A coaching approach

Asking new questions, hearing new things
Published in Inside Iriss on 10 May 2024

Last Autumn I started a coaching course with the Institute of Coaching Studies. Over six weeks, a small group of us from all over the world spent two half days a week online together. Led by an excellent tutor, we worked through the course and practiced coaching from the very first session. I thought I knew what coaching was but I soon realised the depth of skill involved in what seems like having a natural conversation. 

What is coaching? 

Coaching seems often to be defined by what it isn’t. It’s not about giving advice, sharing your expertise or making helpful suggestions. It’s not training, mentoring, consulting or counselling. When we talk about coaching at Iriss, we describe it as a collaborative, creative process that provides clients with the time and structure to learn, develop and find their own solutions to the challenges they face in their work.

Support for changemakers

We know from our experience in the sector that changing systems and cultures is difficult work. Leaders, managers and practitioners working on change and innovation in social work and social care experience a range of challenges. We think coaching can provide a supportive space to help changemakers draw on their strengths to navigate challenges and find solutions. Coaching also builds on the ethos of our Space to Practice theme, which recognises the importance of promoting a culture of reflection, learning and curiosity.

My role as a Development Lead involves building relationships with partners to understand where they’re coming from, what the driving issues, barriers and enablers are. We need to understand their context and how they’re impacted by it, what motivates them and what support they need from others and from us. Moving through our 4-stage innovation process, particularly in the initial Discover phase, I’ve found the coaching training has changed how I have conversations with partners and the team. It’s changed the questions I ask and how I listen. 

Free coaching sessions

So, at this stage I’m a certified coach - this means I’ve completed extended training, with practice, observation, and a performance evaluation. I’m now working through the required 100 practice hours for ICF accreditation. These hours, while a daunting amount to complete, present an opportunity for us to be able to offer free coaching sessions and to use this learning to inform a bespoke coaching offer for our sector.

Interested in an introductory discussion or a taster session? Get in touch with me at: ellen.daly@iriss.org.uk