When I first trained as an Executive Coach back in 2011, I had already been working with people in one form or another for about 15 years. My assumption was that coaching was just another form of training.
What happened in those initial 12 months dramatically changed my whole approach to how I work with people.
Since coaching is future-focused, results orientated and action driven, it's perfect for anyone who is looking to improve one or many areas of their life.
The most transformational thing about coaching is how it taps into our natural ability to figure things out, make new connections and change neural pathways in the brain.
This 'deep change' acts like a chain reaction resulting in not only a different set of beliefs but a change in daily habits, behaviours and the likelihood of people achieving their goals.
From my own observations the recipe to successful coaching includes the following ingredients:
Let's take a fly-by at each of these ingredients in a little more detail.
I remember learning to tap dance as a kid. I'd spend hours practicing shuffles, pickups and combination drills. These were the building blocks that created strength, speed and made it easy to pick up routines. With practice, these skills became second nature.
For me, questions in coaching are the same thing. You have to practice the art of questioning. The questions you ask in a coaching session are the catalysts for change.
In order to ask the right questions, it's crucial that you are really 'listening' on many different levels:
For the most part, you are making your best guests with the above. By listening on a deep level, you're more likely to offer a question that connects.
A few guidelines for the right type of question include being:
A simple activity you can try on your own is to become 'aware' of how you 'talk to yourself', what 'questions you ask'. It's surprising how easy it is to ask ourselves questions that create blockers.
Try this out on the next conversation you have. Choose an appropriate time and rather than responding with an opinion or question, leave a gap in the conversation. What you'll most likely observe is that gap being filled (fairly quickly) by the person you're having the conversation with.
It's natural for people to 'fill the space' in conversation. When coaching, this space is where change really happens. As a coach, you have to get comfortable with uncomfortable silences.
If I ask you, "what do you want to achieve in the next 6 months?". You will probably come up with a number of ideas. If I continue to get you to clarify why you want the things you want, at some point you're going to have to dig deeper, you may even feel 'stuck'.
"This 'stuck' moment is a perfect time to figure out how to become 'unstuck'."
For me, finding those stuck moments are exciting, as 9 times out of 10 they lead to a moment of clarity or inspiration!
When working as an actor, you spend your life seeing through the eyes of your characters. You train yourself to empathise with all sorts of different people, different belief systems, different goals, aspirations, wants and needs.
Here's the thing, you can't play a character you don't empathise with. When I played a heroin addict, I had to understand his world, know why he thought the way he did and what made him act in a specific way.
This skill has served me well as a coach. If you judge the person in front of you, you can never truly understand them and if you don't understand someone, you can't build the level of trust to ask the really 'hard' questions.
Having zero judgement is one of the hardest skills to engage with and one of the most rewarding.
When you don't judge, give people space to think and ask questions with curiosity, not only do you create a high-level of rapport, people really feel like you get them.
Now, to be clear, when you're involved in a coaching process it's definitely not all comfy conversations, in fact, it can feel quite the opposite.
However, with the right environment, you set the scene for the type of challenge that creates shifts in behaviour.
Sticking with the last ingredient, when you offer challenge to a client, there can't be any judgement. It must be done with an intention to raise internal awareness and manifest self-discovery.
"What people create, they own."
By challenging in a way that facilitates this type of creation, not only will the recipient of a coaching session experience change, they will also be much more motivated to follow through on their findings.
If you're on the other end of a coaching session, you'll find that the insights you get will switch between Transactional and Transformational.
Both are valid. What makes the coaching/client relationship highly valuable is having a contract to 'act upon those insights'
This action, be it internal or external is really what creates the momentum to break through challenges and achieve goals.
One thing I've found particularly useful is to give people an experience that lets them understand how to create habits in their life.
The simplest strategy I've found for this is Tiny Habits®, created by BJ Fogg, a behaviour scientist at Stanford. A few years back I become a coach in Tiny Habits, initially for my own goals and then incorporated it into my work.
Having this skill gives people the choice to create habits and behaviours that don't rely on a bunch of motivation or willpower. It sets up change to happen in the background, take root and grow into strong behaviours, steering clearly away from the 'quick fix' mindset.
Here's the thing, accountability isn't about you being accountable to someone else. If you set up accountability in this way, it's always going to fail.
For accountability to really work, it has to come from the individual.
"You have to be accountable to yourself."
For a coach, this is the type of accountability you're looking to encourage. A level of self-awareness and honesty that improves the success of following through.
Using this recipe, a coach's job is to work with you to figure out:
If the following resonates with you then coaching could be right for you.
Most coaches offer a free discovery or clarity session. This is a great way for both the Coach and the Coachee to see if they're a good fit for each other.
My advice would be to try out some of these sessions and find a Coach you connect with.
As someone who runs a lot of these sessions, it's just as important to me to feel like the coachee is someone I can make a positive contribution too.
In essence, it really is a partnership you are setting up, so it has to be right before you jump in on both sides.
Love to get your thoughts on this post, your experiences of coaching (if you're a coach) or if are currently being coached or thinking about it.