Coaching: the art of managing resistance

on BLOG, Coaching, success, development 10 Feb, 2014

Coaching: the art of managing resistance

There are those who define coaching as the art of managing coachees’ resistance. Tout court.

Coaching is an activity that gives me great satisfaction: when a coachee calls me to tell that the job interview was a success, that his/her performance in an important meeting attracted the attention of a senior executive, that he/she just signed a contract a few months before not even conceivable, that he/she feels comfortable in previously very stressing situations and environments. In these moments, I rejoice, well aware that these results come straight from the commitment of the client, but conscious of having facilitated a process towards success and autonomy.
But coaching is also extremely challenging due to the management of the resistances that also the most motivated and engaged coachee sooner or later offers. Resistance to change, resistance linked to criticism and skepticism of friends and relatives, resistance due to the internal saboteur, internal resistance in front of the first successes, which make the coachee see an upcoming change... Fear. In my opinion, it’s always and only fear. Fear of change. How does it express? It depends on the coachee, on his/her nature and context: it can be expressed with a feeling of anger, with bitter irony, sarcasm, with attempts to escape, with pessimistic phrases like "I’ll never succeed", even with verbal attacks against the coach. Entirely predictable: some texts indicate in which session the coachee will begin to show signs of resistance in a more vehement way.

It’s in this phase of the coaching process that the coach shows more his/her skills and experience. Since every manifestation of resistance is different, it makes no sense to talk about a strategy and a tool that should be good in all cases. There is the coachee who wants to be reassured, who wants to vent with the coach (even if the client will eventually thank him for his patience), who needs to be re-convinced that the coach is an ally. They are delicate moments when, overwhelmed by the fear of change, the coachee needs to challenge and test the coach, on whom at the beginning he had relied almost without criticism. It is a jumble of feelings and opposite needs, of fears and challenges , which confirm the words of a great master coach, Mary Beth O'Neill, who defines coaching as systemic activity directly to customer success, which requires backbone and heart .

How I do act in these moments? Without underestimating them, without treating them as a taboo, but always discussing, acting - as usual - like a mirror and pointing out the contradictions inherent in the resistance itself and investigating in depth the meaning and the need the resistance represents. It is sometimes tiring, sometimes requires several iterations, but it is the only way that, so far, has always brought the coachee towards action and towards the true focus: success. On top of this, if the coachee learns about his/her natural tendency to resistance, to homeostasis, he/she will also learn to recognize it and manage it before it manifests.

What do you resist to?
If you didn’t resist, where would you be now?
What are the advantages of your resistance?






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