It takes two

Is it possible to coach two people together to a better working relationship? Discovering there was no precedent for pairs coaching, Dave Thornton and Val Sampson developed their own model based on couple therapy As coaches we all appreciate the importance of the one-to-one relationship with our clients. Which is why coaching two people at the same time might seem impossible – or at least a considerable challenge. However, it is possible to work effectively with two individuals to create a better working relationship – and improve their joint performance. The idea for pairs coaching originated two years ago, halfway […]

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1 reply
  1. phil hayes
    phil hayes says:


    I have been coachng pairs for quite some time. About half the time it has been repair work, where a relationship has gone wrong in some way, but the rest has been helping people to improve their relationship or accelerate development. I have found it useful to follow this process:
    1) Speak first with each client separately. Get their view of the relationship, asking questions like:
    – How do you see the relationship currently?
    – What is going well?
    – What is not going well?
    – How important is this relationship on a scale of 1-10?
    – How motivated are you to improve it on a scale of 1-10?
    –What do you want to see in future?
    – What needs to happen for that to happen?
    – What responsiblity do you have for making it happen as you want it?
    – What could sabotage the process?
    – What would have to happen to prevent any such sabotage?

    Sometimes I might use an exercise like the meta-mirror to help each client identify resources they could bring to the relationship.

    I would contract with each individual for me to refer back to some or all of this material in pairs sessions.

    The next step would be a joint meeting. In this I would contract jointly on:

    – Key outcomes for the session(s)
    – Clear groundrules on behaviour
    – A clear mandate for me as a coach

    I generally find it useful to contract that each client would have 10-15 minutes uninterrupted time for them to describe what they want from the relationship and how they feel this can be achieved. I would pause to allow for some clarifying questions for each client before proceeding to open discussion. Generally speaking each session would end with action points and mutual feedback and an agreement as to what further sessions might be needed.

    Obviously the methodology varies depending on specific circumstances but the general principle of the individual meeting followed by the joint meeting seems to work well.

    Phil Hayes

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