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Challenging coaching: Conclusion

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8th Apr 2013
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And so the Challenging Coaching features come to an end - Ian Day and John Blakey conclude the series and look forward. 

As we reach the end of this series on challenging coaching it is worthwhile to reflect upon the journey we have shared with you over the past nine months. To do so we will use the Daoist metaphor of yin and yang as represented by the symbol above.

According to Daoism, yin and yang are two opposing energies in the world that forever wax and wane. In the diagram, the black represents the energy of yin characterised by the qualities of dark, female, night, cold, soft, pull, etc. The white represents the energy of yang characterised by the qualities of light, male, day, hot, hard, push, etc.

It is our view that coaching has been a predominantly yin activity that was born in a yang environment i.e. a soft presence that grew within a hard, booming business world. Yin skills such as listening, asking questions, building rapport and a non-directive ethos were a great antidote to the yang bias of telling, directing, analysing and controlling. As coaching has grown, this core of yin energy has expanded and blossomed creating many positive impacts as it intermingled with its yang environment.

Yet whenever the yin energy expands it inevitably sows the seed of the yang energy in its midst. As outlined in earlier articles, the core principles of challenging coaching such as ‘build the contract, honour the contract’ and ‘face the facts, speak your truth’ have a yang bias. This focus became clearer as the yang skills of challenging feedback, accountability, courageous goals and tension were explored in later articles on the FACTS coaching model.

"Regardless of the arena in which it is practiced, underlying the FACTS approach is one word – courage. The courage to have the conversation that is being avoided, to speak the truth that is being ignored and to name the unfulfilling reality that is being tolerated."

There is a balancing point at which yin and yang come into harmony. It is like a courageous tightrope walker traversing a deep gorge, tense yet lightly gripping the long, balancing bar and proceeding with deliberate stealth towards a unique goal. This is our vision of the FACTS coach working with individuals and teams and holding to the transformative edge of the yin-yang balance. As practitioners, the key is to develop confident, skilful access to the full range of yin and yang coaching principles and techniques applying these flexibly as we work with different individuals in different organisational cultures.

Regardless of the arena in which it is practiced, underlying the FACTS approach is one word – courage. The courage to have the conversation that is being avoided, to speak the truth that is being ignored and to name the unfulfilling reality that is being tolerated. It is about the courage to enter the Zone of Uncomfortable Debate (ZOUD) with the intent to seek the best interests of the wider whole; the organisational system itself. To do this can create a daunting feeling of isolation yet it also represents an act of intense personal leadership which has the potential to be a deeply fulfilling role. We hope you have enjoyed this series of articles and that they have provoked and refreshed you on your own coaching journey.

Ian and John's book 'Challenging Coaching- Going beyond traditional coaching to face the FACTS' published by Nicholas Brealey Publishing is available on Amazon. More resources can be accessed via www.challengingcoaching.co.uk. This is the final article in a series of monthly columns on TrainingZone to explore the detail of challenging coaching

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