Written by Shevetha Nayanika Nayar.
Being a 24-year-old master’s holder with only two years of working experience amongst a group of senior experienced members from a variety of fields and industry was intimidating enough. In the beginning, while everyone was using years of sophisticated real corporate problems, I felt a sense of fear as I have not seen nor known enough to even conceive such issues. Most of my issues were personal and minuet in my head. Hence, there was this constant drive to stand out, perform and to show everyone that this 20+ year old has what it takes.
But as some time went by and with the support from my classmates and trainer, none of that was ever even a concern anymore. Coming up with issues and problems were no longer a problem. See what I did there! But all this is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s been so many interesting things along the way that I would like to share about.
Being coached without even knowing
The first-time coaching was introduced to me was a rather funny and interesting story. I had only worked for 6 months, and my boss decided to basically teach me a good but not quite as fun of a lesson. Now whenever I had an issue and went up to my boss for help, she would always ask me back so many questions. I remember so clearly saying this to myself after I left my boss’s place ‘I went there for you to solve my problem, not to be asked back so many questions’. It happened so frequently that ultimately, before I go up to her with any problem or question, I would have thought about all sorts of questions and scenarios beforehand. Towards the end of our time together and after multiple grueling questioning sessions, she finally revealed to me that this is what is called as coaching.
This experience made me think about the benefits of honing such a skill. Being able to think outside the box and solve simple or complex problems was one of the biggest attractions to a young fresh individual like myself. Then, literally about a year later, I was coached yet again, and then I realized that this is definitely a skill I wanted to have for my future.
This entire coaching journey has been long, tiring and mentally demanding, yet fruitful, rewarding and spectacular. There were so many great things that I learnt and a few bad things that I managed to unlearn during this period. So many new friends that I made, with so many different experiences being brought to the table. Moving from the Certified Associate Coach (CAC) level to the Certified Professional Coach (CPC) level has been a wonderful and insightful learning experience.
Over the course of these 5 months, learning the 3-stage coaching model, the 10 coaching milestones, the 8 disempowering frames, the 10 patterns, the goal plan, the outer and inner game, the coaching protocols, and the type of coaching and niches were just some of the many things learnt during this period. Even the mentor coaching sessions were extremely helpful and gratifying. Getting to hear feedbacks from a different experienced coach and getting to see it from a different lens was remarkable yet the least.
But besides these several things mentioned here, there were other things too, that were not directly subject matter related that I learnt. To better understand them, let me place them into phases 1, 2 and 3 respectively.
PHASE 1: Asking the challenging and powerful questions!
We all ask questions and we all give answers all the time in our daily life’s, but a coach asks the right questions that get people to find their own right answer. We tend to ask all sorts of questions, never really structured, never really with deep listening, never really with thought about the priority, importance and severity but most of all, never really with the intent to get the person itself to find their own answer.
We rush to ask questions and then rush to receive or give an answer. This is where I realized how powerful coaching can be. When doing it right, it is never ever really easy to ask the right questions. In the start, seeing myself as well as my peers struggling to even ask the right questions was mind boggling. The endless thought about what question to ask next, is this question powerful enough, and is this question information seeking or solution providing was something I had to constantly deal with throughout.
It got easier as we progressed through the class and levels but it always still remained there as a constant reminder. Nonetheless, I tried my very best and will keep trying till the end.
I don’t think there will ever really be a time where I can say I am completely ready and comfortable with myself when it comes to always asking those challenging and powerful questions but hey, we still have a long way to go.
Here I thought the first phase was difficult, I have not even gone to the second and third.
PHASE 2: What does being a good COACH mean to ME!
Every person on this journey has their own take on what it means to be a good coach and so do I. Hence phase 2 was definitely about understanding that there were several things that make a good coach but for now, here are my top 3.
- Listen with all 3 senses
For all those who have done their coaching certification know that we should listen and ask questions based on the 3 senses; the head, the heart and the hand. I realized on this journey that it was already difficult enough to ask and listen to people by just using 1 sense, but to use all 3 senses was a whole other ballgame. Nevertheless, that is what being a coach means to me. Doing the impossible, doing the uncommon thing and just being a good coach.
