Well, the first time I got introduced to coaching was by Kavi Arasu in a workshop at TISS. Bless his soul! I still remember it. It opened up a whole new world for me! The four quadrant model of intervention. I was immediately attracted to it. Asking and working on solutions both seem positive and futuristic. It went with my identity, personality and qualifications.
I had a regret of not pursuing psychology and therapy. It made sense to pursue Coaching and let go of therapy and counselling. I can still do those and be those as opportunities arise. I can be a healer, a negotiator, a mediator and a HR strategy partner. These are just different roles and identities. I can adapt all. However for sake of qualification, focus and marketing I started with Coaching.
I ‘tell’ people and watch them not do it or fail at doing it! I have experienced the frustration of receiving and giving advice. Coaching is different. It is a far better way to help others (Or as I like to think, be with others!) It is helpful in all relationships. It liberates me and gives so much freedom without missing out on love and care.
So What Do I Understand Of Coaching?
It is definitely about learning. Helping clients find inner resources to learn better. What do they learn and how do they learn is not in my control. As a coach, I am just a reflecting and a sounding board to catalyze their learning process. I am a mere observer. I take curious stance. I view them and their situations from multiple perspectives. I help them elicit their multiple perspectives as well. As a coach, I am an acceptor and not a change agent. Change is anyways always happening. I create unconditional acceptance for them, create a safe space for them so that they can decide how they want to change. Who am I to change them?
What are different Coaching Mindsets I adapt?
Mindset and Identity are immensely important for me. Skills are like tools. Right tools in wrong hands are of no use. They can even be dangerous.
#1 Mindset of Curiosity and not Judgement
At the heart of coaching is a mindset of being curious and being an observer. I am getting more and more aware of how curiosity manifest and how it’s opposite i.e. jumping guns and judgements also operate and manifest. Curiosity is also a vital skill in negotiations and sales. Instead of parroting my expertise and convincing others it is far more valuable to ask questions about their context. Understand them. My curiosity with clients manifest as humility, respect and asking questions. A desire to know and learn. I am willing to let go of control. I am ok to not know all. I am ok to look dumb (and not pretend to be smart)My primary need here is to learn, understand, care and empower. Not even, help! I am absolutely no one to help. Help is incidental. What the other person might find helpful is not what I might give them as help! People take as per their readiness. There is absolutely no way to control this. This is where ‘being’ facilitative is very useful and impactful. Being is ‘Showing’ the way to live and not ‘Tell’!
Judgements manifest as ‘telling’, advising, assuming and know it all. It is largely about control. I am too scared to be in the unknown and thus jump to tell. It manifest as arrogance, putting down others. Why would anyone listen to me in such a situation. How can I influence with such style? This is about rescuing. My needs here are safety, power, control and especially achievement. There is absolutely no place for achievement/performance as a coach. It is a distraction.
It may feel that curiosity is slowing things down at start. It may even feel frustrating. The desire to control would creep in. I try and beware of it. It is natural. However I have experienced that in the long run, curiosity is far more effective.
By being curious from start I also invite the client to be more curious. To come out of auto-pilot and compel them to get intentional about thinking through things in a fresh, new and more useful ways.
#2 Mindset of Being an Observer
A coaching conversation is like watching a movie. I cant think, “Oh, that is a real challenge. Let me see how can I help you get through this” I am absolutely no one to solve your problems. You have to solve your own problems. The better attitude is, “I cant wait to see how she gets through this!”
There is nothing like a tough challenge or a simple challenge. It depends on clients ability to take. What you might find simple could also be difficult for clients. The crux is the client motivation to change.
My clients perspective is just a perspective. I tap into my imagination to have multiple ways of looking at client and their situations. This is the bridge to their greater insights. At times being observer doesn’t mean having a lot of clarity. At times, it is just not being locked into my clients perspective i.e being open and curious about everything — client, yourself, client’s problem and even how your coaching conversation would flow!
