Coaching for academics by fellow academics

I read the article on coaching ‘Let the Coach take the Strain‘ in the Times Higher Education last week on coaching, and reflected on how coaching has worked for me. I see this from both sides as a ‘coachee’ being coached by others, and as someone offering coaching to fellow staff here at the University of Aberdeen. My goal here is to make it clearer how coaching might help them.

I meet some friends at least once a year at an unconference and usually take the opportunity to be coached by someone, who’s offering one-on-one coaching as practice with a new approach. This has been a good time to reflect on my goals, and where I’m trying to go in life. It helps me to sit and talk to the person, who’s asking me more challenging questions about goals, and obstacles. This also helps me clarify my own thinking on the topics as I inevitably find that I know the answers, but hadn’t given myself the time to think. Instead, I’d been busy rushing from one task to the next. Coaching provides this space to think, which leads to some ‘aha!’ moments.

As a coach I see several fellow staff members each year for anywhere between three and five sessions spaced out over a year, or a few terms depending upon the purpose of the sessions. The first session is always to find out what brought the person to me, and how I might help them. This session also sets out the difference between mentoring, coaching and counselling, as these practices sit on a continuum in some ways. In principal, mentoring offers advice, and counselling helps people deal with mental health issues. Coaching helps guide the person towards understanding their motivations, and to see that they have often have unexplored options in the challenges they are facing. We listen and offer powerful questions to guide their thinking, which helps lead them to successful solutions. After clarifying that coaching would help we arrange for a meeting to start the practice.

The second session is usually the first time we dig deeper into the issue that brought the person to me. We will meet for an hour to discuss the context of the challenge, and how it impacts on them. This is to find the edges of the landscape we want to explore and to see what constraints might be bounding the issues. There is usually something that the person takes away as an insight, or something else to think about before the next session.

Subsequent sessions are by way of ‘checking in’ with their progress and to review other issues that might need to be addressed. These continue to be an hour long, but there might be a month or longer gap between sessions depending upon the challenges being addressed. For some it was every few months, for others, at the start or end of term, as required.

The sessions always end when the ‘coachee’ feels they know what to do next. They end when they feel comfortable with new practices to guide them. They know how to address challenges and have ‘gotten their heads’ around the issues that brought them to me in the first place.

If you’d like to know more about coaching at the University of Aberdeen, then you can find out more in the staff pages. As you can see here it is all confidential, and dealt with in a suitable manner.

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