- Building trust
When we first started, trust was definitely a difficult thing for me. None of us were very comfortable with completely trusting one another in the early stages, especially over a virtual setting. But over a short period of time, we learnt to build that trust and to get comfortable with one another. Then I understood, being able to get someone to be comfortable, being able to get them to trust you and being able to get them to open up is unquestionably what it means to be a good coach. Such a skill should and must come naturally if you want to be a good coach.
- Separation of oneself
There are two things here that a good coach needs to do in order to separate themselves from the coachee. First is to ensure the coaches values, belief, ideas, etc are not infringed onto the coachee. What we believe in or how we see things will not be the same as the coachee, and that is something we have to accept. Having an open mind, judgment free space is what makes a good coach. Second is to not get too involved into the coachee’s situation or issue. To not react impulsively and not get upset with the situation being shared is definitely another thing that separates a normal coach from a good coach.
Constantly performing these 3 things throughout this journey and to continue to perform these 3 things were never and are never going to be an easy feat moving forward. Now being a good coach for someone is surely important but through this journey, I learnt another very important thing, and that is if you want to be a good coach, it first starts within you. How can you help someone when you do not even know yourself properly, and that brings me to my next and final phase, phase 3.
PHASE 3: The coaching starts within!
Being a young new working professional, behavior, attitudes, thought processes and mindsets of people are a constant learning experience. So being accommodating, calm, patient, etc are all behavioral mannerism that I am still in the process of learning Nevertheless, there is a saying I believe in and that is ‘Who better to solve your problem then your own self’!
Now, when going through this coaching journey of mine, I understood there were once again 3 major things for me that I needed to work on in myself before even starting to look at helping others.
- Being patient
As an individual, I was never really patient with people and things in life. Hence this was definitely a process that I needed to adapt and change to if I wanted to be a better version of me and a better coach. Being patient with the coachee and trust that they have the answer. Do not rush them, by either giving them the answer you think they want or getting them to give you the answer you think they need. So this has always been a constant battle and I know it will still be a constant battle I need to fight.
I have a very strong personality and am generally what one calls as a ‘Don’t take crap from anyone’ sort of person. I have always had certain natural mannerism like crossing my arms and/or crossing my legs and/or placing my hands in the pocket. This is natural to me but this postures generally give off a very closed, firm and authoritative vibe. So being aware of my habits and changing them was initially very difficult but over a period of time, I have learnt to be more self-aware when doing such things. One has to adapt if they really want to be a good coach.
- Information seeking
Finally, is information seeking. Initially, I always felt that in order for me to help someone, I needed to have all the information required. Over this course I realized, I needed to stop asking so many information seeking questions that are actually beneficial to me and not to the coachee. So, I guess I need to ask more precise and on target questions rather than just shooting randomly hoping to achieve something.
Now all these phases are definitely ongoing and never ending. The importance of things will definitely change over time, but for now, let’s just take it as it is.
What coaching do I want to do?
Now everyone has probably asked themselves this question through their coaching journey. What type of coaching do I want to do? Always asking questions like, do I want to do life, executive, or business coaching? Do I want to coach professionally or casually? Do I want to focus on talent management, career, strategic management, etc? All these questions to answer.
But you know what, all these questions are not important. Why? Because the coaching journey is all related and entangled. It does not matter if it is casual or professional, life or business, talent management or career because there is no one without the other. The foundation is still the same. The concept is the still the same. The end goal of helping the coachees still stays the same.
So, it really does not matter which type or niche of coaching you want to focus on. I guess we should not concern ourselves with the technicalities too much. Hence, if it’s any conciliation, don’t worry about all this. You will be fine. I am!
I definitely want to use this new knowledge and skill to help people grow and achieve their goals, help them through tough times and help them better understand their situations.
All I know is, this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
If I could leave with one small piece of advice, it would be to continue to learn and grow. Learning has no limit, it has no boundary, it has no expiry, it has no conclusion. It is limitless, boundless, endless and it is forever. So, continue to push and strive to be better.