship. The more the focus of the coaching is developmental the more likely multifaceted issues will arise, and the freer the agenda needs to be, in which case an external coach is most appropriate.
Another challenge is that when using internal, manager or peer coaches, wider issues affecting the researchers may not be brought to bear on the topic.
For example, the issues brought to bear when focusing on time management skills during a coaching session may be quite different dependent on the relationship between the coach and coachee:
- by a manager - issues may be presented as how to improve project management
- by someone from the HR department - issues may be presented as a problem of managing the managers expectations
- by an independent external coach - issues may be presented as a wider problem of work-life balance and different values being compromised.
Beyond a defined coaching relationship, coaching skills can be used in any context, from meetings and supervision to conversations in the corridor or over coffee. In this sense learning coaching skills and self-coaching is a useful set of tools to enhance researcher employability.