The Co-Active Model is the model of coaching that I practice with my clients. It's one that I was trained in through the world's oldest, largest and most influential coaching school, Co-Active Training Institute - a process that I started in 2017.
I recently finished the course requirements for my CPCC process with the school, with 10 hours of coaching to go before I am eligible for the final oral examination and official accreditation as a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach.
As part of the written exam / coursework, we got the opportunity to share how we, as Co-Active coaches, are "walking the talk" of Co-Active in our everyday lives. As coaches, we do not merely practice coaching professionally - coaching for us is one way of expressing our authentic self. In fact, part of ICF's Competency Framework includes a section that requires coaches to 'embody a coaching mindset'.
I wanted to share my response with you all, as Co-Active is who I am and what I stand for. Please note that minor amendments have been made to make it understandable to those not as familiar with the model.
Q: Consider the whole model; aside from coaching, how are you walking the talk of Co-Active in your personal life and at work?
"Co-Active is more than just coaching for me. It describes a better way for people to operate in the world - a more human one - one which resonates with the ancient spiritual tradition that I was brought up in.
Before I address some specific aspects of the model, one big thing that stands out to me is the word 'paradox'. Paradox is present in the word “Co-Active” - the co-existence of “doing” and “being”. Paradox is also present throughout the model. We create saboteurs and dissociate it from us, only to re-integrate it with compassion later on. We learn tools of the model so that later we are able to coach without them. We have our Inner Leader and Allies but we’re one person. We accept that we are good, so that we can look at our bad sides.
I live out this paradox in my life and see a huge part of my work as helping people become more aware and comfortable with the paradoxes in their lives. Related to the theme of paradox, I try to live a life that contrast starkly with the shoulds and expectations that have been put on me (of which there are many). I share this life publicly in the hope that it gives some people the permission to live their lives differently.
I'll now address some more specific aspects of the model and how I'm walking the talk of Co-Active in my personal life and at work.
1. People are naturally creative, resourceful and whole (NCRW)
I have noticed over the years how I've stepped away from thinking as if I have the answers for everyone else's problems - a trap I fell into more often. I used to give a lot of advice both in work and in relationships. Being an intelligent person and a deep thinker, people turned to me for guidance and I gave it. I now have more humility as well as a greater trust in each person's wisdom and own timing. I generally avoid giving advice even outside of coaching. Instead I ask powerful questions when people ask for advice (which happens a lot) to help them get clear on what they want and their own answers. I believe the world is a better place when people take ownership of their lives and their decisions.
In addition, holding people as naturally creative, resourceful and whole has helped me with my learned tendency of being a people pleaser and not wanting to make people uncomfortable with my opinions, views and most of all my own competence. As an Asian kid, I was taught to be “humble” and to not brag. I excelled in all education but was wary of really owning it. A part of this was to avoid seeming arrogant and avoid drawing jealousy from others. I realise now that’s not holding people (and myself) NCRW. I’m aiming to speak out more and not be afraid of my own shadow - to own my space and impact in the world.
2. Address the whole person
I know as a cornerstone this is coaching specific, but holding the whole person in my work and personal interactions has helped me have a better understanding of my friends, family and colleagues, as well as being able to hold them more compassionately. Rather than just seeing a reaction of theirs, I try to see their values, their pain, their saboteurs and most courageous selves.
This is an area that I'm starting to experiment with in my personal life. When I stand in this cornerstone, what comes up for me is becoming more present, worrying less about what went on before and what might come afterwards. A simple example would be to enjoy my time with my partner in the evening rather than being preoccupied with the upcoming work tomorrow. This results in more aliveness in my relationship and a happier me!
I believe that the Contexts have great applicability outside coaching. I remind myself to get curious about my partner's feelings (usually the negative ones, although I'll also try to get curious about the positive ones too), rather than immediately reacting to it. I try to get curious about my employee's work performance rather than making a judgement on it and making assumptions. I notice it's harder to hold curiosity in personal relationships compared to professional coaching relationships, as I'm deeply emotionally invested. Here I bring curiosity to myself as well as compassion.
Intuition, listening and self-management are all prominent in my interactions with everyone - not just coaching. I try to gift this to everyone I speak with, just as I would like people to gift these to me. A bad habit that I sometimes fell into early on in my coaching though was to go too far and coach without permission. There definitely is a line between being a good friend who listens deeply and interacts with intuition and articulates what is going on, and being a coach when no-one has asked for it, and it's something that am becoming more and more confident treading.
Forward the action / deepen the learning I apply to myself. Every reaction, action, emotion - everything is an opportunity to learn and grow. For me, life is an ongoing process of forwarding the action and deepening the learning. I have coaches that help me do this, and try to take opportunities to do so by myself when I remember.
The Co-Active Tool that jumps out at me now as I address this question is Saboteur Awareness. Learning to recognise when people’s saboteurs are in charge has helped me to understand how others are feeling, especially when there is negativity from them directed at others.
I apply this in my own intimate relationship when I feel an irrational or unexpected negativity is directed at me. I try to be aware of which saboteur might be present and try to create an environment of safety. In addition, when I sense people’s saboteurs in work or friendships, I try to move them to a position of strength instead.
In addition, I try to be curious, when I find myself making observations (judgements) of other people’s saboteurs (as above), where my saboteur might be present. When I am judging of others, my instinct is that my own saboteur is currently at work in myself too.
Co-Active for me has always been more than coaching. Before I even became aware of the field of coaching, I was learning about Co-Activity through my in-depth exploration of Christianity.
When I found coaching and shortly afterwards Co-Active Coaching, I soon decided that this was what I was going to dedicate my professional life to. It's the path that I was always on and always will be on. Now, on completion of CTI's training modules I've just been gifted the tools to apply this professionally and continue my part in changing the world for the better."