March 27, 2006

What We Really Want from Coaching

If you have been in business for some time, chances are good that you have worked with a business or personal coach or know someone who has. Many people hire a coach to help them get what they want: More money. More work-life balance. The competitive edge. The job of their dreams. A healthier body.

Others turn to coaching because they are not sure of what they really want. They think they should want to be a success in business but they notice they're not motivated...or they think they have a book in them but they don't know how to get it on paper. (That's me!)

What do coaches provide? Pretty much what an athletic coach does: they are there to help you clarify your goals and galvanize your talents so that you can "win."

However, having too many expectations of the coaching experience can send both client and coach down a very windy road. Awhile back, I joined "the world's premiere coaching organization" hoping to pick up some pointers. What I received was a lesson in overwhelm. The organization's website, its many newsletters and many, many teleseminars and self-study eCourse offerings provide information about business-building, skills enhancement, training and certification, even coach-themed greeting cards. (Oh yeah, and some tips for working with clients too.) Then there are the seminars and study groups, covering everything from how to balance your life and work to how to live a raw foods lifestyle. One could spend a lifetime (and several bank accounts) navigating this site and its hundreds of coaching niche experts.

On the other hand, my very positive experience with a wonderful coach went something like this: she first probed me with thoughtful, pointed questions about my skills, interests and desires. Once goals were established, she suggested some strategies to help me implement the changes I wanted. She was also "on call" while I found my way, acting as my sounding board and my champion. This helped me get moving on my writing and my facilitation practice, as well as to let go of other projects that weren't serving me.

Some coaches will hold the client accountable, point out blind spots and resistances, and push the client to move through them. My coach uses The Work of Byron Katie as one of her coaching tools. She knows that one of the best ways to empower an individual is to gently guide them to their own tru so that they can be accountable to themselves, recognize their own "gremlins," and let themselves be guided instead of pushed. (If this sounds attractive, check her out: Melanie Keveles, )

What is it that we truly seek from coaching? I suspect if we went deeply enough, we'd all come up with the same answer: freedom. What imprisons us are our concepts of what freedom is and how we're going to get it. We have believed that freedom is going to result from having the material success, the free time, the great business partner, the perfect life partner, the buff bod, the world's cooperation.

Is that true?

Let's say we want more money. So we get it. Are we fulfilled now? After all, there's always more money to get.

And if we lose the money, then what? Perhaps we realize at some point that money isn't everything. Now we go all out to "make a difference" and get love, approval, and appreciation from our peers. We've been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, or won a humanitarian award. The thrill of that lasts for about five minutes.

So now we write a book, it gets published, it makes the bestseller list, we give seminars on it, we're not making big bucks but we're busy. And we're not quite completely fulfilled yet.

So what's next? Pilates. New spouse. Adopt an entire orphanage. New business venture with exciting, energetic, rich backers. These are all wonderful things to do. And do you notice how it never ends? That's because we have defined "freedom" as "having enough of something."

What if the opposite were true? What if freedom from our thoughts about what we want and need were the true freedom? That's the realization that honest inquiry brings to the freedom-seeker; something that consulting, rah-rah and self improvement regimens alone can never provide.

This doesn't mean we will stagnate or that we won't have what we want. But we may go about getting what we want without all the "shoulds," all the stress, all the drama.

Isn't this is what we really want from coaching?

© 2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

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