Does Coaching have to be the Road to Damascus?

Recently I reached the halfway stage with a coaching client and we did an interim review together, talking about to what extent the coaching objectives were being met and using meta-communication to reflect on our relationship. This was useful in seeing what methods were helpful, what methods weren’t so helpful.

The coachee felt they had benefited from reflecting their leadership role and their interactions at work, but then paused for a moment before saying: “But the scales haven’t fallen from my eyes yet”. I paused to think, before asking my client to describe the scales on their eyes and how it might feel if they fell off. Was that what they wanted and expected? We entered a fruitful discussion on expectations, and my client came to the conclusion that they didn’t have too may scales to begin with.
The phrase “scales falling from our eyes” comes from the bible and refers to the aftermath of Saul’s conversion to Paul on the road to Damascus. This got me thinking: Coaching is a process, it is a journey. But does it have to involve a Damascene experience? I think not.
 Objectives and needs vary, topics differ. Some coachees are very self-reflective, some not at all. Some clients only want gradual change, others require or need fundamental change. Sometimes the need for greater change transpires during the process, when we discover the problem behind the problem. Sometimes a small change turns out with hindsight to be huge. It’s not the job of a coach to make scales from our clients’ eyes, but as professionals to listen, to ask questions, maybe to give expert advice, but always to support our clients to see things from a different perspective and to help them find new solutions to work-related problems. If that entails scales falling from their eyes, like Saul on the way to Damascus, that’s fine. But that shouldn’t be expected from either side.