Like any industry, there are good coaches and bad coaches. So, being able to spot a good one becomes increasingly important when you’re prepared to pay for results. Here’s a quick 3-point check for you to assess your prospective coach.
They don’t talk about themselves
Shocking right? I don’t think I need to elaborate on this point a whole lot but I will say this. Coaching isn’t a friendship. As such, a good coach keeps their own stories, judgements and opinions strictly to themselves. Believe it or not, even a facial expression represents an opinion that can influence the client’s self-discovery. Considering the basis coaching is facilitating the client finding answers for themselves, the coach’s opinion or anything that happens that may make the session about the coach is unnecessary (and actually not coaching).
Did you know our spoken word makes up a measly 7% of our communication? So other than a brief synopsis provided by the coach in the very first session, including an abridged history and maybe how they got into coaching to establish credibility, the coach should remain completely impartial. Think of a coaching session as a blank canvas for the client to explore and make their own discoveries, in true alignment with what they’re ready for at that point in time. There is no room for the coach to impart their personal opinion on what the client decides is right for them.
When you’re in a coaching session and you have a moment where you feel judged or like the opinion of the coach is influencing your own, trust your intuition and ask yourself whether they’re serving you, after all you’re paying for it. When a coach imparts their opinion, it can be expressed in the way of advice, stories or talking about similar experiences.
The ONLY exception is when a form of specialised knowledge is required and sought after, for instance a business coach where the coach is being paid specifically for their expertise. They’re being paid to give ADVICE. Advice is the role of a specialist or mentor. Questioning is the role of a coach.
They interrupt you
In any other context, I hate being interrupted. I find it unbelievably rude and can’t stand it when others and their big egos don’t even allow you to finish what you’re saying. Apparently, what they have to say is more important – but maybe it’s my ego that gets so annoyed? To be honest I hate it being done to anybody, not just me, and therefore I make a conscious effort to refrain from interrupting others while they’re speaking. The only exception, is when I’m coaching.
As human beings, we’re constantly running patterns of behaviour (or, in coaching, we call these strategies). If I was to film you doing something (like getting in your car and putting on your seatbelt) for 7 days in a row, you’d do it exactly the same way. Our brains are wired to learn something, automate it (i.e. make it unconscious) and then repeat as we learnt it because it consumes less energy. This way our energy can be expelled on other things. Our brain and body choose the path of least resistance. For those of you who go to the gym, it’s like when you do a new activity incorrectly from a postural and technical perspective. It takes a significant amount of repetition doing it correctly to firstly unwire, then rewire the brain (neurology).
So when a coach actually coaches, they’ll often interrupt you. This is to interrupt the strategy. To break the pattern. To disrupt the neural network. Especially in the case where you might be repeating what you’ve already said multiple times (which means it’s an ingrained pattern, which by the way we don’t often know we’re doing), which typically means you’re losing focus on what it is you want and instead focusing on the problem you currently have. Coaching is future focused, outcome focused. So reverting back to talking about the past is something a coach will respectfully pull you up on if it’s no longer serving you.
They often make you uncomfortable
As mentioned earlier, coaching isn’t a friendship and at times, from an outside perspective, coaches can seem downright rude. This relates to breaking patters (what we call breaking state), and sometimes doing whatever necessary to help the client move from a ‘stuck’ emotion, such as procrastination or overwhelm, to a ‘moving’ emotion. A moving emotion can be anything and you’ll know what type of momentum different emotional states have for you. For me, ‘moving’ emotions are focused, fired up, even frustrated and angry. Each emotion has a slightly different ‘mood momentum’ and depending on the client’s reluctance or willingness to change, the coach will work with the client to move from stuck to moving forward in a way appropriate for the client.
It’s never the intention of a coach to be nasty and it takes a practiced coach to read a situation and client well enough to use the right tact. Discomfort means moving forward (heard of the comfort zone?). With some anger and frustration – even if misdirected towards the coach at that time, the fight will more often than not help people achieve. It is the coach’s role to judge whether a seemingly harsher approach is warranted or not. Sometimes it’s not, sometimes it is but coaching is not only a nice, comfortable conversation.
Comfortable and nice conversations often don’t assist people moving forward and getting the results they want.
This is what makes coaching such a rewarding process. The coach is there to create and support the client through the discomfort and subsequent growth. If the client isn’t ready for change, they wouldn’t have signed up with a coach in the first place. So they are ready in some way and it’s the coach’s job to work with the beautiful human being in front of them to help them accept whatever change they’re ready for, safely and at appropriate times, with a velvet stick.