I love coaching! It’s been nearly 23 years since I participated in my first 125+ hour professional coaching training program. I’m still as passionate about coaching “skills” as I’ve ever been, if not more so.
Yet many coaches who I mentor toward their ICF credential, and especially those preparing for their MCC (Master Certified Coach) credential application, tell me they have fallen back in love with coaching skills through participating in my program. That surprised me. What had these more experienced coaches not be in love with coaching skills? After hearing their responses, it seems the reasons fall into these categories;
- The work they are most valued for
- The role/identity they are most comfortable with
The work they are most valued for
One of the most challenging things to change is how we identify ourselves as being valued, or valuable. Coaching skills are a defined set of skills. Coaches commonly believe that their clients are “whole and resourceful and have a lot of knowledge about themselves to draw on.” Coaches will even say they don’t give advice. Yet in practice, a coach can often act in contradiction to their belief about what coaching is.
Part of the issue is how employers of coaches define coaching. The coaching profession continually needs to educate “the public” on what professional coaching skills are. Some people are very well informed, while others are not. Coaches can often be challenged to fully use their coaching skills, when the contractor/employer is defining coaching very differently than how their professional coach training taught them.
For example, there may be a set format of what is going to be covered in a “coaching” engagement, with a certain topic covered each session. The client doesn’t have full choice of their session focus. This is a quick indicator that this is likely a training format, called “coaching.” There might be coaching questions used, yet without a client chosen session outcome, it’s training. So why not call it that?
The role/identity they are most comfortable with
Part of the challenge is also that some coaches have a primary “identity” other than with coaching skills. This identity may be one (or more) they have been valued for, both in acknowledgement and monetary terms.
No identity is “wrong” as all have their time and place. Yet if you say you are a coach, then these identities are not within the skill set of coaching; they are different. It’s like saying you are eating food, and all food is the same. Yet we know “vegetables” are not the same as “chocolate” (although for some, chocolate is a food group just like vegetables are 😊 )
Below are some common “identities” or “mindsets” often present in coaches, which can be so strong that their coaching skills are minimally effective.
Results may be gained by their client, yet not because they engaged in masterfully using coaching skills.
Some Common Identities include:
Identity of Expert, Advisor or Consultant
There is knowledge in a certain domain the coach filters their listening through. Most often the coach wants to impart their “wisdom” to their client. Someone who’s been a consultant in Human Resources, for example, may have a lot of knowledge about HR, and people from that perspective. Yet that doesn’t mean that same “identity” is going to best serve them as a professional coach.
Identity of Mentor
Knowledge based on personal experiences, that the coach wants to impart “their experience” to the client. Again using a HR professional example, if someone seeking to attain more success in the HR field asks for coaching from a HR professional who calls themselves a coach, they might really be wanting a mentor, which is different than coaching skills.
Identity of Helper or Problem-solver
A mindset of listening for what needs “fixing” in the person. This is similar to identity of Expert/Advisor/Consultant, without the backing of a particular body of expert knowledge to draw on, perhaps more from “life experience.” Such people will often say that people have sought them out “all their lives” for help in tough situations. What they may be providing is advice, or perhaps in an empathetic friend role. This is different in mindset and approach than a coaching session using coaching skills.
Identity of Personal Development or Transformation
A mindset of wanting the client to change in a way that meets certain beliefs of the coach, which may include “seeing” something for the client. This might come from good intentions by the coach, yet it has the feel of a coach agenda, rather than meeting the client where they are. Continuing use of the HR example, a coach might see their client “speaking to a huge audience of HR professionals” when the client doesn’t want to be a speaker. Yet the coach continues to ask questions and “push” their client to think/feel that way. Yet the client doesn’t have ownership of their own vision for themselves.
Identity of Therapist
A mindset that I’m going to help you come to terms with something traumatic that is “unhealed” and help you to heal. Or the coach is identified with a type of “emotional healing” and has techniques for working with emotions. Most coaches I’ve encountered are not identified with being a therapist, quite the opposite. There are many coaches who are trained in therapeutic modalities, and they are very clear on the differences between coach and therapist.
Identity of Parent
A mindset of believing the client needs to be protected in some way. Or perhaps told what to do, for their “best.” This commonly includes coach automatically inserting themselves in client accountability for completing actions between coaching sessions. Coach asks the client to call, text or email them. This can feel parental to an adult. Instead partner with the client and ask them how accountability works for them; and what they need in order to follow through, if anything. Many people are self-accountable, and don’t need their coach to add “parental” pressure.
How to fall (back) in love with coaching?
Most of us know that vegetables and chocolate eaten at the same time is not very appetizing, and likely to “spoil” the experience of eating both. Individually they are delicious, together at same time, not so much 😊.
Developing and maintaining a high level of coaching skills competence takes practice, practice, practice. Many coaches are not practiced enough to the point where they are identified more strongly with Coaching Skills than another identity.
A turning point for me in knowing the true power of “pure” coaching skills is the first time I received feedback from a corporate client that I was contracted to coach, of the high level of satisfaction with their results from our coaching engagement. And they asked their company to extend our coaching contract. The client reported they appreciated the silence I provided after asking a question, so they could hear themselves “think.” They liked that I asked them questions from different perspectives rather than give them my answers (i.e. I didn’t offer mentoring, consulting expertise, or advice).
Questions evoked different responses than they could have thought of on their own or with a coach from their same company, or professional background (which is why it’s often more effective to hire a coach NOT from the same profession or background as their coaching client, because such a coach will likely ask questions from their experience, which may be limiting. Or cross over into mentoring, consulting or offering advice).
Engage in regularly evaluating your coaching skills
Engage with qualified professionals who are up-to-date with coaching skills being used today. There have been changes over the time I’ve been a coach that significantly effect coaching skills. One being the concept of “Partnering” with your coaching client.
Seek out regular participation in individual mentoring or a group mentoring program, and/or coaching training programs that evaluate your current coaching skills against a set of professional coaching skills (such as the ICF Core Competencies). This meets the Core Competency ICF calls, “Embodies a Coaching Mindset.”
Be open to learning, growing and developing, no matter how many hours or years you’ve been coaching. ICF provides a credentialing “Path of Development” from beginner coach (ACC) to mid-level coach (PCC) to master coach (MCC). Yet most coaches stop their learning at PCC and miss out on huge upgrades possible in their coaching skills, which will benefit the client even more.
The moral of the “story” is….refrain from eating vegetables and chocolate together because you’ll likely not enjoy the experience as much, as if you ate “pure vegetables” or “pure chocolate.” Perhaps the same can be said for getting more of a “taste” for “pure” coaching skills. I invite you to experiment for yourself.
Here’s to all coaches falling more in love with coaching skills!
Written by Carly Anderson, MCC
Are you ready to upgrade your coaching skills, and prepare for your next ICF credential?
The Mentor Coaching Group Program is an ICF approved individual / group program with 24 Core Competency CCEs on offer, including 10 hours of mentor coaching.
The next MCC Group #53 commences Wednesday, April 28, 2021
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