Gillian Squirrell


What is Coaching ?

There are many ideas about coaching here are mine based on my experience and professional training.

Coaching as I practice it is a powerful combination of developing deeper understanding, and the stimulus to bold and imaginative action through the vehicle of the coaching relationship. Coaching helps kickstart and sustain thoughtful and powerful changes which lead an individual or a group toward a considered goal. Such goals are aligned with individual or organizational values and vision. Coaching is a powerful learning and development process for professional and personal change, and organizational change. I have an interest in helping individuals and groups develop the skills and understanding for on-going self-coaching and so the capacity and capability to support on-going thoughtful and values driven growth.

Coaching works with the fact that the brain is plastic (neuroplasticity) and open to change and development if it is offered alternative material to work with. This is just what coaching does, it interrupts patterns and fall-back positions, it encourages the coaching client to explore other perspectives, to learn some new skills of self-leadership, self-management and thinking, and to expand their canvass. Coaching supports stress reduction, self-limiting and helps with transitions and change processes.

The coaching I practice is not about giving advice, offering direction or setting goals.  What would be the point ?  My assumption is that my coaching clients are creative and resourceful, and probably knows what it is that they want and would be best for them and their organization or business.  I might offer some signposts as appropriate, but it is up to my coaching clients to explore any suggestions and determine if they integrate into their developing change vision. People hold rich stores of personal and tacit knowledge, that is internally held insight, understanding and knowledge. It may need a bit of a nudge to reveal itself or to become more accessible. This is part of the coach's role. The nudge might be needed because of the effects of years of doing other or contrary behaviors, of self-labelling, of fears about trying another course or simply be not knowing how.  A combination of deep questioning, exploring various and alternative perspectives, sitting with discomfort, self-testing and challenging are all ways to help someone move to other perspectives and take action.  This means while the coach is unreservedly on the client's team as a prime cheer leader, the coach is going to challenge and call out the client and hold the client to account. The coach keeps a safe space for the client to explore, to experience, to bring their insights and understandings to bear, and to have 'ah ha' moments.

The Coaching Relationship

Coaching is both a change process and a powerful relationship. There are various tools and techniques which I as coach use with my clients and teach to support client change processes.  My coaching is grounded in practices evidenced as effective through positive psychology and neuroscience as promoting and sustaining change, and well-being. As part of my coaching I  teaching skills, strategies and techniques to help my clients continue with their own self-coaching after our time is completed.

The coaching relationship is inevitably one way. The focus is on you as the client. The focus is also on you as an individual as opposed to being on the issues or concerns or the goals and objectives that you bring to coaching. Sustaining the focus on the client as opposed to the issue helps the client develop more perspectives, insights and agency in relation to the issue or goal that they bring into coaching.

The coaching relationship is powerful and individual and it helps to remember that you are in charge of how you want me as your coach to be, in effect you are designing and re-designing your coach. You decide what you want more and less of.  More being called to account for actions you want to take?  A bit more cheer-leading this week?  Being heard and witnessed about something you find difficult or hurtful?  As a coach I work with your needs and wants, holding the coaching space as a place where you can explore, take risks, have insights and undertake deep discoveries.  As your coach I am holding the bigger picture that you created and remind you of your goals and help keep you focused. 

Getting the right fit between you and your coach is essential and that is why the Spark Session is important, to explore what you want and to see if the coaching relationship works.

If you like what you're hearing then sign up for a free Spark Session.

