Co-active coaching can help you achieve goals.



          Co-active coaching

                    An introduction

 Coaching is an effective tool for personal and professional change. The Coaches Training Institute define coaching as:

"… a powerful alliance designed to forward and enhance the lifelong process of human learning, effectiveness and fulfillment"1

By the 90's it was recommended to managers as a tool for improving performance:

"A manager's task is simple - to get the job done and to grow his staff. Time and cost pressures limit the latter. Coaching is one process with both effects."2

Coaching is rapidly evolving as a profession in it's own right. Some coaches work independently , others work as coaches within organizations or may be managers who have coaching as part of their role. The approaches which may be of interest to midwives are known as personal (or 'life') coaching and career (or professional development) coaching.


Co-active coaching

I believe that what happens in your personal life affects your work, so I would rather not distinguish between personal and professional development, or career coaching and life coaching. I prefer an holistic approach and base my coaching style around the co-active coaching model described by Whitworth, Kimsey-House and Sandahl.3 The philosophy of co-active coaching is based on the following four cornerstones:

1.      "The client is naturally creative, resourceful and whole.

2.      Co-active coaching addresses the client's whole life.

3.      The agenda comes from the client.

4.      The relationship is a designed alliance." 3

Coaches are not experts or consultants: they often ask more questions than they provide answers. A coach creates a safe, comfortable, space with time to think, reflect and plan. The essence of the coaching call is to provide an ideal learning environment, usually over the telephone.

Any action is better than no action at all.

"There is no one giant step that does it. It's a lot of little steps." - Peter A. Cohen, Investment banker

Everybody is leading busier lives these days. It is unlikely that you are managing your time ineffectively: in my experience, midwives are among the most effective time managers I have met. Time management is never an issue when the fact of the matter is that you simply have too much to do!

If you are a midwife and working mother/ parent/ somebody's partner/ wife/ husband/ home owner/ business owner (add or delete where applicable!) the chances are you feel totally overwhelmed at times by the amount of things you need to get done.

Feeling overwhelmed becomes a problem when it leads to your being ineffective. You may actually get less done. The overwhelming mountain of tasks that lie before you pushes you into a state of inertia. Then you feel bad and tell yourself you 'should' be doing more. Working with a coach helps you to prioritize where action will be effective and identify those things you will never do because you simply don't want to. (It's pointless telling yourself you 'should' and wasting even more energy in guilt tripping and worrying!)

One of the benefits that the coach brings to the relationship is the call to action. Any action, no matter how small, to move towards a desired goal or outcome is a step in the right direction. Even if it just means clearing some space at the dining-room table so you can begin writing that essay! Taking the smallest action toward your goal immediately makes you feel better. It shifts you out of inertia and gets you moving again.


Develop your vision

Working with a coach helps you see the bigger picture. What is it you really (really) want from your life and career? Most midwives don't want to stop work completely. They just want more balance between their work commitments and their home life. By working with a coach, concentrating on what you really want, you develop a sharp, clear, focused image of your personal vision. You may think this is the first step. But your vision must be in alignment with your personal values. So first you have to know what they are!



Write down as many values as you can think of. Your values are usually the things that drive your decisions - like having fun, laughter, peace of mind or spirituality. Choose your top ten and write them down on separate pieces of paper.

With a friend, sit down and play this bartering game with your 'paper values'. Ask your friend to read from the following list:

1. You will be a millionaire if you just give up one value.

2. You will have excellent health and never feel pain again. (Give up one value).

3. There will be an end to all war. (Give up one value).

4. Rid the world of disease (one value).

5. End world poverty (two values).

6. Heal the planet (three values - come on, hand them over!)

You have one value left. Which is it?

This is your most treasured personal value. If your life and work don't reflect this value you are not being true to yourself.

Your next step is to create a vision for your future that reflects your most important values. Once you have your vision you will be much more effective personally if you channel your time, energy and talents only into those activities which are going to benefit you, and bring you nearer to your goal. Ask yourself the following questions:

- Why am I doing this?

- What will I get out of it? and

- Is it what I really, really want?

Setting personal and professional goals

So now you have a personal vision. What next? Look at the reality. What is the difference between where you are now, and your vision? Once you have identified this gap you have the potential for a strategy. Ask yourself:

'What needs to be done to bridge the gap between my present reality and my vision?'

A brainstorming session can help you identify the factors needed to bridge the gap.

- What skills, knowledge and resources will you need?

- What is the time scale involved?

At this stage your coach acts as a partner and may well contribute ideas that perhaps you hadn't thought of. Two or more people will always come up with more ideas than one person will alone. As your coach contributes his or her ideas you will begin to look at the issue from a different perspective. This gives you many more options to choose from and can be especially helpful in situations where you felt your choices were limited.

Once you have identified what you need, you can break it down into smaller goals. Each goal should be designed to move you one tiny step nearer to your vision.

Once you have your overall strategy (complete with your goals) you can begin to design action steps towards achieving those goals. Think of one simple thing you can do today which will move you nearer to your vision, then act on it.

You wouldn't begin a long journey into unfamiliar territory without some kind of a map would you? Once you have completed your strategy, goals and identified action steps, you will have the map that will direct you towards your vision. You need your personal map before you can begin your personal journey.

This sounds so idealistic I can almost hear you saying:

'But there are obstacles in my way! Life's not as simple as that!'

Of course it isn't. But why struggle alone? Use your coach to co-create your map then boldly take the first step. You and your coach will deal with obstacles together: pooling ideas until you have found a way for you to get up, over, around, under or through them! You may not get there as fast as you would like to, but one thing is for sure: if you don't begin the journey you will never get there!


The navigator

Your coach needs to know where you are going so that he or she can hold your map and navigate your course. If you appear to be draining your energy by repeatedly doing activities that weren't on your original agenda and do not seem in alignment with your stated vision your coach will ask you why.

There is no blame or criticism. It is a safe, non-judgmental space based on trust. In having you ask yourself questions, and reflect on why you are doing what you are doing, a coach helps you to learn about yourself. Your problems are sometimes symptoms of an underlying issue or old habit. Your coach encourages you to treat the source so that the symptoms don't re-appear.

You may find your planned goals weren't really what you wanted to do at all, and that you were pursuing certain goals or activities because you felt you 'should', 'ought' or 'must'. These are 'red flag' words to a coach. If you tell me you 'should' do something, I ask, 'Who said you should?'

'Shoulds' always come from outside of us. From other people. If we are spending a lot of time and energy doing what others feel we 'should', we will feel tired, drained and miserable.

Alternatively it may be the case that your goals are right for you, and that you are being detracted from your goals by unrelated activities which others feel you 'must', or 'should' do.

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