One of the most common paths into the world of coaching is by learning particular coaching models and skills. Beginner coaches assume that there are a series of steps that one can apply, a template that will deliver immediate results. The common belief is that coaching can be broken down into a process, governed mostly by acquiring expertise in choosing the most appropriate neutral phrases from a library of legitimate coaching conversational responses. Implicit in this approach is the idea that coaching, as an essentially outward-focused activity, is a state you get into or a set of competencies you apply at the moment of coaching.
My own assumption when I started coaching was that the coaching skill gets built when one is steeped in the core principles of coaching. However, I soon learnt that the skill that is required in coaching is just the tip of the iceberg. The large chunk of ice underwater that moves the iceberg along for coaches is the work they put into themselves. This work involves questioning reflection and change, or in other words, coaching. However, this internal work of coaching oneself, something that should happen continuously, is often forgotten.
I have a 15-year-old who is facing multiple challenges in achieving her goals and in even staying afloat in certain situations with regard to an increased academic workload. She wants to accomplish much, but she sometimes loses her focus and is eventually disappointed at not being able to do all that she wants. This could be an extremely difficult situation for her as well as for me, because of my personal investment in her success. Sometimes frustration builds on both sides and tempers fray.
Earlier this week, one such situation came up all of a sudden when we realized that certain deadlines had not been met. As had been the norm, I could feel impatience and anger building up inside me. Normally I would have immediately expressed those emotions, eliciting a defensive and angry outburst from my daughter. This time, however, having been in the middle of continuous coaching sessions, I found that in the space between the stimulus and my response I internalized the coaching process and did three things that made me respond differently. These were:
1. Maintaining silence and holding space
2. Not Judging
3. Asking powerful questions
1. Maintaining silence and holding the space: Coaching myself to separate my need to witness her success from her individual journey of impediments and discovery helped me be fully present in the moment. Once I had the clarity, I could hold the silence, really listen to her, and not jump in with a response, suggestion, or advice. This led to her being able to express her vulnerabilities and explore the options she had.
2. Not judging: When I coached myself to examine my reactions to the situation, I was able to recognize that they arose from a judgment of her actions and the pressure created by my need to control the outcome. This awareness allowed me to let go of the judgment and the desire to dictate a solution and instead create a space that she needed to open up.
3. Asking powerful questions: And finally, through questioning myself about my emotions and assumptions, I identified my desired end which was harmony above anger and stress. I also realized that my end goal was to enable and support my daughter to be intrinsically motivated, independent and resourceful. Once I had this realization, I could remain dispassionate and empathetic and communicate support and complete belief in her potential all of which enabled a moment of positive connection between us.
It felt like a small bridge had been built between the two of us; one that would be used often in the future. All of this unfolded at the moment because I had been working on myself and coaching myself through smaller and less important situations in my life. That constant practice made this special experience intuitive.
As coaches, we are so focused on extraneous elements such as creating a brand or achieving a career goal (all of which have their relative importance) that we forget the fundamental power of coaching – coaching ourselves for personal transformation and self-actualization which can then result in the value we bring to our clients.