“If you had a magic wand and could do anything, what would you do about your situation?”
There’s no gentle build up this time, we’re jumping straight in with one of my favourite coaching questions!
So, what would you do?
If you could change anything about your life, without putting barriers or irritating practicalities in the way, what would it be?
And that’s the joy of coaching – it doesn’t set out to give you a definitive answer (because there’s never just one answer, and certainly no one-size-fits-all solution. For those working in some organisations, some days there’s barely a one-size-fits-the next-hour solution!)
Coaching is about helping you unlock the possibilities, see things differently and be open to the potential for change. Questioning and reflection are important techniques in coaching, which can sometimes be difficult concepts for action-oriented people to grasp.
I’m often asked what coaching is, and how it differs from managing, training, mentoring, learning and all the other ‘ings’ so beloved of HR departments and self-help books. At the end of the day, whilst the nuances of coaching will mean different things to different people, my definition of coaching captures the fundamental essence of coaching as a means of helping you discover how to ‘be’, not telling you what to ‘do’:
“Coaching is about identifying where you are now and where you want to get to. It’s about gaining clarity on what you do want both personally and professionally, identifying a pathway to achieve it and then supporting and empowering you to take action. Coaching develops you as a person so you can fully utilise the skills you have previously learnt; it addresses attitudes, behaviours and mindsets to put you back in control of your life and your career. Coaching is a very practical, positive and empowering process, helping you overcome challenges and thrive – both at work and in your life.”
For me, whilst the coaching process is necessarily unique to each person, there are a number of principles that remain the same:
- Coaching is founded on confidentiality and trust
- The answer lies within the person being coached – the role of the coach is to help him or her to find it
- The process has a defined and agreed goal – coaching must be focused in order to be effective and thus defining actions/next steps are an important part of every coaching session
- Coaching is centred on the whole person – any reaction to a specific issue is always shaped by other events and characteristics and therefore cannot be viewed in isolation
- Coach and coachee are equal partners in the process
The fact that you are reading this article suggests that you understand the importance of regaining control over the balance of your life. However, I wouldn’t mind betting that many of you have colleagues and family who dismiss the idea of coaching as just a bit too new age and fluffy? (They couldn’t be further from the truth). They probably can’t even begin to imagine how coaching might help them, and where would they find the time to fit it in anyway? (In which case, ironically, they are exactly the sorts of people who would benefit enormously from coaching!)
I do get it – not so long ago I probably thought along similar lines, as I didn’t actually know what coaching was – veterinary practice is pressurised and full on and we’re often told (especially by older colleagues who lived through the glory days of ‘it never did me any harm’. Hmmmmm….) that we just have to find a way to get through it all without complaining or taking things personally. But just read that back again – is that really how it should be: putting up, shutting up, and ultimately burning up? Through coaching I’ve found a better way, and I’m passionate about helping others find it too.
My own coach trip (*groan*) began several years ago when I was working as an equine veterinary surgeon. I really enjoyed my clinical work but I knew I had skills that I wasn’t using. Having gone into the profession with a primary interest in animals, I had become more and more interested in the people I met and understanding what drove their expectations and behaviours. My husband is also a vet, and between us not only have we lost ten friends and colleagues to suicide, but we also know many more with poor mental health or wellbeing. These sobering (but sadly all too common) experiences awoke in me a determination to do something positive for the brilliant people working so hard in the profession that I love.
I have an amazing coach. She empowers me to make those small changes that have a big impact on what I’m doing, she enables me to sift through the ideas and possibilities that are running through my head, she makes me question all the “I should be doing…” to formalise what I will actually do. Following the coaching sessions, I have a clearer pathway forwards and lots of actions to take and this is what you could also gain from coaching.
We have to remember the problem is not the problem, the problem is our attitude to the problem and when we can change how we look at things everything will change, coaching helps you reframe, re-evaluate and regain control.
Fundamentally, coaching helps us all to help ourselves.