Extract from a study on co-coaching

More To Life course work encourages people to support one another with the exercises it teaches. Work in pairs and groups is encouraged, and the idea of support partnerships is integral to this programme.

Many people continue to work with a support partner long beyond the period of the course. In the early stages the support relationship may be focused on learning the exercises, but later on many people find a support partner can be a great help in tackling issues that affect our lives in general.

This is true of the people in this study. Although some continue to work with their support partner on specific exercises, for many, as they become more practiced, the support turns into a form of mutual coaching.

Support with work or a project
The majority of people in the sample see their relationship as useful for specific projects or work-related issues. For some the relationship grew because the partners were involved in a project or on a course together, while for others they simply wanted some support or advice from someone whose judgement they could trust in the arena of work.

Non-work related development
For several participants, another reason for having their co-coaching partnership is to help with general personal development. A number of participants originally set up their partnership to practice the work they learned on More To Life courses, although in all cases that was no longer the fundamental reason for the partnership. Nevertheless, general personal issues were an important driver.

Emotional support
For many participants, closeness and familiarity has resulted in an ability to support each other with emotional issues, and in many cases, the partners are able to be completely open with each other on an emotional level.

Help with “the bigger picture”
For a number of participants the partnership is also about developing over-arching life purposes, and looking at who they fundamentally are.

Problem solving
Several participants saw their partner as someone with whom they could share problems and from whom they could expect to receive good feedback and support. Solutions would sometimes be the product of simply talking around the issue.

What are the benefits?
That co-coaching partnerships can offer benefits may be deduced from the fact that these partnerships are generally long-term. My results show that three key themes emerged as outcomes of the co-coaching relationship: connection, friendship and personal growth.

The themes grouped under the heading of “Reasons for have a co-coaching partner” also provide insight into benefits. These are: the ability of partners to listen and give feedback, and the willingness of partners to be open and honest with each other.

Co-coaching can open people up to a partnership that is different from other types of relationship, which not only sits comfortably alongside relationships with spouses, family, friends and work colleagues, but which potentially has the power to enhance those relationships, and to benefit every aspect of the co-coaching partner’s life.

Liz Leffman
Oxford Brookes University
From an MA dissertation in Coaching and Mentoring Practice
September 2004