Pre-eminent local and international thinkers in the field of leadership, change and development recently gathered in Johannesburg for the 9th Annual Knowledge Resources Coaching and Mentoring Conference.  The idea, as always, was to share best practice, case studies, ethical issues, integral practices and cutting-edge thinking in the mushrooming professions of coaching and mentoring.  I use the word ’professions’ but I far prefer the term offered by keynote speaker Sunny Stout Rostron; the “Craft” of coaching—combining science and art in the pursuit of conscious mastery.’

So too do I like the word ’discipline’ used by Sir John Whitmore in his key address when describing this dynamic methodology that gets people into the radical habit of thinking for themselves.  Whitmore even went further to say ‘ …we talk about it as coaching, why don’t we talk about it as learning?  Coaching is personalised learning,  A coaching intervention is a learning process’.  Coaching is about self-responsibility and self-responsibility is about choice-making.

Whitmore is adamant that coaching has emerged to meet a need in these times for self-responsibility and self-awareness.  He calls these times ‘a fundamental evolutionary transformation in human learning’.  Power stuff!

It’s important for both coaches and clients to bear top of mind that the results of coaching come from within yourself, not your coach.  Your coach is the conduit of your learning.  Learning is not easy, because it also implies an unlearning. In which case, Whitmore points out, your coach is there to coach you on the internal interferences (commonly known as ‘fear’) against learning and unlearning.

Unless your coach is a domain- or content-specific coach (you might call them a mentor—someone who is an expert in the field helping you to gain more skill in that area) most coaches are trained to help you to extract insight from your own wisdom and knowledge, and to help you to hold yourself accountable on your journey of growth.

Part of the coaches role then, and in the words of Paddy Upton (Mental Conditioning Coach to the Indian Cricket Team, and also a speaker at the conference), is to ’be as fresh, as fit, as centred as I can be to be the best holder of space for someone else’.

Part of the client’s role is to be curious, open, receptive, willing to work on feedback, and willing to unlearn, re-learn and try on some new thoughts and behaviours.

I was thrilled to hear Sir Whitmore’s positive stance on telephone coaching  (a methodology I highly recommend, particularly over the period of the Soccer World Cup in SA—who wants to brave that anticipated traffic?).  As he notes, when you close your eyes, your other senses go on heightened alert and as long as both coach and client are committed to the learning process, results can be equally assured as they are with group coaching or face-to-face coaching.

An action-packed 3-day conference lays testament to the depth and wisdom emerging from coaching & mentoring.  What part are you playing?