Relational coaching means understanding that the relationship between coach and client is at the heart of effective coaching and will be a central vehicle for learning and change. A key understanding that informs all our coaching contracts is that each relationship is specific to a particular organisational context.
The coaching relationship is at the heart of effective coaching for two reasons. Firstly: as the client’s agenda will be defined by their organisational context, so, at a more indirect and subtle level, will our relationship with the client. Our way of coaching is to pay attention to what goes on between us and to make our relationship with our client explicit; because it is likely that such an exploration will cast new light on the client’s relationship with his or her organisation.
Secondly, the client will inevitably bring his own individual patterns of relating into the coaching arena, replaying his core beliefs and attitudes about himself and his abilities. The coaching relationship therefore becomes a forum for understanding stale patterns and for experimenting with new ways of being in relationship.
The theoretical approach is integrative, drawing on a range of sound psychological theories and principles from the fields of coaching, psychological therapies and organisation development. Our coaches, working on a relational basis with their clients are likely to explore on a number of levels. These levels are primarily:
- their relationships with and assumptions about the organisation within which they operate
- the relationships that they have with the people within the organisation
- what they themselves bring to these relationships.
The relationship between coach and coachee is entered into and agreed in an explicit way from the outset, with an initial contract and boundaries, articulating the intentions and goals for the relationship. However, relationships are dynamic and so must be the contract. Our view is that change takes place through the process of relating, and this is the whole point of a responsive coaching contract. Hence what seemed figural and important at the first meeting may have shifted to a new way of seeing the situation by the third or fourth meeting.
We see this process of change emerging in relationship as a crucial way of understanding not only what goes on in an effective coaching relationship, but also how change takes place in organisations.