No, Dad, Coaching is NOT “Helping Losers”
I’ve just begun a series of coaching courses that have been “right up my alley”, and the process has also triggered some memories and anecdotes about the coaching profession that I think are worth sharing here.
When I first learned about ORSC (Organisation and Relationship System Coaching) I was instantly intrigued and thought it might be the perfect place to hone some of my facilitation skills.
Working with families means that there are lots of “relationship systems” already in place, and there is both some art and some science behind knowing how best to work with them.
Flashback No. 1
So let’s start with my first flashback, which is the source of the title of this post. It touches on some of the misconceptions and general misunderstanding of what coaching is, and conversely, what it isn’t.
It was over a decade ago, and someone who respected my father as a businessman made the unfortunate mistake of asking for his opinion on a matter he knew little about.
My Dad deserved the respect for his business acumen, but his penchant for offering strong opinions on matters he knew very little about was also part of the deal.
A family member in his forties was thinking about coaching as a career change. This person could have / would have made a great coach, but never pursued it, thanks in part to being dissuaded by my Dad.
I learned of the discussion later from my Dad, who off-handedly mentioned that so-and-so was considering going into the business of “helping losers”.
A New “Profession”
The coaching “profession” is still relatively new and misunderstood, although it feels to me that things are getting better slowly with time.
Something interesting I have noted in my work in the area of Bowen Family Systems Theory is that Dr. Murray Bowen was calling himself a “coach” since at least the 1960’s, which likely pre-dates much of the current coaching “industry”.
Unfortunately, many family leaders from the senior generation have a hard time grasping the idea of hiring a “coach”
I know of at least one family who missed out on hiring someone that I know would’ve helped them greatly, but the patriarch was not convinced, in large part because the person presented herself as a “coach”, and he couldn’t get past the fact that his family wasn’t a “hockey team”.
What should we call ourselves?
I touched on this last week in Providing Counsel to the Family Council, where I mentioned that I don’t like to call myself a consultant. So I use the term “Advisor”, but then I really don’t like to give “advice” per se.
One of the best words to describe the kind of assistance I provide is “guidance”, but calling myself a “guide” just feels a little too nebulous.
Tour Guide or Wilderness Guide
Let me play with the “guide” theme a bit here. I really don’t think the city tour guide at the front of the bus is a good analogy. However, a safari guide or wilderness guide might be a better fit.
When you go to a place where things are unfamiliar and potentially dangerous, you really shouldn’t go it alone.
I don’t think too many people just book a flight to Kenya, stop at the Hertz counter and drive into the jungle to find the lions.
A Safe Expedition
Working on your family alignment and governance also requires making sure that everyone feels safe and that nobody is ever in danger. You want to make sure that you have at least as many members in your party at the end of the trip as when you started.
In the cases where some members are no longer part of the journey, you want it to be because they chose to come home early or to go on a journey with a different route.
How about a FLAG?
Now I’ve added even more elements, i.e. alignment and governance, that people who do this kind of work like to talk about, which can also add to the variety of titles.
So a Family Legacy Alignment Guide could be shortened to FLAG. I’m not sure that one would resonate though.
I think I’ll stick with Family Legacy Advisor for now, while continuing the coaching courses, which are actually more about “facilitation”.
Moral of the story: All families are different, and so are the people they hire.
Also please see: Going Far? Go Together!