In my work as a Coach I meet many people who are unclear about the role coaching can play in helping them to reach their potential. It is no wonder, given that we use the words “coach” and “coaching” for so many different things; if you were to poll 10 people you would get 10 different answers to the question “What is coaching?”. There is variance because even professional coaches get into it for different reasons (and that doesn’t even begin to cover coaching as it is used in sports). Coaching as a profession is there to help others and coaches who choose to pursue International Coaching Federation (ICF) endorsed certification are able to assist anyone with any topic that plagues them, be it personal or professional (or both). Coaching, as a profession, does not exist to “change people”, but to “enable people to change”. It is a subtle but important distinction.
So subtle that it can be missed, or at the very least be confusing. To look at it another way, consider coaching less as a call to change and more as building the capability to pivot. Let me illustrate this concept; in sports pivots are a very powerful move, allowing you agility and giving you more time and space to maneuver towards your ultimate goal. It is one of the things you learn in gym class about team sports, and we see it on the field/court every time we watch professionals (usually to huge effect) as we see a player apply a very subtle shift in his or her body position and make the play. It is no less powerful in life to be able to pivot from where we are, not changing exactly, but engaging a slightly different approach to powerful effect.
To bring this closer to you as you read this, take a few minutes to look around you, name off the things you can see clearly in your field of vision. Now move a few degrees to one side, what can you see clearly now that you couldn’t before? This is one example of the power of a pivot, and learning to do this in life has positive and tangible benefits. However, there is another component to coaching that comes into play that most people are not able to put their finger on, but is instrumental in supporting our efforts to pivot. That is finding the path to get from where you are today to where you would like to be. As an example, we can all list the benefits of doing things that are good for us, like flossing, eating well and exercising for thirty minutes a day, but while we can all agree we should be doing them, and we all know how to do them, we may not actually do these things consistently (or at all). Why is that?
The simple answer is knowledge is not enough to initiate lasting change. Knowledge is a great start, there are many people who will point to knowledge having been instrumental in creating change for them, but these individuals also went on a journey to solidify that knowledge into change, it wasn’t immediate or necessarily easy. The ability to pivot is supported by our own awareness of what is happening in our reality today and understanding how the current reality no longer supports what we may now want or need. A coaching program is developed with the client and coach working together to build a level of awareness that supports natural dedication to small adjustments, building powerful new permanent capabilities. Coaching is a gentle process that enables individuals to do this by and for themselves, supporting lasting change long after the coaching program is complete. This is not like attending a seminar, getting strong feedback at work, or reading a really great self-help book (although those things can be helpful). Coaching is a process that supports helping you to do whatever you want to be able to do more effectively, in incremental ways that are unique to you. In essence it enables you to pivot, and in doing so supports you in making the best “plays” of your life.
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I believe in empowering others in many tangible ways. When I learn new career strategies or see something that might help others, I share it using my blog and website.