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Chemistry in coaching: the alchemy of connection

Here at The Work Psychologists, demand for our executive coaching services is flourishing.

We appreciate that as an intervention coaching represents a substantial investment both in terms of time and money for our client organisations.

We are trusted and relied upon to make recommendations as to the ‘fit’ of a coach to particular coachees, so we know that a poorly established coaching relationship can potentially be an expensive and disappointing experience for all involved.

Therefore, we understand that establishing an essence of connection – a sense of ‘chemistry’ between coach & coachee – is essential from the very start: it is vital that an appropriate connection is created to enable a truly effective working alliance to develop.

And evidence to support this is emerging from our recent coaching survey, which is highlighting the central importance of the quality of this relationship, as seen from the perspective of the coachee.

In the survey, we asked participants to identify their top 3 ‘Factors for Success’ in coaching and nearly 60% stated that chemistry and ‘fit’ with their coach was key (making this the primary factor).

This suggests that the best predictor for coaching success is if coach and coachee like each other and can share their perceptions and feedback openly.

This is significant because it indicates that the concrete skills, actions, or personalities of the individuals in the relationship may be less important to outcomes than what these individuals create ‘in-between’ themselves; that is, the strength of their working alliance.

It is clear to us from this that the matching process between our coaches and their potential coachees must be properly managed, and that an initial ‘chemistry’ session should be a key component of this process.

This introductory session should be one in which, typically, coach and coachee meet with a view to deciding if (and how) they are going to work together.

It is often referred to as the ‘chemistry’ session because centrally, both parties should feel the working alliance will offer the right relational dynamics and ‘fit & feel’ to create mutual confidence, trust and respect.

We put this ‘essence of connection’ front and centre when matching our highly experienced coaches with potential coachees; and we see the chemistry session as the fundamental cornerstone for success.

So in our view, this preliminary session should ideally achieve the following objectives.

For the coachee:

· An initial sense of being listened to, heard, respected and understood

· An opportunity to get a feel for the coach’s style and method

· A sense of how the coach might deal with particular scenarios

· An opportunity to ask questions the coach questions about their specific experience and expertise

For the sponsoring organisation:

· The opportunity to introduce the coachee to a highly suitable coach

· The assurance that the coachee has some ownership of the selection process

· To ensure the coachee is comfortable and confident with their choice of coach

And for the coach:

· To gain an initial understanding of the broad areas the coachee may want to work on

· An opportunity to discuss (and, if possible, demonstrate) their style, approach and methodology

· The chance to look out for any initial ‘warning’ signs (for instance, whether the coachee might be coming into coaching for the wrong reasons; or that they are feeling under pressure to be ‘coached out’ of their organisation)

For the coachee, we feel it is most important that they come away from the chemistry session with a ‘gut feeling’ of trust, confidence and (perhaps above all) connection. They should also feel the coach has clearly demonstrated their style and approach, as well as how they will work with the coachee’s focus areas, challenges and preferences.

For our coaches, it is vital to ensure the coachee understands how they intend to work, and that they are clear the coachee will own the agenda and commit to doing the work.

And for the sponsoring organisation, the offer of an initial obligation-free chemistry session gives the reassurance that as the service provider, The Work Psychologists is committed to delivering targeted, bespoke coaching interventions that maximise return on time & cash investment.

And a final word on ‘fault-free divorce’: from the outset, it should be clear to all parties that they are free to say the arrangement is not working at any stage from when the coaching process has begun. If either coach, coachee or organisation does not feel positive from the initial session, they should have no qualms about politely saying so and agree to disengage.

We see the key to a successful coaching engagement as being rooted in the chemistry session: it is here that the right expectations for all parties are set.

This session allows both coach and coachee to understand the intended aims, objectives & outcomes for the coaching process and to demonstrate how the coach will facilitate meeting these.

The key to a successful chemistry session then is to allow the coachee to experience a rapport and connection with the coach – to ensure that each is the right fit for the process together.

A powerful chemistry session will allow the coachee to feel like they want to get into action right away: they should want to commit, take responsibility and look forward with anticipation.

For us, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to coaching. In a very real sense, each coaching relationship is unique: the alchemic product of two individuals connecting.

In terms of coachee involvement and ownership of the process (as well as clarifying the responsibilities, expectations and ground-rules for the relationship), we believe that having a chemistry session of some kind is not just more preferable than not, but should be an essential part of the coaching process.

Holding an initial chemistry session is key in stablishing whether both coachee and coach can work effectively together to develop an honest and challenging relationship.

This working alliance should have the commitment, integrity and sufficient rapport within in it to deliver the desired results and ROI.

To find out for about how our coaching services bring about effective personal & organisational change, connect with us to set up a consultation.



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