Fruitful coaching experience

In August of this year, I took part in coaching sessions as a coach for the first time. Traditionally, these sessions were held on the fields of the IFLA World Library and Information Congress, but in virtual format this time. Therefore, everyone, not just WLIC members, had the opportunity to join the coaching sessions. This year I was the only Russian speaking coach specifically to reach this segment of the library community.

This was my first coaching experience. During 2020 and 2021, I took an online coaching course from Vera Keown and I am very grateful to her for the clear instructions and training materials. These materials really helped me a lot to communicate with my coachee.

As I already mentioned in my review to the CPDWL coaching working group, the distance communication format was the biggest problem. People behave in a different way either face-to-face or online. It is much more difficult to establish a confidential conversation, especially if the person is unfamiliar to you. It is more difficult to identify the signs of non-verbal communication: closed posture, voice intonations. I was lucky that several people who signed up for my coaching sessions live in the same city, and we could talk face to face. These meetings were noticeably more productive.

Also, from my yet limited experience, I realized that the result of communication is more effective and truthful when the coach and the coachee are unfamiliar. While communicating with a familiar person, the coach involuntarily begins to think out and interpret his or her statements, based on his or her opinion about this person, from the previous experience of communicating with this person. But when the coach and the coachee are unfamiliar, then the coach’s mind may be more objective.

I also realized that people who come to a coaching session in most of the cases expect that they will receive specific advice or an action plan for what they should do to achieve their goal. Some of them regard the coach as a mentor, others as a psychologist.

Yes, it is very good if the coach has the skills of a psychologist and mentor, if the coach has developed empathy. But, as I understood, the most important thing is to be able to listen. And, as Vera Keown advises, do not be afraid of pauses in a conversation, do not rush to fill them. Do not give any assessments or advice at all. It was very interesting for me to observe how people talked for a long time and in the course of the conversation they themselves gave answers to their questions. Just because they finally took the time to speak out their doubts, all the pros and cons. Together with me, they looked at their life trajectory from the side and saw it from a new angle. And the solutions were found.

We agreed from the very beginning that we are not looking for solutions to all problems. We set an achievable goal, and my coachee got the understanding at the end of the session: in which direction to go, what to change, what to focus on in order to reach this goal. I regret that several people were disappointed, as they were initially determined to receive recommendations and guidelines, and at the end of the meeting it seemed to them that they had found the answers to their questions by themselves, without any help from my side. But isn’t that a part of the coach’s role?

In conclusion, I would like to say that it was very interesting for me to conduct coaching sessions. It turned out to be useful for the development of my personality as well. Next year, I’d like to continue. Thanks again to the CPDWL coaching working group and Vera Keown!

Daria Beliakova,
Head of the Centre Center for Library Science and Professional Development,
Library for Foreign Literature, Moscow, Russia,
SC Member of the CPDWL IFLA,
[email protected]