The quest for authentic flexibility

by | Feb 8, 2016

Really interesting discussion resulted this weekend between coaches in two camps.

One camp championed the need for client flexibility, where they would flex their approach to suit their clients as a way to build rapport.

The other championed authenticity and the need to remain congruent with yourself, to the point of not working for clients that did not appreciate them for who they are or what they represent.

This sent my personal cogs spinning as I respected both camps and also recognised my preference to flex to the client.

On the one-hand unique and special authentic “you” is wonderful and should be celebrated, as in that space your uniqueness shines through and potentially your value to your organisation and community.

On the other, by matching the clients map of the World around them by flexing to their style means a cleaner flow of communication from which comes intense rapport and higher potential for leading the learning journey.

Are these two pillars of psychology really poles apart, or are they symbiotic?

After a sleepless night I realised that for me, whilst I value both perspectives my view is that by building rapport by demonstrating flexibility to suit my client I can lead them towards an authentic view of themselves rather than impose my personal authenticity on them. This gives the client the ownership of their own journey.

I think my personal journey to self actualisation (or authenticity) is a life journey and will be constantly updated, just as my clients will. By being authentic with my agenda, which is around personal positive performance improvement, flexing to suit my clients needs around that still holds authenticity around the process rather than personality of the coach.

So, for me, whilst I agree that authenticity is critical in remaining true to yourself I think that being in a club of one makes it hard for anyone to relate, which makes supported learning through coaching difficult if not impossible.

Martin Knowles

Martin Knowles


About the author

Martin Knowles has worked in a variety of sectors in Learning and Development roles and Contracts for nearly 20 years (DSGi, PCWorld, Capital One, Linklaters, Veolia, Severn Trent, Rolls-Royce, Diageo, Selfridges). He has authored content, books and articles for managers and aspiring leaders, published work in multiple media and won awards for Best Training and Development in Europe.

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