During a Q and A session with Iranian coaches, a lovely coach named Baharaj asked for my “3 top tips” for beginning coaches. And as one does, I heard myself answer in ways that I liked even after I slept on it. So here they are!
1) Realize that you are not starting from zero
I have never met anyone who wanted to become a coach who did not have experience with meaningful conversations. They all know how to talk helpfully as a partner, brother, sister, friend or colleague. This is something that is so often forgotten in coach training. With the new label “coach”, students suddenly think they start from zero and forget all the things that they know: how to listen, how to empathize, how to give space, how to be helpful to others by just being there. So, top tip number one: Make a list of all the things you are already good at. If you cannot come up with anything, ask your friends – they will tell you. And then continue doing what you do well and allow coaching to add to your repertoire.
2) Work on centering the client
As beginning coaches are starting to practice, there is usually a lot going on “behind the scenes”. Their minds wander to places like: “Am I asking the right questions?” or “Will I be able to ask the right question in 2 minutes?” or “What am I going to ask next?”, etc. All of this noise is distracting from paying attention to the client. So, learn to let go of your worries and be present to the client. Listen and don’t think about what is next. If you are stuck, ask the client where they would like to go. Notice when you want to put yourself in the center of the session, for example by giving advice or telling your own stories. Record sessions like crazy and listen to them with a mentor or supervisor in order to improve, but do that after and before sessions, not during. Also see point 1) – don’t forget to notice all the things that you are doing well.
3) Don’t be a tourist in the client’s life: focus on what is wanted and how this is already happening
As you are centering the client, try to figure out what they want and what this would look like and be curious about that rather than about the (potential) drama of the past. This is one place where our natural empathy might lead us astray. We might become very interested in what went wrong and why and who did what – which is of limited help to the client, as they already know all that. So tip number 3: focus your attention and curiosity on what is wanted instead and where this is already happening in the client’s life. This is also the best way to make sure that you are doing no harm (which is another distracting worry of beginning coaches).
All in all, I probably want to say: “Chill, you’ve got this!” After all, coaching is just a conversation, granted, a special one, but it is neither rocket science nor brain surgery. You do need skills and awareness of what is happening in conversations, but you won’t learn those by fretting about “doing it right”. As one of my favorite quotes of Martin Luther goes: “Sin boldly!”
If you want to explore these or other topics, discuss cases or learn about our courses, why not join us for a free meetup and exchange?
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