Let’s begin by contrasting individual coaching with pairs coaching as I am aware that pairs coaching is relatively new to many in the field of leadership development.
With individual coaching of leaders, the focus of the work is on the leader’s self awareness and agility. It helps the leader become more aware of their patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving and with this awareness become more able to respond appropriately to the multitude of situations they face.
The focus in pairs coaching is very different. In pairs coaching we aim to focus on the relationship between people. We create awareness between two people of the quality of their relationship; the ways in which they connect (or do not connect) with one another. Pairs coaching provides a mechanism to work with the pair to enhance the quality of their connection; the number of ways in which a pair can choose to connect with one another. The more ways in which a pair know how to connect with one another, the more they can use the right ‘tool’ in their relationship for the job in hand.
For example, one way in which we see pairs connect is by offering their opinions to each other. This is a very useful way of connecting. But without the ability to also ask questions of each other they may be missing out on a useful way of dealing with the challenges they face at work.
Another example. John and Louise are a CEO and Operations Director in an organisation facing major change. John and Louise want to move their working relationship forward as they face a time of change in the business. During pairs coaching they became very aware that they connected predominately by affirming each other’s point of view and finding common ground. We helped them both to appreciate the value of this way of connecting and to see that there was a place in their relationship – particularly as they move into a new strategic challenge – for expressing their differences and to make explicit requests of one another.
Subsequent blogs will explore some of the key qualities of good connection between two people and although the emphasis here is with regard to work relationships, the exact same qualities define the quality of personal relationships as well.