Every coach needs coaching to be a better coach. That's a lot of "coach" in one sentence, but it is only because it takes a lot of practice and coaching to perfect one's craft.
As part of our training in becoming a Catalyst Coach, we had several practicum sessions of real-life coaching with our cohort of fellow coaches. The first session was nerve-wracking, to say the least. However, the first thing I learnt right off the bat, is that a coaching conversation, much like a regular conversation is a natural flow between two people. Except, here we listen beyond what is said verbally; into body language, pauses, shifts in posture, emotional reaction etc.
Over the months, and after about nine practice sessions, all of which were observed by our mentor coach Mel Leow, who gave copious amounts of notes and feedback, here's what I've learnt:
1. Neurological Levels (NL)
In my previous blog "You are WHAT you BELIEVE", I spoke in-depth about neurological levels. Yet, upon coaching, I realised it's implications reach even further and much deeper into one's psyche. Neurological levels are KEY in understanding where someone is stuck at.
When someone makes any strong statement, we can immediately get a sense of which level they are at. And when more information is needed, we can probe further. The best part about working on neurological levels is the breakthrough it brings to effectively design actions that create the most impact.
2. Asking Powerful Questions
It goes without saying that a good question elicits a great response. In coaching a powerful question is not one that merely elicits a good response, but actually stops a coachee in their tracks and gets them thinking. It has the power to break through limiting beliefs, unlock hidden potential, and bring forth the innate wisdom and strength of the coachee.
In my first coaching session, I asked a lot of "HOW" questions. In my mind, I thought I was helping my coachee find answers and solutions. I was very quickly schooled on this and realised how much power "WHAT" questions have followed by "WHY" questions, and even a strategically placed "WHEN" question. The key about asking these powerful questions is - keep it short and sweet, then pause and wait for the magic to happen. It almost always does!
3. Get FOCUSED
A coaching session (even one that is just 7 minutes long) is all about being focused. In fact, coaching is designed to help the client get focused on their goals and how to get there. It may even give great clarity on why they want these goals, or what is stopping them.
A coaching conversation doesn't just happen by accident, even though there is room to allow the client to flow and open up. It is important to focus on WHAT is to be OPENED, this helps us get deeper into the conversation.
So, if a client walks in with 5 things that could be potentially sabotaging their behaviour, it's important to just pick one. In fact, it may not even be enough that we pick that one, we can even get focused on what outcome we wish to achieve at the end of the coaching conversation.
I realised that in getting this focused, the coachee has an opportunity to clear out the clutter in their mind too. In asking for outcomes, we laid down a good framework for a fruitful discussion.
This is what differentiates a coaching conversation from a fun cafe conversation.
4. Leading without "Leading"
Sure a coaching conversation is in a way being guided and lead by the coach. But our job is not to lead them to a particular answer we think best, our insightful solutions or what we think would work best. Sure, we may foresee certain things from our position with a bird's eye view, but our job is NOT to manipulate or lead a conversation in a pre-determined way.
It seems really intuitive that one would not do this. But it is so very easily overlooked by one simple factor - FILTERS.
As coaches, we have a rich life experience that has helped us overcome a lot! However, our life is not our COACHEE's LIFE. It may be similar and even have the same limiting beliefs, but the realisations and solutions we found is what made us stronger, who are we to rob our coachees of their own discovery journey?
Our role is to enrich their journey by being respectful coaches who can walk with our coachee with tremendous wisdom and not point out the answers, but help them find the wisdom and strength to light their own path. This will empower our coachees to grow and feel more confident in their own abilities.
5. Expect the Unexpected
As a coach, it is our job to be prepared for a coaching session. We can constantly update our skills, practice the different tools and techniques, and even have thoughts and ideas on what we might want to do on our next coaching session.
However, the minute the sessions begins, the first thing we ought to be prepared to do is to let go of our expectations, plans and beautifully crafted ideas. The moment is about the coachee, even if the goal of the session may switch mid-stream.
The greatest lesson I learnt is to do my part and be diligent in my preparation, but to drop all of it when I step into a coaching session because the greatest gift I can offer my coachee is my presence.
The journey continues.
I find myself pondering and reflecting on every session, regardless of whether my mentor coach is present. This habit is partly a result of my curious nature and in-built passion for learning, and partly because we were trained to reflect on our self and state two things that went well and one opportunity area after each session.
I have an observer watching and learning from the inside. Each session teaches about what works and what can be improved. I am constantly learning about myself and my own filters.
I am also learning about personalities and the human psyche that no textbook can teach. I find myself reading up on new and interesting topics, and sometimes flip through my notes and coaching books.
I've come to truly understand that the coaching journey is an ever-growing, ever-evolving journey because it is MY journey in being a Coach.
**Note: This blog entry is to meet Catalyst Coaching Certification course requirement on Coaching Practice Takeaways
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