September 24, 2007

Why The Work Isn't Coaching (Yet, Coaches Love The Work

Every now and again I buy the story that my former creative marketing consultant self—who still lives in my head—likes to tell, and I start wondering if I could reach more people more effectively if I were a business or life coach.

However, every time I check out these options, I change my mind quickly. For my comfort level, there is too much emphasis in coach training programs on "effecting change," which is something I'm not interested in. Not that change isn't good; I just don't see myself as wanting or needing that for my clients, since I've largely stopped desiring change (even while I certainly welcome change) for myself. The Work has this way of making one realize that nothing ever has to change, no one ever has to change, I don't even have to change in order to be perfectly okay...although change for the good may indeed occur in an atmosphere of clarity.

This shift in consciousness doesn't allow me to write the kind of promotional copy that typically attracts business clients, so hoards of corporations aren't approaching me (yet). However, I can't think of a better skill to have in business than self-inquiry. (See my eBook, Transformational Inquiry, Working on Your Work, on this page.) Communication, mediation, stress reduction, Emotional Intelligence, crisis management...the applications of The Work to the world of work are numerous, and the modality is a natural for the executive coach with visionary clients.

Today I was looking at a website that shall remain nameless, a coaching institute in Southern California that I'd heard good things about. Their site is filled with terminology like "developing long term change strategies," "measuring coaching effectiveness," "assessment," "vision," and "executing and sustaining change." I lost interest in this school very quickly.

How is the effectiveness of coaching measured? I think it translates to this: you want something, I coach you, and if you get it, then my coaching was effective.

I try hard not to make promises about The Work based on what I think people want to hear. That's not the modus operandi of some practitioners, who promise the moon, with bonus stars and planets included if you act now. It always gives me pause to see this, because it's just too tempting for people to do The Work with the motive of "getting the goods." This, to me, misses the point of inquiry entirely.

Some business and life coaches latch onto The Work in this way: "Let's do The Work on the beliefs that are holding you back so that you can find direction, fulfill your vision, get what you want."

That's one way to use The Work, and here's what happens: if we don't appear to be getting what we think we want, we say, "The Work doesn't work." That's based on a belief: "It's working if I get what I want." We've been conditioned to live lives of wish-fulfillment, so no wonder the corporate structure is built on this. Try selling a business on the idea that "everything is unfolding as it should." It takes an enlightened captain of industry to recognize that sometimes, if we don't get what we think we want, we are spared...or that there are no mistakes...even while the success stories of Post-It notes (3M was looking to create a super-glue) and Ivory soap (it wasn't supposed to float), both product "failures," are legendary.

Say I am using The Work as a way of addressing body issues: I want to lose weight, or get buff. I work on my stressful beliefs about dieting or exercise, and I notice I'm going to the gym and eating better. Great; how long is this going to last if I have not touched upon underlying beliefs about the body and health? What happens if I don't get to the gym one week, should I do a worksheet and force myself? If I gain back a pound, does it mean I didn't do my work, or that The Work doesn't work? It feels almost violent to use The Work this way.

The Work ceases to work when we do it with a motive (other than out of the love of truth), because motivation is a stressor, loaded with shoulds, wants, and needs—the stuff of uncomfortable beliefs. It ceases to work when we don't answer the questions, because we're so attached to outcome. It doesn't work when we use the turnarounds as affirmations. ("I can't be a billionaire." "I can be a billionaire! Woohoo, I'm a money magnet!")

We may want to have a spouse, a slender body, or a fat bank account. We may want to bring our company to the next level. There is nothing wrong with these things; they are wonderful. How are we doing in the meantime? If I love what I am, what I have, what is, I am so much more available to my coach's coaching than when I am coming from a place of criticism, frustration, dissatisfaction, or greed.

So I love that coaches add The Work to their toolkits for clients to know themselves better. (That's what my coach does.) And in the world of work, it could be that we can be more present and efficient, more approachable as supervisors, more creative as leaders, when we come from a place of clarity rather than a stressful place of the desire to effect change.

To learn more about The Work at Work, join my mailing list at With your complimentary subscription to the Transformational Inquiry ezine, you'll receive The Nine Proficiencies of The Work at Work as my gift.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Anonymous said...

Hmmm - I like!

I still call my-self a coach, mainly because I don't really know what else to say... perhaps:

"person that helps people accept themself and others in a way that they could never have imagined possible"

In fact, I've given up on coaching as I use to do it, because The Work, in my own experience, is the direct path to feeling happier, more relaxed, less suffering - and that may not be true for others.

And just before reading your blog I did an inquiry on "I shouldn't think life is pointless" - realizing I was coming to a previous inquiry "Life is pointless" with the motive of changing the belief....
(posted on the Just 4 Questions blog).

With love,


Anonymous said...

Another thought Carol:

Coaching helps people to get to where they want to be, The Work helps people to get to where they are...

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Hi Jon,

I'd say we already are where we are! The Work helps me to see that where I am is where I want to be. And where I am could change, and that would be fine too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carol,

I've been thinking about what you said about The Work helping within coaching - and I'm not clear why anyone that does The Work would use a coach.

My assumption is that a coach helps someone to work towards a future goal - and not sure how that fits with The Work.

Could you say a bit more about this?

With love and thanks, Jon

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Okay, so I'm obviously somebody who does The Work, and I occasionally consult a coach, so I'll answer from experience.

I don't think that doing The Work necessitates leaving goals behind. It's fine to work towards what you want, and it's fine to seek advice, assistance, someone to be accountable to and get rah-rahs from, etc. Why not?

And if we think that getting what we want is going to make us happy, we may be confused. We may also be confused if we think we can have anything we want.

In my experience, if I am happy with what I have, then I am more available to seeing what's available to me. That's why The Work is such a great tool for coaches to offer their clients.

I approached my coach thinking I just wanted to "write the damn book," but together, we discovered that there were other things available to me as well, and I didn't have to actively pursue any of them, but I agreed with her that I certainly could, when the timing was right. Having her to bounce ideas off of, plus The Work, got me thinking creatively, facing my fears (the yeabuts and whatifs), and I liked being heard. I also hear myself in a different way when I speak to someone else, especially if they're asking me questions that I would not necessarily think to ask myself.

It has not been a particularly goal-oriented collaboration, which may be unusual in the realm of coaching relationships.

I didn't write "The Book," (though I still might), but I left my old business behind, left my home (and my very sticky identity as a New Yorker, a homeowner, a copywriter, etc.) and I wrote some eBooks, generated some ideas for my business and my life, went ahead with some of them, have others in the "not yet and maybe not at all" pile, basically just opened to lots of possibilities and found myself happy with what is as well. For me it was very successful to work with a coach whose mindset is similar to my own, and I would do it again.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Carol - this is great and very useful - food for thought :-)

With love and thanks,