UK
EN

A challenge too far? Who says?

JUMP TO SECTION

In this guest post, Fi Macmillan looks at challenge – the ‘door of possibility’ – in the coaching relationship.

Enough nicely, nicely. It’s time for coaches to challenge more, and challenge hard. So say some within the coaching profession currently.

In the dance between coach and coachee, challenge is a key to the ‘door of possibility’ for the coachee. The right challenge can deepen trust. Yet, as coaches, one of our greatest fears is that it knocks the relationship off-course. An intrinsically authoritative intervention, how do we engage our coachee to create the right challenge for them?

To draw the map, three considerations for the coach in preparing to contract around challenge might be:

  • What is the coachee’s current capacity for learning and change?
  • What challenge are they currently experiencing in their wider system?
  • What is their previous experience of effective challenge and support?

Coachees may struggle with the abstract concept of challenge. To bring it to life, three contracting resources to help the coachee to scale their challenge:

Challenge and support matrix

As a coach, primarily I work in this area [of the matrix].  Where would you like our work to be within that?
Big challenge usually requires big support. What does that look like for the coachee?

Yerkes Dodson curve

‘Research shows that optimum performance happens here [top of the curve].  Where do you want to work?  What questions will I be asking you if we are working there?‘

To explore the limits of challenge

Some argue that an element of surprise and disruption are a necessary part of effective challenge.  An experience of this, and ‘fearless speech’ , may be part of creating the contract.

However research suggests that a coach does powerful work when they take their coachee to an edge between awareness and exposure. The coach invites them to choose their own way forward.  A hybrid of strong support and ‘spot’ contracting keeps the coach firmly alongside their coachee at this point, asking what is happening for them.

There are three positions from which challenge is offered and this may affect how the coachee experiences support.

  • Reporting from an observational ‘high ground’.
  • Standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’.  Empathetic and parental.
  • Standing ‘shoulder to shoulder’ in a spirit of adventure.  Equal and ‘thought-partner’.

At this point, the coach may be challenging hard. The world has become more challenging. The work of coaching is to develop new frontiers within the coachee work with this. However, whatever the level of challenge, this is not something to be imposed on the coachee. Rather to honour their choice and stand alongside, their equal, in a spirit of adventure.

Share this article:

Topics:

Tagged:

Read Next

“Othering” and the impact on teams and organizations

Christian Scholtes, TPCL Global Chair and the partner from the TPCL Romanian office, delves into the complex and often overlooked phenomenon of “Othering” and its profound impact on teams and

Cultivating Work Enjoyment and Psychological Safety

Cultivating Work Enjoyment and Psychological Safety

FREE GUIDE - Rediscovering Workplace Joy in 2024 - Cultivating Work Enjoyment and Psychological Safety - Explore practical strategies for cultivating work enjoyment and psychological safety in the workplace with

Select Your Location and Language

Use our site switcher to easily navigate between our different offices (in your preferred language where available), or select “Global” for our head office.

Global
UK
EN

Local Sites

Belgium
EN
Belgium
FR
Belgium
NL
Brazil
EN
Brazil
PT
France
EN
Germany
DE
Germany
EN
India
EN
Italy
EN
Netherlands
EN
Netherlands
NL
Romania
EN
Switzerland
EN
Türkiye
EN
UK
EN
USA
EN

Download Brochure

Fill in the form to download your copy today.

Book Your Free Discovery Call Now

Fill in the form below to book a 15 min no-obligation discovery session.