The Coaching Relationship as a Crucible


Over the past month or so I’ve had a bunch of conversations with people thinking about coaching. In every conversation, the analogy comes…

“the coaching relationship is like a crucible”

Here’s how I’ll break this down:

Why is this a useful analogy for coach and client?
What is a crucible and how is this analogy relevant/interesting?
How to created and maintained a quality crucible.

Why is this a useful analogy for coach and client?

If you’re a coach you’ll be able to create more impact.

This is a useful tool for understanding exactly what it is that you’re doing in those sacred and special conversations before any financial commitment is made. You can use the crucible analogy to help your person understand why it’s worth investing in you and how investing in coaching will create change in their life.

If you’re considering coaching, or are already in a coaching relationship, you’ll be able to ensure you are getting your money’s worth. The crucible analogy will ensure you’re creating maximum impact in your life from the coaching work.

What is a crucible and how is this analogy relevant/interesting?

A crucible is a relatively small bowl-shaped vessel traditionally used for the practice of alchemy. Inside the crucible, the base metals (sometimes lead or copper) were heated to extreme temperatures. The traditional alchemists were hoping to create gold, or the ‘Elixir of Life’ from these metals.

Their experiments were pretty wacky and I’m not suggesting you attempt to repeat them.

What’s of interest to us is the nature and purpose of the crucible.

extremely strong when in integrity, useless with the slightest crack.
designed to withstand high temperatures and chemical reactions.

provides the space within which transformation (or alchemy) can take place
The online Mirriam-Webster dictionary also gives us this definition:

“a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development”

Can you begin to see how this analogy works?

A good coaching relationship is like a crucible:

  • It’s strong and powerful.
  • It’s a defined place, time or situation.
  • It’s designed so that transformation will take place.
  • It’s important that the relationship is in integrity, there are no cracks, otherwise change won’t happen.
  • And there are ‘concentrated forces that cause or influence change or development’(!)

How to created and maintained and quality crucible.

When entering into a coaching dialogue with a new person I use this analogy a lot. It’s the fundamental technology that supports and contains our work.

By speaking about the crucible and ensuring we’re both in understanding about it’s importance I’m creating it AND setting the high-bar for it’s onward maintenance.

We create the crucible by defining the ritualistic time and space within which coaching takes place. Times and locations for coaching are carefully chosen, we agree to enter them in a sacred and different way.

Every coaching interaction is framed by a bunch of agreements. These agreements are created through speaking about them and committing to uphold them. They’re maintained by engaging in a parallel conversation, alongside the content of your coaching work you are also holding ‘maintenance work’ conversations where you talk about the crucible and the agreements and whether you’re in alignment with them or not.

My coaching agreement are things like:

Confidentiality —
our conversations are an 100% safe space to speak about stuff that you might not normally share with anybody else. I told my first coach Hilary Jeanes embarrassing and personal things that I had never told anybody else, ever. Having my most deepest and darkest secrets held, loved and accepted (or even just heard) was intensely liberating and freeing. That’s powerful. That is what a quality coaching crucible can offer; intense liberation and freedom.

Integrity —
In our coaching space, you have the chance to be in 100% alignment with your thoughts, feelings, words and actions. If somebody commits to do a certain action by a certain date and they fail to, then we’re out of integrity. A crack has appeared in our coaching crucible and we’ve lost power.

It’s not safe to go deep, powerful and transformative if your crucible is cracked.

How to repair the crack?

As a pair, you need to acknowledge that a crack has appeared, have each other feel the loss in power, the ineffectiveness of a damaged crucible. If you are not committed to take action as a result of your coaching conversations then there is no point in coaching at all.

From this space you’re coming back into integrity, either recommit, decide on a different action, or explore why you failed to keep your commitment, there might be some valuable learning in there.

There’s a bunch of other concepts that are in my coaching agreements that I share with every new client.

Things like:

  • being authentic and talking about what might be uncomfortable
  • being coachable and allowing your thinking to be challenged
  • how coaching is a 200% relationship that we’re both responsible for
  • why it’s important I’m allowed to challenge you and be direct
  • why coaching is about serving you and not pleasing you

Habit 7 of Steve Covey’s ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ is ‘RENEWAL’. The crucible of your coaching relationship needs constant renewal. Bring it into every conversation, always have the parallel conversation of ‘how is our coaching working for you?’ open.

As the coach this is your technology to master, this is your service. Getting into this analogy will help you more powerfully serve your clients.

As a recipient of coaching it’s 100% your responsibility to ensure your coaching is powerful and having the necessary impact and change in your life. If it isn’t, challenge your coach. Ask to create a powerful set of agreements that will help you get what you want out of the arrangement.

If you want to explore the crucible analogy further with me I’d love that. It’s a constant process of renewal and refinement for me and I’d welcome engagement, challenge and questioning around the topic.

Chris Hardy
Chris Hardy