observations on what it means to coach & be coached

While I was struggling with “stuck” in my dead end (officially now) job, I can remember saying to my mom, “Maybe I should get a life coach.”

It was around 2007 and life coaches were being featured everywhere in the media but, as of yet, I still didn’t know any. She told me I didn’t really need one (mom, you know I wouldn’t change anything… but I’m going to say you were probably wrong on this one!). And I left it at that.

Although it was about this same time when I also had a conversation with her about being a consultant. I had no idea what that meant other than forming strong opinions and telling others what to do. This sounded gooooooood.

Once I started working towards my own business, I realized that coaches & consultants were everywhere (and are not at all the same thing). Some offered to work with you in the short term, some in the long term. Some offered to coach your life, others your business. Some offered complete packages, others more nebulous outcomes. Some were accredited from various organizations, some were not.

As my business grew & evolved, some coaches became my very good awesome friends. And more & more, coaches became a part of my audience.

And then it happened… coaches wanted to be coached by me!

This. freaked. me. out.

How do you coach a coach? Honestly, I’m still not sure. I just do what I do – and I love every minute of it. But I’ve learned a lot through coaching coaches (and many other types of creative business owners!) and I thought it was time to share some of that learning.

Demystify this whole procedure a bit.

Note: for the purposes of this post, I’m using the word “coach” to describe anyone who offers a service that involves working one-on-one towards the purpose of making what you do better & more fully you and who doesn’t just tell you what to do.

My own brand of coaching is interrogative, right-brained business strategizing. Yes, I just made that up. You’ll see what I mean if you keep reading! I am not a life, career, wellness, marketing, or brand coach. I coach business owners to find a) their passion-driven purpose and b) the profit in that purpose. Other coaches do other things. And I love them for it!

Without further ado, observations on coaching & being coached from a coach with no credentials other than success (her own & others).

Third party perspective is one of the most important things you can invest in.

I know a lot about myself & my business. I know most of the things I should be doing, even if I don’t do them. I have a good idea of where I’m headed, where I’ve been, and all the steps in between.

However, what I don’t know about myself & my business is what it looks like to someone else. I’ve learned through being a 3rd party perspective and from hiring 3rd party perspectives, that there just is no way to objectively look at yourself or your business “outside your self.” Our assumptions, inner dialogue, expectations, and past experience will always get in the way of seeing things how others see them.

The job of a coach is to help you strip those things away.

For example, I did a one-on-one Firestarter Session with Danielle LaPorte in February. Through a series of questions & then sharing her observations, Danielle helped me understand a core belief of mine was no longer true. In this case, I believed that I was synonymous with my other website, Scoutie Girl.

At another time, with a different course of action, that might have been true. But it was true no longer. Scoutie Girl is a product of this business of “me.” All of my other goals (regular speaking gigs, book deal, more coaching clients, etc…) wouldn’t happen until I owned up to “me” as my brand, business, and full package.

Of course, once I had that realization, I saw that this was how others had been seeing me for a very long time. I was late to the party. My party!

The second half of this realization – lest you forget – is that 3rd party perspective is an investment. Good coaches cost good money. They will also give you much of their time & demand yours in return. You will also invest a good bit of emotional capital with them. If you’re not willing to invest, you’re not ready to be coached. And you probably aren’t really ready to reach that goal you have in mind.

It’s okay to not have the right answer. My client always has a better one.

When someone gives you their money, it’s easy to allow yourself to think it’s because you have the answers. Heck, I love to have the answers and I love to dole them out.

But the clients who get the most from me and scare the pants off of me are the ones for whom I have no answers. They’re the people who are already rocking what they do, who have a good idea of where they’re going, and know who are they are. But something isn’t clicking.

My job isn’t to “click it” for them. My job is to help them click themselves.

I ask questions they’ve been avoiding. Or questions they haven’t even thought of. I challenge their assumptions. Then all at once – or sometimes much much more slowly – they realize an answer for themselves. And I think to myself, “why didn’t I think of that?” Then I remember, it’s not the answer that’s my job, it’s the question.

There are few things more powerful than an unexpected question.

In a coaching relationship, your job as the client is not to ask questions but to provide true answers.

Of course, asking questions is good too! Just be prepared to get answered with another question!

Sure, I can strategize & tell you what to do with the best of ‘em. As a business coach, we will come up with ideas & realizations that require me to set aside the coaches hat & put on a strategist or consultant hat. But that part of my job is really secondary to helping you discover the truth about your business for yourself.

Coaching isn’t fast.

Because so much of what I do as a coach is stripping away tired assumptions and helping you find your own best direction, it’s not a fast process.

Of course, I value my clients time & money very, very much so I never waste time. But it’s entirely possible to start with one outcome in mind and, several sessions later, have a whole new, invigorating outcome in mind.

It’s also possible that the true breakthrough from a session comes days or weeks after the fact. It took me weeks to really understand what was going on in my Firestarter Session. It’s taken me equal time to digest the Pitch Perfect session that I did with Dyana Valentine. I worked with Tara Mohr on some more general life coaching and I’m still feeling my way through the questions she asked me.

Yes, I try to give my clients something really meaty to take away from each session with me. But it’s the things that linger and ripen that end up having the most impact.

When you enter a coaching relationship, it’s important to be open to that fact.

My experience with coaching & being coached is my own. It’s also an ever-evolving experience. While I wholeheartedly believe these observations to be true, your experience may be different.

It’s also important for me to say that I wholeheartedly believe in accredited life coaches, like Michelle Ward. The purpose of this post isn’t to say I have all the answers (that was clear, wasn’t it?) even though I am self-taught & experience-driven, it was to share my observations.

Have you been coached? What are your observations?

Are you thinking about hiring a coach? What are your questions?