Easy there, coach
Let’s just get this important fact out of the way: a great advice giver does not make a great professional life coach.
With so many, so many people moving into the coaching profession, I feel it’s pretty important to distinguish and examine this commonly misconceived fact.
Again, great advice givers do not make great coaches. Even business coaches, who typically switch between coach and consultant, know that success does not come from simply giving answers or telling clients what to do. The transformational coaching process works very differently.
I bring this up, because I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard people announce their move to coaching because ‘they are the one everyone comes to for advice’. Recently, I heard a very successful coach promoting a new coaching school and enticing people with this exact sentiment. (They actually led with, ‘Are you the one everyone comes to for advice?‘) Similarly, having high intuition also does not necessarily make a great coach. After all, how can one stay curious and present, when they already feel like they know the issue and solution?!
Sure, among my peer groups I am the one that friends come to for advice (Gemini Sun, it’s in my nature). I have a high EQ and an immense love of learning. However, learning how to stifle my biases, ideas, opinions and perceived knowledge is one of the most difficult things I have had to learn to overcome as a coach. Essentially, in my quest for excellence, I’ve had to learn, and continue to manage, how to keep my opinions to myself, not share what I think I know, and essentially listen way more than I speak. This, by the way, is an ongoing practice.
Importantly, I’ve had to learn how to not allow my personal fears or doubts influence my visionary clients in any way. Sure, I may strongly think that launching a million dollar project in a recession is risky, but decisions like these are what makes my VIP clients successful. As a great coach in this situation, I may not be able to offer strategic business advice, nor is it wanted, but I can certainly help my client utilize their strengths, knowledge and experience through listening, curiosity and asking deep questions that spark awareness, among other things.
Coaching is not counselling. It is not consulting, although it could be helpful at times for a coach to share specialized knowledge. Certified coaches have (hopefully) gone through rigorous training to listen first, mirror the client, ask questions, identify discrepancies and strategically empower the client to insights and awareness. This is not done through advice giving.
Great coaches stay curious; like genuinely curious. They tread lightly, and when need be, courageously delve. I’ve had clients get offended when I called them out on something (or simply repeat back what they’ve said), but again, by staying curious, I am able to considerately inquire about triggers and explore beliefs and values with my clients, together as thinking partners.
Personally, in my coaching sessions, I listen for patterns. I often find that where the conversations starts is where it also ends. My questions are inquiries and opportunities for exploration and consideration. As a coach, I also share my personal experiences, and insights that come up for me – as an intuitive offering that the client can choose to process or disregard as needed. Also, I do not offer unsolicited advice, instead prompt the client to tap into their own best advice.
On my very first day of Professional Coaching Graduate School, the instructor began the class by challenging students to “come with a beginner’s mind.” I could never forget this, as it’s been an anchor or beacon for my practice. She went on, “I know there is a lot of talent in this room, and many here are very accomplished professionals, however I encourage you to be curious, stay open, listen more and ditch any preconceptions.” I assure you, the first week was a mindf*ck, as the lot of us struggled to unlearn, and … keep our mouth’s shut. Eventually, I recall setting an intention to trust the process; trust the framework and trust my intuition, after conscious and unconscious competence kicked in through many months/years of training and practice.
I love coaching. As a puzzle solver and conscious explorer, it allows me to be strategic and help others examine their programming and inner guidance systems. This is also why I am fascinated by astrology; it’s like an infinite puzzle to figure out and put together. Most coaches I know also love coaching. They, like most people, feel a real sense of purpose and accomplishment by helping others.
It should be said that clients often ask for advice. Sometimes people want acknowledgement or validation, or sometimes they just want an answer. For this, coaches know to stay in coach mode – that is, stay out of problems – and continue to inquire and prompt, challenge and encourage. It is absolutely possible, and logical at times to offer personal advice, particularly if it makes sense or comes from personal experience or something similar.
You may give great advice. You may think logically and creatively; and have a talent for solving other people’s problems. Yet this will not make you a great coach. On the contrary, this will be your challenge, yet learning to manage it will provide significant personal growth – and as an ongoing practice will certainly facilitate powerful professional coaching awareness.