You may be curious to know why I want to start a conversation on maturity? What is the context of this conversation?

This is a relational conversation in the context of human transformation and is focused on how we can change through dialogue and self-reflection in a psychologically safe space, otherwise called ‘coaching’. 

Given coaching is trendy and has become a ‘buzz’ word, and is actually the fastest growing profession nowadays, let’s go deeper and get to the core of it.

Coaching is a relatively new profession that serves human transformation (in comparison with much older professions and personal development modalities like teaching). Did you know that the word ‘coach’ was first used in the mid-nineteenth century, referring to a tutor dragging a rich but idle student through his Oxbridge University exams? 

In contemporary setting the ‘rich’ student is one with unlimited potential, who doesn’t need to be dragged, because they make the choice to embark on a journey of intrapersonal transformation.

So, what does ‘maturity’ have to do with this? i.e Maturity of the coach and maturity of the coachee (student).

 (Coach maturity + Coachee maturity) x (Trust + Real Connection) = 

Thriving Partnership (accelerating human transformation)

It is human transformation, not coachee transformation, because we affect each other in this relationship. I believe that each person I work with is both my student and my teacher.

It’s a partnership, because in the transformative coaching, co-creative process based on interaction, there is constant unfolding of insights, committed action and change.

Clutterback and Bachkirova (Clutterbuck, 2020, loc 552) did research at Oxford Brookes University, with the purpose of helping companies hiring externally resourced executive coaches to be able to make informed decisions about whether or not each of the coaches available was suitable. Several hundred coaches have been through this process in the UK and Europe. Over time, four distinct mind-frames emerged in how coaches perceive themselves and their practice. (Clutterback and Megginson, 2011).

These four levels of coaching maturity in coaching conversations are presented below (Clutterbuck, 2020, loc 575): 




Critical questions

  • How I take them where I think they need to go? 
  • How do I adapt my technique or model to this circumstance?




Critical questions

  • How do I give enough control to the client and still retain a purposeful conversation
  • What’s the best way to apply my process in this instance?




Critical questions

  • What can I do to help the client do this for themselves? 
  • How do I contextualize the client’s issue within the perspective of my philosophy or discipline?

 4.Systemic – eclectic



Critical questions

  • Are we both relaxed enough to allow the issue and the solution to emerge in whatever way they will? 
  • Do I need to apply any techniques or processes at all? If I do, what does the client context tell me about how to select from the wide choice available to me?

My over eight years of experience in executive leadership coaching has taught me that maturity lies somewhere on the continuum between philosophy-based and system-eclectic coaching approaches. The earlier we are in the coach-coachee relationship, the more philosophy-based approach is needed, and the more we mature in the relationship, the more I move to the systemic-eclectic enabling approach. A systemic-eclectic approach requires a high level of inner trust, fearlessness, the ability to let go of control and to allow space for the process of change to take place, and for solutions and answers to emerge. Clutterbuck (2020) explains that philosophy-based coaches integrate what they do as a coach with who they are as a person. This is more about BEING a coach. Systemic eclectic coaches ‘hold the client safely while the client has the conversation they need to have with themselves’.

Responsibility for making intrapersonal transformation happen is shared between the coach and coachee, and they both need a certain level of maturity. The coach is creating the environment for intrapersonal transformation to occur, while the coachee is creating openness within to explore new paradigms and make purposeful shifts based on committed actions. A Coach is ‘the vessel’, a coachee is ‘the space’. ‘The vessel’ defines the boundaries (safe environment) and the space is the unlimited potential unfolding, which take its shape during the inner work.

How about coachee maturity? According to Clutterbuck (2020, loc.594) this maturity is linked to the set of skills a coachee needs to possess. For instance, being able to have the courage and capability to ask for coaching and persevere throughout the process, the ability to articulate the issues on which they need help, to be able to reflect on the issue, both before and after the coaching conversation, to listen actively (this also includes asking for time to think at key points in the coaching conversation), and being open about both the relational and emotional elements of the issue.  

When the levels of coach and coachee maturity align, this becomes relational maturity, enabling depth in the coaching conversation, and the results can be exponential. Happily, I have been blessed to witness it.

I couldn’t agree more with Clutterbuck that:

“The volume of coaches who recognize the limitations of simplistic models, is growing, although the majority of people who call themselves coaches still operate at a very basic level, and accreditations based on number of hours of practice are largely meaningless.”  –   Clutterbuck (2020, loc. 623)

He suggests that the best way a one-to-one coach to be systemically aware is to become a team coach.

Food for thought!

Originally published in Forbes Bulgaria