What it feels like to coach

I’ve had a chance for several coaching sessions recently – both as a coach and as a client – and I started thinking about what a unique experience it is to help someone by acting as their coach.

I find this to be distinctly different from being someone’s manager, but not because I don’t coach as a manager.  I do.  The big difference is that, as a manager, I can never distance myself from the work-related goals.  I’m constantly evaluating, steering, and advising.  That’s wonderful and necessary for a manager, but it gets in the way of pure coaching.

Coaching is this:  I am able to entirely suspend my own goals and needs, and totally focus on the needs of my client.  They’d like some new ideas?  Great, I can help create the space where ideas can flourish and grow.  The client needs some feedback?  I can help them to make use of the feedback that’s already there, and offer my relatively unbiased observations, in order to help them decide what action they want to take.

I’ve discovered that what makes this special is being able to ignore my own goals and needs, and dedicate myself to what will help my client.  In the Real World™ we almost never do this; our ego is tied up in everything we do.  But in the world of coaching, this is the magic which can make a huge difference.

I’ve also observed that my sense of proportion is totally different than the client’s.  What I think might be important, or insightful, is usually different than what the client gets out of our sessions.  So how does a coach deal with this?  For me, it’s all about deep listening, but with a detached ego.  I can tell I’m making a difference when the client has to stop, think, and process – whether or not I personally happened to trigger it.

The rest of the time in coaching is what I call “the dance” – exploring, playing, discovering, understanding – but all in the gradual pursuit of that beautiful moment of insight and awakening.  It really is a quite amazing thing.

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