The moment you take on the role of a coach, whether you’re in the field of life coaching or executive coaching, the primary thing to keep in mind throughout the journey (no matter how many clients you coach) is that coaching is never about solving a client’s problems or fixing them. Instead, it’s all about helping the client perform at a higher level.
Even when it comes to sports, a coach is never assigned to someone who is at the bottom of the pack. Only top talent is provided a coach in order to fine-tune their game and help them get better at their game.
Does that mean coaching is restricted only to the top 10 percent? Is coaching then not for an under-performer? The answer to that is a resounding and unequivocal ‘no’. Because who decides the parameters of universal success? It has to start off with an internal attitude of success which then manifests externally and is then recognised by others. So, the work first starts inward and moves it way towards external aspects.
In the life coaching journey, both client and coach need to think of this as something not to fix a ‘problem’, but simply to help get better. And the value of coaching must thus be correctly communicated.
Growth is Gradual
British philosopher Alan Watts tells this story about a farmer family sitting around the dinner table waiting for their son to get back from the field so they can eat together. The son arrives late and the father asks him “Where have you been? We were waiting for you.” The son takes a seat and says “Oh nothing, I was just helping the wheat to grow”. The father is a little confused at the answer but doesn’t prod. When he goes to the farm the next morning, to his utmost horror he finds that his son has pulled each wheat stock about half an inch from the ground – you guessed it right – to “help it grow”.
Absurd, isn’t it? As Sadhguru says, “tend to the root, the flower will anyway happen.” You can plough the land, you can remove the weed, you can water the plant, you can create the right ambience – but the process of growth is something that will happen on its own. You cannot force growth. And in the context of leadership as well as life coaching this needs to be understood by both the coach & coachee – that beyond setting up the right conditions, neither can hasten the process of growth. And the moment you say there’s a problem to be fixed, you’re trying to force something.
So, if you’re not forcing the growth, then where do you put your focus? The right attitude to take would be to say, “When you start off in a coaching journey, where I am at the moment is already good and I just want to get better.I cannot force it, but I can simply practice at removing the obstacles.”
Subtract More, Add Less
Peter Drucker says that more often than not it is not about a leader learning to do new things, but instead stopping the bad habits: “We spend a lot of time teaching leaders what to do. We do not spend enough time teaching leaders what to stop.”
People often come to the leader to seek advice. Leaders are used to solving problems that people bring. Giving instructions and advice is part of their job. The problem is when this goes to the extreme. When leaders hear ideas from other people, they have a tendency to add their two cents worth to the idea. It is often annoying for other people. Employees commit more to their own ideas. When they get unsolicited advice, that commitment to execute the idea goes down significantly.
As a coach, if you can simply convey to your client that if they simply stop doing certain things they will become better leaders, you’ve done your part. Guide them to understanding that they don’t necessarily need to start doing anything additionally all the time to ensure progress. And this is where the value of coaching really shines through.
Practice What You Preach
Before shining the torch on the coachee and expecting them to do the things you are preaching, ask yourself if you’re practising the same in your life? Ask yourself, “Am I always forcing myself to get better or add new things and should I simply stop doing certain things?” If you expect your clients to absorb this, you must practice it for yourself as well. Even to be a coach you have to be a certain way in order to grow. Before shining the spotlight on your client, shine it over your own head to see if you are abiding by it yourself. Instead of always chasing and forcing your own growth as a coach, see how you can simply allow yourself to grow into a better one. The journey of life coaching can be truly transformative & full of learning not just for the client but for the coach as well if they truly imbibe what they teach.