1st January 2019 - a new beginning, a new start, with new hopes.
On the Chinese New Year, the Chinese would usually say: New year, New Hope. I would also chip in to say, "New Year, "New Perspectives", hence this new Myth Busting series.
And one of the biggest myth I'll like to bust, is the overuse of questioning and underuse of feedback in coaching today.
In coaching learning, coaches are drilled with the concept that we must not offer ideas and suggestions. As such, many of us resort to biting our tongues even when we see something very obvious, which our clients might have overlooked.
This self restrain comes from beliefs like:
- Coaches are taught that "all individuals come with resources and answers within ourselves"
- Coaches must not be leading or projecting their opinions.
- Coaches must ask impactful questions
- The clients must form the conclusions, answers, decisions, way forward themselves in order or their developmental impact will be lower
As such, many coaches are so focused on (and stressed by) the need to ask "impactful questions". Many also struggled to refrain from offering their thoughts and opinions so not to be leading the clients away from making their own conclusions. These beliefs made coaches so self-conscious, they are practically diminishing themselves instead of practicing the use self as a vehicle for the clients.
As a result, clients get frustrated by the perceived endless and meaningless questioning, some eventually fire their coaches. After all, coaching fees are often time based and clients' challenges are time sensitive.
Many clients look for coaches to get clarity and insights first, then developing their skills (which takes time to happen).
It is time for coaching practice, in my opinion, to be aligned back to purpose of the clients and use coaching according to the purpose.
Coaching can be applied to different needs, e.g. skills or change of behaviors; elevate performance and overcoming obstacles; personal development and effectiveness in life coaching (Segers et all, 2011).
In my opinion, in skills and performance coaching, a mixture of coaching and mentorship, where the coach comes with specific knowledge and offer guidance, would be more effective.
In the case of life coaching, the approach is most likely to be built on Knowles' Andragogy, an adult learning philosophy, which has been much debated over the decades.
Most coaches are not experts in the field of adult learning or education and therefore rely on prescribed competencies in their coaching approach.
While coaching is a very impactful approach for reflection, and reflection cements learning, it is not a one size fits all solution and must be used in combination with other approaches, depending on the client situation, which most coaches are doing today.
These coaching belief and concepts are likely to be based on the Andragogy Theory popularised by Malcolm Shepherd Knowles (1913 – 1997) in 1970. Knowles is a leading American educator from America, who has built upon the Androgogy concept:
"....first authored by Alexander Kapp (1833), a German high school teacher, who put forth his ideas that patterns in andragogy encompassed the inner, subjective personality, and outer, objective competencies, that learning happens not only through teachers, but also through self-reflection and life experience, which makes it more than teaching adults.
Andragogy was asserted as education at the man’s age including self-reflection, and educating the character. The primary premise of this theory argues that adults learn differently from children because adults are self-directing (takes initiatives) in learning, whereas children are not."
It is worth knowing that Knowles' Androgogy Theory has been much debated over the decades, one of the criticisms being the lack of empirical evidences.
It is also important to understand that theories, are not facts. Rather, it is a concept constructed with assumptions. Over time, Knowles and colleagues from the field has been updating the assumptions over time through continuous research and debate.
What has happened here, in my opinion, is an extreme application of Knowles' Androgogy assumptions by the coaching community, and a lack of understanding and updating.
One of the later research actually acknowledges that both guided learning and self-directed learning could have a meeting point, i.e. whether the learner is adult or children, guided learning is necessary when the content is new to the learner.
It is important to acknowledge that most coaches are not experts in the field of adult learning or education. Coaching is a very impactful approach for reflection, and reflection cements learning. However, coaching is one of the many adult learning and development tools, it is not a one size fits all solution and must be used in combination with other approaches, depending on the client situation.
For those who are interested to know Knowles' 5 Assumptions Of Adult Learners, here they are:
As a person matures his/her self concept moves from one of being a dependent personality toward one of being a self-directed human being.
- Adult Learner Experience
As a person matures he/she accumulates a growing reservoir of experience that becomes an increasing resource for learning.
- Readiness to Learn
As a person matures his/her readiness to learn becomes oriented increasingly to the developmental tasks of his/her social roles.
- Orientation to Learning
As a person matures his/her time perspective changes from one of postponed application of knowledge to immediacy of application. As a result his/her orientation toward learning shifts from one of subject- centeredness to one of problem centeredness.
- Motivation to Learn
As a person matures the motivation to learn is internal (Knowles 1984:12).
- Adults need to be involved in the planning and evaluation of their instruction.
- Experience (including mistakes) provides the basis for the learning activities.
- Adults are most interested in learning subjects that have immediate relevance and impact to their job or personal life.
- Adult learning is problem-centered rather than content-oriented. (Kearsley, 2010)