From coaching conversations that I have engaged in, it is possible to draw some insights I have gained on coaching. These conversations also enabled me to gauge my performance as a coach and look at it from different coaching perspectives.
Experiential learning can be defined as a process through which an individual learns by engaging in activities that relate to what they intend to learn. By viewing it as an informal style of learning, one is able to use formal knowledge gained in a learning institution and put it to practice in the field. Different from formal learning, it can be seen as a process in which one acquires and accumulates knowledge and skills by exposing oneself to the work environment as well as through their daily experiences. This enables them to shape their insights and attitudes in accordance with the course being undertaken (Armour et al 2010). Coaches are known to engage in self-directed learning, which is incorporated into formal institution-based learning to achieve an all-rounded development both in skills and in attitudes.
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By engaging in experiential learning that comes about from coaching conversations, I intended to acquire different perspectives of coaching processes. With this objective in mind, it was possible to employ Kolb’s cycle in the learning process as it well describes a working strategy that I would use to derive the best from self-directed learning. This journal is guided by my experience from some coaching conversations I had in the position of a coach as well as by my experience as a coachee. The purpose of engaging in these processes was to develop a deeply inculcated coaching attitude as well as to change the way I would relate to different people I am bound to meet in my career as a coach. This helped me acquire necessary spontaneity in handling personal development issues.
Application of Kolb’s Learning Cycle
Conversations I held with different participants can be viewed from different stages of Kolb’s cycle. While this cycle offers a different perspective on how different experiences shape individual’s abilities, it also provides a different perspective on the impact that experience may have on coachees. These points offer ways through which self-directed learners respond to a workplace environment. With this cycle, one can engage in a reflective analysis of experiences. Under concrete experiences, I conducted an analysis of what I saw in the workplace as well as how I felt about it.
Reflective observation is about reviewing the experiences that one acquires through meeting the coach/coachee. It is derived from watching the behaviours of the coach/coachee and from reviewing different experiences with them. In abstract conceptualization, I concentrated on thinking about different impacts that these experiences had on me. I was focused on thinking and drawing conclusions from the interactions I had with clients. This is where I related various workplace encounters with various coaching principles. The last bit of the analysis derives from the active experimentation of various coaching skills. By engaging in different activities with clients, I was able to employ various skills in specific situations. This analysis describes ways in which I can apply coaching skills in experienced situations. Primarily, this paper takes the structure of different stages in Kolb’s cycle in giving an account of my experiential learning.
Conversation One: As a Coach
Coachee’s premise is bound to give me varied feelings depending on its initial impression or impact on me. The first experience was with a firm that was training its workers on various leadership skills. I arrived at the premise in the morning to find the place already alive with activities. The institution has exceeded my expectations, so in turn I was impressed.
I proceed to the training hall where coachees were sitting in a way such that they formed a semi-circle with the trainer at the centre. I thought to myself that this was better than the conventional lecture hall. Brief introductions revealed a close-knit professional relationship between the trainer and workers as well as amongst themselves. One particular trainee who had an incredible power of gab seemed to suffer from constantly being told that she speaks too much. My take is that she could use this ability to develop good oratory skills. I proceeded to ask for her opinions on various speeches delivered by corporate leaders. She responded by indicating that most of them only relayed technical information and lacked the ability to engage the general public. I pointed out to her that she could become a good orator if she focused her mind on objectivity.
Most of the coaches showed much potential in improving their leadership skills, especially if they concentrated on first strengthening their personal talents. In addition, much of the training was aimed at achieving specific leadership traits, which, in my opinion, may not address the need to empower personal strengths of individuals.
Conversation Two: As a Coach
This took place in a firm whose management aimed at improving performance. As I arrived at the training hall, I learned that they have been dealing with effective communication as it relates to productivity. The topic obviously elicited interaction between the people present in the hall with inputs coming from most of the members. However, there were some of the trainees who were oddly quiet in a group that looked as enthusiastic as this one. I took the liberty of inviting their opinions when my turn to share came.
I noticed that the group had a diverse talent pool, which was not tapped appropriately and I felt that observing various personality traits would be helpful. I started a conversation with one of the silent trainees, who expressed their frustrations about various ways in which some members controlled the discussions. ‘The fact that someone is quick to offer their opinions should not be taken to mean that they are smarter than the rest of us’, the trainee lamented.
Once the session ended, I engaged in small talks with several trainees pointing out various ways in which one could integrate their talents as well as acquired skills to boost their productivity. This is a point they took in gladly and expressed their intention to commit themselves to achieving it.
Conversation Three: As a Coach
The next session was carried out on an individual basis in a firm that pushed for higher performance. To achieve this, I engaged in some general conversations with different workers who were enrolled in the program. I felt that the majority of workers were very cooperative and displayed their attitudes towards various leadership aspects of the firm. In most conversations we felt spontaneous and flowed with great ease. Much of the time was spent conversing about performers’ lives, both in the workplace and outside the workplace. These conversations integrated well with my thoughts so that while I was engrossed in revealing conversations, my mind seemed to be generating possibilities for every situation described.
