During all my Coach Training Programs, almost everytime, I have atleast one person asking me ‘How much time does it take to become a good coach?” I smile, while I respond in the form of another question. “How much time does it take to be a good father?” How much time does it take to be a good sister?”, “How much time does it take to be a good teacher? Or for that matter, any other plays a crucial role in your life. I personally believe, that becoming a coach is a lifetime journey and takes a lot of effort to climb this mountain and reach the zenith. Had the question been “How much time does it take to do coaching?” my answer would be, “It takes 3-4 days” to learn how to coach with some basic competencies that could help in engaging with others, including active listening, asking questions, Building Rapport.
An Intrinsic Journey
Becoming a Coach is more of an intrinsic journey, which also means that becoming a coach requires lots of work within – an inside-out approach. Let me make an attempt to address the ‘why’ behind the claim I am making. A coach’s primary responsibility is to create a safe space for the coachee so that the coachee can interact freely. Metaphorically, I often say that a Coach is like a flute and the coachee blows the air and listens to her/his own music. So, a coach has to be clear from within. If that does not happen, it might trigger the coach, thereby making it difficult for him/her, to hold that space.
The question is,
how can I be fully present with my coachee and yet be invisible. As abstract as it may sound, it requires not only the investment of time, money and energy, but it also calls for never-ending patience. Unless one has worked on the ‘self-cleansing’ aspect, something or the other will interrupt the session.
A very important aspect that might allow us to take one step forward in becoming a coach is by Cleansing the Mind and Building Reflective Practices.
As mentioned earlier, you might want to know, as to how can you be an empty hollow flute for your coachee. Here’s how! This reminds me of a conversation in the Mahabharata, between Gopikas and the flute. One day all the Gopikas fuming, went to the flute and vent out their frustration. “What do you have that we don’t have, that Krishna (Lord) keeps you with him all the time and even touches you with his beautiful lips?” Watching this, the flute smiled and looked into the eyes of the Gopikas softly. There was a heavenly calmness in her demeanor and profound look on her face. To this interrogation, the flute replied “Everytime I am in the presence of my Lord, I am simply being present and hollow. The air from his lips generates music. My intention is to hold the space where he can express and listen to his inner voice.
Now, as a coach how can I be a flute to be totally hollow and empty to hold that space of expression? Emptying the mind is not that easy. As coaches, the continuous chatter that we are gripped with, sabotages our efforts to let others express themselves to the hilt. Think about conversations that you have had with your coachees, team members, family members. How many times does it happen that physically you are present there and yet in your mind’s space, you are dealing with something else. On the flip side, I am sure you would have experienced the stillness in the moment, when, either you are listening to someone with undivided attention or someone is listening with complete focus. It all boils down to putting your intention towards that. Empty your mind from all thoughts and let yourself be fully present for the other person. While you do that, experience what’s happening to you, your emotions and be a seer to the turmoil and wait as you return with an utter-brilliant version of yourself and for the other person. It is only when you cleanse yourself, is when you return rejuvenated.
The question is how can I empty myself?
- Being Aware: Be aware of yourself, every moment. Being aware is one of the gifts you can offer to yourself and to others. When I am aware, I am watchful of my thoughts, my emotions, my pain, and my pleasures. I know what triggers me and I am aware of what brings out the best in me. I know my strengths and the environment I show up at, with enough gusto. I know my areas of development and what stops me. Unless you are aware of yourself as a coach, you might not be able to create, what others would want you to.
- Let go and drop it off- Holding on to things only build up either attachment or/and resentment. At times, I have experienced, I get attached to the results I want my coachee to produce at the end of the coaching engagement. When I am attached to the results, my focus gets wobbled up and thus rather then being fully present for the coachee, I am already thinking of the future.
Reflective practices: During my work with senior coaches who are making an attempt to further their coaching journey to the next level, I hold the space for them, where they reflect on what went well and what could be done differently. As a coach, it’s extremely important to reflect on the way I approach my coachee, and what does my coachee mean for me? What’s my relationship with my coachee? What happens to me as a coach in the presence of my coachee? Do I feel contracted or do I feel expanded? Or Do I interact with her/him as an adult dealing with other adult? These are few questions which I need to ponder on while coaching the other person. I might have the best of the coaching expertise, but if I have not yet addressed my internal conflicts, it might turn up at the time when I least expect it. Reflective practices can help you identify your patterns and provide you enough and more areas to work on.
Some ways to build reflective practices are:
- Journaling: Journaling could be one of the most meditative experiences you can have. Just pick up a journal, pick up your pen and start scribbling down. Before you would know it, you will have your inner expressions already on the piece of paper shining in front of you. Just write down the experience you went through, your thoughts around that, and the emotions you went through, around the same time. Would you have expected something different? What happened in the whole episode? Are you still feeling charged or does that episode give you a reason to smile? Just reflect. Sit alone and reflect.
- Debrief Practice with a fellow Coach: This is one of the finest practices you can have that could help you strengthen your coaching muscle. I remember, when I started my coaching practice, as a part of the process, I used to debrief about all my coaching sessions with my fellow travelers. It’s like putting yourself in front of a coach where the fellow coach asks you questions that helps you reflect to your practice sessions. Reflecting on the way you approached the coaching session, the way your coachee occurs to you, the way the coaching relationship is evolving, and the impact of the environment on your coaching interaction. In fact, even to this day, I ensure I get back to my fellow coaches to share my experience of the coaching engagement and debrief it while they share the reflections of their coaching interventions. While we do that, something that is extremely important is to maintain the confidentiality clause with sanctity.
Coming back to the earlier question, how can I become a coach? Here’s my response. Go through a program that might help you learn the basic expertise required to do coaching and for becoming an effective coach. Start emptying your mind every moment in each and every conversation so that you can fill it up with reflective practices. The journey of a coach is a journey of a Human being. It’s a life long journey and I can assure you, it’s really worth it!