Learning a new skill to a higher level of proficiency takes more than just time, practice and repetition; it involves motivation, tenacity, iteration, and consistency of effort. Most often, there are beliefs and habits to be examined and shifted, plus self-talk to contend with, and likely to change. Setbacks are recognized as part of the learning process, rather than a reason to give up or stop learning. What might be perceived as mistakes are instead embraced as opportunities to learn.
A quote attributed to Vince Lombardi; “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”
And another quote that goes; “Mistakes aren’t all bad. Don’t be afraid of them, just don’t ignore them.”
Many coaches I mentor to prepare for their first or next ICF credential, whether it’s MCC, PCC or ACC skill level, want to be “perfect” from the beginning of their mentoring journey, and want to avoid making mistakes as they examine their coaching skills in order to become more highly skilled coaches. In fact, many are afraid to make mistakes, and haven’t developed self-talk that is supportive of them in their learning process.
However, in order to become better at anything, we most often have to examine our beliefs, habits and self-talk, and be willing to engage in an iterative learning process, being kind to ourselves in the learning process.
For me, a Learning Mindset is by far the most attractive quality in any human being.
When a coach wants to work with me as their mentor coach, their level of sincerity in being a Learner (versus a Knower) is what I pay attention to in any and every interaction we have.
Background questions I have in my mind include:
- How does this coach speak about their own path of development?
- What is this coach engaged with or passionate about, in their life?
- What is their level of humility as a learner, no matter how many hours or years of coaching they have, or don’t have?
- How does this coach relate to their learning process – as something to be afraid of? Perfect at? Or merely information to learn from?
- How kind or “mean” is their self-talk?
“The greatest mistake someone can ever make is to be afraid of making one.” ~ Elbert Hubbard
I have made many “mistakes” in my life, and will continue to, as human beings are imperfect (and yes, that includes me, and you 😊 ).
A supportive self-belief is what’s most important in how we respond to mistakes, from a learning mindset.
One of the empowering self-talk phrases I use for myself now is, “I’m an emotionally mature adult; what wisdom does my mature adult self have for me about my immature behavior, thoughts or feelings?”
Now, that language might not work for you but it’s really resonant for me. I encourage you to find phrases that resonate with you.
Cultivating a Continuous Learning Mindset
As coaches we are engaged in the profession of developing people. Embodying in ourselves an attitude of Learning is an energy others can sense, feel or observe, either through words spoken, behaviors and actions, or positive vibes being exuded.
Then there’s the aspect of how we respond to our own mistakes, and how we incorporate learning to continue on the journey of personal and professional improvement. If we are more attached to the voice of our egoic self who wants to be right, then that energy is noticeable as well.
Most coaches don’t have conscious strategies for continuous improvement of their coaching skills; they may learn coaching skills and then just keep doing what they learned without further self-examination or input from a qualified mentor coach.
The lack of a continuous self-learning approach to coaching skills development often results in coaches who have delivered 1000 or 2000 hours of coaching with clients, yet their coaching skills level may not have further developed to match their hours of delivery. Or the coach defaults to what feels comfortable for them, which might include more mentoring, advising and teaching the client, instead of upleveling their coaching skills to the same level of expertise as their other skills.
Many clients are missing out on experiencing the powerful results that can come from someone who is truly using coaching skills masterfully, and not defaulting to a hybrid of many skill sets.
Receiving mentor coaching is one way for coaches to engage in a continuous learning mindset, where coach receives input from the mentor coach on strengths demonstrated, and development opportunities.
I recently listened to a coaching session recording to debrief with my mentoring client who is engaged in their continuous learning mindset and sincerely seeking to upgrade their coaching skills. This was their third coaching session with this client and I had listened to one of their previous sessions too.
Here is some of what the client reported to the coach in session three; “This space to reflect where you’re not my boss, it has been, and really you don’t tell me what to do, you only ask me questions. So, I just want to again, reiterate, it’s been so helpful just to be in the space of reflection and so different than what I thought it was going to be. But it’s been so, so helpful; 30 minutes in and I’ve solved a lot of what I came here hoping to get solved today. I’m changed. I’m honestly changed by these sessions.”
How cool is that! The power of coaching skills has been experienced by this client, who is now also an advocate for broader initiatives of coaching being offered within their organization!
Now at times the coach also offered comments, observations and authentic acknowledgement of the client ideas and self-expressions. Yet what the client was most aware of was the power of questions the coach asked, which allowed the client to come up with their solution, not what the coach told them to do.
The result being the client took ownership for their own learning and felt confident to act on their discoveries. The client had received the value from the coaching and had a way forward that the client had discovered with the help of coach acting as coach (versus as adviser, mentor, teacher).
Back to Mistakes…
The learning path for any coach who sincerely wants to improve their coaching skills is not a linear path. Like any learning process, it’s often messy! There may be forward progress, and then what feels like regression, then some progression, then regression. It often feels like we’re making mistakes, when it’s just a normal part of the messiness when we are stretching ourself to think, feel, or be different.
