What the Hey is Coaching, Anyway?
My profession’s name lends itself to confusion. Upon hearing the word coaching, you may think of sports and great names like Belichick, Krzyzewski, Rockne, etc. (If you’re American, that is.) Sports, however, has little to do with life coaching, although there are many similarities. To lessen the confusion, let’s take a deeper look to see just what life coaching is all about!
To begin, it’s helpful to think about flourishing. We know it by the way it feels. When we are flourishing, we go about our days with a sense of zest and purpose. We feel engaged and challenged in healthy ways. We have the belief that we are becoming the best version of ourselves possible.
We feel its opposite, languishing, too. When we languish, we sense that something in our life is missing, but we may not be entirely sure what that is. Or, we languish because we have a dream, but lack either the confidence, direction, or opportunity to pursue it.
Coaches help clients, or coachees, identify and pursue their dreams and the things that give meaning to their lives. The strength of the coaching relationship plays a critical role in the achievement of a client’s dreams. A coach contributes to this relationship with what I prefer to call the 3 A’s and E’s of Coaching.
Let’s begin with the 3 E’s. Coaching is egalitarian. Both the client and coach are equally responsible for the success of the coaching process. The coachee identifies the goals they wish to work on with the coach. These goals include micro goals for an individual session, as well as the greater macro life goals that the session may be a part of. The client determines the speed at which these goals are tackled. At any time in the conversation, the client has the right to redirect conversation, or even to change the goal for the session. Furthermore, the coachee is recognized as the expert in their life, and competent to make changes they deem necessary.
Secondly, coaching is encouraging. Setting new goals in life often brings new challenges. This can leave any of us with second thoughts. “Do I have what it takes to make this happen?” “How can this possibly be achieved?” The coach is there, by the client’s side, to encourage and inspire them on their journey towards their dreams. They may do this by reminding the coachee of previous success they have had, or of the client’s self-stated importance and meaning of accomplishing their goal. The coach doesn’t assent when a client has a limited view of themselves. They believe in their client to the last. Coachees sense this belief, and are encouraged to move forward with their plan.
Finally, coaching is empowering. Through the process of tackling life’s challenges head on, clients gain a greater sense of self-efficacy and self-confidence. They believe in themselves more, and develop ever greater skills to handle their challenges.
Coaches help facilitate this process of empowerment through the 3 A’s of awareness, action, and accountability. Over the course of their coaching relationship, clients learn a lot about themselves thanks to the powerful questions coaches ask. They discover hidden strengths as well as hang ups that may hinder their success. They uncover meaning in their pursuits, as well as identifying different resources to help them. This enhanced awareness helps clients better define the goals they set for themselves, the importance of working towards those goals, and the latent and newfound skills they possess. This awareness allows clients to make more informed decisions in their lives.
Coaching promotes action. Dreams and self awareness are great to have, but without action, they remain incomplete. Coaches help clients identify and take practical steps towards their self-stated goals. Coaches also help the client foresee potential pitfalls, and develop proactive strategies to overcome them.
Lastly, coaches provide accountability. Knowing you will meet with your coach the following week to address the steps you’ve outlined can be incredibly motivating, and helps clients remain engaged and focused in the process of achieving their goals. Life has a way of creating distractions, and those distractions can derail our enthusiasm and momentum, leaving us discouraged and reluctant to continue on our journey. With the accountability that good coaching provides, clients feel less tempted to follow distraction and are better able to build on the momentum their weekly successes and insights generate.
By looking at coaching through the lens of the 3 Es and As, we can see many similarities between the profession and that of a basketball coach. Great coaches in both arenas believe in their coachees unfailingly. They empower them to see things they struggle to see on their own, and they hold them accountable to high standards. The difference between the two professions lies in the coachee’s role. In life coaching, the coachee helps craft the game plan. They set their own standards. They determine the next move forward, and when practice ends.