“It is remarkable how many smart, highly motivated, and apparently responsible people rarely pause to contemplate their own behavior…coaching can empower them to assume responsibility for their impact on the world.” (Stratford Sherman & Alyssa Freas, The wild west of executive coaching: Harvard Business Review, November 2004)
Coaching can help you to assume responsibility for your outcomes by empowering you to make better decisions, take more meaningful action, and get the results that you want. Here are just a few benefits that you might expect from a coaching engagement.
Space and Time
The coaching session is a mental space and physical time set aside just for you. You can check all of your obligations at the door as you enter this space to focus on you. What is working in your life? What is not working? What is missing? What do you want? It’s like hitting the pause button and taking a breath. A coaching engagement is the structure that keeps you on track and focused throughout the change process.
A coach is one person with whom you can be brutally honest while feeling perfectly safe in the knowledge that your words will not come back to you through the grapevine. Coaching standards require strict confidentiality between client and coach. What is said in a session stays in that session between you and your coach. All thoughts and feelings are validated and considered useful in helping you to gain greater insight.
Objectivity and Resources
In any situation, there are many perceptual positions you can take – your own point of view, the other party’s perspective, or even as a detached third-party observer. Your coach brings a level of objectivity to you and, in the best coaching engagements, she helps you to master the skill so that the benefits carry on long after the engagement has ended. She helps you to identify and locate resources that will move you forward. Coaching provides customized, personalized, just-in-time learning.
Your coach should provide a reality check for you. She should challenge you to think about areas where you may be making assumptions. She will question you to see people and events in a clearer light and help you to abandon jumping to conclusions or bringing unconscious preconceptions into encounters with other people. Even more importantly, she will not let you harbor false assumptions about yourself. Your truth may not be another’s truth. Coaching helps to filter facts from fiction
So what does all of this mean for you? For many people, work is a four-letter word. They see the rewards of their job only in terms of financial security, social approval, or some other external motivator. In a 2004 survey of 35-54 year-old workers (an age group that comprises 50% of the workforce), 57% were not passionate about their jobs, 67% did not feel energized by their work, and more than 40% were experiencing burnout. (Robert Morison, Tamara Erickson, and Ken Dychtwald, Managing middlescence: Harvard Business Review, March 2006)
How would you rate yourself in these areas? What if that could change? What if you could get energized and passionate about your work? Would it make a difference in your life? Remember the saying: if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The resources we bring to any situation determine the outcome. Coaching helps you to uncover skills within yourself that are dormant and, when necessary, helps you to identify resources that are lacking and ways to acquire them. Coaching equips you with the right tools to expand your perspective in order to reframe your world. It deals with the affective (feelings), cognitive (thoughts), and behavioral (actions) aspects of who you are, giving you new insight into yourself and how others see you. This global perspective allows you to gain greater control and become a responder, rather than a reactor, to the events of your daily life.
But coaching is not for everyone. A Zen parable provides a great example of a scholar who is uncoachable.
A scholar visited the monk Nanyin to ask him about Zen. Nanyin offered some tea to his guest, but he continued pouring even after the cup was full. After a short while, the scholar could not stand it any longer and said “the cup is already full! Stop pouring!” Nanyin replied “You are just like this cup, full of your views and opinions. If you do not empty your cup first, how can I tell you about Zen?”
You are ready for a coach when you are open and committed to change. The power is yours. The achievement is yours. The coach can only shine the light so that you can see your way more clearly – you must be willing to make the journey.