#3 Mindset of Being Primitive And Simple
This is at the root of how I challenge assumptions. I avoid too much thinking and processing. My clients have benefitted the most when I tap into my intuition and follow my curiosity to the start. Some of the questions that I have asked from here are, “What does this mean to you?” “How should we get started?”
#4 Mindset of Safety and Acceptance
As I have mentioned above, no learning, forget transformation, is possible without safety. Acceptance is all about safety and protection. Everyone is on their own journey. There is nothing wrong or right about anyone. I am who I am and they are who they are. Once these vibes are received, magic automatically begins!
#5 Mindset of Reflexivity
I train my mind to observe myself and my impact at the same time. How am I being perceived? What are my internal dialogues and feelings? This is where great coaches operate from and I persevere!
I am very comfortable with saying and even thinking that ‘I don’t know this’ or ‘what is your understanding of this’. I can never know everything even about a small subject. It is fine. Completely fine with me. What is my client’s definition of being stuck/creative? What is their understanding about those things? It is very subjective and I have absolutely no clue. I make myself available to that and I willing to learn about my clients. In this process I am making them reflect and learn! I am being a learner and adaptable. This is how they learn and get transformed.
Again another corollary to that is never dispute or disagree to what other person is saying. It is their understanding, it is their problem. You may think that this problem is trivial for you but it is not for them. You may think that this is a delusion, distraction or manipulation of data however they are perceiving it like that as of now. So rather than dismissing it or stopping it. Build on it.
I have to be in the moment with the client and not think of steps in future. My job is to facilitate client to solve the problem and not solve the problem for them
#6 Mindset of Concrete Actions And Not Just Insights
Insights are never enough on their own. I spend enough time with my clients to convert them into actions. How are they going to use that insight? I help my clients to articulate this. This translates into real learning and change.
#7 Mindset of Caring, Nurturing and Encouraging
Without this everything is bullshit. I am not there to rescue. I am not helping them at all however I am showering them with the love, acceptance and care. They are at the best place to transform themselves. There can be no other place. Thus encouraging is the only key. They have the potential and resources to reach where they want. Encouragement is the antidote to disappointments and self-loathing. At the root of this is a belief that client is capable. They will reach their potential sooner or later. I believe in my client and their journey.
#8 Mindset of Selfless Helping
Coaching is a place for my clients to shine and not me! This is the true meaning of help for me. The true Why. Only if I am interested in others to shine, take all lime light, should I get into a helping profession. I need to fulfill my need for achievement from other places and not my clients. I need to fulfill my need for impact from other places and not my clients. My clients can fulfill my need for learning, understanding and maybe connection. That is it.
#9 Mindset of Authenticity And Here & Now
Pretense is contagious. It quickly gets converted to ego. I am too scared of being caught and then I am desperate to feel safe, save my face, run away from shame! There is absolutely nothing wrong in not knowing and not being perfect. When I find myself in that spot, I ask for help and direction. It is a co-created journey. I don’t have to take all the pressure for clients journey. If both of us are stuck, it’s time to experiment and try something new!
There is no formula or blue print. What worked with another client or this client at other time may not work right now. I am true to this moment, period.
#10 Mindset of Creativity Is Also Contagious
Just like your curiosity, my creativity has also helped unleash my clients creativity. I see how insights emerge naturally when being playful and creative.
#11 Mindset that Coaching Is Not A Panacea And Yet It Can Be Used Everywhere
I stay true to our initial contracting. Coaching may not be a space for clients to navigate their tragedy, pain and grief. However I believe that most conversations can improve with Coaching mindset. I don’t use coaching only in sessions and thus they take my leadership, relationship and helping to next level! I do provide a safe space however I am open to make referrals to counseling and therapy. The idea of client going for counselling can also be coached and not simply be offered on a platter as advise!
I strongly believe in above mindsets and operate from them. However, just like any other human being, I also get tired, anxious and restless. It is difficult to tap into those mindsets at those times. I also have limitations and I am also on my own journey. I embrace my imperfections and limitations. I grow with my clients. This is the attitude that is most fulfilling for my clients.