Joan Bragar, EdD

Coaching for Happiness in Love

Innovation plus Collaboration – learning that leads to results

by | Aug 5, 2017 | Leadership Development

The key to good coaching is understanding how people learn, and knowing how to support their learning in a challenging and supportive way.

Learning in this way with others is fundamental to achieving results.

Imagination plus Collaboration are the unique human capabilities that allow us to learn together.

Through the use of language we share our images of possible futures – and create strategies and plans for effective action.

In early human history, this kind of collaborative learning was vital to our survival.

We are not the fastest or the strongest creature, but through collaborative learning we were able to survive and thrive. For example:

  • Hunters were able to imagine and and then collaborate together on the best strategy for finding and catching prey;
  • Caretakers could envision the future needs of their group and agree on how to best distribute food.

Imagination and collaboration are still essential for producing results in our organizations and in our lives.

How does this inform what good coaches do with clients?

The Principles of Learning*, explain how coaching, based on learning principles, enhances your ability to produce results.

What are these principles, and what do clients say about their impact?

1.Learning is a transformation that takes place over time.

Learning is the process by which people change the way they interpret, or make sense of, their experiences  and create new frames of reference that guide future ideas and actions.

A Client in transition from full time mothering back into the word of medicine and public health, reports,

“You helped me identify my stumbling blocks and move forward, including support for my ideas and a sounding board to make a rational plan. You gave me courage that these weren’t ridiculous ideas. You helped me to move forward on the right path, decided by me, one step at a time. You gave me courage to take each new step.”

2.Learning follows a continuous cycle of action and reflection.

People learn by doing and then thinking consciously about what they did. Actions that have been reflected on lead to new understandings, which in turn guide future actions.

A client facing a job transition reflects,

“Coaching gave me the courage to know what I actually think, what choices to I have and their possible consequences. Having the space to talk through and have someone listen helps me to get clear about what I’m thinking and where I am right now. This helps me clarify what I need to do next.”

3.Learning is most effective when it addresses issues that are relevant to the learner.

People are motivated by either a personal desire to acquire new knowledge and skills or by understanding the consequences of not learning.

A Leadership Coaching client remembers,

“10 years ago I was a new leader and I needed help to clarify my values and principles. As a new leader I struggled with how I was going to develop good department managers. I really needed help.

4. Learning is most effective when people learn with others.

When people learn together, they share and build on one another’s perceptions. This increases the likelihood of their creating new interpretations that can guide more effective personal and organizational actions.

This Leadership Coaching client continues,

“I couldn’t say to anyone at the company “you’ve given me a big job and I’m not sure I can do it”. It really helped me to have someone to coach me to be a divisional leader.”

5.Learning occurs best in a supportive and challenging environment.

When the environment is not threatening to status or security, people are more willing to take risks, to explore new ideas, and to try new actions. However, unless people are challenged intellectually and emotionally, they will rely on existing habits and will not stretch themselves to find new ways of thinking and acting.

A client facing a change in her marital status reflected,

“I needed to have a deep conversation with someone who is holding me in a way that is tough on me, but at the same time is working on helping me figure things out. In a challenging way – doing some surgery on my thinking in terms of what is blocking me.”

he Principles of Learning, that I first wrote at Forum Corporation distinguish how we can best imagine and collaborate to produce results.

When coaches use these principles they enhance client’s actions and results.

  1. Learning is a transformation that takes place over time.
  2. Learning follows a continuous cycle of action and reflection.
  3. Learning is most effective when it addresses issues that are relevant to the learner.
  4. Learning is most effective when people learn with others.
  5. Learning occurs best in a supportive and challenging environment.

*Johnson K, Bragar J. Principles of Adult Learning: A Multi-Paradigmatic Model. In: Dills CR, Romiszowski AJ, editors. Instructional Development Paradigms.  Englewood Cliffs (NJ): Educational Technology Publications; 1997.