Having a coach is becoming more and more popular as a method to support our personal development, at work, in our career and in our personal life too. But many people still aren’t sure what coaching is or know about the value it can bring.
So if you’ve heard of coaching and want to know more, if you want insight into the value of coaching, as described by others (particularly women in tech), then read on…
A Different Approach To Personal Development.
I’d always struggled with people telling me what they thought I should do. So much of the advice I was given had a complete lack of understanding of what was going in my world. I often got defensive and found myself coming up with lots of “yes but…”s. How could “they” know all the restrictions and obstacles I was dealing with.
Then I stumbled across coaching. I first came across it at a health and wellbeing show, but I quite quickly saw that this was something that could help me learn faster and better in all areas of my life.
At the core of coaching is the belief that we all know what to do. We all know what our next step is, and given we are the ones who best understand our world and all the things going on in it, we are best placed to figure out what to do. That’s not to say we never need advice, just that we know when we want to ask for and listen to it, and who we want to listen to.
The thing which often stops us moving forward is rarely not knowing what to do. It is usually that we haven’t given ourselves the time or space to step back and look from a new perspective. Looking from a different perspective helps us to see the restrictions we are putting on ourselves without realising it.
This fit so well with my personal experience of learning that I not only found myself a coach, I also started training to become one.
What Exactly Is Coaching?
Coaching – particularly business or life coaching – is usually a one to one conversation aimed at helping the client overcome a particular challenge or achieve a goal. In a coaching session, the coach will:
- ask the client questions to help them get clarity on where they are going,
- draw out information about where they are now,
- help them figure out how to bridge the gap to get there.
Coaching is fundamentally a problem-solving approach: know where you are now and where you want to get to, then figure out the possible ways to get there.
A great analogy is taking a journey – the coach helps the client figure out where they want to go, down to the exact GPS coordinates, and helps them understand their motivations for why they want to go there.
The coach then helps the client figure out exactly where they are starting from, explores with them the different routes they could take, finally helps them decide what the steps are to getting there.
Of course, as the client moves along the journey they will find that particular routes are barred, or are more difficult than expected – and once again the coach is there to help them step back, see the overall journey and figure out their new route.
Coaching is empowering and confidence-building because it helps the client see that they know the answers, they just needed a bit of help finding them.
But if coaching is just a problem-solving approach and you’re great at problem-solving, why would you need a coach to help you?
Taking Coaching To A Deeper Level.
This fantastic Einstein quote really captures the value that coaching brings when it is done well.
The deeper value that a coach brings is an independent perspective, allowing you to see what you’re trying to achieve from a different level, and helping you uncover the barriers you are putting in your own way.
Very often the things we get stuck on are as a result of things that we believe to be true, which we have never questioned before. A great coach will listen out for these “blocks” in our language and help us see these illusory barriers.
Often just by noticing them, these blocks will dissolve and suddenly a new path is opened up, but in addition, a coach may also bring other exercises or approaches which loosen them further.
So working with a coach opens up a more direct path on our journey to achieving our goals, instead of weaving all over the place to get there.
A coach gets us there faster and with less effort.
Where Can Coaching Be Used?
Coaching can be applied almost anywhere to any challenge, but it helps to have some examples to illustrate. These are some of the topics I’ve coached and been coached around over the last 15 years:
- I’ve made two large shifts in my career and both times have used a coach to help guide me. Being able to talk through the jumble of ideas in my mind and turn them into a clear picture meant it was then much easier to see what my next steps were, and more decisive in the opportunities I chose to follow.
- I invested in a coach when moving into the first 100 days of one of these roles – and this was invaluable. My coach provided an independent perspective which helped me to step away from the busy-ness and overwhelm of the new role to think about the impression I was making, how I wanted to shape the role to fit with my life, and therefore what was important to get right and what could be left.
- As a manager I found it extremely useful to be able to discuss with my coach the challenges I was having with the staff I managed, understanding how to motivate them, how to approach difficult conversations, what might be going on at the individual level. Without the coaching support, I would have been much less confident in myself and would have struggled to form good working relationships.
- A few years ago I hit a point where I was self-sabotaging. Every time I pushed myself to get clear on a goal and set myself a plan I found it really difficult to carry out that plan. In fact, I often found myself doing the opposite. Working with a coach on this led me to some deep realisations about how I thought I should do things – and it ended up that when I stopped trying so hard the actions naturally flowed. Working with a coach isn’t always about taking more action – sometimes it’s about stopping doing things and letting go.
- I’ve coached owners of many start-ups and small businesses, helping them to step out of the day to day running of the business and look at where the business is going overall so that they can refocus on the things that are really important.
- I’ve also coached many people around their career goals – from top-level big picture mission level discussions down to annual or even monthly objectives and skills development – both as their manager as well as in preparation for meetings with their manager.
- Coaching can also be fantastic for helping you to build and strengthen a skill – especially soft skills like communication, leadership or even coaching itself. When I was first learning to coach, my coach helped me review and refine what I was learning, reflect on how I was applying the skills, and maintain my motivation.
What Value Does Coaching Bring?
I’ve shared my experience of coaching above, and maybe I’m a little biased – I’ve trained as a coach, so I clearly believe that coaching is valuable.
But what do others get from it?
As I work with women in tech, I went out and asked a range of women working in the tech industries, who had invested in coaching, what they got from it.
Here’s what they came up with.
Over just a few days I was given more than twenty different outcomes that they got from having a coach. Some, like me, saw so much value in coaching that they trained to become a coach themselves. Others commented to say they wish they had invested in a coach (and known how to find one) earlier in their life.
Coaching can bring so much value that the message is often diluted with all the possibilities. I’ve learned several times that what I get out of a coaching experience often isn’t what I set out for at the beginning, but that’s because in most cases the experience has led to a shift in my self-understanding resulting in me discovering a whole new world.
I hope this blog has persuaded you to do more investigation into coaching or even to take that step and invest.
If you have any questions please post them in the comments – I will respond and they will guide me towards other blog posts, and if you’re wondering how to work with me you can find out more here.
And if you’re a woman working in tech and have had value from coaching then please share in the comments – I’d love to hear more.