The inner game of being an effective Life Coach, Business Coach and Consultant
As a Coach you need the self-awareness to catch your thoughts and your emotions in real-time. Only then can you remain objective and be fair to your client.
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Why the psychology of coaching matters
You’re familiar with the safety briefing on an aeroplane: “secure your own oxygen mask before helping others”. How does this translate to Coaches and Consultants? If you’re in the business of supporting and helping others to thrive, how do you get your own mindset and inner game right?
Here are 5 practical inner game tactics you can consider.
Clear your head and remain present
As Coaches and Consultants we have our own worries. It can range from money worries, running late for your next client call, being distracted by your kids being ill, your last meeting did not go well ….the list of small niggles to big worries is endless.
So how do you remain 100% present, in the now, focused on the hitman being in front of you? How do you avoid your mind wandering? Formulating your next question? Anticipating what experiences you have in your memory bank to deal with this situation?
The old adage of ‘dig your well before you’re thirsty’ comes into play. In other words, you have to learn the skill of focusing on your breathing in your daily routines. Practising each day to spend 45-minutes in flow state, where you focus on the task in hand and shut off the noise in your head. Practising ways to get unproductive thoughts out of your head and down on paper, so you can ‘park them’ and process them vs swimming around our head. Using daily meditations time to still the mind and know that you are in control of your thoughts and not the other way around. Bit by bit, day by day you can learn to be still and fully present in your coaching conversations, no matter what is happening in the rest of your life. Like any skill, practice makes perfect.
Unless you remain judgement-free, you end up imposing your own interpretation and own views on your client. This is not the basis for a healthy coaching relationship.
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We learn from an early age to assess people. To form judgements. To have an opinion on most things. But for a Coach this can be dangerous. The more you judge, the more you ask leading questions. The more you form an opinion, the more you begin testing out your assumptions. Every time you do this, your client picks up on these cues.
The more self-aware you are, the more you can be aware of your ‘hot triggers’ – the words, the language, the inferences that a client may use, which does not fit in with your world view or values. If your client goes into ‘victim mode’ can you sense what reaction this triggers in you? If your client is blaming the world and refusing to take accountability for their actions, can you remain neutral or do you internalise, ‘no wonder these patterns keep repeating themselves in your life’?
The more you understand yourself, your own values, the things you find acceptable and unacceptable – the more you can self-regulate. A core fundamental of emotional intelligence is accepting and working with clients who hold a different world view to you. Staying judgement free is easy to say but hard to do. But this skill can influence how supportive and helpful you can be to your clients.
Park your ego
You don’t have to be right. You don’t have to have all the answers. You don’t have a monopoly on great ideas. You can add amazing value without having to share your wisdom or have the last word on a subject.
Even when your client asks you “what would you do in my situation” or “can you give me some advice”? Is your instinct to jump in feet first……thinking they have given you the green light to come off the fence and share your wisdom? Or do you hold back and ask “what would you do if you were having a great day….what would you do if you were not afraid….what advice would you give a best friend who was facing a similar situation….” These questions are not side-stepping your responsibility to add value. But what they do signal to your client is I trust you to have better answers and solutions than I do.
Humility as a Coach is an invaluable life skill. You are not creating ‘dependency on you’ – which can happen when you freely offer advice. You’re creating a safe place for your client to figure things out for themselves. And this is empowering and a skill they can use again and again.
Get the right balance between high support and high challenge
If you’re too ‘soft’ with your clients, the risk is you don’t stretch their thinking. If you’re too tough, then you risk alienating them. Getting this balance right is really important if you’re to help your clients fulfil their goals and ambitions.
As a Coach, accept that this tension between high support/high challenge matters. And it’s worth reinforcing this when you contract with your client. It can also be helpful to ask your client, “what’s the most helpful thing I can do right now……is it to be encouraging or is to challenge your thinking”? The old adage of ‘be respectful to your client but tough on the problem they’re trying to solve’ is worth remembering. You can be highly supportive and empathic but ask the questions that need to be asked:
- If you could rewind the situation, what would you have done differently?
- What learning can you take from this difficult situation?
- What responsibility and ownership do you need to take in dealing with this situation?
- What words of advice would you give yourself, if you encounter another situation like this?
These questions are not easy, are thought-provoking and may create awkward silences. But your intention is to be helpful. The spirit in which these questions are asked comes from a place of respect not anger or ‘let me show you how silly you have been’.
To discuss any of this further, drop me a note: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clients achieve breakthroughs when they can look on a difficult situation and see light at the end of the tunnel. New insights and new possibilities that were previously shrouded under the cloak of ‘I always self-sabotage’
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Stay optimistic now matter how challenging the situation
Clients can get into a ‘doom loop’, have a ‘downer’ on themselves and end up being their own worst critic. They may be in a failed marriage or a toxic relationship or dealing with bereavement. All they can see is the pain and anguish in the months ahead. They can’t see a positive outcome and they don’t believe they have the resources or the resilience to cope.
Staying optimistic is not about sugar coating the situation or putting a positive spin on things. But is it inviting your clients to think of situations where they have overcome adversity. What did they learn. How did they cope? How can they harness this same inner strength?
Optimism also comes in the shape of helping your clients re-frame a situation from hopeless to hopeful. Bad situations are temporary – even if we can’t see past them. The role of the Coach is to help your clients see past their current reality and tap into their vision of how life can be. My City’s motto is “out of darkness cometh light”. So how can you nudge your clients to see beyond their current pain and start crafting the life they aspire to?
In short, acknowledge the difficulties and challenges your client is facing. But they always have a choice. To be defined by their mistakes, mishaps or imperfections or to ask: “what can this experience teach me, so I emerge stronger and wiser”?.