How are you? How are you really?
During this time of immense change on Earth, some of us are invigorated; some flailing. Both are important places to be. I believe everyone has a unique curriculum to learn and it’s unfair to compare your beginning to another person’s middle to yet another person’s end. In recent months, I’ve written about loss and about judgment to help you navigate the intense emotions that are prevalent in 2020. Today, I want to share ideas about something more positive and more personal: coaching. How I came to do it, what I believe it is, and how you can step powerfully into a practice of coaching both yourself and others.
Because a shift in identity may be what the world could benefit from right now.
Once upon a time, we turned to celebrities and athletes for entertainment and guidance, but for the most part, we cannot do that anymore. The movie studios, theme parks, and even sports stadiums sit idle. In this vacuum, we are paying attention to new voices…the ones closest to us.
We are looking to our family members, friends, and colleagues for guidance, and it’s a beautiful thing. I believe the practice of coaching should reach beyond athletics, celebrities, and business leaders. All people deserve a coach. Fortunately, they will get one. In the Age of Aquarius, everyone will become coaches as hierarchical power is decentralized, peer-to-peer learning replaces formal rote learning, and more people share their pain-to-purpose journey authentically. Open communication and vulnerability are slowly becoming commonplace, and I celebrate it.
To nudge this process along, I’d like to share a bit about my journey in coaching, and help you understand how you can join me.
From an International MBA to My True Calling
In 2009, as a second year MBA student at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, I was invited to coach and edit resumes and cover letters for first year students. In this new role, I experienced an almost immediate sensation of flow. Hours would go by and I would hardly notice. I had clearly been aligned with my curriculum, my life’s purpose. And more and more people started to notice.
My colleagues at Banner Health—where I accepted an offer after completing my degree— requested I provide coaching to them. I loved doing so. The career coaching I gave evolved into communication coaching. I launched my own coaching business in 2011. I love helping people uncover how they can be the person they needed when they were younger. I love helping those who are disengaged at work or unhappy in life become deeply engaged. If someone is feeling unappreciated, not living up to their potential, failing to achieve a sense work-life integration, or feeling restricted, I help them.
I coached at the W. P. Carey School of Business in 2013 guiding working professional students. In 2015 and 2016, I developed advanced processes for coaching executives on personal branding. Today, I use each experience mentioned thus far to coach leaders on change management, and design and implement organizational strategy for medium-sized businesses. Looking back, as the years passed, I was intentionally transforming who I was by having new experiences that helped me align more and more leaders. All of these ideas, resources, and tools parts form the backbone of my new book I KNOW, which will be available later this year.
A few years back, I surveyed my clients and asked what pieces of my coaching were the most helpful to them. They said that I listened more deeply than others in their lives. That stuck with me: why aren’t humans listening to one another? As we ride 2020’s wave of awakening, it’s okay to slow down, to get quiet, and to tune in both to our inner voices and to the intricate details of the stories of those close to us.
What Is a Coach?
Allow me to start by telling you what a coach is not. A coach is not a:
- Counselor: a licensed therapist trained to bring meaning to past events and to help you overcome obstacles and challenges
- Mentor: a professional mentor shares his/her journey to spark ideas and can be the source of ideas, support, and answers
- Consultant: a consultant provides expert advice and implementation guidance on tried and true business best practices
A coach is a special kind of guide on our life’s journey—someone who focuses on asking powerful how, what, and why questions. She believes the person she is working with is creative, resourceful, whole, and capable of finding his/her own answers to work and life challenges. A coach develops trust, a deep bond, and psychological safety to encourage vulnerability and calculated risk-taking. She creates the environment for individual growth, purposeful action, and sustained improvement while maintaining privacy, confidentiality, and integrity.
If any piece of this sounds like something you’d like to do for yourself or others, wonderful! Welcome to the club. There are many excellent formal coach training programs for those who wish to pursue this path professionally—I recommend looking into the International Coaching Federation (ICF)—but in the meantime, I offer my advice here on what makes a great coach. No matter what your title happens to be, you can coach. I hope you’ll consider it.
Best Coaching Practices
1. A coach can lovingly call someone out on their bullshit. Coaching someone is different than being their friend. Yes, both a coach and a friend can see the best version of you. But a coach actually asks insightful questions to help the individual grow into that up-leveled version by recognizing and no longer repeating old patterns.
2. A coach judges no one. He or she simply improves themselves and leads by example. A coach never stops learning.
3. A coach points out how all events are designed for our learning or our benefit. We cannot change the past, but we can change how we perceive and give meaning to it. To reframe an experience in terms of what you learned is a great way to release negative feelings.
4. A coach can incorporate a discussion of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). It is only by acknowledging and processing the traumas of our past that we can move toward our future as lighter and freer versions of ourselves. The best coaches help us to do so.
5. A coach believes humans are more similar than dissimilar and rapidly identifies patterns of behavior based on what he or she has observed in others.
6. A coach sees the consequences or downstream effects of decisions. A coach can talk through possible effects of an action to guide an individual to better outcomes in a shorter timeframe. For example, I recently coached someone about three possible outcomes that could occur as a result of his owning up to questionable behavior at work. By talking through consequences of all three, I helped him feel confident in proceeding with his plan and moving beyond his mistakes with his eyes wide open.
7. A coach manufactures learning experiences as words alone don’t teach. A coach usually avoids offering advice because it doesn’t lead to lasting changes. Instead, we help individuals learn by doing something new and reflecting on it. I recently had a client keep a pain journal for two weeks so she could see for herself the effects of her habits. The experience led her to make new choices about how she treated the people who worked for her.
8. A coach notices when there is a disconnect in body language and chosen words. When you aren’t being honest with yourself, a coach will notice. We rely behavioral patterns and on intuition to get to the heart of the matter. A good coach notices when someone is trying to stray from his or her curriculum and doesn’t let us hide.
Celebrities, athletes, and business leaders no longer offer guidance that is as valuable as what you can find within yourself. As a beginner coach, it is important you only coach on experiences you’ve encountered personally. By helping others overcome the same challenges you’ve overcome, you’ll operate from a place of true alignment and integrity. People tend to trust people like themselves more than they trust government officials, CEOs, the media, etc. Share your story openly. Create safe spaces for others to be authentic. Meet people where they are. No matter your background, your education or your job title, you can coach yourself and others.
We are living through significant and lasting societal change. In this tumult, there is an opportunity to practice acceptance and to help others. I’d like to leave you with a quote from the ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality.”
If you’d like to discuss ways to hone your team’s coaching skills, please reach out for a consultation.