Coaches bring a variety of topics and ‘feelings’ to reflect on in supervision as indeed I do when I work with my own Supervisor.
It has become increasingly apparent to me that one particular ‘challenge’ raises its head frequently in the relationship Coaches have with their coaching clients and that is the apparently thorny matter of ‘Attachment to Outcome ‘although it has not, so far, been actively ‘brought’ to supervision as a topic
It seems that the instinct to ‘advise’ and voice our opinion is a very deep rooted part of our ‘ego’ which may camouflage itself in all manner of well meaning and positive guises as it attempts to lure Coaches and Coach Supervisors into its tempting ‘trap’.
How are we to recognise this ‘attachment’ in ourselves when it appears in our own Coaching sessions, as I mentioned already it hasn’t as yet been consciously brought for discussion by Coach clients in my own supervision practice but it has been very apparent that it is happening in the feedback they give on their own sessions. And so in that way it has regularly been a topic for discussion during supervision sessions?
In reflecting on this one my first thought is that attachment to outcome appears to be quite difficult to recognise unless and until it has been brought to our ‘conscious mind’ conversely that it is apparently much easier to recognise in others when wearing the ‘supervision’ hat than it is to ‘be aware’ of our own inclination towards it.
My second thought for your consideration is that without conscious awareness it can happen anytime to any Coach and appears to be especially prevalent in some particularly identifiable scenarios
For example it seems to arise regularly in situations where a ‘coaching client’ is considering what to do about a relationship or a career move where the actions they have already taken or are considering taking go against our own ‘values and beliefs’. It may be they have decided to stay in a job or relationship but equally it could be because they have decided to leave. It may be they have decided to ‘challenge’ the person, say their partner or their boss or alternatively decided not to challenge them. If the decision is not what we would do ourselves we may step unwittingly into the role of persecutor by ‘judging’ them or rush into ‘rescuer’ by deciding their choices are wrong and may not have a good outcome for them.
I’ve also found that this ‘attachment to outcome’ can come from an urge to offer solutions even though we intellectually understand that we should be offering ‘a safe and challenging place’ for them to explore their own solutions.
I have observed that it is especially heightened with ‘Internal Coaches’ when the coach is themselves experienced in the clients field and therefore they become very tempted to offer solutions without invitation.
Another time this ‘instinct’ appears heightened is, perhaps not surprisingly, when the situation is similar to an experience which has arisen earlier in the coach’s own life.
The examples I have witnessed almost always arise from a place of ‘good intent’ and the commitment to help the coaching client achieve a ‘happier’ more fulfilled life.
I’ve also discovered that in exploring this with Coaches in supervision it often comes as a genuine and welcome relief when they ‘remember’ or indeed recognise for the first time that they don’t have to have the answers for that client and that they are not responsible for the decision the client eventually makes.
Many of us; and for me rightly; believe our Coaching work is about working with integrity to help people achieve their goals and perhaps also to ensure they achieve them in a way that is congruent to their own values and beliefs. And to remember that however tempting it is it is NOT part of our remit to ‘decide’ the right direction or the right outcome for each individual. Our role in the coaching relationship is to ensure that we provide a safe place for them to reflect and also to encourage them to challenge their thinking and focus on whether the choice they are about to make will get them closer to or further away from where they say they want to be.
If we genuinely have concern for the actions a client seems intent on making we may with some justification feel that it is most certainly our role to help them explore all the angles.
To me the solutions stems, as many things in coaching do, from the original ‘contracting’ and also in helping them develop ‘their long term vision’. If we establish with clarity how the person wants their life to be and if we explore with them their own ‘values and beliefs, that is what they are willing to do and not willing to do to make it happen then we are then able to ‘challenge’ cleanly any action they may propose taking. Helpful questions may include; “Remind me of your overriding vision for your life” “And is that still your ideal goal? “How will this ‘action’ affect that goal, do you believe it will it get you closer to it or further away” “How important to you is your relationship with x” and in what way do you believe this step will improve this relationship and is there any way it may adversely affect it”
We can also do timeline work and encourage the client to imagine themselves in 5 years time and; in looking back on this decision; to imagine the different paths they may have taken and how the proposed decision may have contributed to the life they see themselves leading then.
The constant risk of unknowingly working with an ‘Attachment to Outcome’ is for me on its own enough justification for Coach’s to undertake regular ‘supervision’ in order to maintain appropriate boundaries and to ensure they are working ethically to keep themselves and their clients safe.
And Supervision for all Coach’s is an outcome I’m more than happy to be attached too!
Anne Pink firstname.lastname@example.org Coach and Coach Supervisor
Accredited in Supervision by the Coaching Supervision Academy