I am frequently asked to describe what coaching is. It can be summed up by a line from Leonard Cohen’s well known song, Dance me to the End of Love: “Show me slowly what I only know the limits of.” The lyrics of the song were published together with a selection of paintings by Henri Matisse and the page inserted in this post remind me of the often circuitous and iterative way that coaching brings about its results. Through practice, through the mind and also working with body, coaching brings us into a way of being that seemed impossible before.
Coaching takes a heuristic approach. It is discovery through experimentation. In this way it can be like an artistic process, creating space for the linear and objective-orientated as well as the creative and flowing. Writes Diane Lennard in Coaching Models: A Cultural Perspective (2010): “I believe there is a strong relationship between the arts and the cognitive process of inquiry. The artistic process of experimenting with word images, sound, and movement is a form of heuristic inquiry. It involves exploring new combinations of these elements, investigating how they interact with one another, what responses they evoke or don’t evoke in others. Discovery, trial and error, observation, and evaluation are essential throughout.”