Everyone’s coaching experience will differ, but all coaching candidates have one thing in common, an expectation of change. I have observed the overlap of three different coaching approaches, each of which can be useful depending on the candidate’s needs and the nature of their request. These requests fall into three categories:
I once worked as a coach for an EVP of a Fortune 100 company to develop a clear path for advancement. This mandate required line-of-sight coaching, a highly detailed, focused, and analytical approach that involves paying close attention to pivotal points that could influence my client’s journey toward becoming the next CEO. We conducted a stakeholder analysis by gathering data from key individuals about competence and likability. Based on this information, we devised a plan to influence and secure their support. Ultimately, my client was selected for the position.
Line-of-Sight coaching is centered around tangible action items, minimizing ambiguity, and incorporating a programmatic element with specific and measurable steps.
Three and a half years later, I coached the same executive, who was now a disillusioned CEO. One late night, he confided in me, saying, “Glenn, I have spent my adult life chasing after success, but what I really desire is a simpler, more fulfilling life.” He reflected on his career path and how it diverged from his true life calling. A dynamic tension had emerged between his current reality and perceived calling, prompting him to consider leaving his corporate life. He needed me to provide clarity.
My approach shifted to Explorer as I helped him define and evaluate scenarios. Our work straddled career and life purpose. It embraced ambiguity, focused internally, and uncovered areas that ignited passion and possibility.
I assigned him homework to create a north star and a ten-year life map. These elements didn’t always align with his preferred life, but they stretched his persona and expanded the possibilities. In the process, he discovered the following values:
- Having meaningful conversations;
- Spending time outdoors;
- Making a positive impact;
- Mentoring; and
- Laughing and experiencing joy.
He applied these values to future work scenarios:
- Volunteering as a big brother;
- Taking on paid assignments with one or two Boards of Directors; and
- Establishing a small coaching practice.
As we delved into his future, it became clear that he desired structure while attempting to manage the uncertainty. I encouraged him to apply his curiosity to explore these options. Through informational interviews related to these “side hustles,” he learned that these scenarios weren’t as glamorous as he imagined. Consequently, he took a break before making any commitments. During this time, he volunteered at a soup kitchen, and enjoyed it more than anticipated. After six weeks, he surprised us both.
The insight that surprised us required me to shift my approach to Quest Coaching. He realized that none of those choices truly resonated with him; they were mere projections of his persona. Instead, his goal shifted to simplifying his life:
- He started running.
- He continued working at the soup kitchen.
- He began volunteering at a large Zen organic vegetable farm and monastery.
While he didn’t know where his life was headed, he found contentment in the present. This path involved a high degree of uncertainty, but for the first time, he felt he was truly living his life’s work.
Quest Coaching entails placing everything on the table, embracing a high degree of uncertainty, having little structure, focusing internally, and asking, “Am I doing my life’s work?” For him, the answer was finally “Yes.”
Each coaching modality is useful when the candidates’ life questions are accessed easily. Each approach requires judgment and candid dialogue to propel the conversation and delve deeper.