What Is Coaching?
“A large comfortable vehicle for a long journey”
I am still bemused how coaching has been in the UK for 30 plus years and yet the dictionary online or offline still does not formally acknowledge or support my own experience of it. Instead it still refers to coaching and a coach as a large comfortable vehicle for long journeys.
In this article I aim to share my experience because I feel that many are not able to ask for help because they don’t understand what coaching is and how it works. Some have perhaps experienced one coaching session and assume that all coaching is the same.
Others assume coaching is like counselling and talking therapy and think only broken and weak people have that ‘kind’ of help.
Whilst the world is working to change the perception and understanding of mental health I think we need much clearer signposts about what kind of solutions are available when you know you are stuck in your head and you know you are getting in your own way.
All the processes work. Coaching; counselling, therapy and talking to friends. They all work for a certain period of time, with a certain person with a particular problem. It is your job to ascertain what works for you and why, so that you can ask for the appropriate help when you need it.
I have had many coaches over the years and I now recognise that in my corporate days that some of my managers were great coaches and mentors. They had my back and they believed in me and they gave me feedback on my performance that really helped me to work at my best. I have worked with some coaches for one session and others that I have with worked for years. I have also had counselling for a year and one-off sessions with a hypnotherapist; gone on yoga retreats and experienced sound baths and they all work.
Chatting With Purpose
They each gave me insight and awareness of myself that I could not have got on my own. Counselling gave me space and time to talk about the shame of my marriage ending and not being the wife I had hoped to be. It gave me space and time to talk about the frustrations of my relationship with my mum and my own daughter. It gave me a space to be heard and not judged and it was liberating. I was given tools and practical ways to think about things. Then 12 months later when I was sick of the story I was telling, I stopped. I was ready for solutions now.
I am very much a solution focused person and so coaching felt right. Coaching is my go-to tool when I am in overwhelm and frustrated, but I also know now that when I am really hurting on a deep emotional level, that I often need to talk about the pain. I am lucky to now have friends that I can talk to who can listen to me when I am upset. They know I am strong, and this is just a grieving process that I need to work through. They don’t judge or worry about me because I tell them I am okay and that this is just something I need to do, to let go of the pain. If I didn’t have friends that were resourced and I just wanted space to talk about what is not working I would hire a counsellor again.
Power of Silence
Sometimes I don’t want to talk I just want to feel better and I have learned that silent therapy works as well. Walks in nature; yoga and sound baths (I can’t explain what this is so I will leave you to look it up and do your own research) but I do know it all works for me. They all gave me space to be with myself without having to fix or do or make anything happen and afterwards I felt better.
How I know they worked is based on how I felt.
A coach is someone that will ask questions that train your attention on the solution. They will listen to what is not working and how much it hurts with compassion and care but they won’t stay there too long if at all instead they will ask and when all that what would you like to have happen?
We generally don’t spend lots of time talking about what the problem unless that is the only way to discover the solution.
A coach can be with you for an hour to make a decision or a life-time building a business and a network of support.
I am not sure they are a comfortable vehicle for long journeys though; but coaching has got me and my clients through some of the most uncomfortable parts of our lives.
It is not easy to have your patterns repeated back to you or to have lots of questions that challenge your current thinking and status quo but it is powerful.
It can be transformational, when you allow yourself to trust the process and you have the confidence to really look and see yourself as others do.
Coaching is unlike any conversation. It is very one sided; the focus is on you the client and what you want and need to talk about. Coaching questions are designed to train your attention on what you want (solutions) and what works for you (strengths). The coach is trained to notice how you respond and when you respond, helping you identify your own patterns and processes. They will also be proactive to catch you getting things right and noticing any signs of progress.
A good coach or perhaps I should say a more experienced coach that commits to developing their coaching skills, will be able to listen and observe the whole of you. They will notice if you get more excited about one thing than another. They will notice if your shoulders slump at the thought of something else. You, your language and your body are communicating all the time and a good coach will track this and reflect it back without judgment.
The purpose is to give you access to information you could not get on your own, so that you can make an informed decision.
The more I work with clients to explore their process, the more resourced they become to listen to and manage themselves and others through change.
I talk more about coaching and the 8 kinds of listening required to manage yourself through change in my book: Do, Delegate or Ditch – Developing the confidence to ask for help without fear of failure or guilt.
To order your copy of the book click here:
Founder of Step by Step Listening, Sheryl Andrews has always been keen to create space where other people felt safe to speak their truth no matter what that was. She is well known for her ability to motivate, manage and mentor others through change and loves nothing more than helping others feel heard and understood. She soon discovered there were 8 different kinds of listening and often people started talking without knowing which they needed. At Step by Step Listening they create space to explore what kind of listening works to ensure individuals are resourced to work, learn and live at their best with others and on their own. .
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