In 2003 I asked the Toronto Scrum user group, of which I was a member: “what’s the relationship between Agile software development and fear?”
I’d been helping teams adopt a self-organisation method called Scrum, and was trying to understand the way some people reacted to change. My passion for creating software was morphing into a passion for creating great work experiences, and I was starting to need different tools. So began my journey into the world of coaching. Since then I’ve worked, for the most part, as a trainer and coach to teams adopting these more collaborative software team methods.
Nine years later, my journey meets a new challenge… I’ve put aside team coaching to pursue the 6-month process of certifying with the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) as a professional Co-Active work-life coach. And I can hear some of you groaning from here, LOL. Another certification?
The software community is divided on the idea of certifications – some traditionalists proudly list a compendium of acronmys after their names, while members of the Agile software community (of which I am an active part) are more likely to relegate a CV with such a list to the bottom of the pile. Too many easy-to-achieve certifications have made sceptics of us – and those who wish to impress by listing their many certifications leave us wondering whether they are compensating for a lack of concrete achievements. Yes, I count myself among the sceptics, too.
Yet, here I am, saying “no” to paying corporate clients, to make room for my Co-Active certification classes! By way of comparison: I’ve jumped through the Scrum Alliance’s CSM and CSP certification hoops, and can tell you, this feels quite different. I am really proud to belong to the Co-Active coaches’ community, and I’d like to tell you why I am so excited about certification!
The quality of the trainers in the Co-Active training program is CTI’s first and probably their best marketing weapon: don’t tell me, *show* me. These trainers are steeped in the material they teach. They bring deep commitment to participants’ learning, and with every question they answer, every coaching demo they do, their extensive experience as practising coaches is apparent. And the way the co-teachers dance together seamlessly is truly inspiring! You wouldn’t know that, often, they were working together for the first time! (It’s a skill I hope to learn later this year). When I grow up, I want to be like the people who trained me at CTI – deep, wise, patient and shockingly effective at bringing out the best in individuals.
Coaching operates quite differently than the prevalent western medical model that governs many of our helping professions. The medical model operates from a basic assumption of brokenness or lack – it’s a model aimed at healing dysfunctional bodies and minds. This is needed by the 10% of the population whose illness precludes them developing normal lives without such assistance. Within the medical model, illnesses are diagnosed and treated in descending order of severity until the client reaches an adequate functional state.
In stark contrast, the paradigm guiding Co-Active coaching is a wellness model. It starts from an assumption of the client’s sufficiency, and works to increase wellness in the client. Coaching goals are not limited to “adequacy” but can soar to embrace the aspirations of the healthy client, and can even work for growth in healthy areas for ill clients who are also under medical care. Coaching does not replace medical interventions like therapy and addiction counseling, but can provide a cost-effective adjunct support in many cases. (Since healthcare practitioners also look to enhance wellness when time permits, there is plenty of overlap between these professions.)
I blogged an introduction to the Co-Active Model earlier this week. By way of summary, the cornerstones of the model are:
- the client brings into coaching the seeds of their own solutions. This is possible because “people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole.” (Note that Co-Active coaches are also taught to watch for illness, and to refer clients to the appropriate practitioners),
- the coach and client collaboratively “dance in each moment” to create the most powerful coaching outcomes,
- even while helping with minor issues, the coach also holds space for the client’s “big agenda” and invites them to stretch and “evoke transformation”
- regardless of where coaching takes place, there is a “focus on the whole person.”
Respect within the International Community
The Coaches Training Institute is the oldest and largest in-person coach training organization in the world, having trained over 35,000 coaches (a 2004 study found 25% of professional coaches surveyed worldwide to be CTI graduates). CTI’s programs are recognized as among the most rigorous coach training and certification program in the industry. The Center for Right Relationship, with their unique Organisational and Relationship Systems Coaching program, is an outgrowth of CTI. And the prestigious Georgetown University offers a Leadership Coaching program based on the Co-Active curriculum. Out of CTI grew the independent International Coaches Federation (ICF) and its now widely adopted pledge of ethical conduct. (Co-Active coaches can automatically apply for ICF membership upon graduation). Co-Active coaches and trainers are respected worldwide for their effectiveness and professionalism.
When I first heard of Certification, I wrongly assumed that it was a rubber-stamp add-on step. Not at all! Certification is a 26-week program with weekly live teleclasses in small groups, monthly supervisions, and oral and written exams. Add to this a demanding program of study, and you can see why I am taking time away from my normal studies to absorb it all!
Already, during and after the 166 in-person training hours of the Fundamentals / Intermediate training program, participants are encouraged to actively coach. But to participate the certification program, a minimum number of regular, paying clients must be maintained, and graduation has a strict requirement of 100 coaching hours logged within one year of the start of certification. Few fail the final exams, and I suspect it’s simply because they either labor to become great coaches, or give up long before the exam. It’s just too much work, one cannot just coast through and ace the exam. I’m ready! Bring it on!
It’s about being Human
What makes it all worth it is my quest to bring more joy to the workplace. I started out wondering how to get rid of fear and have discovered that it’s unavoidable – it’s just human to fear change, and whatever doesn’t change dies. To be alive is to change. Now I’m asking some different questions: “Why do some people step up to change and thrive, while others retreat into platitudes and defensiveness?” And, “What can we do to help these and all kinds of people enjoy their lives more, in these times of unprecedented change?”
I don’t have an answer to the first question… but for me the answer to the second is to develop my skill and offer excellent coaching to support those who want to leverage their unique passions and strengths to embrace change and enjoy life more.
And now, I have homework to do! :-)