First lessons as a coach
What I learned so far on my coaching journey: coaching is not about questions but about being present.
How it begins…
(you can skip to the next section if you want)
I am a coach in training.
How did I end up here?
I have no idea… It was totally unplanned, and I am the kind of person that plans a lot of things… all in all, it was a fortunate happening. When a guy told me he was coach half a year ago, I looked at him confused and asked myself “What the f*ck is a coach?”.
And so it begins… I start doing my research on coaching. What was this fling unicorn? It seemed commercial. Very commercial… “3 magic steps to transform your life”, “how to attain your goals and have a dream life” and other enchanted tools to make you more confident. All seemed wizards, gurus, “great teachers”. I thought: “Is this Hogwarts?”.
I was baffled when I found some warm and honest practitioners that weren’t using that military attitude: “Get your s*it done and let’s move to work!” or “I don’t care what you feel but you can do it!”… for real that sort of speech annoys me so much- maybe because until recently it was my inner voice saying all that: “Just get over it and do what it is needed” (only if was that easy)
Coming back. A few people had something special, I couldn’t put my finger on it but it was there. And then, I don’t remember when I started searching on how you can become a coach. Andreea (as always) was very perplexed by my behaviour: I haven’t yet presented my thesis, I started writing, I applied to the faculty of psychology and I was also planning on studying philosophy for my master’s degree… and now this weird thing, coaching…
There was this particular schooled I liked: One2Coach. No idea why. All looked the same but this one had a distinct vibe. I fill in a form on their website and then after a while, a woman with a kind voice called me. It was Catalina the program coordinator. Until that phone call I wasn’t that sure if it was the right thing to do: it was something new (way out of my normal weirdness), a generous sum of money to be invested and way out of my comfort zone. Yet, when I heard her, that mix of care and gentleness, I had a shiver on the back of my spine- I was on the right track.
The first module, the first encountering with my colleagues- I was the youngest. I haven’t seen such a bizarre crowd since our last family reunion. I started having doubts again, it was a certain tension in the room- 11 strangers that saw each other for the first time. Everybody was trying silently to figure out the others. This, until our first facilitator, Olga came into the room. After I heard her speak I knew again I was doing the right thing, I could feel it. And I didn’t feel much before starting my coaching journey
The first lesson I learned as a coach is being vulnerable. It takes practice, a lot, still working on it as I do with the other lessons I learned. It means being honest with yourself and not only juggling with some concepts in your mind but rather taking them in your heart.
We can’t see ourselves clear or as clear as we could do when guided by someone. Yes, we are able to control the light of our consciousness in order to explore our interior worlds but there will always be some corners we won’t look. We repel those parts that are too ugly. We are too afraid to look at us as a whole with lights and shadows.
I learned to be vulnerable first as a client (is part of the program, receiving coaching sessions) and then as a coach.
A good client is a good coach
Because I saw as a client how important it was not to feel judged by the coach, having space to explore and manifest myself and feeling safe, those are things I desire to create in my practice too. I was able to do that because I had that unique bond with the coach I was working with. I unravelled those not so glamorous parts of myself, some behaviours of mine I used to be not so fond of and because I could see them I was able to start working on them. I had courage because the space that was created made me be braver and I could let myself be vulnerable, be transparent about who I really was and who I really am.
As a coach you are not above or below, you and your client are at the same level. You are not a teacher, a parent, a mentor or a therapist. You are a coach and that is different from the others.
I learned to trust myself that eventually, I will figure things out- sooner or later. Thus I learned to do the same thing with others. I learned to trust that everyone has all they need in order to succeed in what they desire. When I coach someone I trust that he is competent and full of resources. Having this in mind I am able not to give advice or solutions. I know he (she) already knows what he (she) should know. I know that my coachee knows better than me. I trust he (she) is competent to discover or craft a solution for his (her) issue. If my client is the “mother” of the answer, I am not the father of the child but the midwife (hope this metaphor makes as much sense for you as it does for me). The delivery involves excruciating pains and I cannot bear this responsibility for my partner, I am there to assist not do.
To be not to do.
Things happen when they are supposed to happen- there is a timing for everything.
I learned to trust the process (as a coach and as a client too) and thus I understand that patience is crucial. I learned everything has his own rhythm and in order to have a harmonious melody I should not try to impose mine but rather learn to hear and dance on the music of the other person (and life in general).
How does that work? When it comes to questions, for example, it is not relevant how many you asked- it’s a dialogue, not an interrogation after all. Sometimes because you ask so many, your client does not have time to feel their impact and understand the implications of what you said.
