In January I started a Certificate in Coaching course with The Coach House. I had felt for some time that credible expertise and some formal accreditation as an executive coach would fit neatly with my work as a business relationship consultant.

One on one conversations about client/agency interactions can often expose a desire for personal change that would also benefit from a different kind of intervention, one of which is coaching.

More broadly, the challenges of today’s working environment make me wonder why everyone with access to the necessary resources doesn’t engage a coach. Maybe they do.

I had prepared myself for what I rightly anticipated would be the most difficult aspect of coaching. That is, not giving advice. Many years of doing just that have embedded an enthusiastic behaviour which will take some taming.

What I had underestimated was the extraordinary power of intense, non-judgmental, uninterrupted listening, gently steered (i.e., 10% of the dialogue) by questions and observations designed not simply to understand but to encourage the coachee to think more deeply and speak more openly.

So, there’s a reminder to us all as we crawl over each other’s attempts to complete sentences.

Apart from reiterating the benefits to any relationship of rapport and respect, another aspect of coaching practice that has resonated with me is the impact of positive psychology.

In this relatively recent subset of psychology, the focus is upon “what makes individuals and communities flourish, rather than languish” (Boniwell and Tunariu, 2019). I am less enamoured of the religious pursuit of happiness that has characterised the development of positive psychology in some quarters since its introduction by Martin Seligman in the late 1990s.

But as an approach that counters the emphasis upon driving improvement with reference to what we haven’t done or believe we cannot do, coaching that demonstrates a bias towards and an appreciation of the positive appeals to me. What can we learn from recognised achievements and capabilities that can be transferred to unblocking the pursuit of new ambitions?

As we know, positive emotions at work boost performance, productivity, and profitability.

And listening for the strengths in others is kind, supportive and, while not guaranteed to deliver unblemished collaboration, provides a solid foundation for fully functioning business relationships.