Carl Rogers, the eminent American psychologist, is perhaps best known for the person-centred approach, which he applied not only to his therapy work but to education too in the form of student-centred learning.
To explore what this means in the context of coaching we need look no further than his practice of holding the client in unconditional positive regard. This requires the coach to not only suspend judgement but also to ensure a high level of personal congruency demonstrated through their values, consistency, honesty, and optimism. Wang (2013) describes this as a “different way of being, coming from a profound coherence between what the coaches do, what they say, what they believe and who they are.”
This way of being is significant because a coach can be highly skilled in asking questions and other useful techniques but important as they are, they are nothing without the belief that your coachee can “learn, develop and change” (Wang 2013).
Some years ago I was asked to commission a series of coaching sessions for a senior and highly talented manager. The organisation used a well-known and respected brand, with qualified and experienced coaches. But it was not a success. The manager reported back to me that despite the skilled questioning technique and useful reflections, the coach didn’t seem to care, and that left her questioning the whole experience.
Coaching is more that a set of skills and a model to follow. It requires a generosity of being. Like a full life it is not “for the faint-hearted. It involves the stretching and growing of becoming more and more of one’s potentialities. It involves the courage to be. It means launching oneself fully into the stream of life.” (Rogers 1961)
Rogers, Carl (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. London: Constable
Wang, Q., (2013) Structure and characteristics of effective coaching practice The Coaching Psychologist Vol 9 No 1 The British Psychological Society