From listening to different workers, I was able to gain more insight into their aspirations, ambitions, fears, desires, and expectations. By probing each of them, I felt that the firm had a high potential in its human resource as most of them had not exhausted their capabilities yet. Moreover, the firm’s environment, as deduced from the conversations, felt right to foster high productivity. While leaving each worker’s office, I had a feeling that this would offer a good coaching experience for me. As I embarked on reflecting on the activities of the day, I was confident that I would enjoy working with this group.
Each of the workers to whom I spoke expressed their willingness to engage in self-development programs. Apart from some of the workers who were a little defensive, the rest were remarkably conforming to the growth strategy. After identifying divergers among workers, it was possible to generate diverse training approaches for each one of them to feel part of the team.
Conversation Four: As a Coachee
It took place in a learning institution, where I attended a leadership workshop. It focused generally on developing leadership skills in coaches. From the experiences I had in the leadership training, a number of issues came to my mind. Team coaching can be beneficial for achieving more than mere cooperation among workers. Coachees can be empowered to coach each other through guided interactions. Despite having a good team coaching, I found that there were times when some of the coachees felt that they were left out of discussions. This meant there was a need to achieve a certain level of fairness as a coach in sharing one’s attention.
Much of the training was aimed at achieving specific leadership traits, which was combined with a bid to empower personal strengths of individuals. Many individuals possess attributes that offer good bases for developing natural leadership abilities. For a coach there is a need to identify these traits and build around them first before exploring other alternatives. On the onset, the institution offered an excellent training environment with helpful technical staff that allowed for easy presentations as well as communication. There were minimal interruptions and there was a generally commendable time management.
Coaching focused on individuals’ abilities to develop higher leadership skills while incorporating various personal experiences from the program. The coach managed to address each of coachee’s concerns and consequently had the whole group highly motivated. Coaches emphasized social constructivism where we ended up learning from each other.
Conversation Five: As a Coachee
The management in this firm had organized a seminar that aimed at boosting its workers’ performance. The coach engaged participants in a team coaching session focused on achieving more openness. However, some of the individual coaching sessions were better because they enabled detailed conversations that cut across diverse topics and issues. For this institution, this might be the best system to use, especially after acknowledging that some people felt intimidated by the dominance of others during open team coaching forums. The fact that the trainer did not seem keen about moderating open discussions further discredited team coaching approach as used in the seminar.
The team coaching session lacked good moderation. According to Sternberg et al (2000), social constructivism is essential if the coach is to achieve the best results from conversations as well as from the process of coaching itself. It facilitates the development of positive relationships between coaches and coachees. Lack of it may imply that desired results of the coaching program may not be achieved.
Failure of coaches to moderate the session did not facilitate opening up of performers to the coach, which according to Vaartijes (2005), inhibited the ability of the coach to confront coachee’s comfort zones in order to ignite behavioural alignment and change of attitude. This is in line with the fact that individuals have different ways of handling information and consequently require different strategies of management. Many coachees, as a result, became defensive.
Various experiences from leadership training can be reviewed against the background of known coaching principles. While leadership coaching requires the trainer to be able to assume an approach that is holistic in nature, some of the training can be said to have lacked in one or two things. This is because the coach needs to employ coachees’ personal attributes in enhancing personal development (Vaartjes 2005). It borrows from both: ontological and co-active approaches to coaching, which place certain attributes to the client. For instance, the client is assumed to bear natural attributes such as creativity, resourcefulness, and rationality. A failure to identify this results in actions that would place serious limitations on what a trainer will achieve with the coaching process.
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According to Kolb (2001), it is advisable to coach individuals while understanding how they learn best. In a nutshell, coaching is more effective if one is able to discern in which categories their performers lie. Assimilators learn best by accumulating a wide range of information, while accommodators work best with what is readily available or rather, tend to make decisions impulsively. Divergers will seek to view issues from different points, while convergers are keen on getting the solution without detailed research (Gallagher & Turesky 2001). This implies helping the coach formulate an approach to use in order to achieve desired results.
After the analysis of the experiences, I determined some of the things that I would do differently if I were responsible for coachees’ groups. As I reflected on various attributes that various coachees had, I felt that there was a need to decipher the real motive of coaching. In order to utilize the attributes of each worker effectively, it is important to focus on achieving a heightened personal empowerment. It is about aiming to improve workers’ skills, enhance their performances, assist them to realize their potential, and eventually to enable them to fulfil their career objectives.
In light of this, the next course of action would be to help particular workers improve their performances, expand their capabilities as well as improve coach’s relationship with trainees to ensure that the best results are attained. In line with emerging issues in coaching, it is necessary to gear coaching sessions towards achieving general growth of coachees. As Baker et al (2000) points out, it is of great importance for coaching process to achieve clients’ goals. This implies that the coach needs to ensure that clients understand what their goals entail. In addition, it ensures that reality is factored into the coaching process. This includes ensuring that the client acknowledges their current situation and understands how it is likely to affect achievement of their goals. This, in turn, guides the client in identifying all their available options and how these options affect the ease of achieving their goals. These stages will help influence client’s willingness to work towards achieving their goals. This is because by fully analyzing their situations together, clients also gain more insight on how they can achieve better results.