Peter Spang

Coaching is like music

Some of my thoughts on coaching and the coaching relationship:

“To communicate is to enter the other, while watching ourselves carefully, to enter without taking possession of the other. To take possession of the other is to annul him, to prevent him from returning the gift. It is the refusal to accept his discrete word; it is to violate his inner home without allowing him to enter ours; it is the arrogance of someone who believes himself to be an entirely independent and self-sufficient force and refuses to receive. The univocal gift, without reciprocity, is not communication, but violation.”

The words from M.F. Sciacca, the great Italian philosopher (1908-1975), bring alive some of the essential qualities of a coaching relationship. As a coach, I am a compassionate co-inquirer, someone who not only has knowledge and methods, but also befriends the coachee.

Henry Mintzberg, a Canadian management professor and author, points in the direction that while coaching is a craft that can be taught and trained, it is also something of an art. Art requires creativity, passion and fantasy, and cannot be fully scientifically measured or assessed. In this light good coaching, or good leadership, can be compared with good music: its full quality only gets revealed while listening to it, not while analysing it.

To skilfully develop a coaching relationship is the key to the success of a coaching process. That has to do with the ideas of Sciacca and Mintzberg and also with the ideas of coach and author James Flaherty. He claims that three elements build such a relationship: mutual trust, mutual respect and mutual freedom of expression.

What it truly takes to create a coaching relationship is again and again unique. I still don’t know. But when it happens, I can hear the music.