How Coaching Works At Ezra
Thom Wright, Ezra's Master Coach, discusses the process, workflow and approach to coaching, and explains how it works when engaging with Ezra rather than a traditional provider.
This blog describes what Ezra coaching is, and what it isn’t. It’s for our coaches, our clients, our participants, our colleagues and our friends, to help us to describe what coaching means when you add the word “Ezra” to it.
First and foremost – coaching at Ezra is real coaching, with ICF accredited (or equivalent) professional coaches doing their amazing work via an online platform. It is every bit as real as a face-to-face coach, and many of our coaches are seasoned executive coaches with many years of experience in the field.
So what can I expect Ezra coaching to be like?
An Ezra coach looks at the whole person. There isn’t a standard program, a typical intervention, or a normal coaching experience, in the same way that none of us are ‘standard’, ‘typical’ or ‘normal’. Ezra coaches embrace the chaotic, multifaceted, unpredictable nature of adult development, meeting each coachee wherever they are in their learning journey.
Our philosophy is to be performance-focused – we aim to support people to achieve more, better, faster. A coach is there to help you see the world differently, to reframe, to break through and become the best version of you that you can be. This is not counseling. This is not therapy. If people want to talk about how their parents screwed them up, we can pass on a number, but it’s not what we are here for.
Ezra coaches work on the principle of supporting you to develop your own answers to problems. An Ezra coach will use a broad range of approaches and techniques to encourage you to become a more effective version of yourself. We believe in the people we coach; we believe you are whole and resourceful when we meet you, and that our challenge is to support you to reach new heights.
What are Ezra coaches like?
Ezra coaches, hundreds of them worldwide, come from every imaginable background, from every industry, function, and country. They are as richly diverse a group of people as you could wish to meet. We work incredibly hard to ensure our coaching bench is representative of the populations they serve.
And they’re pros. They all have hundreds of hours of coaching experience. They are all highly trained to at least ACC (Associate Certified Coach) level with the ICF (International Coaching Federation) or equivalent, which means they all share a specific skill – the ability to coach. The ability to place their coachee in the spotlight and switch off their judgment. The ability to enter into an intensely focused, supportive and, at times, challenging frame of mind that accelerates the progress of their coachee towards whatever goals they have set themselves.
As such, the background and expertise of the coach might not be particularly important. A coach that knows your industry, your function, or even your role intimately will have to work hard to stay in ‘coach mode’ and not drop into a teacher (“this is the best way”) or mentor (“have you considered doing it this way”) mode. We all need teachers and mentors in our lives, and occasionally an Ezra coach can be that person – but that isn’t their primary role.
Your coach is there to help you unlock your inner capabilities, develop your awareness of self, and understand how to self-diagnose and self-solve the situations you meet in life. They are there to support you to become a more active learner, to deepen your complexity of thought. Their technical insight into your situation is not terribly important. What matters more is that they are a great coach – and we set a very high bar on who gets to become an Ezra coach.
Moving the process online has driven some logistical changes from more traditional face-to-face employee coaching interactions:
- Sessions are shorter – typically 45-60 minutes long (face-to-face sessions are more typically 60-90 minutes).
- Sessions happen more often – typically twice a month (face-to-face sessions are more often monthly). This keeps the learning fresh and active.
- Sessions are unlimited – you can have as many as you want for no extra cost (face-to-face interventions are often either capped at a certain number, or you pay as you go).
The coaching framework
The initial framework for a coaching conversation is simply “why are we doing this?” It might be because someone is preparing for a new role, or because they want to get better at driving change, or they’ve just become a manager for the first time. These are all frames to help anchor the coaching conversation.
Traditional coaching interventions often have learning frames that are unique to each individual, and at Ezra this is still largely true. What is also true is that we often coach at a larger scale too, with hundreds, sometimes thousands of coachees signing into the platform as part of a single cohort, meaning that there is usually a ‘cohort-level’ frame for leadership coaching as well.
Some examples of cohort-level frames include:
- Becoming more coach-like in interactions as a line manager;
- Leading through uncertainty;
- Leading more inclusively;
- Becoming an effective first-time manager;
- Returning to work from a prolonged period of leave.
Our coaches use these frameworks to help them understand the context in which the coaching is taking place. After that, the direction in which the conversation goes will depend on the individual’s specific requirements. This way, every coaching intervention is tailored, but delivered within a cohort-level context that allows the organization to drive towards a certain outcome.
The way Ezra works, and our research into what individuals choose to focus on, shows that organizations can afford to be relatively relaxed, knowing that the right conversations will happen in a large-scale coaching intervention.
Each Ezra coachee is asked to signal at the beginning of the intervention which three goals they would like to focus on. These three are selected from a shortlist of up to 12, which will have been selected by their organization from the master set of 35 that sit in Ezra’s Development Framework.
We carefully track which goals our clients select to create the cohort-level frame, and which three goals individuals select from there. We know the selection at the individual level is meaningful because:
- Individuals select goals that they and their line managers score lowest in the initial Ezra Measure process (our competency assessment questionnaire). I.e., they select the goals that represent their required development areas.
- Individuals show greater improvement on their selected goals than on the other goals that form their cohort level frame. I.e., they make greater progress on the goals they select personally vs. those they don’t.
What we also see is that organizations and individuals broadly select the same goals. It seems that the pressures and challenges experienced at the organizational level are, by and large, the same experienced at the individual level. So, suppose the big challenge facing an organization is delivering change in a state of ambiguity and chaos. In that case, you can be very confident that coachees from that organization will ‘over-index’ on the Ezra goals of “Leading Change” and “Resilience”.
What’s critical to bear in mind is that in this scenario, not everyone would make that selection. In fact, it would probably be less than half. And this is why giving coachees as much freedom as possible to create their own personal frame-within-a-frame is so important. It is also what makes coaching such a sticky and embedded approach, because it doesn’t deal with the majority at the expense of everyone else; rather, it embraces the fact that everyone needs something different, even when we are all working to achieve an overarching common goal.
The key differences
The differences between using the Ezra coaching app, where everything is done virtually, and a traditional face-to-face coaching intervention, are perhaps less significant than at first they might appear.
At their heart, the process is the same – it’s about inviting people to become more active agents in their own development, in encouraging a complexity and depth of thought that allows them to see more and further than they could before. This can be profoundly beneficial not just for the individual, but for the organization too.
The key difference is the price. By removing the need for travel, reducing the administrative burden, and streamlining a whole host of other associated activities, our coaches can focus on coaching. We’ve taken out things like three-way meetings with line managers – these can be put back in, but we’ve found they are not always necessary, and tend to add cost without adding enough value. This allows us to make coaching available to people who would not have had access in the past. This democratization is what Ezra is all about: bringing a transformative, accelerated development experience to everyone.