Where is the Psychology in Coaching? Part 2

menu02On Tuesday 13th October we attended Kingston University Business School’s event ‘Where is the Psychology in Coaching?’. The first in this year’s ‘Engaging with the Profession’ series, the evening brought together four coaching practitioners to debate and discuss the topic. Their concluding response: It’s everywhere; and as coaches we need to continue to be good students and refine our approaches in line with the latest research.

The speakers were James Brook (Strengths Partnership), Sarah Corrie (Chartered Psychologist and Visiting Professor at Middlesex University), Nancy Doyle (Chartered Psychologist and Managing Director of Genius Within CIC), and our very own David Webster (Chartered Psychologist and Managing Director of Centre for Teams). After a short introduction by Dr Joanna Yarker (Senior lecturer in Occupational Psychology and Course Director of Kingston’s MSc in Occupational and Business Psychology Management), the evening began with the chair and organiser, Taslim Tharani, asking the four speakers to open with their personal perspective and posing some ideas for consideration, such as the value of psychology in coaching, the importance of using the psychology research and evidence base to support your coaching, and issues of education and accreditation in becoming a coach.

Each speaker shared a little of their background and current work and outlined their initial thoughts on the place of psychology in relation to coaching practice. Interestingly, despite their varied backgrounds and routes into coaching, there was a great deal of consensus from the panel.

James began by suggesting while it’s not necessary to be a psychologist, to be a good coach, you do need to be psychologically minded. There is a certain level of awareness required to be the best coach you can and give your clients the best support possible. He argued that developing your own coaching methodology is a key component in becoming a good coach and that a psychology background offers a multitude of tools and models on which you can draw. He also argued that an essential part of being a good coach is understanding the industries your clients work in. Know the sector and you will be of much greater value.

David continued along this theme by exploring the idea that psychology is everywhere in coaching and how having a psychology background enables you to not only better understand why you’re doing what you’re doing but why it works (and what to do when it doesn’t). David was already a successful coach before embarking on his Occupational Psychology training, but having that additional knowledge and the extra tools and understanding gave him an edge in helping his clients create even greater sustainable change.

Nancy discussed the importance of self-efficacy for clients and the support required to help people understand themselves better by doing things themselves. She explored the idea of the level of expertise expected when working with a coach and acknowledged the significant changes people make when they stop expecting the coach to have all the answers and understand the coach is there to guide them.

Sarah shared details of her own journey into coaching and the impact a coach had on her at a young age that inspired her to want to be a coach. She talked about the importance of the knowledge base within psychology, from whichever discipline you come, that underpins the work you do. This lead to a discussion on how to stay on top of the increasing pool of research available in psychology. Again, there was much consensus from the panel regarding identifying and making use of the right resources, the importance of self-reflection and supervision, staying engaged as a learner and finding a balance between what to focus on and what to let go.

The importance of evaluation arose as ROI (return on investment) is an increasingly important area for clients and coaches alike. How do coaches know the impact they’re having? How do they evaluate their work? And how do they evaluate themselves? Evaluating your work for a client depends on the client you’re working with and it is essential to understand their measures of success at the outset of any work. This enables you to not only ensure you’re focusing in the right areas but that you can collect pre and post work measures for comparison. For some, it may be related to whether somebody keeps their job, for others it could be about the bottom line.

Following some questions from the floor covering topics as varied as NLP, the mind-body connection and sustainable change in large-scale companies, the coaches summed up their thoughts and concluded. Psychology is everywhere in coaching and it’s important to be aware of that. You don’t necessarily need to be a psychologist (and indeed some psychologists are not good coaches), but a psychology background can give you extra tools and an increased understanding of the people you’re working with, and that is never a bad thing.

You can watch the video of the event here.