What is coaching?

(6 minute read)

Well, that’s an interesting question that has no simple answer.

There is no standardised definition of coaching and it has myriad approaches and applications. From sports, business, health, life, grief…you name it, you can pretty much coach anyone through anything.

Very simply put, coaching is an intentional conversational experience aimed at:

“empowering people by facilitating self-directed learning, personal growth and improved performance.”

Bresser & Wilson (2010:10)

Like many things including exercise, reiki and love, I feel coaching must be experienced to appreciate its benefits. Mortal words minimise the deliciously transformative nature of an effective coaching session.

Also, while having a one-off session is OK, it is not as effective as making coaching and personal development an integral part of your lifestyle. Being held accountable for working towards our goals enables us to sustain our motivation.

self-awareness + responsibility = progress and/or performance

What are the benefits of coaching?

The benefits of coaching include helping us to thrive and get out of our own way. As long as we continue to cite our circumstances as the reason we are not flourishing, our goals will remain unattainable.

The funny thing about us humans is that we forget how wild and free we are. We construct our own prisons underpinned by untrue beliefs, limiting assumptions and excuses. Then we wonder why we aren’t successful in certain areas of our lives.

However, I am not denying there are also external factors beyond our control that seriously scupper our best intentions. McKenna and Davis (2009) claim successful outcomes of a coaching session are significantly impacted not only by the coachee’s disposition, but events in their family, professional life and wider social network.

Who or what am I blaming as the reason that I can’t be successful in this area of my life?

Claire Zammit

We often block our own paths with blame and excuses. But, EXCUSES DON’T GET RESULTS.

How does coaching work?

Nancy Kline claims when we think aloud in the presence of another, we can hear ourselves more clearly and challenge any muddied thoughts that run amok. Hearing our self-diminishing thoughts reflected back to us, we may see them in a new light and take action to overcome their debilitating effect.

I habitually externalise my thoughts around ‘issues’ to help me see them more objectively. Actually, in my everyday life I externalise pretty much everything, often oversharing in the process. Whoops!

However, only when we acknowledge and take responsibility, for these self-imposed limitations blocking our path, can we make change to increase our quality of life.

It is the coachee who must do most of the thinking for themselves. Change must come from within. Yet, in my culture we are taught to rely on authority, experts and clamber for external validation for our conditions of worth. We look to experts for their opinion about our lives, yet ultimately we are the experts of our own lives.

Writing that last paragraph reminded me of the butterfly story where a ‘helpful’ man sees a butterfly struggling to get out of its cocoon, so he carefully cuts a hole to set it free. But, the butterfly soon dies, because its struggle to exit the cocoon was necessary to strengthen its wings, for its survival. Similarly, when we offer our helpful advice to others, they may not be ready to hear our words and it could be more harmful than healing. It is ironic that our struggles make us stronger, yet the most uncomfortable thing to do is to simply sit and watch another person struggle. Instead, we need to cheer them on from the sidelines, trusting in their own awesomeness! To take the burden of their struggles and fight their battles for them is disempowering and infantilising, affirming they are not capable. Instead we need to become their cheerleader: I BELIEVE IN YOU. YOU CAN DO IT!

Coaching is great because it opens you up to your own power and holds you accountable for the change you want to make.

I believe a coach’s role is, mostly, a silent one in the coaching process. The coach offers a welcoming, safe environment and way of being that allows the coachee to be vulnerable and open. A sacred space where the coachee can speak from their heart, without fear of judgement.

The coach listens…

and listens…

then listens some more, with generative attention.

Effective questioning and challenging underlying emotions and motivations can gently coax coy yet crushing limiting assumptions into the light of day, to be exposed and delegitimised.

When you are aware of the hurdles in the way of your goals, you can take action to overcome them and move closer to self-actualisation, experiencing a more fulfilling and meaningful life that is of benefit to you and others.

What hurdles are you putting in the way of your success today?

What action can you take today to move you closer to your goals?

Onwards and funwards xXx

Bresser, F & Wilson, C (2010) ‘What is Coaching?’ in J Passmore (ed) Excellence in Coaching: The Industry Guide 2nd edition London: Kogan

McKenna, D & Davis, S (2009) ‘Hidden in plain sight: the active ingredients of executive coaching’ Industrial and Organizational Psychology 2(3) pp244-260

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