Homework?

Last time, we talked about collaborating with the client to collect learnings before, during and after a session and also mentioned the ICF core competencies which ask the coach to “partner with the client to transform learning and insight into action and to promote client autonomy in the coaching practice” in Core Competency 8.

In Solution Focused coaching, we have a long tradition to try and make us superfluous as coaches — not in the sense that we don’t enjoy talking to our clients, but in a sense of doing our best to do just what the Core Competencies ask “promoting client autonomy”. There is nothing wrong with continuing to coach if it is beneficial for the client (even if we are not “needed”) as long as our coaching relationship does not get in the way of the client’s autonomy. When the coaching becomes a crutch rather than helping the client’s wings to grow, something is wrong. Sadly, this does happen: Just recently, I heard from a coach with a very renowned life coaching organization that he was encouraged to sell as many sessions as he could irrespective of whether the sessions were still benefitting the client.

So what does this all have to do with “homework”, I hear you ask. When “partnering with the client to transform learning and insight into action”, some coaches ask the client to do “homework” or “fieldwork”. I know of digital platforms whose standard coaching process includes giving the client “tasks” after a session. While this might be done in partnership (the client may or may not do whatever is ask of him or her) and while this might also be very helpful, it surely does not promote client autonomy.

I like to invite my clients to design their own “homework”. However, I much prefer the word “experiment”: homework is an obligation, something that I need to do outside “class” and that will be checked by the teacher. An “experiment” is something that has an unknown outcome: it can work or not and it is not an obligation. (I heard from a client who worked in a Chemical company that for him “experiments” carries very different connotation — so here we went with “fieldwork”.) My go-to phrase here is: “Experiences are like apple pie — the best ones are self-made”.

When clients design their own experiments or fieldwork, they do not become dependent on the coach. They themselves evaluate whether or not it was useful to engage in the activity and gauge what they learned from the experience. We can still serve as “accountability partners” if the client needs our help to hold him or herself accountable (e.g. “I just can’t get myself to … could you remind me with a text message”), but that should be the exception. It might be a starting point toward more client directed experiments and growth later on.

If you would like to explore things like this in practice, why not join one of our regular “Free Coaching Meetups and Exchanges”?

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