When I first trained as an Executive Coach back in 2013, I had already been working with people in one form or since 1995. I assumed 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 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 practising 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.
Questions in coaching are the same thing. You have to practice this art. The questions you ask in a coaching session are the catalysts for change.
To ask the right questions, you must be 'listening' on many different levels:
For the most part, you are making your best guesses 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 questions include:
A simple activity you can try on your own is to become 'aware' of how you 'talk to yourself' and 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. What you'll most likely observe is that gap is filled (reasonably quickly) by the other person.
It's natural for people to 'fill the space' in conversation. When coaching, this space is where change 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 six months?". You will probably come up with several ideas. If I continue to get you to clarify why you want those things, 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'."
Finding those stuck moments are exciting, as nine times out of ten, 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 when you have no empathy. 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 feel like you get them.
Now, to be clear, when you're involved in a coaching process, it's 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 a challenge to a client, there can't be any judgement. Instead, you ask intending to raise internal awareness and manifest self-discovery.
"What people create. They own. What they own, they act upon"
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 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 most straightforward 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.
Sharing this skill offers a 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 healthy behaviours, steering 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 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.
A coach's purpose is to create an environment where you can figure out:
If the following resonates, then coaching could be right for you.
Most coaches offer a free discovery or clarity session, providing the opportunity for both Coach and Coachee to see if they're a good fit.
My advice would be to try out some of these sessions and find a Coach you have a rapport with and who will offer you the right level of challenge.
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 to.
In essence, it is a partnership you are establishing, so it has to be right before you jump in on both sides.
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