Hesitantly, I picked up the call.
“This is Darcy.”
“Hi Darcy, this is Jonathan. I want to give you some feedback on the coach I worked with recently on your team.”
I paused, bracing myself inwardly. This one could go either way. His boss had reached out to arrange for the coaching because, while Jonathan was excellent at the technical aspects of his job, he was not doing well navigating the relationships with his colleagues and customers.
“Sure, Jonathan. I’d love to hear your thoughts!”
“Well, it wasn’t what I was expecting at all. I thought it was going to be the coach telling me what to do. In reality, my coach helped me get unstuck by uncovering my challenges and working through the obstacles. It was powerful to have someone truly committed to helping me create new awareness and to identifying the steps I needed to take to move forward. But I have to say, I didn’t realize how much work I’d have to do on my end!”
Good coaching is life-changing
We hear stories like Jonathan’s (name changed) all the time.
A good coach will help you uncover your blind spots – which sometimes involves having to state truths that may be tough to hear! They will get deeply curious, they’ll explore new perspectives, and then they’ll help design accountability as you identify steps to get you closer to your goals.
The effect of this work is powerful – life-changing, even. I sometimes come across clients who tell me they’ve achieved more in three months of coaching than they had in three years on their own. This isn’t because the coach did the work for them. It’s because the coach asked the right questions to develop clarity and knocked out the obstacles, one by one.
(And gave the client the occasional kick in the pants, if that’s what they designed would be most beneficial in the coaching partnership!)
What coaching is NOT
Anybody can tell you what to do. And there are plenty of people who call themselves coaches who do exactly that, as I learned myself – the hard way.
After Jadyn’s birth, I was exhausted and sleep-deprived (as I also had a 17-month at home!). I had gained 70 pounds during the pregnancy and couldn’t figure out a way to get back into a fitness routine. So I sought out coaching to help me.
I explained the problem to my coach. She looked at me intently.
“Darcy, it’s simple. You need to set an alarm for 4:30am every morning and get your exercise in before the work day starts. That’s what I do, and it has made all the difference!”
This coming from a woman who wasn’t a mom, wasn’t sleep-deprived, and didn’t have two young nursing babies at home. To be frank, she had no idea what she was talking about. That might work for her, but it would never work for me!
I was frustrated, but didn’t have the courage to tell her.
Looking back, this wasn’t coaching. Not even close!
You are the expert in your own life
A central tenet of coaching is that you as the client are the expert in your own life. True, you might not be an expert in time management, or changing two diapers simultaneously – I certainly wasn’t. But you do know best what’s going to work for you.
Your coach will unlock your self-knowledge by asking you questions that challenge you to think deeply. In my case, a masterful coach would’ve asked me questions like:
- What’s getting in the way of you getting back into shape?
- What’s important to you about figuring this out?
- How would you know if you had the right routine?
As the expert in your own life, you’re the only person who can answer those questions.
That’s not to say your coach won’t provide tips or insights when asked for. But even then, a coach will personalize the strategy to your situation, not just tell you what to do.
For example, I had a client who was frustrated with the challenging dynamics on her team. Feeling like the team might be storming, I asked the client if she’d be interested in hearing about a framework about team development that might be helpful. The client said yes, and we began to explore what she was experiencing through the lens of that research.
Taking ownership of your coaching journey
The best results in coaching happen when a client enters into dialog with their coach, the coach brings curiosity to help them unlock new awareness, and then the client commits to actions to bring about the positive change they desire.
This isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight. Coaches train for years to develop the skills necessary to help clients move in the right direction. And even with the best coach holding them accountable, clients still have to do the work! There’s no getting around that reality.
If you’re reading this and thinking you might benefit from working with a coach and want to get the most out of the process, try this core workout:
- Pause: Take a few moments to sit quietly and reflect on what you want from your coaching journey.
- Think: What goals do you have for coaching? What would success look like for you? What kind of coach would you most like to work with?
- Act: Schedule a free exploratory session to try on a few coaches and find the right fit for you.
And beware: if anyone ever tells you exactly what to do or that they’ll fix everything for you, just know: that’s not coaching!
P.S. Don’t have a coach and curious if you might benefit from one? Contact us to schedule a free exploratory session. All of our coaches are certified by the International Coaching Federation, and they’re all trained to hold YOU as the expert!