Who uses a ‘coach’, and what are they exactly?
The word ‘coach’ comes from the idea of an old coach carriage, which could take you from one place to another. A coach does the same thing, only rather on a development journey rather than a physical one.
I first got into coaching as I wanted to expand my repertoire as a manager. Whilst I found that I enjoyed learning more about leadership, I was curious on how a less-directive approach could be another way to motivate people. In the world of work where our success is based upon our people, I figured it would be a helpful skill to have.
Yet coaching can be far more than a simple motivational tool. It can help genuinely develop people in a way that courses and books cannot as it takes a far more individual approach to personal development. When I received coaching, I never realised how much certain implicit beliefs I had built up were holding me back. For example, I had this subconscious view that to be successful in my career I had to be unhappy. My logic was that being happy was for those who wanted the easy life, whereas me as an ambitious person was doomed to take greater responsibility and suffer for it.
But it took a coach to examine this misguided notion of masochism to pull it apart. I no longer believe this story I told myself. In fact, I now believe the opposite – the happier I am, the more I achieve the things I want to do. I find myself rarely using words like ‘ambition’ and ‘motivation’ either, instead pursuing things because I want to.
Without this weight on my shoulders, it’s been far easier to live a more fulfilled life. In my personal life, I have kindled more friendships and gotten into hobbies such as yoga and language learning. In my professional life, I had a dynamic career in the UK Government moving up the ranks fairly rapidly, which more recently has shifted to living a dream where I’ve moved abroad to Brussels to work on influencing EU sustainability policy.
So I understand the transformative effect coaching can have, particularly when we reexamine how we are living our lives. When I hold coaching conversations with others, I enjoy delving into these areas. This goes deep – questioning fundamental assumptions that people have about life and the world. I do this because I can see the transformative effect it can have on people, which can then lead them to have far happier lives whilst also getting much further in the career path or new venture they want to take.
A recent conversation I’ve had is around the idea of anxiety. I’ve spoken to a lot of different people who believe that their worries are what make them successful – the stress and panic is what keeps them from failing at their job. Without the worry, they believe that they would have nothing to spur them on to do the things they need to.
However, this can be reframed to realising that people can do the things they want to without needing anxiety. From this position, people can let go of this negative shroud, which allows them to go on and enjoy life. And the funny thing about life is that from this place of stillness, we are at our most creative and do our best work. What often follows is an increase in traditional metrics like ‘productivity’ because people are no longer spending so much time dreading failure.
Another area I like to examine with people is how much we make things seem incredibly important, which only serves to put pressure on ourselves. This week I chaired an event in the European Parliament sitting next to an MEP. On the one hand it was a milestone for our whole project which could define our project’s success. On the other, it was one of thousands of events happening that very same day, of which I would probably not even remember on my death bed. I figured that even if it didn’t go particularly well, the world would go on and there would be other opportunities to do something well later. From this space, I was calm and collected, which allowed me to do the things to make the event go well. In the end it went incredibly well.
Nonetheless, this transformation is not a simple task that happens magically without any effort put in. The real power in coaching is that ultimately you are the one doing the work. Nobody is telling you how to live your life, it is for you to go out and make the changes. A coach can serve to push, encourage, challenge and guide you. They’ve probably gone through a related journey themselves. It will enable you to get where you want to go much faster than what you would have done otherwise.
So coaching can be incredibly powerful. There is a great power in examining these fundamental views that we hold. It can lead to incredible personal change which enhances both professional and personal satisfaction.
If you’re curious to understand more about these conversations, you can drop me a message.
What experiences have you had around coaching?