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.
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:
"The client is naturally creative, resourceful
Co-active coaching addresses the client's whole
The agenda comes from the client.
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!
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
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
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