#1: What the heck is coaching?

 In 'What the heck..?' series

Picture the scene.

You’re at a pancake party (standard, right?). It’s a Friday night, and you’re chatting to some people you’ve never
met before and are having an all-round lovely time. But before the first forkful of sugary citrus goodness has even left your plate, the inevitable question comes up. “So, what do you do?”

Ha. What do I do.

That, my curious pancake peer, is a very good question. I invariably dodge the question for as long as possible, explaining about my recent career change and how I enjoy learning and development and want to help people and want to have my own business… before I can avoid the word no longer.

“I’m a coach.” I say.

“Huh.” they say.

And so it goes. It’s not surprising really that the standard response to my new chosen career path is generally a blank expression, I’m not exactly doing a good job of selling it. What I should be saying is that “I support people to achieve what they want in life. I help make it easier and quicker for them to make the change that will enable them to live their best lives.” BOOM! But that takes experience, and being only 1month into my training I don’t feel that I can quite claim to be doing that. Yet.

It’s also not surprising that most people think that coaching is either what their football teams need a lot more of, or it’s a fancy name for a bus holiday. It’s a relatively new discipline and it lives in the same town as mentoring, counselling, consultancy, and therapy, which can be confusing. But what is unique about the  coaching building, is that it’s made of mirrors. So, unlike all the other buildings in the town, it reflects all the light back onto the individual who’s walking past it, making them shine.

All sounding a bit fluffy for you?

Try this analogy instead (we’re going to roll with this pancake theme).

You’re at a pancake party with a therapist, a counsellor, a mentor, a consultant and a coach (stick with me, this isn’t the start of a bad joke). And you’ve decided you want to have a go at flipping a pancake yourself. Everyone is keen to help.

  • The therapist is first up. Their approach is to help you explore your past in order to uncover what is stopping you being able to flip the pancake.
  • Next comes the counsellor, who listens to your concerns and anxieties about flipping that pancake.
  • Then the mentor shares their own personal experience of how they manage to flip pancakes and gives you some handy tips.
  • The consultant then gives you clear and logical instructions on how to flip that pancake.
  • Before finally the coach supports and encourages you as you try flipping the pancake yourself.

Now let’s be honest, if you got this much input for just trying to flip a pancake, you’d probably be left wanting to use the pan as a weapon rather than as a cooking aid, but hopefully you get the drift. Depending on your needs, where you’re at and what you want to achieve, you’d go to a different person.

The coach steps in for people who want to move forwards, who want to make a change or achieve something in life and need some support, encouragement and accountability to help them get there.

In coaching, it’s all about the individual and getting the best out of them. They’re the expert in their own life and hold all the answers, they often just need some help in finding them. Good coaching will take you from where you are now to where you want to be, in a quicker and easier way than if you were doing it alone.

It’s non-judgemental and critically doesn’t give advice. Instead, coaches create a safe space and use their skills in open questioning to help people explore topics and create action plans that get them to where they want to be.

Sound like it could be something for you? The number 1 piece of advice I can offer from what I’ve learnt so far is that before you seek a coach, you have to want to make a change. I mean, actually want it, not just feel like you should want it. You don’t have to know exactly what that change is or where it will lead you too, (that’s the job of the coach to help you figure that bit out), but you have to want to do something different. Coaching is extremely powerful and can completely transform careers, personal lives, self-confidence, you name it… but it only works if you’re motivated to change.

Do what you’ve always done, and you’ll always get the same results. Do something different, and life will be different too. 


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