Written by Chong Sook Leng

Over the course of my goal to become PCC credentialled by ICF – I was not just clocking up the required number of hours but also taking notice of the “quality” of my coaching. I worked with coach mentors and coach supervisors.  I realized that my personal development and maturity as a coach is very much influenced by my personal experiences in work and life, my own set of values and beliefs. My journey to become a better coach is not only about accumulating coaching hours or learning a variety of coaching models/frameworks but it has a lot to do with my journey in becoming a better person.

You may ask – is a better person, also a better coach or is a better coach, a better person?

Well, no judgments here – please!

My formula may apply only to myself as this is a case study about how I am working on becoming a better coach.

I have my 4As journey in becoming a better person and coach:

ICF defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.  My coach mentors and coach supervisors helped me become more aware about how I perceive myself and others and the impact of that perception on my thought, actions and words which gets translated into my coaching questions to my clients. 

Case 1, there was a time I was uncomfortable in challenging my clients about their thoughts/assumptions because, I personally don’t like to be challenged!  Hence, I don’t do to others what I don’t like done unto me. Then I realized what a disservice I have done with my clients.

Case 2, one of my earlier experiences from being coached was that it made me feel good and empowered.  When I became a coach, often I will also validate and affirm the coachee’s strengths with the objective of making them feel good about themselves. But this was not helpful as the coachee would feel all was well and no action required!  One of the best advices I got from a mentor – “A coach knows when to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable”

I need be aware and feedback sessions from good mentors, and supervisors who can act as a reflection to my coaching practices has helped me become a better person and coach.

Being aware and gaining new insights and understanding about my gaps and weakness is not an easy acceptance for me. As a child growing up, I was taught that perfection, projecting a good image, and taking care of “face value” were important.  As such, flaws, gaps and weaknesses were frowned upon.  Doing well and being successful is a given and expected trait.  It was not easy for me to acknowledge that I was not as good in running a coaching business as I envisaged myself to be. There were times when I found myself debating if I should quit if it was so difficult to get business.

Case 3, I felt frustrated when I kept missing out on business after “chemistry checks” Then I realized that I was trying too hard to impress the potential client because it was important for me to prove to myself that I could clinch the business.  I lacked the tact as a vendor and the tactic to win the deal. For a while, I stopped going to “chemistry checks” and rather lose this part of business opportunity.

It was only when I acknowledged my competency/skill gaps and that it was alright not to know-it-all or win-it-all that I was able to get unstuck and move on.  A dose of self-empathy healed my wounded self-image.  This acknowledgement of my own vulnerability also made me become empathetic to my coachee.  I became more accepting that if a situation is a challenge to my coachee, it’s not because they are weak, but they are just stuck.  

Walk the talk is a common phrase we hear when we talk about trust, dependability, and credibility.  In coaching, mis-alignment between verbal and non-verbal expressions of the coachee is often picked up and reflected back to coachee as an observation and with a question for coachee to reflect upon.  Since becoming a coach, I sometimes feel conflicted and incongruent between my professional practice as a coach and how I behave in my personal life.

Case 4, during a coaching session I know how to provide space for coachee to reflect, and I refrain from interrupting coachee’s thoughts or speech. However, I lack this patience when dealing with others in a non-coaching scenario.  Not that I would interrupt them while they talk but I will certainly give them ideas, opinions, and advice where I see fit.  There was a time when I was giving advice so much in non-coaching situations that my tendency got spilled over into my coaching sessions with clients (A big Awareness signpost came up in my head)

Case 5, I find it challenging to know when to coach or give parental advice to my children.  There was a time when I asked coaching questions and my daughter told me off – “I don’t need a coach now, I need a parent” (huh! What did I do or not do as a coach/parent?).  Since that incident – I will ask – “you want a coach or a parent?”

Case 6, another perplexing circumstance I find in a family is – I don’t seem to be able to coach my elderly aunties, uncles and spouse.  I have no good answers to this day as to why I am not able to coach as effectively in my personal realm compared to my professional vocation.

One aspect I noticed is that beliefs, values, and motivations affect my behaviors and actions as a coach.  In terms of alignment, unless I am aware of my assumptions/perceptions and their impact thereon, I remain as “unconscious incompetence &/or competence”. I would need to enroll support to help me out.   But when I learn new helpful skills, habits/behaviors, then I would have to be intentional in practicing until my actions align with the impact I want to create.

Alignment is either a conscious or an unconscious effort.  Better be conscious than otherwise!

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

In the ICF Core Competencies, the co-creating of action plans is key to facilitating client growth.  A coaching process is not complete unless the coachee comes up with an working plan on next steps to advance towards their goal.  The plan may not be perfect but it is as good as it gets during the process of evoking awareness, learning about self and others, and within the ambit of existing experience and knowledge.  More importantly is a plan that can be executed and the experience from executing the plan is a learning opportunity.  Brilliant manner for continuous learning and growth – it requires continued action and accountability to act on the plan.

“A plan without action is not a plan. It’s a speech.” — T. Boone Pickens

My 25 years of corporate experience has shown that companies seldom fail for lack of strategy or action plans but in poor execution.  By poor execution, it could be due to mismatched capabilities, low willpower, political hijacks but usually it’s the lack of discipline by the people who are supposed to make it happen.

Bringing it closer to home, I know all the right things to do to keep healthy and I have plans for – nutritious diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep.  But I can’t say I diligently execute on the plan for healthy lifestyle.  This requires discipline and my formula for discipline is SS+RR. (I enjoy formulas perhaps due to my accounting/numerical background)

My life is run by calendaring.  I need to schedule all my activities and tasks. There was even a time when I color coded grouping of activities into Health (morning runs), Spiritual (devotion, church), Work (coaching, training, prepare materials), Admin (banking, call lawyer), etc.  By this, I get to see if I have a balance of activities for my wellbeing as well as a reminder to do what I plan to do.  Yes, I need to set aside time to schedule all my activities for the day!

Show up
It’s one thing to schedule and it’s another to show up at that time to do what I’m supposed to do.  It’s easy to reschedule and bump one activity for another.  Now this takes clarity of why I need to do what I plan to do. For this I follow my ex-colleague’s great advice – “You need to know what’s important for you and decide what you will do to get it and what you will not do to get it”.  Setting boundaries, and honoring my own promises to self is priority for if I can’t respect my own boundaries – who else will?  Show up and just do!

Recognize progress
I may not be enjoying the process of what I need to do to become better because the activity usually means that I must stretch out of my comfort zone – that’s how growth happens. And it’s important that I recognize progress no matter how small the win may seem to keep the momentum going. It’s also good motivation for me to keep at it no matter how dull, laborious, or sacrificial it may see at the time.  As it is, I now have a glass of wine while I’m writing this 2000-word document.  The wine was poured when I passed the 1000-word earlier!

‘Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” Zig Ziglar.

I can’t find a better quote than Zig Ziglar nor do I know how to say this more eloquently.  For me, the process of Scheduling, Showing up and Recognizing progress are my keys to being discipline.  How I wish there was an easier answer to making things happen but there isn’t. Repeat the cycle – doing the right actions until we become who we aspire to be – a better person, a better coach.

In conclusion, as I journey to become better as a Coach, I also need to ensure that I develop, grow, expand me as a person to become a better Me.  While skills, competencies and experience gained through hours of coaching are important to sharpen me in my trade – it is equally important if not more that I become as good as I can as human being to serve another human being.

I see myself akin to a coin – Coach and myself are two sides of the same coin – a better Person for a better Coach.

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