Well, who doesn’t need someone who’s 100% on your side, celebrates with you when you make progress, helps you make sense of the times you are stuck – or when you come unstuck? Oh, and someone who challenges you to see new (and usually the more positive stuff) you miss about yourself so that you can live your best life yet?
Who doesn’t need that? And who doesn’t want that? I know I do.
Yes, there are some who are a little skeptical, doubtful or uncertain about taking part in the process of connecting with a coach, but that’s often because they are unsure about what to expect. Perhaps not knowing how a coach works, being judged, being told what to do, not being told what to do! Worries about confidentiality or the fear about facing themselves and the inevitable change they’ve spent half their life avoiding.
“It’s always the results and the outcomes which are powerful for people when they experience either one-to-one or team coaching. Insights come which may never have appeared, had they just been in an ordinary conversation with someone who agreed with their every word.” Anonymous Coaching Client
Almost everyone reading this probably already has someone in their lives they can rely on to talk to and support them. True. But when people we know and love – and those who love us (family, friends, colleagues) – hear our life stories, our challenges, our repeated frustrations or our routine moans and groans, they often can’t help but give us advice.
I know, because I do the same. We all do. Everyone falls into that trap of offering their wisdom (whether it’s invited or not) to those who share their everyday challenges. It’s part of being human. And part of conversation.
Or, they share their own story in return, of the time they too had that problem. Or perhaps they tell us to just get on with it, or to stop being so sensitive, boring, judgemental…blah, blah, blah…[fill in the blank]. You get the picture.
Then, before we know it, we’re back into role; either listening to them, comforting them, telling them ‘never mind, it doesn’t matter’ – or playing whatever character we usually play in that everyday relationship dynamic.
It’s completely different when you work with a coach though. Here’s how:
Take Your Space
The space you and a coach share, is yours. A coach creates a confidential* space for you. Listens to you, asks you questions for clarification and then helps you make sense of what it is you might be grappling with in that moment.
They are completely focused on you and what you want to achieve. It’s not about them, it’s all about you. Coaches will not indulge in telling you about themselves or ‘joining in the conversation’ in any old ordinary way (unless it’s something specific or relevant to your personal development, growth and change that they’re consciously sharing).
Their job is to listen carefully to the words, the themes, the threads and the energy of what you are saying so that they can be objective and compassionate listeners to everything about your message and your story.
Your words are just one part of the picture. They are listening, watching out for and mindful of emerging and underlying patterns in your thinking, feelings and potential beliefs that might be holding you back, hindering your progress or in conflict with what you say you want to achieve.
Questions. Questions. Questions.
Good coaching involves coaches asking good questions. So how do you recognise a good question? Well, it can be a bit like comedy. As well as good material (the content of the question) it’s all about the timing.
If the coach asks you a question that invites you to think differently about your situation or the challenge you’re sharing, that’s probably a good question. Equally, if the question is something which makes you go inside yourself in order to retrieve new thoughts, feelings, notice new observations, or question some current reality, that too is probably going to be a good question.
Having the time to think about a question you’re being asked by a coach is also crucial. If a coach answers it for you, makes coercive suggestions or the question feels rhetorical or leading, that’s less likely to be a good question (and could even be the coach’s agenda they have in mind for you!)
Good questions are usually clearly asked, simple, concise and provoke reflection, insight and introspection. Listen out for those.
Do You Like a Challenge?
I sometimes wonder if the word ‘challenge’ in coaching is the right one because the ‘challenging’ which coaches undertake always takes place with curiosity, kindness and in the spirit of supporting a client’s goals and intentions, rather than from a place of judgement, criticism or blame (which connotations of the word ‘challenge’ evoke in me, at least).
They definitely want to understand – and help – you. They are not there to challenge in a ‘why on earth did you do that?’ kind of way, to criticise when you feel like you’ve failed, lost motivation or you can’t see the wood for the trees. No. They’re genuinely curious about what happened, where you may have been falling down a rabbit-hole or if some old, energetic pattern has gotten you caught-up in doing what you wholly intended not to do.
And remember, sometimes, a simple and straightforward question can also be experienced as challenging. Especially if you’ve tried to avoid answering that very question for many years, or it challenges your current view of yourself, others or the world around you.
So, What’s In It For Me?
This is exactly what you should be asking yourself! In essence, working with a coach can help you in a myriad of ways. If you’re worried about taking steps toward a better future, stuck in a rut after a big life-change – like losing your job, the death of a loved one, divorce, retirement or after getting married (yes, really) or having a baby – know that working with a coach can support you in gaining new perspectives, renewed inspiration and motivation for moving on and starting afresh.
You can gain a profound sense of perspective and encouragement as you navigate these completely normal (but sometimes tricky) life stages and challenges.
Let’s face it, we all go through stuff. We all experience feeling stuck from time-to-time, the pain of grief, loss, frustration – or the desire for something new, but not knowing where or how to begin. Sometimes, we put up with specific areas of our lives being much less than we had hoped for or dreamed about, purely because we’ve gotten used to it being that way.
Working with a coach can challenge deep disappointments – for a life not lived, our children not becoming what we had hoped, shock at not getting that promotion we’d worked so hard for – so that the energy can be shifted towards creating something more nourishing and satisfying. The energy of ‘feeling better’. Of living well.
The list is endless, as I’m sure you already know, but remember this – connecting with a coach doesn’t always have to feel like you have a problem to be fixed! Sometimes you just know you want something new, but feel afraid to get started or don’t quite know how to approach it. That might be setting up a new business, travelling the world, making a new start somewhere, experimenting with a completely new lifestyle or just exploring new ways of relating to yourself and others.
You know, those niggling dreams that won’t go away until you at least get them out of your head and explore them? That’s what a coach can help with. And all the other life-stuff too.
“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” Roy. T Bennett, The Lightness in the Heart
There are always new and different ways forward. Sometimes, though, we know we’re sitting in the passenger seat of life allowing someone else to drive us up a hill that’s too steep, in a direction we don’t want, while they have their foot on the brakes, not caring whether we’re there or not. And that makes life hard work.
A coach will help you find the confidence to climb into your own driving seat, use the right gears to journey down a road of your choosing, with the roof down, the radio on and the wind in your hair as you swing around those bends appreciating the scenery as you go!
Yes, you’ll do those quick-checks in your rear-view mirror as you see what’s behind you, but you won’t stare too long, as you’ll want to focus on the road ahead.
So, who the hell needs a coach now? We all do. Who wants one? Those who are sick and tired of being sick and tired. Those who are ready to live a little more than before and those who want to get (back) into their driving seat of life and enjoy the ride. Which one are you?
*the professional boundaries of confidentiality should always be discussed and agreed with you by your coach.