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What is coaching really?

Coaching is an impromptu ballet. 

In one of his famous lectures, the American physicist Richard Feynman answered the question of what quantum physics is by saying that the best way to explain it is to tell what a quantum physicist does. That’s how I think I remember it. 

That made a lot of sense to me when I read that. So I will tell you what a coach, as I see it, does. 

When a coach coaches, he enters into a relationship with his coachee. The two systems, coachee and coach, come into contact at their outer boundaries. And depending on the type and strength of the contact, their outer boundaries become deformed. In practical life we then observe this as change. 

They move forward, backward, left, and right, connected by touch; they perform an impromptu ballet. 

To facilitate desired changes, i.e. learning progress in the coachee, certain „forms of touch“ and „dance steps“ (in the literature we call these methods) have proven to be, with a high degree of probability, helpful. 

Since the touch (execution of the methodical behaviour) happens at and with the outer boundary of the coach, the coach must learn to shape this touch and the steps so that he does not harm either his coachee or himself. 

Therefore, one can only learn to „execute methods“ well through self-experience. The method must become part of one’s own behaviour repertoire as a coach.

The idea that the coach comes to the coaching session with a „toolbox“ does not fit into my worldview. If anything, I would say the coach is the „toolbox“. 

Whether the touch and the dance, the methodical conduct of the coach, set the coachee’s behaviour development in motion, which both had agreed upon, is the coachee’s system alone. It can avoid the touch, reject it, harden against it or do something completely unexpected. 

What reaction the coachee system will show can only be predicted with statistical probability. That means that in individual cases, one never knows whether an intervention by the coach will show the expected success. 

Research has shown that specific characteristics, and personality traits, of the system coach, increase the probability that the contact between coach and coachee will lead to the development desired by the coachee. The most important of these is empathy skills.

I am convinced that they can all be learned in coaching training. 

The beauty of coaching is that dancing, especially free impromptu dancing, is a very pleasurable activity.