March 17, 2023

Coaching mastery: accomplishment or achievement?

In "The real work: on the mystery of mastery", a book by Adam Gopnik, I read "We all know the real work in whatever field it is that we've mastered. It's shorthand, one might say, for the difference between accomplishment and mere achievement." The book follows several paths to mastery in different domains like boxing or driving. The distinction between accomplishment and achievement stuck with me and had me wondering what that difference is and how it links to coaching and coaching mastery.

Of course, the meaning of a word is in its use and you may have different ways you use "accomplishment" and "achievement", but to me, the word "accomplishment" communicates more about the process of reaching a goal. "This is quite an accomplishment" makes me think of all the hard work that went into it. A person described as "accomplished" (golfer, pianist, etc.) invokes images of practice, goals that were set and missed, deliberately looking out for learning opportunities etc. "Achievement" does not have quite the same ripples of the process of getting to mastery to it. It is almost like: "I achieved this milestone" is more a description of the point in which that milestone was achieved rather than the process. And I might be wrong. I am not technically a native speaker of English having "mastered" the language in a process between the ages of 11 and now. If your associations are different - you are right in your own context.

Gopnik tells stories about people who set out to master something from thinking that there is no way you can ever do it to effortlessly and fluidly performing. What is so fascinating to me is that this seems to be very much around small steps, self-determined goals, persistence in the face of failure and incremental progress.

And isn't this what we support our clients with? After all, we might say that we are in the business of accompanying our clients toward their mastery of something (their life, their business, their health, their finances....). Also, becoming an "accomplished coach" needs the same commitment, persistence, experimentation -- the process Gopnik calls "the real work" (quoting the community of magicians who seem to be using the term). The work of mastering coaching does not happen through performance evaluations and credentialing exams (sorry ICF), it happens in our daily reflections and our willingness to ask ourselves whether and how we are serving our clients. We start by learning a simple process and "tools" and with every new client we learn what works for them. At the beginning, we are self conscious and aware of what we are doing and the more masterful we become the less we think about ourselves and the process and the more we think about our clients and become able to listen to them without the chatter in our own mins.

The lovely thing about most coaches (minus the ones who enter the field with big Dollar signs in their eyes, sadly they exist) is that they all seem more interested in the process of becoming an accomplished coach than achieving a credential or another "milestone". At least, this is our experience in SolutionsAcademy courses: people come to grow as coaches and as a side effect they also receive multiple certificates (EMCC, ICF, IASTI). What is your next step? What is your next experiment?

If you want to hang out with us, meet other people addicted to growth and development or simply ask a few questions about our courses, why not join us for one of our free meetup and exchange sessions?

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