Coaching enabled me to wake up. Coaching helped me access the joy I didn’t know I’d lost. Coaching was my doorway to self-leadership*. By experiencing coaching, seeing coaching in action, experiencing the way coaching opened my thinking, I learned to coach. Its power has me propelled me along my personal and professional path for the past 10 years.
In my work, I’ve been hearing the term coaching used a lot. I’m always curious what it means to people. If you ask 10 people what coaching is, you are likely to get 10 different answers. It’s what a sports coach does, it’s like a counselor, something a psychologist does, it’s for executives…My answer is this:
OK, that’s the poetic answer. Here’s another less artistic attempt:
Coaching is an approach to bringing out the best in someone. To coach effectively is to see the brilliance in the other person and truly want to see them flourish.
Coaching requires paying attention. It requires caring, interest, trust. It requires a commitment to being in relationship. It involves guiding another person on a path that will enable them to grow. Coaching involves listening, asking (open-ended) questions, supporting the person in finding their own answers. It might involve telling, if the other person is open to receiving. Coaching is about helping another person trust their experiences, tune in to their intuition, discover their insights. It involves reaching clarity about choices, intentions and goals, about action. It provides accountability, redirects when needed, and celebrates successes, even the littlest one. It opens, inspires, and enlivens.
Coaching happens within a relationship between two people. To be successful both individuals are committed and actively play their roles. There is an alliance, a contract (whether formal and explicit or informal and implied) built on trust – trust that the coach has the individual’s best interests at heart and trust that the coachee is open to change and willing to take action to move in a positive direction.
Coaching is a complex process, yet its essence is simple. Want to be a better coach? There are three places to focus:
- Be present.
- Listen intently.
- Ask powerful questions.
One step begets the other so start with being present. You can practice with anyone: your spouse or partner, your mother or father, your siblings or kids (maybe even your dog!), a peer, an employee, your boss. When you find yourself with someone – sitting across the table or desk, on the telephone, sitting or standing quietly side by side – I find it’s helpful to pause and notice the relationship.
- Who is this person?
- What brings us together?
- What are they likely to be feeling?
- What do I want to know about them?
- What could I create with them in this moment?
Then, with greater clarity about your purpose and intention, be quiet. Listen. Listen to the energy. Listen to what the other person says (and doesn’t say). Put yourself over there with the other person. It’s from this place of understanding that questions may arise.
- What am I hearing?
- What do they want?
- How can I be of service?
- What do I see as possible for him or her?
Be curious. Trust your intuition. Explore feelings, ideas, possibilities. Give your companion the gift of getting outside of yourself and coming over to where they are. Guide them in going where they want to go – use questions to pull them in the direction of their intentions, aspirations, hopes and dreams.
You can be an expert at coaching – get training, become certified, practice with high powered clients. And, you can ‘be an everyday coach’. An everyday coach focuses on their own growth and the growth of others. An everyday coach is of service to others. Coaches are everywhere, as the lovely little poem from one of my coaching partners, so sweetly put it. Join the crowd. Be an everyday coach today!
* That’s a term my friend Maureen Monte uses in her coaching that I like because it puts you at the center of leadership in your work and in your life.
Photo is courtesy of Silvia Mihailescu, an IBM colleague from Romania on assignment in Japan, taken at Kamakura Daibutsu (3/8/14). Thank you, Silvia, for the gift of your beautiful photography!