7 Secrets of Coaching
The coaching industry can seem a little mysterious to those on the outside. Perceptions range from coaches’ ability in “solving problems” to “coaches have it all figured out”. People contemplating on becoming a coach can be confused as they wonder which coaching certification to pursue from the plethora available. Personally, I feel that coaching is made out to be a lot more complicated than it is or should be. At the most fundamental level, coaching is about connecting with others and self.
Here are 7 secrets of my of coaching experience. The caveat here is that I consider myself an unconventional coach by the industry norms – insofar as my journey to become a coach started accidentally and I did not start with the conventional certification route. However, I have had a wonderful journey of self-discovery through my practice and feel that my unconventional approach has consistently stretched me and helped me to make a bigger impact on my clients. Here are my 7 secrets.
- Start coaching others – just start
Prior to coaching others, I had read books on coaching and the general sense I got was that a person needed to learn “tools” and “techniques” in order to coach others. Starting with the basic GROW model and then various other techniques. Although it was comforting to have this basic model on hand when I held my first coaching session, I quickly realised that the model is a very small part of what coaching is really about.
The basic ingredient of coaching is to listen attentively, ask powerful questions and to keep breathing. When I am coaching, my focus is on the client in front of me but I am also constantly checking into my breath. If I find that I have knots in my stomach, I take deep breaths and continue coaching. I find that the calmer I feel within myself, the better I can coach. This basic concept I learnt by coaching others.
By the way, just start coaching. You don’t need to wait for anyone to tell you when it is alright for you to start. Just start. That first session is where your learning begins and it will continue to grow.
- Being coached – you must
One of the most powerful learning experiences I have had is to be coached myself. The feeling of having my coach’s undivided attention is powerful and motivates me to keep looking into myself. Being coached has raised my level of self-awareness by highlighting my blind spots and areas which I should consider focusing on. For example, I brought up a coaching session with a client which was not going particularly well. My coach guided me into inquiring what I was learning about myself through this experience. This “mirror in the mirror” conversation with a coach has been especially useful to me as I feel more confident as the experience of coaching is a twin journey where I have grown as much as my clients.
- Inquiry Questions I frequently ask myself
A fundamental principle of coaching is to always enquire about myself and my practice. My development comes from enquiry and being a reflective practitioner. Questions that I often ask myself are:
- Who am I now as a coach?
- Why am I doing this work?
- What am I learning?
- What am I struggling with?
- What am I celebrating?
The questions may change depending on what has occurred during my coaching practice. But the key idea is to keep asking questions to self.
- Reading and reflecting – again, you must
The importance of re-reading books and reflecting on them is not mentioned often. I have noticed that I pick up new messages after I re-read books. Another layer I have added when I re-read is to ask myself how the material relates to my current life experience. I notice that this reflection helps me to understand and retain the material better. Reading is key to keeping up to date with the industry and to have an overview of personal development theories.
- Similarities of coaching and facilitation at workshops
There are similarities between coaching, small group facilitation and large group facilitation. Having eye contact, breathing, staying centred and being open to ideas are some of the similarities. Coaching and facilitation both require total attention on the person in front of you and above all requires a curious mind rather than making judgements. These similarities suggest that coaches can make good facilitators too and I feel that coaches should facilitate to continually stretch themselves by standing in front of a crowd.
- Journaling and blogging
One of the most powerful and simple tools I have picked up over the last 2 years is journaling. Journaling helps me in my learning because it encourages me to (1) write down my learning points for the day (2) think about what went well and could have been better (3) re-look at my notes after some time to review progress and consider themes that may be emerging for me. Journaling keeps my enquiry on-going and has also helped with converting some of my journal material into blog posts.
- Breathing – you really must
The single more useful thing I have learnt through coaching is the power of the breath. A simple and fundamental reflex for us humans but one which I had taken for granted for a long time. A Chi master told me that I needed to work on my breath and I have been trying to do that ever since. Every time I focus on my breath, I feel so much more grounded and find the ability to continue with my work in the moment. Thus every day I make a conscious effort to focus and do my deep breathing. I know now that the busier I am, the more this is needed.
So there you have it – the 7 secrets that have made me the unconventional coach that I am. You will notice that I hardly speak about the conventional tools and techniques of coaching but rather focus on the connection with self. I love my journey and my only piece of advice for anyone contemplating coaching as a career is to keep your self-enquiry going and do get yourself a coach 🙂