Sometimes silence can do more than a question. We must learn to be comfortable with silence, with the empty space. We forgot silence, we are always bombarded with notifications from our smartphones, there is always a buzz and noise around us. We can’t stay by ourselves in silence we are scared of what it could be, of what we could be.
In my coaching sessions I am pleased when I create those moments of silence, a few seconds, a few minutes… Those are the moments when the client is digging into himself when he calibrates himself because we asked something that shook his way of viewing things, his story. In the beginning it can be uncomfortable not for the client but for you as a coach but is our duty to step with the client out of the comfort zone, ours and theirs.
Don’t rush. If you learned this and the lesson before you won’t jump from one question to another give space to your client to speak. If someone offers me quick and clear answers when we are in the exploration phase, it means he or she already walked that path many times before. Our process will not add anything new thus we must go out of the walked path into the unknown, climb mountains, and go deep down into caves. It’s a journey not a walk in the countryside.
Coaching is not about the couch but the coachee. The coach should speak the least, it is not about him what he did in a similar situation, what he or she thinks it should be done etc. Some clients just need to speak, to let out the turmoil inside. Other times they don’t need questions they only need to hear themselves.
I thought I was a good listener before I started coaching. I rarely gave a thought on what I was going to say and I almost never labelled people or situations. However, I was listening to the story not to what was underneath it. I learned to listen to what the other is actually trying to tell me through that narrative, I learned to see between the lines and beneath them. It is about listening (paying attention to) the human not the story.
Listen to the other individual as a whole, his body, tone of voice, gestures etc. We can control our speech but not our body and I hear the most interesting things when I explore those moments when the somatic clues do not fit the mind.
I learned to listen to my body, how I feel when the other is speaking. What images pop into my mind. Sometimes it turns out to be useful to reflect the way other impacts (acting as a mirror).
One must learn to be still. I am yet learning how to create the void- the 5th element as they call it. A place of no existence where everything exists. It is a place of possibilities because there is nothing and thus is room for everything. You make space for things to be created, to take form. In this manner a coach does with his client, making space for him to explore himself and his reality by renouncing your preconceptions and labels of good and bad, of what it could be and what it is. You generate space by being present, not being focused but concentrated, being silent and having trust.
Let things be
Having an objective is essential for coaching. We need to know our destination but how we get there and how the solution or objective must look, are not ours to decide. It is about him the client, the person you assist, not about you. Let him decide.
Don’t let things go, if there is something that twinkles your intuition reflect that to the one you are partnering with, on the other hand, let things be, let him create his own experience.
Navigating conciously through patterns and systems
I realized in the past months that I was not entirely conscious of my being. I observed very few are. We tend to function on auto-pilot: reacting instead of responding. Through coaching, I become myself more conscious of myself. The coaches I worked with mirrored me and help me find different instruments to reflect on myself. As a consequence, with time, I learned to be honest with who I was- my shadows included- I was able to become whole again. Because I was now more aware I started to see more clearly the structures within and without.
I started to be more conscious of my somatic responses. I observed that anytime I would get nervous regarding a particular task I would leave the desk and go into another room for a few minutes. I was my way of avoiding the confrontation. It is a pattern that unfolds in more than one area of my life. I don’t enjoy conflicts, I try to escape them due to my love for peace and silence. I don’t like to be disturbed in general because when I think my mind is like a waterfall of thoughts.
When I took a closer look at my way of taking a decision I realized that I have to ponder a lot in order to make a final judgment]. I see things from more than one perspective, and rarely I see one as being superior to another. I also love having open ends because I think there is everting sdiomeing more that one cannot be seen. Maybe it is the way my concept of liberty manifests.
Before I started coaching this word was absent from my vocabulary and now I can’t imagine the world without it. How peculiar the Universe can be sometimes…
What is compassion? I would say it is the true form of love: accepting, altruistic, encapsulating. It is a way of being. Seeing yourself as boundless-everything as a part of who you are is liberating. It allows you to be.
I just started my journey as a coach. I learned a lot but there are more to be discovered. I feel fortunate that I had this unique chance. I also felt like sharing this with you, maybe I was not very clear, it is hard to speak the unspoken. If I had to summarize all my experience so far I would say that the Truths of life are simple and obvious. We cannot see them because we are looking into the wrong places imaging complex problems that must have complex solutions. Compassion, silence and a gentle attitude- everyone has them.