Hello, my friend.
I was on a very long flight, seated next to a businessman. Typically, I don’t have long conversations with people next to me on airplanes, but he was a nice guy, and we struck up a conversation.
He asked me what I did. When I told him I was an executive coach, he became quite interested, and he asked me what industries I coach in. I said, “Well, I coach executives in the medical, law, accounting, engineering, and technology industries. I coach those in consumer goods, packaging, medical devices, and the list goes on.”
He was quite taken aback when I said that.
His reaction is actually an indicative result of one of the greatest myths with regard to coaching. The word “coaching” has been used and misused for a long time.
One of the misconceptions about coaching is that you must have a mastery of the technical domain of the business in order to effectively coach in it. This is a concept straight out of Michael Gerber’s The E-Myth, which refers to entrepreneurship. It is one of the biggest mistakes inexperienced entrepreneurs make. They think that, because they are a master of the technology involved in the business, they are qualified to lead it. That’s not true at all. It is absolutely vital to have a technical understanding in order to be an effective entrepreneur, but you must understand leadership.
Coaching is very much the same concept.
Coaching is, in fact, a process focused exclusively on the individual – the person you are coaching. It is about their performance, their feelings, their thoughts, their actions, and their results. It is about how they are showing up at work or at home.
Of course, most of my coaching conversations are about work life, but invariably, we end up speaking about the totality of the person’s existence. It’s just part of the natural evolution of the relationship between a coach and a client.
Inexperienced and weak leaders and coaches spend far too much time telling and directing, and not nearly enough time asking powerful questions and equipping and empowering the person they are coaching.
In fact, there is a large so-called coaching organization that brags about the curriculum they run their clients through. They may be wonderful at teaching that curriculum, but I will tell you, that is not coaching. That’s not what coaching is. Call it training, call it education, call it anything…but don’t call it coaching.
Coaching is serving as a thinking partner.
A coach is a partner, and the coach to client relationship is like a co-pilot to pilot relationship. As the coach, you are not driving the conversation. You’re certainly exercising influence over the conversation, but, in fact, you are asking deep, provocative questions to help the individual discover more about himself or herself, how they’re showing up, what choices they are making, and what choices they might make going forward, and then holding them accountable.
This is all done in a benevolent way, of course, to follow through on the things they have set as intentions. That’s what coaching is really about.
If you look at the highest achievers in sports and business, they all have coaches. Why do they have coaches? It is not because the coaches are telling them what to do, far from it. The coaches are simply asking great questions and listening with a coach’s ear. They are listening for what is being said, what is not being said, and how it is being said. They are reading non-verbal signals, tonality, and so many things about what is being communicated by the client.
The coach serves as a very, very valuable resource to help the client perform at a higher level.
While I certainly am not a technical expert in all the industries I serve (I won’t be performing surgery on anyone in my lifetime), I am, as a coach, able to help those who are experts become the best in what they do.