Coaching or advice: what do you need?

Our experts, Beat Geiser and Daniel Glinz, answer your questions.

cinfo offers both advice and coaching. What is the difference?

Beat Geiser: Advice sessions are used in those areas where cinfo has an advantage in terms of information and experience and, as a result, can take a clear position. Coaching, on the other hand, provides support in situations where we are not more knowledgeable than the person we are talking to. Of course, this balance of experience is also important in career advice, but to a lesser extent. Coaching and advice can never be clearly separated.

Daniel Glinz: In terms of coaching, it can also be said that we are very often prisoners of our own perspectives; our preconceived opinions and convictions restrict us. The task of the coach is to help people to question their convictions and find new perspectives. After this change of perspective has happened, the second step is to help the person harness their own resources to deal with their new situation. This can be achieved, for example, by taking up a new position.

cinfo offers packages of 1, 2 or 6 sessions. Can an issue really be dealt with in such a short time?

BG: And I answer with a counter question: what exactly is the issue?

DG: Imagine that you want to repaint a room. Sometimes it is enough to simply sand the walls and apply a new coat of paint to achieve the desired result. But often, under the paint, you find old wallpaper, or realise that the plaster is flaking off the wall. And then you need more time. Perhaps the process even leads to a complete renovation.

BG: And most of the time, it is beneficial to look very carefully before the renovation to find out exactly what is required. This is what we do at the beginning of every process: together with our clients, we find out what it is all about – in depth.

If I understand you correctly, advice can become coaching?

DG: Exactly – and vice versa! Some people already have a fairly clear idea about the advice they need. For example, they ask, "I would like to work in a cooperation project in Africa. Is that possible with my CV?" In the course of our consultation, however, they realise that their idea does not stem from a comprehensive analysis of the situation. Then the process can turn into coaching. It often happens, however, that after a few hours of coaching a person needs specific advice and wants to know, for ­example, what kind of organisation they can offer their services to.

BG: The content and method of our sessions always depend on the issues, questions, concerns, etc. that clients bring to the table. For example, a person comes to us with the question of how to get a job with SDCSwiss Agency for Development and Cooperation or UNICEFUnited Nations Children's Fund . As an advisor and coach, I am there to provide structure and to work out or clarify questions. In this case, it can mean drawing attention to the details of the person’s ideas, clarifying whether they have a realistic understanding of everyday life in the organisation in question. Or I can change the perspective by asking what they would like to do at SDC.

Regardless of whether a person originally signed up for coaching or career advice, the rule of thumb is that we work together to find the best way forward. We find ways for the person to free themselves of conflicts that are blocking them and become capable of acting again.

Should I inform my employer when I take the initiative to undertake career advice or coaching?

BG: I don't know. You can ask yourself the following questions: What do you expect from it? What is the relationship with your superiors, what is the culture of the organisation? What do you fear? What could be the advantages or opportunities of being open about it?

DG: Some employers seem to fear that employees only do coaching because they want to quit their jobs. But coaching can also lead the person to reposition themselves in their organisation, for example by taking on a role that better suits their skills and personal goals.

BG: Or even by better fulfilling the current role!

So why does my employer not inform me about this kind of service? Should they?

DG: It is clear that every good employer wants to attract and retain motivated, productive employees. For this reason, some organisations – including those involved in international cooperation – already offer coaching sessions for their employees. 

BG: Employers may not be aware of the full range of services available at cinfo, and that they can be useful to employees before reaching the end of their contract. Or they may not yet be aware of our coaching on everyday work issues. There are situations that can easily be discussed and clarified internally. Sometimes, however, an outside view and a different perspective is useful.

Should individual advice and coaching be one of the services offered to staff?

BG: I would like that.

DG: Any measure that leads to professional development and skills enhancement is welcome!

Are there alternatives if it is not possible to provide individual advice or coaching?

DG : We also offer group workshops for joint reflection, for example when there are major changes, transformations, crisis situations or reorganisation needs in an organisation. It is often advantageous to involve employees in identifying solutions.

BG : It is also about how best to use limited resources. Advice and coaching, like other investments, ­deliver returns over time and their beneficial results often come to light in unexpected or indirect ways. For example, our services can help build mutual trust within an organisation, or improve the work or satisfaction of employees – and therefore be worthwhile, even if it initially seems (too) expensive.

Get to know Beat Geiser
  • 25 years‘ work experience in the sector, including 15 years as a coach and career adviser
  • Certified professional coach

“What we perceive as a problem or obstacle is often a symptom that absorbs our attention. Clarifying a situation as a whole, understanding our own role and reactions as well as others‘ points of view, changes the shape and dimensions of the obstacle or question we are asking ourselves.“

Daniel Glinz >>>
Get to know Daniel Glinz
  • More than 15 years‘ work experience at the ICRC in various roles, from delegate to manager, team leader and trainer
  • Certified professional coach and trainer for adults

“Providing support to professionals in changing their own perspectives and helping them to reconnect with themselves – this is what we do in our coaching activity.“

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