What a wonderful metaphor for the coaching experience. As the sacred practice of alchemy transforms base metal into gold, and transmutes physical consciousness into higher awareness, the experience of being coached by a master fosters the personal and organizational transformation of even the most successful executives as leaders.
The first phase of this transformation involves “unfreezing” the leader’s perceptions of herself and the world, of her leadership, management style and impact on others*. The masterful coach aids the executive, by asking powerful questions and providing pertinent and timely feedback, to become self-aware, to see herself as others see her, to become open, ready, and vulnerable for the work ahead.
Many people are caught up in old patterns of thinking and of behaviour that no longer serve them. Leaders are no exceptions. Old patterns often impede executives from being the leaders they can be, and that their organization needs them to be. So, the second phase of the coaching process entails intervening in the context of the leader. How? 1) By distilling the feedback the coach has received about the executive he is coaching in a 360-degree process. 2) By understanding, distinguishing and articulating the existing patterns that shape the leader’s reality. And 3) by identifying and articulating with the leader new enabling patterns, a new context – such as being collaborative rather than predominately directive.
The last phase of the process requires the executive to set, to crystalize, and to integrate the new patterns, the new context, that the coach and the leader have worked together to create. For this to be truly effective and lasting, the leader has to focus on a positive vision of the future. The coach helps the executive to imagine, visualize and feel how she is going to be different, think differently and act differently going forward. In a word, the coach is helping the leader to make this new future state present, real, one step at a time.
Transformation is not easy or fast. It requires the firm commitment of the leader to achieve effective, practical and lasting results. Coaching fosters the personal and organizational transformation of high performing executives as leaders.
*See Robert Hargrove 2010.