Monday, June 11, 2018

Traitment Options

"Mastering the twelve traits that trap us." That's the subtitle of The Coach's Casebook by Geoff Watts and Kim Morgan, and the traits in question include impostor syndrome, fierce independence, and perfectionism. Varied as they are, they share a few characteristics: they can become problematic for some of those who have them, they have potential upsides, and the authors believe that most people will experience some sense of at least one of them.

There are, I estimate, about ... erm ... ten trillion books on coaching out there but a few nice touches set this one apart from others that I've seen. The first is the chapter structures: each starts with a case study of a composite character (based on Watts and Morgan's experience) suffering from one of the traits, is followed by a set of exercises that might be used for others with that trait, and ends with an interview with someone famous who is said to exhibit the trait, and sometimes harnessing it to their advantage.

Looking through these three lenses permits different aspects of the problem and possible approaches to become apparent. In the case study it was often the personal interactions that I found interesting: when the coach was silent, or chose to ask or not a particular question, or when (as in the case of Richard, who suffered from "ostrich syndrome") to be provocative. The coaching techniques and questions are what they are, useful to have in the back pocket, although I would have liked to have had suggestions on directions to take depending on the results. The interviews present the perspective of someone who has lived with a trait and frequently offer evidence that it can be overcome or put to good use, in moderation.

The second nice touch is the coaching of the coach (the term used is supervision) in the case studies. In these sessions, the coach gets an independent perspective on, and is sometimes challenged about, their interactions with the client. In these sections the uncertainty, biases, and fallibility of the coach is laid bare. Coaches can use coaches.

The final piece that helps this book to stand out is a summary matrix at the end which collects all of the approaches suggested during the book and cross-references them against the traits. Many techniques have value in multiple situations and the authors have done well to avoid repeating themselves across the chapters.

I have a few minor quibbles: I might question whether the twelve traits are indeed traits (even the authors admit that the chapter on coping with loss is an outlier), or that these are the traits that trap us rather than some that could do at some times, and I would have liked to have had discussion of ways to arrive at, or confirm, the coach's "diagnosis" of a given trait. I also would love the case studies to show some alternative paths for the same client and, given that they are fictionalised, to perhaps also show the interactions from the perspective of the client.

But these are relatively minor for me. I think this book will be a useful reference, I've already used bits of it, and I've ordered a copy for my team.
Image: Amazon

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