This week, I’ve been putting the finishing touches to my essay on transformational coaching, and I was thinking about how far I’ve come myself from my first encounters with coaching to being a trained coach myself. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some great coaches when I’ve been in the client seat, and I’ve touched on all sorts of topics, and made progress on them, but two of the greatest gifts I gained came from the process of coaching rather than the content of the meetings:
Before I was coached, I thought I was good at self-reflecting, but actually, my skills were pretty limited. I tended to lurch from one challenge to the next without really taking time out at all. If I did take time out, it was usually only to focus on the negatives and heap buckets of criticism on myself. In addition, the questions I asked of myself were not particularly searching and usually the same each time. Unfortunately, this meant that, despite my efforts, I wasn’t learning much about myself, I was decreasing my self-confidence rather than building it up, and I was missing golden opportunities to recognise and build on my strengths.
Coaching taught me to reflect in a much more co-ordinated way, asking myself far more searching and powerful questions, and analysing my successes as much as I analysed times when things hadn’t gone quite according to plan. This skill served me well across a whole range of situations, from work to parenting, and, while I still have coaching to support my development (because, like everyone, I’m still a work in progress), I am much better equipped to explore my own thinking and behaviours between those times and in areas that are not the focus of my coaching conversations.
Although I might have expected to develop my ability to self-reflect, becoming more accepting of myself wasn’t something I had predicted and wouldn’t have been something that I would initially have thought of as valuable. However, a bit of kindness towards yourself goes a long way.
I used to be incredibly hard on myself, and my thoughts in those initial encounters with being coached were that I was frustrated with myself and I wanted to ‘sort myself out’. Now though, I accept that being human means being flawed, messy, complicated and making mistakes… but it also means that you’re doing the best you can right now, and you’re smart, adaptable, and have the ability to learn from all your experiences, good and not so good. A great coaching relationship supports you to show yourself a bit of understanding so that you can see the truth about yourself without being self-critical, and use that truth as motivation for your personal growth and change, rather than a metaphorical stick to beat yourself with. Once you’ve practiced this approach in one area, it becomes easier to apply it elsewhere, and it’s certainly left me feeling a lot more resilient.
So being coached in one area of our lives or careers can have benefits that go beyond that one topic, and as an added bonus, being better equipped to self-reflect and more accepting of yourself also means that you can model those skills for others to benefit from, including your children, partner, friends or colleagues.