I normalize the learning process with all my mentoring clients, and that if you stay engaged in the learning process, you will reach a new level of coaching skills and integration. Yet how the process plays out for each coach, will be different. Some will feel like they have to “break through a wall” while others have some “hurdles to navigate.” Some might be “jumping over some puddles” and others might feel “stuck as if in mud.” Use of metaphor is often a great way to consider the learning journey, because we can play with a metaphor and shift it to have a different in-body, mental and emotional experience.
Just like our coaching clients who can feel uncomfortable and stretched as they develop something in themselves, so it is with coaches in their learning process. When we sincerely engage in learning that stretches us, and we feel uncomfortable, we are also developing humility and compassion for our coaching clients who often feel stretched and uncomfortable in their learning process. Mistakes are no longer viewed as mistakes, and more like a wall, hurdle, puddles or mud to learn how to navigate (and maybe even with a little bit of fun and playfulness!)
Self-Talk to support a Continuous Learning Mindset
What we say to ourself is the most powerful voice of all. The internal voice we all have is also the voice we have the ability to change, because what we internalize and say to ourself is only one version of events.
For example, I could say to myself, “I was told as a child to be quiet.” If I’m still internalizing a version of that such as, “I have to be quiet and not speak up,” that is simply one option of a myriad of other messages I could be internalizing and saying to myself.
Personally, I’ve transmuted nearly every “negative” message I internalized from my childhood and earlier life. Over many years, I’ve deliberately examined each message I hear myself saying to myself and replaced less useful self-talk with something that feels better for me. These are not affirmation as such, they are more like a truth that I can embrace.
Using the example of “Be quiet and don’t speak,” I might instead say, “It’s great that I know how to be silent, instead of speaking just for the sake of saying something.”
Here’s a very personal example, to demonstrate that even the toughest of messages and situations can be transformed within ourselves. My relationship with my father remained fractured, even until his death. And yet years before he passed, I internalized a beautifully loving experience of my father that feels so nurturing. I hear words from my father that I want to hear, and I even feel a physical, loving sensation in my body, where the cells of my body are being affected in life-giving ways.
In the past, when I had internalized and held on to negative words or messages, I had a completely different feeling in my body, and even illness.
We all have this power to change the words we repeat to ourselves, and the effect on our being.
Everything we say to ourselves is a choice (another belief I’ve internalized). Or we take in the words of another, and hold on to them. Yet we all have the power to examine and change words, phrases, and messages we say to ourselves.
When it comes to being a coach who is learning to become a better coach, here are some starter empowering messages to consider, with the intention that you then experiment with your own best empowering messages;
- This learning is just for me.
- I’m a sensitive person who will use my sensitivity to determine what is true for me.
- I’m kind to others, and also choose to be kind to myself.
- When recording my coaching sessions, I know I have complete control over who I ever share any of my coaching recordings with.
- I have the power at any time to delete any coaching recordings I don’t want to listen to, or don’t want to share with my mentor coach (or with ICF for a credential).
- If I’m 100% engaged in my learning, I’ll gain 100% of the benefits in every moment.
- I curiously examine my coaching for self-learning, rather than self- judgment.
- I’m in this learning journey no matter how long it takes for me.
- I compare myself to myself.
- No one can steal my peace from me.
Life as a Roller Coaster Ride
Here’s a metaphorical message I also use with myself. I tend to think of life being like a roller coaster ride. Some roller coaster experiences seem super scary, and yet the same ride can be exhilarating. Both may feel true and be my valid in-the-moment experience.
Depending on which perspective I hold on to – scary or exhilarating – will determine the learning I’m able to extract from any life experience, which includes continuously becoming the best coach I can be, so I can walk-the-talk and be in service of my coaching and mentoring clients seeking to develop themselves to be their best self.
Something often surprising to many coaches I mentor, is that I consider my learning journey toward mastery is an ongoing journey. I’ve arrived here and have been MCC certified since 2005. And I do feel satisfied with my current level of mastery because I’ve learned so much since then to evolve as our understanding of masterful coaching skills has evolved. And yet I want to continue to develop and improve. Both are true – feeling truly satisfied, while seeking to develop further mastery.
This is often something that surprises coaches I mentor who are awarded their MCC credential. They email me and say they are so proud of the work they put in to receive this credential, and the roller coaster ride they’ve been on to get to this point. And yet then realize there is so much more to learn, which feels exhilarating.
I often say that the day I’m no longer learning something, is the day you can scatter my ashes in the ocean!
I always feel like I’m “winning” when I engage in life from a learning mindset. Life will always present challenges and opportunities. When my ego or needs are triggered, I have techniques to examine myself, or I engage with my coach. I’m also lucky to be married to one of the best coaches on the planet that I can speak with too. Here’s Michael’s website
Nothing in my life that happens is ever wasted; every mistake is an opportunity to become more self-aware, to embrace what feels right to embrace, or what feels best to release. (Yes, those are more empowering messages to myself, for myself 😊. Kindness and self-love are qualities I continually give myself messages about).
PS. If you’d like some lightness and inspiration about how to engage with mistakes, go to YouTube and search for the the song, Try Everything, sung by the beautiful being, Shakira, for the soundtrack of the movie, Zootopia.
Written by Carly Anderson, MCC
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