What growing orchids has taught me about coaching

Karens orchidsby Karen Boskemper, PCC, co-leader of The Mentor Coaching Group  

Seven years ago when we moved into our current neighborhood, I was given an orchid as a house warming present. I remember distinctly thinking, “Well THAT’s not going to last long!. I’m about as adept at growing orchids as a fish is at flying!” (except for the ones that do actually fly of course, but you get the drift……)

I set it on the windowsill and a few days later read the care instructions. “Good light, let soil dry out completely, water infrequently, fertilize when not blooming, cut off dead stem.”  The “let soil dry out completely” gave me hope because I did that naturally to most of my plants and they didn’t do so well so I thought, “Well, maybe there is still hope for me?”Karen-Boskemper-r-small

I followed the instructions marginally and the next year, sure enough “Violet” (that’s what I named her) began blooming again. Then the following year she did the same, and the next, and the next and now she’s in her 7th year and still produces the most wonderful blossoms. That’s Violet on the left in the photo, joined by Amelia who I purchased later.

I began thinking that although I had something to do with her repeated success, (my Ego had already proclaimed me the “Orchid Whisperer”), there had to be something else that was at play, and I realized that it had to do with the right conditions and the environment. You see, the windowsill she sits on is South facing. The window itself is tinted and protected by a screen, which filters the light and produces a constant warm heat that would make any living creature want to flourish.

The Right Conditions and Right Environment Support Our Success

This got me to thinking; what is it that makes conditions and the right environment so crucial to success? Years ago, one of my coach training classes taught the importance of helping our coaching clients set up the right environment in order to support them in their pursuit of growth and development.

Our clients can have the best intentions to change, but if their environment (constant interruptions, barking dogs, screaming children, etc.) does not support their efforts, mediocrity at best and failure at worst is inevitable. There is an old saying: “Culture eats Strategy for lunch” which points to the same principle – the environment your client is in, will contribute to their success or failure.

Clients come to us to help them grow. What they need from us is the right amount of encouragement and for us to help create an environment within the coaching session and outside of the coaching session for them to thrive in.

Reviewing the ICF PCC Markers there are two specific Core Competencies, one at the beginning and one at the end of the session that relate to the environment the client finds herself in:

Creating the Coaching Agreement: Marker #4

This marker reads, “Coach helps the client define what the client believes he/she needs to address or resolve in order to achieve what she/he wants to accomplish in the session.” A question such as,

“What is going on in your environment right now that may need to be addressed in order for you to successfully move forward with this?” or, “I’m curious, whether there is anything specifically in your environment that you know of that may be contributing to this issue besides your own internal hesitancy to speak to your boss?” This last question also addresses Marker #1 under Coaching Presence: “Coach acts in response to the whole person of the client and what the client wants to accomplish in the session.”

The “whole person” means addressing both the “who” and the “what” of the client.

Designing Actions, Planning and Goal Setting, and Managing Progress and Accountability: Marker #3

The second area where inquiry into the client environment may be useful is under Designing Actions, Planning and Goal Setting, and Managing Progress and Accountability: Marker #3: “Coach invites or allows client to consider her/his path forward, including, as appropriate, support mechanisms, resources and potential barriers.” And #4: “Coach assists the client to design the best methods of accountability for her/himself.”

 A “support mechanism” could be how the client arranges his/her environment to support her success. That would be as simple as closing the door when she is working, to physically removing herself from an environment that detracts from what she is looking to achieve.

“Best methods of accountability” does not have to be a person who supports the client with her accountability. Maybe there is even a person or a group of people in the client’s life that show up as a barrier to staying accountable and focused.

Work with your client to figure out the best way to use who and what is in her environment that can best support her ongoing success.

The importance of environment in creating success cannot be stressed enough because after all, our environment has a big influence on how we operate on a daily basis. So when helping clients grow from the “inside out”, remember the impact of the “outside in”.

Are you preparing for your first or next ICF Credential?

Do you want to “Sharpen the Saw” as a Coaching Professional?

Our next Group/Individual Mentoring Programs commence in March (for MCC preparation or those already with MCC) and April (open to all skill levels) and carries 23.5 ICF Core Competency CCEUs!

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One of those offerings is an extensive library of MCC, PCC and ACC coaching sessions for our participants to listen to, evaluate, debrief, and learn from, along with The Target Approach to demystifying the ICF core competencies. These are incredibly valuable learning tools, and will accelerate your understanding of competency distinctions.

Here’s where you’ll find more about The Mentor Coaching Group

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Comments

  1. Holly  February 15, 2016

    Great blog, Karen. I think of coaching as the right mix of support AND not tending. Let the orchid bloom on its own!