Coaching Works

Coaching offers multiple benefits. In a short series of bullets I can only flag a few. In the resources section are links to more in-depth discussions. Suffice to say professional coaching has been steadily acquiring over the past few decades a research and an evidence base for being an effective and efficacious intervention. Coaching supports and helps by: 

  • helping reduce stress, which we are all feeling right now, and stress limits capacity for decision-making, creative and lateral thinking, and being compassionate with self and others. Coaching brings the focus to the 'here and now', to what is in the present and what can be done with the current situation. This may be working on perceptions and so coping strategies or it may be tacking possible actions 
  • becoming more flexible and adaptable in the face of changes. Coaching fosters resilience in the face of changes and helps people to understand the change process and their responses to change. Effective coaching will be aligned to an individual or a group's current appetite for change and help them move along a change continuum. Currently we are facing huge shifts and changes, and being better able to both manage and work with change is a significant asset as opposed to shutting down in the face of changes and becoming resistant and stuck.
  • coaching helps in the process of making decisions in alignment with personal and organizational values. This makes a decision more likely to be effective, resonant, lasting and satisfying. Of course the coaching process will have needed to previously surface values and visions.
  • being able to reach an articulated goal. Having a goal helps create a feel-good factor of direction and purpose, motivation and accomplishment follow. Coaching orients clients towards optimism and action. 
  • gauging and seeing progress and the outcomes of effort which is motivating, sustaining and generates a sense of well-being. Coaching does require accountability which can stimulate action and it requires reflection on actions being taken. In the process of reflection and developing insights, barriers and obstacles are often demolished and further spirited actions developed.
  • developing more open communication because coaching can help clarify intentions, develop a language of expression and opportunities to rehearse what needs to be said. More effective communication supports interpersonal relationships and a person's sense of self and well-being. For groups it supports more healthy working relationships and the capacity to explore problems, generate solutions and plan actions.
  • being able to explore an issue from several perspectives develops more nuanced thinking and empathy. It supports more creative solutions, interpersonal relationships, reduces stress and stuckness and helps manage obstacles.
  • finding greater clarity about an issue through a process of exploring and naming a problem. The coaching questions and exercises to shift perspective help the client to reframe how they view a situation and move from a well-worn narrative.
  • having more of a sense of self-leadership and locus of control as situations become less overwhelming and as more possibilities and directions are generated.
  • being engaged in the collaborative process of coaching reduces isolation and overwhelm.

Coaching & Glow

Coaching gives other parts of your brain a chance to glow and in so doing to rewire and leverage neuroplasticity.

People get less creative and their thinking more in a rut just moving through the day to day. At times when they are more stressed and fearful this normal tendency is further underscored.

Coaching as a non-judgmental, structured and creative activity gives a chance for other parts of the brain to get into action -  exploring values, thinking about goals and dreams, exploring alternative perspectives encourages the pre-frontal cortex into action and to expand thinking out of the more day-to-day. People are less reactive, feel more in control and become more future-oriented. These changes, albeit just in talking and thinking, help to rewire our brains. Coaching helps move people out of the default to the possible.

An fMRI based study 2010 study at Chase Western University found 30 minutes of talking about personal vision activated the parts of the brain associated with 'cognitive, perceptual and emotional openness, and better functioning'. Case Western Reserve University. "Coaching with compassion can 'light up' human thoughts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 November 2010. 

Coaching is not

Coaching is not therapy or counseling. Sure, there is a therapeutic element to being heard and not being invisible. There is a great relief in having a coach who can hold the space for exploring what is difficult and challenging. There is a great relief in working with a coach to be able to name what is not right and move to a place of solution. Professional coaching and coaches are governed by ethical standards. All coaching sessions are confidential and this creates a safe space and sometimes the only space for a client to face difficult, complex, challenging and sometimes distressing material, and in so doing find other ways to view it.

The coaching relationship is a collaborative one, with the focus on the individual client or group, to create an individualized engaging and realistic route map that reflects the client needs and intentions.

The purpose of coaching is staying in the present and working with what is currently the situation in order to get to increased, if not optimal states of life-satisfaction, more harmonious living, greater productivity, team functioning, well-being etc. Coaching as a modality helps the individual towards their goals through reflection and action. Coaching is emboldening. Coaching may well reveal patterns of responses, thoughts and behaviors, and taking actions to interrupt their repetition will be a choice for the coaching client to make. 

Equine Assisted Coaching (EAC) and other types of coaching using experiential learning activities throw client's typical response patterns very sharply into focus.