Usually we share only selected glimpses of ourselves with others. Social media profiles and digital identities broadcast an ‘ideal self’. These images have little about who we really are. In contrast, in the world of coaching, success depends on being open and authentic – being fully ourselves.
In previous bulletins we found the relationship created between the coach and person being coached is critical. We also discovered how the person being coached looks for a sense of connection with their coach (Tooth, 2014).
What do coaches look for? Do coaches think they can coach anyone? And, what happens if the person being coached does not bring their ‘real self’ to the experience?
Welcome to our third evidence-based monthly coaching dialogue. This month we look at authenticity in coaching relationships.
Australian research conducted with executive coaches and their clients found it was important for people being coached to be willing and open participants. For coaches, a lack of client interest and openness (authenticity) was a major barrier to an effective coaching and the subsequent learning process, rendering people essentially “un-coachable”. Alternatively, when coachees were able to “let down their guard, there was no resistance to learning and they could open up and see things differently” (Tooth, 2014).
Authenticity is a two way street. Coaches foster trust in coaching relationships by being authentic or ‘congruent’, a term used by Carl Rogers (1961) in humanistic psychology to suggest the opposite of presenting a façade to the client. In this way “who they are being” as coaches, may be as (or more) important than what they “are doing” (Tooth, 2014). Recently a CEO decided to change coach sensing no further progress was possible with a coach who would not allow any of themselves as a person into the relationship. For the CEO, the relationship did not feel congruent.
For professionals managing coaching in organisations, this research reinforces the importance of coaching being what is wanted when it is wanted. People forced into a coaching engagement may be reluctant to be open and thus not able to be authentic. However, even in these circumstances, good outcomes often emerge. Why is this? It comes back to authenticity. Despite the enforced start to coaching, authenticity established through the integrity of the coaching, enables the person being coached to safely explore their circumstances, hopes, fears and ambitions and in doing so to be authentic.
In coaching, what does authenticity mean to you?
Please contribute to the discussion and let us know what you think of our third bulletin.
Next month we examine the importance of the coaching relationship as a space for reflection and learning.
Rogers, Carl R. (1961). On becoming a person: A therapist’s view of psychotherapy. New York: Houghton Mifflin.